Bus supply panel starts

After 15 months of ‘meandering’, the NSW Government’s bus procurement panel is underway, but not without controversy

Bus supply panel starts
Bus supply panel starts

By Sean Muir | April 5, 2012

Uncertainty surrounds the controversial introduction of a NSW bus procurement panel that will replace the ‘three-quote’ arrangement.

Transport for NSW gave bus operators and suppliers a final briefing last week, but operators and even the NSW bus association is still not privy to full details of the panel’s implementation.

Under the new system, operators procuring buses will be required to use a web portal, expected to go live in late April, to obtain prices and advise state government of the type and quantity of buses they intend to buy, including the reason for their choice.

This process will supersede the need for operators to submit three competitive quotes with a business case to government when buying buses.

Australasian Bus and Coach Magazine (ABC) understands that there will be four categories of buses on the panel: School Buses, Two Door City Buses (with an option for one door), articulated, and controlled access.

ABC also understands that on the panel there will be 10 prime contractors: Asia Motors, Bustech, Custom, HVA (King Long), Hino, Iveco, MAN, Scania, Volgren, and Volvo.

But according to BusNSW Executive Director Darryl Mellish it is still uncertain what feature combinations will be available under each primary contract.

"We know there are four types of buses, and there are ten primary contractors, but which bodies and chassis, and how many combinations of them go with each type of bus with each primary contract is what everyone is waiting to see," Mellish says.

"I have asked for a copy of the matrix but they haven’t provided it."

Mellish says until the combination options for body, chassis, make, and components are available, it will be difficult to predict the overall impact of the new system.

He says it is also uncertain whether operators will get better purchasing deals under the new system, and also what requirements there will be to get on the panel.

"How do operators know that they wouldn’t get a better deal if they went direct?" Mellish says.

"And if suppliers are not on the panel now how do they get on it?

"That is why getting a list of the combinations is important so we can see who is not on it."

Mellish says the panel introduction will also compound existing uncertainties regarding contract renewal.

"There is still no certainty for operators, suppliers and staff about the renewal of the existing contracts, for which the extension period has still not seen resolution," he says.

"So if you are ordering a new vehicle you will have to make some judgment about the security of your contract."

He says operators may need a contract variation or be subject to instruction from the Director General, and transition arrangements for bus purchases in progress may also be needed.

"A key question that is not yet clear is what additional services does the government intend to require under the yet to be agreed new bus contracts, and what bus replacement program will it support," Mellish says.

"It’s one thing to have a panel but there needs to be a basis to work out how many buses can be ordered."

Operators and suppliers were informed of the panel’s establishment 15 months ago.

The public tender for the panel began in December 2010, with the Department of Commerce providing advice and administration.

The process was overseen by a probity advisor and technical experts were used to evaluate the bids.

All contracts with suppliers are based on a prime contractor supplying a complete bus.

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