Adelaide buses cop poor performance fines

The South Australian Government’s tendering process is being blamed for late running buses on Adelaide’s metro routes

Adelaide buses cop poor performance fines
Adelaide buses cop poor performance fines

By Sean Muir | May 4, 2012

Contract tendering has come under scrutiny following the announcement Adelaide bus operators have been fined $218,000 for failing to meet timetable and performance benchmarks.

The South Australian Government recently fined Adelaide bus operators $218,000 for failing to meet timetable and performance benchmarks.

The most recent fines were imposed on Transfield, Southlink and Torrens Transit for bus services from January 1 to March 31 this year.

Transfield was reported to have received a fine of $121,345, while Southlink was fined $50,455 and Torrens Transit $46,043.

But speculation is mounting that while operators clearly underperformed, it may be due to poor tender assessment by the government.

South Australian Bus Association Executive Director Lauran Huefner would not comment on specific tenders, but says negotiated contracts, rather than tendered contracts, deliver the best overall outcome for operators and government.

"There is a large body of research that supports the position negotiated contracts with performance standards achieve stronger service outcomes for government," Huefner says.

Victorian Bus Association Executive Director Chris Lowe says there are concerns that recent plans to tender NSW contracts could have broader ramifications, such as those being experienced in Adelaide, for the Australia-wide bus industry.

Lowe says tendering contracts in NSW could create a precedent for other states to follow suit.

"The entire national industry needs to show solidarity and get this policy decision reversed," he says.

Lowe says the fines issued in Adelaide are an example of how tendering without performance-based negotiations can adversely affect an industry.

"Tendering gives you situations like what we are seeing now in Adelaide – underquoting and the operators missing on-time running targets," Lowe says.

Lowe says operators like Transfield won government tender because they offered the cheapest price.

But he says Transfield can’t operate effectively at the tendered price and as a result is going backwards.

"The government should have had the competency to assess their submission," Lowe says.

"We can’t be appointing people to tenders based just on the lowest price."

Transfield North-South routes were reported to have run on time only 51.6 per cent of the time from January 1 to March 31.

Last month the government handed down more than $38,400 in fines for contract breaches between October 1 and December 31 last year.

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