Tassie seeks contract certainty

This Monday’s annual TasBus conference will be buzzing with discussion on gaining certainty over the future of bus contracts

Tassie seeks contract certainty
Tassie seeks contract certainty

By David Goeldner | June 3, 2011

Contract certainty for Tasmania’s urban fringe route service providers could be the overarching discussion point at this year’s TasBus conference, held next Monday June 6 at Hobart’s Wrest Point Casino.

Although the day long event will be heavily dominated with industrial relations issues, TasBus President Geoff Lewis is keen to get the message across to the political speakers that the Tasmanian industry seeks contract certainty.

Lewis says the general access contracts in Tasmania differ from other states in that the operator relies on passenger numbers to attract funding, or indeed having the contract renewed after its expiry.

And it’s the looming contract expiry dates which concern Lewis, as the Tasmanian Government has not provided any certainty on whether the contracts will be automatically renewed.

The Tasmanian route service contracts are for ‘five plus five’ years, which means the first of the new 2008 contracts will expire in 2013 and then roll on to 2018.

"At the moment it’s all silent on what happens at the end of 2018," Lewis says.

"We are talking to all the political parties about that at the moment."

Lewis says that with the investment in new buses over the last two to three years, if there is no certainty for the operator at the end of the contract period the continuing capital investment for fleet growth or replacement could dry up.

Whoever is elected to the next Tasmanian parliament at the next election due in 2014 will be making decisions at the end of the ten year contract period in 2018, says Lewis.

"We are having meetings with the Greens and the Liberals who understand that the industry needs certainty," he says.

"We are pushing for certainty (of contracts) to keep the investment going."

Conference delegates will be addressed by both the Greens Tim Morris and the Liberal Party’s Matthew Groom during the conference sessions, with Minister for Sustainable Transport Nick McKim addressing delegates at Monday’s night’s conference dinner.

Over 100 delegates have registered for this year’s conference, including OEM supporters from the mainland exhibiting new bus product at the Wrest Point Casino conference venue.

Among the exhibitors will be BCI, featuring new product from Xiamen, along with Custom, North Coast, Volvo, Mercedes-Benz, Scania, and King Long-HVA.

Lewis says the star attraction at this year’s conference will be one of Metro Tasmania’s new Custom-bodied Scania 18 metre K310 Euro5 articulated buses, the first of four on the way into Metro’s route service fleet.

Lewis says it’s the first time for several years that Tasmanians will see new bendy buses on the streets of Hobart.

The artic on display is fully DDA compliant with a wheel chair lift ramp, and space inside the bus for two wheel chairs.

The vehicle has been fitted with eight security cameras, six inside and two outside.

Carrying capacity is between 90 and 100 passengers, who will keep their cool – or stay warm and comfortable depending on the weather – from two large air-cons fitted to the vehicle.

While the conference will wrap on Monday evening, TasBus members will stay on in Hobart for Tuesday’s annual general meeting, also at the Wrest Point Casino’s Wellington Room, at 10am.

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