Public transport is a public service that needs to be run for the public good, not the private profit. The privatisation of public transport is an ideological obsession of the right, which consistently makes baseless claims in order to further this ideological agenda. Privatisation consistently fails to live up to the hype of its proponents and typically does not provide any benefits for the travelling public or the taxpayer. It is purported that the privatisation of services will deliver benefits such as a more reliable and innovative service delivery as well as better value for money for taxpayers. None of these things are true. Instead, a decrease in services, higher costs, and poorer outcomes for workers and commuters alike are the only things that are realistically achieved by the privatisation of public transport.
This is currently a major issue in New South Wales. The New South Wales State Government has plans to privatise the state owned State Transit Authority, and contract out its services to private bus operators. This comes despite the fact that previous sales of State Transit operated services under the current government failing to deliver on their promises. Across bus and ferry services in Sydney and Newcastle, private operators replacing State Transit have not been able to provide a better service, and in many cases, have actually delivered worse outcomes than those achieved by State Transit.
From Sunday 17 May 2020, Transport for NSW has implemented new measures in order to slow the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic in light of the increased freedoms as restrictions on movement are eased. This include new restrictions on capacity in order to ensure physical distancing.
Recently, the NSW Government has grappled with the question of whether or not to make face masks or coverings compulsory on public transport. At this stage they have made the decision not to require masks or coverings, just to strongly recommend it. Despite this, there are loud calls to make them mandatory in order to reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission on public transport.
Transport for NSW has implemented a large suite of measures in an attempt to reduce the risk of COVID-19 spreading on public transport. (You can read about those here and here.) Despite implementing these measures, one measure that has been commonly enforced both overseas and in other Australian state is the mandatory wearing of face mask on all services. Initially medical advice did not suggest that wearing face masks was an effect measure to reduce the spread of COVID-19, but we now know that wearing a face mask significantly reduces the chance of COVID-19 transmission. In May, former Chief Medical Officer Brendan Murphy said wearing masks on public transport “is not an unreasonable thing to do”. Despite this we have continually seen advice from Transport for NSW that suggested masks were unnecessary.
The evidence is now clear in saying that by wearing a face mask, we can reduce the risk of transmission of COVID-19. NSW Health and the World Health Organisation (WHO) have both updated their advice and now recommend healthy people wear a mask in public where there is widespread transmission and/or in places where physical distancing is difficult. This includes on public transport.
Based on this updated advice, Transport for NSW now states that “Face masks are strongly recommended on public transport” based on the updated advice from NSW Health. They have rolled out a new advertising campaign with a focus on wearing a face mask on public transport, with posters and signage appearing at stations, wharves and on buses this week.
What is notable about this new advice is the key emphasis across all messaging is that this is a ‘recommendation’ rather than a requirement. Anecdotal evidence suggests that less than a third of all passengers on services are wearing a mask, with many passengers also failing to adhere to social distancing requirements. In addition, many customer facing staff are also not wearing masks, despite Transport ‘supposedly’ providing staff with sufficient face masks to wear during their shifts. This makes a mockery of the new recommendations and demonstrates the lack of commitments to mask wearing at Transport for NSW.
It is clear that by not mandating face masks on public transport, the risk of COVID-19 transmission on Transport for NSW services is elevated. Only time will tell if the current stance is the correct one. What do you think? Should face masks be mandatory on public transport?
Transport NSW Blog endorses the use of face masks on public transport based on the prevailing medical advice from NSW Health and the WHO. We would like to advise that this article is not a substitute for medical advice and the author of this article has no medical training.
State Transit has been trialling an electric bus over the past two weeks, in order to determine the suitability of electric buses to the State Transit operation. Transport NSW Blog was lucky enough to spend an evening with the bus as it travelled throughout Sydney’s eastern suburbs. It is understood that the trial is in preparation for an order of electric buses to be made by State Transit.
The vehicle, a Yutong ZK6131HGE was based out of Waverley Depot for the duration of the trial. It has a range of approximately 300km on eachcharge, and operates on a fully electric 324kWh motor. The bus was charged using a 150KW DC charger, capable of a 2.5h quick charge. The bus is wheelchair accessible, air-conditioned and has space for two wheelchairs.
The bus mostly duplicated timetabled services, travelling just ahead of the actual service in order to collect a higher number of passengers. Two drivers from Waverley were specially picked to operate the bus over the trial periods and the drivers were at liberty to determine which trips the bus operated. This has seen the bus operate on a variety of routes regularly operated by Waverley and other Eastern Region depots. This saw the bus operate on route 309, 333, 340, 343, 357, 377, 379, 394, 396, 400 amongst others.
Despite being based at Waverley, the vehicle had to travel out to STA AMD at Leichhardt each evening to be charged. This is because Waverley depot does not currently have the ability to charge electric buses. If a full order of electric buses is made, Waverley depot will have its gas fuelling facilities converted to electric charging stations to facilitate the fleet.
