Harsh but fair - QBIC


Bus operators appear largely unaffected by Queensland's budget, but there's not much excitement

Harsh but fair - QBIC
Harsh but fair – QBIC

By David Goeldner | September 12, 2012

Harsh but fair, appears to be the verdict from the Queensland Bus Industry Council (QBIC) in reaction to this week’s Queensland state budget.

While Premier Campbell Newman and his Treasurer Tim Nicholls have riled the coal mining sector with royalty rate increases, upset the health sector with massive job cuts, and irked transport with a middle management clean out, bus operators appear appeased with the Newman budget.

But there isn’t a great deal to be excited about either, according to QBIC Executive Director David Tape.

"When we look at the overall budget, transport and main roads funding is skewed towards re-building and upgrading the state’s road network," Tape says.

"Natural disaster relief and recovery has gained a massive 46 percent of capital purchases for 2012-13."

On closer examination, Tape says he didn’t see a great deal of detail in terms of more buses on Queensland roads.

"But I must congratulate the Government on keeping the Queensland School Bus upgrade scheme going," he says.

"There appears to be $22M ongoing for this scheme, which is a great initiative to get students into more modern and safer buses in the school sector."

Tape says three items stood out from the Queensland budget for the bus industry – the Accessible Bus Program, school bus upgrade program, and a $2 million commitment to comply with disability standards.

The Accessible Bus Program offers financial assistance for eligible bus operators who are willing to purchase wheelchair accessible buses.

"And there were some things we knew about, such as halving fare increases," Tape says.

"But apart from that there will be a lot of investment in infrastructure."

Tape says infrastructure upgrades to park and rides, real time passenger information system initiatives, and integrated ticketing projects are all southeast Queensland-centric, which was puzzling now that TransLink has state-wide control of public transport.

He says the size of the Department of Transport and Main Roads, which now includes TransLink among several other portfolios across road building, rail and ports, meant there were several bidders for $6.2 billion capital expenditure in this year’s budget.

"It will be up to Director-General Michael Caltabiano and his deputies to get the best spend for the public dollar," says Tape.

"And considering what our state has been through with cyclones and floods in the past few years, it will take a lot of investment to get the state back on track."

Tape says many Queenslanders will view the Newman budget as harsh.

"But there comes a time when the bullet must be bitten and someone has to make hard decisions," he says.

"This isn’t a job I would envy of the Treasurer or any minister that had input into the budget."



EMERSON ON THE HUSTINGS

Meanwhile, Queensland’s Transport Minister Scott Emerson wasted no time talking up the positives from the Newman budget.

He says a $1.6 billion allocation to transport is directed at encouraging passengers back to buses, trains and ferries.

Emerson says savings found across the portfolio had been redirected towards delivering more frequent, reliable and affordable services.

"The Newman Government is serious about lowering the cost of living for families and that will attract people back on to public transport after patronage reached a four-year low of 178.3 million trips last year," Emerson says.

"This budget includes $39 million over four years to deliver the free travel after nine weekly journeys, to reduce the cost of living burden on regular public transport users.

"We’ve already seen a remarkable uptake with 80,000 public transport users taking 200,000 free journeys each week."

The budget also allocates $158.2 million over four years to halve projected 15 percent annual fare rises in 2013 and 2014.

Transport reforms to be funded by the 2012-13 Queensland budget include:

? Reviewing bus services to end duplication, simplify the network, improve under-utilised bus services and deliver more services where they are needed.

? Retain the Travel Train concessions currently available to pensioner and seniors. The number of free trips per services will be capped and the booking fee will increase from $12.50 to $25.

? Discounted taxi trips taken under the taxi subsidy scheme will be capped at $400 per person per year to ensure it continues to provide an accessible form of transport for those most in need. The cap will cover the travel needs of more than 80 per cent of users.

? Update of the School Transport Assistance Scheme for bus services to ensure eligible students are using these services and review new schools in the ongoing 3.2km (primary school) and 4.8km (secondary school) boundaries.

"In regional Queensland $22.7 million will be provided to continue upgrades to school bus fleets, while $15.4 million will be used to upgrade sections of the Mt Isa train line," Emerson says.

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