NSW STATE TRANSIT BUS CONTRACT SHAKE-UP PRESENTS CHALLENGES

By: Fabian Cotter


THE NSW GOVERNMENT has announced a three-year programme to procure metropolitan bus services for Sydney, which will involve the franchising of three - 7, 8 and 9 - State Transit operated regions.

NSW STATE TRANSIT BUS CONTRACT SHAKE-UP PRESENTS CHALLENGES
“It’s imperative that new contracts have performance indicators which not only consider what customers value, but provide incentives for operators based on criteria that they can control," said BusNSW executive director, Matt Threlkeld.

BusNSW executive director Matt Threlkeld said the announcement would result in some challenges for private operators that hold metropolitan bus contracts - though it provides a chance to reset some of the contract settings with a focus on customer outcomes and a trusting partnership.

"In the lead-up to the March 2019 State Election, BusNSW advocated for a transparent program to renew metropolitan bus contracts, based on performance and value for money," Threlkeld said.

"Whilst there is international evidence that high levels of customer satisfaction and efficient costs can be achieved by negotiating performance-based contracts with operators, the NSW Government has elected to continue with a market process for the Sydney metropolitan bus contracts.

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"It’s imperative that new contracts have performance indicators which not only consider what customers value, but provide incentives for operators based on criteria that they can control.

"New contracts also provide an opportunity to transition the bus fleet to a lower maximum age and to introduce zero emission buses.

"The franchising of State Transit regions 7, 8 and 9 means there will be growth opportunities for private bus companies who have experience in delivering metropolitan bus services.

"It’s important that the NSW Government recognises the long-term investments made by the existing private operators, their track record in regard to delivering technology and safety initiatives, and their strong relationships with bus drivers and other staff.

"Buses play a vital role in delivering public transport in NSW and the industry is motivated to meet the challenges associated with congestion and a growing population in Sydney," Threlkeld explained.

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NEW CONTRACTS, IMPROVED SERVICES?

The BusNSW statement comes in response to the Government announcement that promises, "…bus customers will receive additional services and innovative on-demand options under new contracts to lift the standard of transport across Sydney."

NSW Minister for Transport Andrew Constance says the reform was designed to ensure the best outcomes for both customers and staff.

"Our bus drivers are the best in the world. They do an amazing job in getting people around this incredible city and play a vital role in helping to tackle Sydney’s congestion," Minister Constance said.

"Bus patronage has increased by more than 50 per cent over the past six years. This rate of growth outstrips that of all other forms of public transport and we need to address this increasing demand as a matter of urgency."

The NSW Government will invite the world’s leading public transport operators - Australian and international - to bid for contracts for 13 of Sydney’s bus contract regions over the next three years, it states. This will include the three remaining State Transit operated regions, it confirms.

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COMPETITIVE TENDER

Minister Constance says a competitive tender of all Sydney metropolitan bus contracts will enable the NSW Government to reinvest more into delivering better services to commuters.

"We know customers want more buses, more often, as well as a mix of bus services that cater to their needs. This includes high-frequency services on major routes, like the B-Line, and frequent direct options such as on-demand services for short, local trips."

"The NSW Government will engage with the private sector to transform the current, one-size-fits-all model of service delivery, to one with multiple service types including high-capacity routes and local and on-demand travel."

Contracts for the three remaining State Transit Regions 7, 8, and 9 – covering Ryde, Gladesville, the Northern Beaches, Lower North Shore, the CBD, and the Eastern Suburbs, will be included and be put out to tender by early 2020, it confirms.

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ELECTRIC BUSES – OR BUST!

As things unfold and the impact to those in bus industry and to commuters in general are truly realised, the NSW Government will continue to:

 

-    own State Transit buses and all other assets such as depots;

-    regulate timetables, safety, and service priorities, and;

-    set fares as they are today, under the Opal system.

 

The reform will also see Sydney’s ageing diesel bus fleet replaced by electric vehicles to reduce the impact of buses on the health and environment of the city, the government says.

"Making the switch to an entirely electric bus fleet will deliver huge benefits to the community in terms of reducing air and noise pollution, as well as our incredible drivers," Minister Constance said.

"As part of this process, we will challenge the industry to begin an ambitious transformation of our bus fleet from particulate-emitting diesel to zero-emission buses.

"The experience of other leading European cities demonstrates that a rapid transition to zero-emission buses is possible and I have asked Transport for NSW to work with operators and bus suppliers to develop a plan to transition our fleet as part of the tender process.

"Zero-emission buses are becoming the standard with the significant environmental, health and operational cost benefits being experienced now in cities like London, Paris and Amsterdam. As a truly global city Sydney deserves the same."

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JOBS QUESTION

According to the Minister, there would be jobs for the majority of State Transit award staff with the new operator(s) - including all bus drivers and maintenance staff - whose jobs will be guaranteed for two years. These staff will also transfer with all their accrued entitlements such as annual leave, sick leave, long service leave, superannuation and their three-year travel pass, it’s claimed.

"Today’s announcement is not a reflection on the performance of State Transit bus drivers, who have been doing an excellent job dealing with the strong surge in passenger numbers and demanding road conditions," Minister Constance said.

"We expect more jobs for bus drivers to be created due to the extra services that will be provided.

"We have started engaging with all staff and their union representatives about today’s announcement, and will continue this right through the tender and transition process."

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