Canberra's coach call


Canberra’s politicians were door-stopped by the coach travel sector this week, pushing the case for uniform accreditation standards

Canberra's coach call
Canberra’s coach call

By David Goeldner | November 24, 2011

The vexed issue of cross border coach operator anomalies was raised across Parliament House in Canberra this week calling for unified national accreditation.

The Parliament House lobbying led by the Bus Industry Confederation culminated in the official launch of the ‘Moving People Across Australia’ national policy document for the Australian coach sector, highlighting coach-specific accreditation as an area for improvement.

Resources, Energy and Tourism Minster Martin Ferguson, pictured, launched BIC’s coach policy statement at an event attended by leading coach and tour operators from around Australia.

BIC Executive Director Michael Apps says coaches have long been a ‘poor cousin’ in the tourism sector.

"The development of this National Policy Statement is about presenting a unified view on how we can grow the coach tourism sector and the role of industry and government in getting there," Apps says.

"At more than $5billion turnover annually the coach sector is a valuable contributor to the tourism industry and the economy."

Key coach sector identities were present in Canberra this week for the launch, including Greyhound Australia Chief Operating Officer Tony Hopkins and Blue Mountains Bus Company Managing Director Karim Hussain, along with Federal Opposition Tourism Spokesman Bob Baldwin MP who also spoke in support of the policy.

Apps says the policy statement will feed into a broader national land tourism plan, scheduled for development in 2012.

"A key issue is the impact of cross border anomalies in the coach sector," he says.

"It’s a key area where the Federal Government can deliver some change, and it goes beyond regulation."

Apps says the concerns partly relate to access to national and state parks, calling for national accreditation which would relieve the need to have seven different applications for seven different types of access requirements into parks across each state and the Northern Territory.

"We want a rationalisation of the access to national parks issue which is where the coach sector is pretty much the sole provider of services," he says.

"The red tape and the bureaucracy relating to access is costing money and impacting on fares, and not making it attractive to prospective passengers."

Access to airports is another issue raised in the policy document.

Apps says current arrangements mean coach drivers can’t meet, greet and escort air travellers to the bus.

"We think accreditation is a critical area where we need a stronger focus," he says.

"At airports, only coach operators who are fully accredited should gain access."

Apps says the coach industry has been calling for accreditation benchmarks for all coach operators to operate at a minimum safety and professional level for in-bound tourism.

"There’s no enforcement in the context of access to airports, and that lack of enforcement means there are easy opportunities to operate outside of an accreditation regime," he says.

Apps argues that a mutually recognised set of standards across state borders and within state borders – whether it is a route, school or tour buses operating in the tourism sector –would provide leverage for professional and safe operators to gain access to airports and remove ‘rogue’ operators.

"There should be an agreed industry standard that we all meet, and once you meet it the cross border anomalies are removed," he says.

Apps says about thirty Federal MPs ‘door-knocked’ during the lobbying campaign were surprised about the anomalies in the industry and the value of the coach sector,

"I think some of the economic drivers were something they didn’t realise," he says.

Apps says coach travel has reduced in the past decade from about 800km per person per coach trip to 386 km, so people are still using coaches, but for shorter trips.

"At a broad policy level we want the federal government to instigate a process that will see a national land tourism plan articulated," he says.

"Currently we have a tourism plan that relates to airlines flying over Australia, rather than looking at the options for rail, bus and self-drive."

Apps says in many instances coach travel has been promoted solely by the coach sector itself with little assistance from federal and state governments.

To download the policy document go to www.ozebus.com.au.

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