NSW rural and regional contract concerns

By: Amie Hickland

New South Wales regional and rural operators are concerned about the new contract format

NSW rural and regional contract concerns
BusNSW Executive Director Darryl Mellish

New South Wales rural and regional operators are concerned about the new format of draft contracts as current contracts are due to expire from July 2015.

The seven-year contracts are set to expire from July 1 next year, and Transport for NSW (TfNSW) recently released draft new contracts.

A key concern of operators is that the new format of the draft contracts has been adopted from the metropolitan contracts which include a large number of which are not relevant to rural and regional operators.

BusNSW Executive Director Darryl Mellish says members are alarmed by the draft contracts which were only released to operators after TfNSW had undertaken contract renewal briefing sessions in regional areas.

"It was not only the complexity of the contracts, fundamental information relating to the administration of the School Student Transport Scheme and guidelines for Service Planning are not available for the industry to review," says Mellish.

"Following a couple of important meetings with TfNSW this week we are hopeful the rural and regional contract renewal process can get back on track.

"We fully support the call from some National Party MPs to have revised contracts road tested with the industry to ensure there are no untoward impacts on existing operators."

The conditions operators have not deemed relevant include a new KPI and reporting regime which includes financial penalties for large operators, legal clauses shifting more risk to operators (including the ability for TfNSW to terminate the contract for convenience) and additional obligations covering items like new systems, buses, and depots, according to BusNSW.

"It is important that the contracts and funding recognise the challenges and diversity of rural and regional bus operations," says Mellish.

A number of National Party MPs recently met with senior TfNSW officials and staff from Transport Minister Gladys Berejiklian’s office to take up the concerns raised by operators.

Member for Northern Tablelands Adam Marshall says school bus operators and regional areas provide an essential service.

He is pleased TfNSW took the concerns on board agreed to re-work the draft rural and regional school bus contracts and conduct a fresh round of consultation sessions across regional NSW with current operators.

"It is important that we get these contracts right, to ensure value for money for the taxpayer but also ensure that our local bus operators aren’t burdened by superfluous red tape and that they have a fair payment structure that recognises the challenges and diversity of rural school bus operations," he says.

There are 688 rural and regional bus contracts currently in operation in New South Wales.

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