Sydney route privatisation

By: Randall Johnston

Update: 1,200 Sydney bus drivers drivers went on strike for 24 hours on Thursday, June 18 following the announcement that one third of Sydney’s public bus network will be privatised.

Sydney route privatisation
The decision to privatise 233 State Transit Authority (STA) services in Sydney comes after lacklustre performance results

Further stike action has not been ruled out by the Rail, Tram and Bus Union.

Two-hundred-and-thirty-three bus routes in Sydney's inner-west will be privatised.

State Transit Authority (STA) currently run the services in question.

New South Wales Minister for Transport and Infrastructure Andrew Constance says the decision to privatise these services comes after lacklustre performance results, particularly in regard to on-time running and the sheer number of complaints revcieved from bus users.

Bus Region 6 which services suburbs from the city west to Strathfield and Olympic Park – would be competitively tendered.

Constance says inner west services attracted the highest number of complaints out of Sydney’s metropolitan area in recent years, well above the results of bordering regions operated by private industry. It also had one of the worst on-time running results last year.

"There have been improvements in recent years, but State Transit still lags a long way behind its industry competitors in measures like on-time running and reliability," he says.

"If the bus industry can provide quality in western Sydney, the inner west deserves the same, especially as Sydney grows."

The NSW Government will continue to own Region 6 buses and assets, including depots, and will continue to set Opal fares and timetables, and regulate strict safety and operational standards.

Private operators will have to compete and re-apply for contracts every five to 10 years and will only have their contracts renewed if they meet high performance standards for safety, reliability, customer satisfaction and cleanliness.

BusNSW executive director Darryl Mellish says the decision to invite private bus operators to run bus services in Region 6 is no surprise.

"BusNSW has always supported the renewal of contracts based on performance," he says.

"The on time running and customer satisfaction results in Region 6 have left the government with little choice other than looking to the private sector for improvements.

"Private operators have commercial risk with regard to fines when not meeting KPI targets which incentivises performance, but this is not the case with STA."

Mellish says that the experience from the franchising of other NSW Government-run public transport services is that there will continue to be jobs for good, customer-oriented staff.

The NSW Government will continue to have full control of service frequency and coverage, which Mellish says should give the public comfort and fares are set by government; not the operator.

"We would encourage the NSW Government to look at the existing tried and tested NSW operators for the operation of Region 6 services.

"The recent announcement also raises questions about who will operate the northern beach B-line services and the proposed on demand trials across all metro and outer metro regions."

Meanwhile, the Rail Tram and Bus Union of NSW (RTBU NSW) has condemned the NSW Government in response to the move.

RTBU bus division secretary Chris Preston didn't hold back, saying the government’s decision to privatise bus services would slash routes, close bus stops and cost the jobs of 1,200 public transport workers.

"This announcement to privatise bus services is a complete betrayal of Sydney commuters and bus drivers," he says.

"It will result in rolling closures of bus services and bus stops for commuters across Inner Western Sydney, affecting tens of thousands of commuters."

"1,200 public transport workers, who just last December were given assurances by this
Government that their jobs were safe for 5 years, will now get the chop."

"We oppose privatisation because we know at the end of the day, it’s the commuters who’ll pay.

"Private bus operators put profits before the public. To make money they’ll slash services and cut back on maintenance. We’ve seen it happen before."

"Less popular, less profitable bus routes get the chop and commuters are left stranded."

The leader of the opposition was equally scathing of the move.

"First ferries, then Hunter transport, now Sydney's buses. The Liberals are determined to sell off all of our state's public transport," NSW Opposition Leader Luke Foley says.

 Sydney Buses will continue to operate Regions 7, 8 and 9 which includes the inner metropolitan areas of the eastern, and southern and northern suburbs, including the CBD.

The tender will begin in July 2017 and is expected to be completed by July 2018.


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