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Sydney bus drivers receive staff Opal cards

The driver Opal cards is just the start of sweeping new measures to improve conditions for NSW bus drivers

In a big boost to accessibility, new and current Sydney bus drivers have begun receiving staff Opal cards to use public transport for free.

As part of a major recommendation from NSW’s Bus Industry Taskforce, the staff Opal cards is set to encourage driver retention, helping with the bus driver shortage.

Staff Opal cards is also part of the NSW government’s election commitments to help drivers with cost-of-living pressures while also giving them the respect they deserve.

Transport for NSW (TfNSW) says it has been working with the taskforce, operators and unions on other measures to alleviate the driver shortage and deliver reliability and equity improvements for bus drivers across the state.

“This is about showing appreciation and respect for our bus drivers. Drivers work long hours in difficult conditions, and they’ve had to deal with the fallout from privatisation,” NSW transport minister Jo Haylen says.

“We’re keeping our promise to bus drivers and letting them know that we deeply value the work that they do.”

Haylen says the NSW government also continues to make it quicker, easier and cheaper for drivers to get their bus driver authority by waiving the $70 application fee for a further 12 months in a bid to better support the industry and encourage more people into the driver’s seat.

Transport for NSW is also working to improve the quality of facilities for bus drivers across Greater Sydney.

All 62 layover and interchange locations identified by drivers, unions and operators have been audited, with some quick repairs already underway.

As part of the state’s package to support bus drivers, $3.4 million is being invested into assessing and upgrading vital driver facilities such as meal rooms and bathrooms for drivers.

Bus drivers will also soon have access to new navigation technology, which will further improve service efficiency and make it easier for drivers to learn new routes.

Development for this new tool is currently underway, following recommendations in the first Bus Industry Taskforce report handed down last year.

From Friday April 19, contracted bus operators will be able to download an application to both iOS and Android tablets which will allow drivers to navigate new or changed routes with visual and voice guided instructions.

This means new drivers will be better supported as they learn their routes, with it also improving the reliability of timetables and ensuring passengers have fewer disruptions to services.

The driver assistance system will also allow drivers to choose a specific route, select a trip start time, offer visual and voice direction to a bus stop and provide visual and time progress updates as the bus moves through the route.

It’s all part of the NSW government’s promise to deliver better bus services across the state and to ensure that those services meet community expectations.

The Taskforce, established in May 2023 and chaired by John Lee, has focused on key areas in need of improvement, including the quality of bus services in relation to on-time running and reliability, as well as improving driver facilities, driver recruitment and retention.

The Taskforce will provide the NSW government with its final report and recommendations in May.

“When we jump in a car, most of us will put an address into our GPS – it’s second nature. Bus drivers should have the similar technology,” Haylen says.

“Our bus drivers are navigating some of the busiest roads across the country and we want to arm them with any and all technology and knowledge we can.

“This new tool will help drivers get to know their route or step in and learn a new one easily, whilst also making trips more reliable and efficient for passengers, catching buses every day.”

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