Orange officially 'green'

WA’s privately-operated orange school bus system will continue past July 1 on an ‘evergreen’ basis

Orange officially 'green'
Orange officially ‘green’

By David Goeldner | January 29, 2013

Western Australia’s orange school bus system has been ‘saved’ from financial despair through a revised contract system protecting the livelihoods of existing contract holders.

The move to create a system of ‘evergreen’ orange bus contracts officially started last April, and has been under intense negotiation between the Public Transport Authority, WA Transport Minister Troy Buswell, and the contractors’ representative body BusWA.

Buswell says the evergreen contract would allow existing bus operators to continue their contract indefinitely, subject to an ongoing need for the service and the contractor meeting a number of key performance indicators.

The orange buses are so-called for their distinctive orange paintwork used to identify buses operated by private operators under the government-contracted system, worth $103 million a year.

"The development of the evergreen contract represents a significant milestone in what is a fairly unique partnership between Government and school bus operators in providing essential services to the community," Buswell says.

Under the terms of the evergreen contract, the operator’s contract will ‘roll over’ every five years provided performance standards are maintained and subject to the on-going need for the service.

A performance standard regime will be introduced identifying key performance indicators to ensure contractor compliance and performance.

According to BusWA, a sticking point in negotiations was the basis of payment to the operator, many struggling with the pre-existing Composite Rate Model, which will be scrapped in favour of a calculation model that ensures fair remuneration to contractors, also reducing the administrative burdens associated with the previous contract.

The new model takes into account cost reflecting ‘relevant Consumer Price Index elements’, according to the Transport Ministry.

And against an eastern states trend of placing school bus contracts on open tender, WABus Chairman Ray Gannaway says the creation of the evergreen school bus contract system is a win for family businesses.

"At least one state values family business and the service they provide to the community," Gannaway says.

He says Buswell had set a new standard for communication with WA’s bus industry, stemming from the creation of a committee headed by consultant Laurie Shervington which investigated the much-despised composite rate model system.

"The work of the Shervington Committee has seen the simplification of many contract clauses and schedules to facilitate contractor understanding and easier PTA contract management," Gannaway says.

"The new contract features KPI’s that must be maintained by the contractor, a revised service charge calculation model that ensures fair remuneration to contractors whilst removing some of the calculation complexities and reducing the administrative burdens associated with the CRM contract," he says.

Gannaway says WA operators had fought a long nine-year battle to remove the composite rate model system which he claims threatened livelihoods.

The WA Orange School bus industry has a network of 850 buses shifting nearly 31,000 students to and from school daily, and has been in existence for 90 years.

Buswell says it is important for service providers to not only be fairly remunerated for services but also feel they have been heard.

"This contract has been tailored to suit the unique nature of the industry, and I am confident this new contract treats many of the concerns the contractors have discussed with me over the years," he says.

Buswell says he expects all existing Composite Rate Model contracts will transition to the new evergreen school bus contract from July 1, 2013.

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