TTF’s private operator push

Franchising the operation of bus routes will result in better services, TTF report concludes

The franchising of all government-run bus services in Sydney and other Australian cities will ultimately improve public transport services, according to report released by the Tourism & Transport Forum Australia (TTF) recently.

The On the Buses: The Benefits of Private Sector Involvement in the Delivery of Bus Services report aims to assess the benefit of the competitive contracting of bus routes to private operators.

"The management of bus networks is an area of transport policy in which the private sector has proven again and again that it can deliver quality services at best value for taxpayers’ money," TTF CEO Margy Osmond says.

"That is the benchmark by which we should be deciding on the best operator of our bus networks."

Osmond is convinced that state government-owned bus operators should be partially privatised, at least in terms of the actual operation of route bus services.

"Franchising is a great model for state and territory governments to embrace for their bus networks, as it keeps the infrastructure including the buses and depots in public hands but contracts out the operation of these assets to experienced private operators.

"The experience in other Australian states and international jurisdictions is that franchising delivers better results to government and commuters."

Savings of over 20 per cent have been achieved around the world through franchising, and this could be put to good use in extending the reach and capacity of services in Australia, the report concludes.

"This is in no way a radical policy change in Australia," Osmond says.

"Melbourne, Perth, Adelaide and Darwin have bus networks that are completely managed by private operators and not the government."

"Sydney is halfway there with a hybrid system of private and publicly operated buses – our report makes the clear case that private operators should be given the chance to competitively bid for the four contracts being run by Sydney Buses.

"Our analysis indicates that there is the potential for up to half a billion dollars in savings over five years if Sydney Buses was run by a private operator.

The report also highlights opportunities to improve the competitive process in contracts already being managed by private operators, by providing greater access to bus depots and supportive infrastructure to new bidders.

"Ensuring access to existing infrastructure in the contract zone such as bus depots is a major stumbling block for a new entrant that is unlikely to have that infrastructure already in place.

"There are legacy issues that government will need to tackle in terms of negotiating access to privately-owned bus depots if a competitive environment is to be cultivated with new entrants."

New South Wales (NSW) minister for transport and infrastructure Andrew Constance says the Sydney bus network has improved in the eyes of customers, which is a strong indicator of progress in regard to the provision of metropolitan bus services.

"Customer satisfaction has increased significantly from where we came from over the last five years and we are 100 per cent behind driving better and more services for customers," he says.

"I’m happy to look at any report provided by the Tourism and Transport Forum Australia and will always be aiming to improve the customer experience."

Subscribe to our newsletter

Sign up to receive the ABC e-newsletter, digital magazine and other offers we choose to share with you straight to your inbox

You can also follow our updates by liking us on Facebook