Operators deliver in NSW

Transport for NSW deputy director-general Fergus Gammie spoke at the BusNSW AGM

Operators deliver in NSW
Transport for NSW deputy director-general Fergus Gammie

One of the most senior officials of Transport for NSW came bearing gifts when he ventured into the lion’s den to address the 2015 annual general meeting of the Bus and Coach Association of NSW.

Transport for NSW (TfNSW) deputy director-general Fergus Gammie was very well aware the new metropolitan and outer metropolitan contracts which have been rolled out across the state have been confronting for operators thanks to the increased emphasis on performance and the associated penalties for missing various yardsticks.

Gammie ventured out to George Gourley House to deliver the authority’s latest appraisal of the performance of Sydney’s private bus operators.

He came armed with some positive survey results and defused some of the tension by declaring on several occasions that TfNSW was pleased, sometimes very pleased, with the latest customer satisfaction survey results.

The results exclude the State Transit Authority bus operations and cover only the private operators in the metropolitan and outer metropolitan areas, where the new contracts have been introduced over the last 18 months.

"We feel that the environment and the contracts we have in the Sydney and Outer Metro are working well," Gammie told the AGM.

 "We are very happy with the performances coming through."

He said the overall rating by customers, across all the different key performance indicators (KPIs), had jumped from 82 per cent over the last 18 months to 89 per cent, although the rate of increase had slowed to 1 per cent in the last six months of the survey. 

"One of the things we are very pleased about is the improved performance of on-time running which is, of course, quite a visible indicator.

"Over the last 18 months or so we have seen a really good improvement, and that’s really come down to the focus that the operators, you people, have been putting on it. That’s a credit to you and your teams.

"It’s been really encouraging to hear how that is getting the focus."

However, it should be noted that the on-time running data collected by TfNSW people standing at bus stops is actually running at more than 90 per cent.

Other results from an on-board survey include safety and security up seven points to 92 per cent, accessibility up three points to 89 per cent, ticketing up 5 points to 89 per cent, cleanliness up two points to 87 per cent and comfort up 4 points to 86 per cent.

"Just about everything has seen some sort of increase; cleanliness, customer service, ticketing. That’s a very good scorecard.

"This survey is completely about private bus operators. Thank you for that."

BusNSW executive director Darryl Mellish acknowledged the positive trend in the KPIs, but still had some reservations about the survey results and the penalties they can inflict, when looked at in isolation.

"It’s penalty driven, so compliments and complaints are very important and, if they don’t get those right, there are penalties attached.

"I prefer to see a bit more balance between partnership, working with the operator on improving customer satisfaction, rather than only using penalties."

He says the survey makes drivers and operators responsible for things outside their control, which is plainly unfair.

"The satisfaction survey takes in lots of data, some of which is under the operator’s control and some of which is not under the operator’s control.

"Things like cleanliness, training of the driver, starting the bus on time are under the operator’s control.

"But when you get outside that, with things like congestion, I think there is more we can do in that partnership where we can improve the whole network, not just that particular service."

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