BusVic Conference Wrap

By: Chris Thompson, Photography by: Chris Thompson

This year’s successful BusVic Conference had a strong focus on regional and rural Victoria

BusVic Conference Wrap
The conference consisted of a mix of management and mechanical

Regional Victoria was the focus of the 2016 Bus Association of Victoria (BusVic) conference with particular emphasis on school bus routes outside metro areas.

With around 50 exhibitors in attendance, the conference has been heralded a success by organisers.

The Grand Ballroom of the Pullman Albert Park, Melbourne, became a half-showroom, half-conference hall to accommodate management discussions and presentations, as well as maintenance workshops with classes on the likes of panel repair and servicing air-conditioning systems.

The conference was opened with a speech by Kate Carnell AO, who has held the role of Australian Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman (ASBFEO) since its creation in March 2016.

"I am blessed to have an independent role in Canberra representing you, working with your organisations, and being able to do so without fear or favour," Carnell says.

"That’s one of the things about being appointed by the Governor-General and not having to answer to the government of the day."

Regional development was a focal point for this year’s conference, with the second day for the event being almost entirely dedicated to discussing public transport and school bus operations outside of Victoria’s metro areas.

After the reduction in the use of buses for regional schools ceased, some operators are still concerned their contracts could be cut.

BusVic executive director Chris Lowe says he wants to reassure operators the government wasn’t downsizing funding or interest in the use of buses to assist development outside of Melbourne.

"I’ve done a lot of study around it, so it’s of very strong personal interest to me," Lowe says.

"It’s clear to me that my members are not just bus operators but community leaders, and are great for regional development.

"There’s been some serious rationalisation of school bus services during the previous state government.

"A lot of members got put out of business due to dwindling numbers of students on buses, so they’d just cut the contract.

"The new government hasn’t done that, they’ve maintained the services despite low numbers, because they understand the social costs associated with removing a bus."

The conference wasn’t just a business event, a dinner was held after the first day as an opportunity to catch up with colleagues and competitors.

A quick announcement was made prior to the dinner to celebrate the purchase of a new ‘Big Red Bus’ for Kidney Health Australia, which uses a bus- now two- to bring dialysis to those who are too far from a major town or hospital.

Another big topic of the conference was discussion regarding the future of the industry, as the concept of self-driving buses was brought up for a presentation, alongside a representative from Uber, who put forward the idea that Uber can complement the public transport sector.

The next big change the industry is aware of, self-driving buses, is one operators and drivers need not be immediately concerned about, as Chris De Gruyter of Monash University told conference attendees he doesn’t see driverless buses being wide-spread for another couple of decades.

The conference was rounded out on the afternoon of day two with a speech from Lowe, who highlighted in-bus Wi-fi as a priority for the near future, as well as adapting to demand responsive transport modes such as Uber.

Lowe says he has already started planning the next conference with the rest of the association.

"It’s a perpetual process, it’s not like we start three or four months prior, we actually start by doing a post-mortem of the event we’ve just held."

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