NSW bus saga MkII

As Sydney’s metro contracts settle, services beyond the urban fringe are now under review

NSW bus saga MkII
NSW bus saga MkII

By David Goeldner | September 2, 2013

Just when you thought the saga of sorting out contracts for bus services in NSW was over, the next chapter has just started with Outer Metropolitan Bus Contracts now under review.

Late last week, 20 operators with contracts covering services outside the greater Sydney metropolitan area met with BusNSW before attending a briefing session with Transport for NSW.

The briefing session, also attended by BusNSW, was to give operators an understanding of the key features of the proposed new Outer Metropolitan contracts.

BusNSW Executive Director Darryl Mellish says the briefing session was aimed at helping operators negotiate contracts, although he believes there may still be a push for these contracts to go to open tender.

Referring back to a pledge from NSW Transport Minister Gladys Berejiklian at the BusNSW Manly Conference in April, the Minister told delegates at the time the Outer Metropolitan Bus Contracts would be negotiated with the incumbents and tender would be an option if the NSW Government considered it could not achieve value for money through negotiations.

Berejiklian was accused at the time of ‘destroying’ the livelihoods of long term bus operators through the tender process.

Mellish says it was hard to see how tendered contracts would achieve lower costs in the outer metro environment.

"It will certainly have operators worried about their future," he says.

Mellish says the TfNSW team at the recent operators’ briefing continues to talk up tender and the success they have achieved in the Metro contracts, although changeovers resulting from tendered contracts have not yet started.

Operators’ concerns at the briefing related to the expectation of achieving savings, but at the same time looking for service improvements.

And it appears the length of contract available for negotiation is just three years, which Mellish implies is not long enough to demonstrate the required savings and improvements.

"TfNSW told operators that if they wanted an eight-year contract they would need to win it in open competition," says Mellish.

He says these new clauses appear to make contracts unsuitable for a three year period.

However, Mellish says operators attending the briefing appreciated the opportunity to express their views, and that TfNSW was committed to circulating answers to a number of questions taken on notice.

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