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NSW government releases second Bus Industry Taskforce report

The second Taskforce report delves into key issues in NSW’s bus industry that Chair John Lee describes as “shameful”

The NSW Bus Industry Taskforce, through the state government, has officially released its second report as a bold new blueprint on how to deliver the biggest improvements to NSW bus services in a generation.

The Taskforce, which was established in May last year and is chaired by John Lee, has handed down a further 27 recommendations to deliver better bus services in the state and provide an infrastructure plan for the future.

The second report includes a plan to fix the deterioration of bus services that carry 40 per cent of all public transport passengers in NSW but only receive two per cent of capital expenditure in transport.

Included in the 27 recommendations, which range from high-priority, short-term funding on critical services and developing 40 identified rapid bus routes, to a long-term depot strategy involving a bus asset management team.

“The lack of investment in bus services or the forgotten mode of public transport is shameful,” Taskforce chair John Lee says.

“Buses are the largest public transport mode in the state and it needs well thought through plans to be implemented to fix this neglect.

“We have recommended a strong, detailed and scalable plan for the government to consider. That means more money for services, bus stops, road priority and smart people delivering the plan.”

The report calls for the immediate addressing of more than a decade of investment neglect in school and local bus services, as well as looking at extra frequent and local services to areas with no or very poor service levels.

The report introduces a 10-year bus plan that provides a long-term vision for rapid bus services that can be rolled out on key Sydney corridors, while also calling out the continued challenges with bus drivers and operational staff.

The report narrows in on Transport for NSW, analysing its asset and risk management when it comes to buses in fleets and operational safety.

With a practical plan for the roll out of zero-emissions buses included, the 204-page report calls for modern and fit-for-purpose bus contracts in the regions.

Howard Collins has already been appointed as the Coordinator General, reporting directly to the Secretary of Transport for NSW, centralising responsibility for bus operations within one area.

The report says local government also plays a critical role in how bus services are delivered which can be improved by identifying funding options and streamlining delegations to speed up decisions that improve local roads and footpaths for bus users, pedestrians and cyclists.

The report makes clear more work needs to be done to better plan and manage essential transport infrastructure, including depots, facilities, bus stops and supporting technology.

The Taskforce has consulted extensively with the community and stakeholders in developing the report, with the Parliamentary Secretary hosting bus passenger forums around the state, forums with councils and industry and around 8,000 submissions received to date.

The NSW government has asked Transport for NSW to put plans in place for how to best move forward with the recommendations, including:

  • Transport for NSW is developing a proposal for a state-wide Medium Term Bus Plan, short-term improvements to local services to catch up to population growth.
  • Exploring changes to the roll out of zero-emissions buses, including looking at options for more ZEBs and supporting infrastructure in Western Sydney.
  • Improvements to rural and regional contracting to be in place by 2026 with a detailed plan outlined in the Final Report.
  • Working closer with councils and across government to look at strengthening the ability of councils to enhance public transport infrastructure on local roads.
  • Reviewing aspects of Bus Operator Accreditation Scheme and replace out of date guidelines with a risk-based approach for better safety outcomes.
  • Work is already underway to address some of these issues and recommendations handed down in the First Report, including technology enhancements to help eliminate ‘ghost buses’ appearing on planning apps and more transparent service performance data provided to customers.

Safety of bus services remains a top priority of the Taskforce, with a multi-year campaign to promote seatbelt use on buses already underway.

Work is also continuing on options for safety improvements for standing passengers on buses, including consideration of whether an 80km/h rule for dedicated school bus services could be rolled out to all services.

Bus driver recruitment initiatives continue, with a recent recruitment campaign lifting Bus Driver Authority applications by nine per cent over two months, and free Opal cards for drivers set to be rolled out.

The Taskforce will provide the NSW government with its Final Report and recommendations by May 1.

You can read the second report here – keep an eye out on BusNews and ABC Magazine for an in-depth look into the report and its suggestions.

“The Second Bus Taskforce report will deliver the biggest improvement to bus services that NSW has seen in a generation,” NSW transport minister Jo Haylen says.

“For too long, bus services have been the forgotten mode of Transport in NSW. They carry more than 40 per cent of passengers but are lucky to get more than two per cent of capital investment. This must change. Tens of thousands of passengers rely on the bus network and we need to do better.

“Too many growing communities were neglected because the former government had no plan for what their future bus services would look like. We now have plan to make sure those communities get the bus services they need.”

Transport for NSW coordinator-general Howard Collins says he thanks the Taskforce for its work in producing the latest report.

“We recognise the important role of buses in our integrated transport system. Investing in buses means less traffic congestion on the road, less pollution in the air, greater accessibility for the community, and more jobs in the industry,” Collins says.

“We are focused on delivering a medium-term bus plan that sets us up for success and gives clear, equitable improvements to services across NSW communities.

“Transport will continue to work with operators, drivers, unions and the wider community as key changes are implemented. We believe we can deliver immediate improvements then build on the findings of these reports for many years to come.”

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