Transdev's Melbourne fallout

The awarding of 30 percent of Melbourne’s bus route services to Veolia Transdev has struck a raw nerve

Transdev's Melbourne fallout
Transdev’s Melbourne fallout

By Ian Porter|May 3, 2013

Australia’s biggest bus body manufacturer Volgren fears that the awarding of one third of Melbourne’s bus routes to a French company will result in the introduction of imported buses to route service in Australia.

That would pose a direct threat to Volgren, which currently supplies route operators with bodies from its four factories around Australia. Up to now imported buses have mainly been used for schools work.

The tender created a new route service franchise by combining three sets of routes into one. Ventura currently operates two of those sets and was a loser in the tender process. Its fleet will be reduced by around 350 buses.

Ventura buys its route bus bodies from Volgren.

Volgren general manager sales and marketing Tony Kerr says he believes the decision to award the contract to French-owned Transdev would result in the first use of imported buses on Australian route services.

He says he believes a clause in the original PTV tender document requiring that buses used on the routes should be able to operate for 25 years was amended by the time the last version of the tender document was produced.

The recent experience of some operators suggests many cheap imported buses are not built to last 20 years and end up being more costly over their whole life than a local bus which costs more to buy.

"What’s happened now is the Victorian Government, by virtue of this contract, is potentially going to be the first Government in Australia to support the possible running of imported buses in the metropolitan area, where high running and high uptime are key requirements," Kerr says.

"Yet imported buses are unproven over the distance."

He says Volgren needed to demonstrate the quality of its locally made product, which is proven, cost effective and offers lower running costs over vehicle life.

"We hope to have the opportunity to showcase to the new operator what we can do, but reports suggest the winning tender was costed around imported buses."

Announcing the win late last week, Transdev says the franchise awarded under the tender involved 1000 staff, 50 routes and 500 vehicles. Transdev will operate the services from August 1.

Transdev’s chief executive Edward Thomas says the outcome was the result of a tremendous amount of hard work "to produce a compelling and exciting bid that will deliver a better way with buses for both bus users and Victorian taxpayers".

Transdev will have to establish several new depots around Melbourne to cater for the fleet of 500 vehicles. The cost of the new depots had been factored in to the tender offer, says Transdev spokesman Mark Paterson.

Paterson says the other Australian route services operated by Transdev obtained their new vehicles from a variety of sources, including Volgren and Scania. He says it was too early to say where the new Melbourne franchise would buy its new buses.

Transdev operates a range of public transport across Australasia, including buses in Brisbane, Darwin, Perth, regional Western Australia and Sydney.

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