Transport NSW Blog was highly impressed by the vehicle during the in service trips we joined the vehicle for. The power that the bus produced was impressive for an electric bus. It was quick off the mark and felt powerful. Travelling up Barker Street, Kingsford, on the 400, the bus was able to maintain 40km/h the entire way up the hill. It was very quiet, with only some small sounds made by the motor audible at the very rear of the bus. Suspension was sufficient, dampening all but the worst bumps in the road. Overall, it was impressive for an electric bus.
There will be changes to Opal prices from 6 July 2020. These changes are designed to reward commuters for travelling off peak and help manage social distancing measures during shoulder peak periods.
Key Changes Include;
A temporary 50 per cent discount for off-peak travel on bus, train, metro and light rail services between July 6 and September 6
A new $8.05 all day travel cap will be introduced on Saturday and Sunday.
An increase in fares for peak 0-3km bus and light rail journeys to $3.20 (currently $2.24, a 42% increase)
Changes to the definitions of peak travel times;
6:30am–10am on Sydney Trains, Sydney Metro, light rail and bus (currently 7am-9am)
6am-10am on Intercity Trains (currently 6am-8am)
3pm-7pm on Sydney Trains, Intercity Trains, Sydney Metro, light rail and bus (currently 4pm-6:30pm)
Currently, shoulder peak and Sunday services make up some of the most crowded services on the network. By increasing the cost of services at these times, the government hopes to shift travel patterns and smooth the level of loading across the entire off peak period.
The 50 per cent off-peak discount will remain in place for 3 months. After this, a permanent 30 per cent discount for off-peak travel will be introduced on bus and light rail for the first time, in line with current off-peak fares for train and metro.
Sydney Metro Western Sydney Airport has been given the go ahead for a 2026 opening alongside the airport after the Federal Government committed $1.75 billion alongside an initial $3.5 billion in State funding for the new line. The jointly funded project will cost $11 billion and will connect the new Western Sydney Airport to the existing rail network at St Marys.
The line will consist of six stations. A station at St Marys will allow for seamless connections to the Sydney Trains network. Stations at Orchard Hills and Luddenhma will allow for new town centres and urban development. Stations at the new International Business Park and Aerotropolis will service the new major commercial centres in the region, whilst a station will also be located at the airport itself.
The line will now enter the detailed planning stage, ahead of construction beginning in 2021. The line is expected to open alongside the airport in 2026.
The NSW Government has confirmed that they will be adding extra bus services along key corridors from this week. These extra services will allow for better physical distancing on public transport, and ensure that limits of 12 people per bus are more easily maintained.
An extra 110 trips each week will be added to key corridors on the regular bus network during peak periods. This is in addition to regular shuttle buses between new overflow car parking at Moore Park and Central. These services will all be operated by State Transit.
Extra services will run on the following routes
1 – Moore Park to Central EXPRESS
B1 – Mona Vale to City Wynyard via Dee Why
202 – Northbridge to City Gresham Street via North Sydney
246 – Balmoral Heights to City Wynyard via Spit Junction
247 – Taronga Zoo to City Wynyard via Spit Junction
285 – Lane Cove West to City Wynyard via Freeway
309 – Banksmeadow to Railway Square via Green Square
309X – Banksmeadow to Railway Square EXPRESS
324 – Watsons Bay to City Walsh Bay via Edgecliff
372 – Coogee to Railway Square via Randwick
At this stage no extra services will be operated by private operators. Bus NSW director Matt Threlkeld suggested that private buses “could be deployed to increase service levels in Greater Sydney during peak periods if issues relating to fare collection, destination signage, real time apps and accessibility can be overcome.”
A timeline for the privatisation of State Transit, the state government owned bus operator, has today been revealed. The first tenders will go out next month and the process is expected to be complete by April 2022.
Each region will be tendered separately, with Region 8 (Lower North Shore and Northern Beaches) being the first put out to tender next month. This will be followed by Region 7 (North West and Upper North Shore) and then Region 9 (Eastern Suburbs and Inner City).
The indicative timeline for the tender and privatisation is as follows;
Request for Tender
Region 8 (North)
(Brookvale, North Sydney and Mona Vale depots)
Region 7 (West)
(Ryde and Willoughby depots)
Region 9 (East)
(Port Botany, Randwick and Waverley depots)
The new operators will begin services in Region 8 by 1 October 2021, Region 7 by 1 December 2021 and Region 9 by 1 April 2022.
The decision to tender all three regions separately, instead of at the same time, came after market sounding determined that privatising all regions at once was far too ambitious. Further, with the impact of COVID-19, potential operators wanted more time to consider their bids in order to be in the most competitive position. With Region 8 attracting the most interest from potential operators, it was decided that it would be the first to be privatised.
At this stage, there is no firm sign of which operators will be tendering or control of these regions. Despite this, it can be reasonably assumed that all major players would be interested in these lucrative contracts. Potential tenders include Busways, Comfort Del Gro Corporation (as CDC), Deutsche Bahn (as Arriva), Kinetic, Keolis Downer, Sea Link Travel Group (as Transit Systems) and Transdev.
It had previously been announced in October 2019 that the government had intended to tender out all regions other than Region 6 in 2020 for new contracts taking over on July 1 2021. This included all the State Transit regions. As the State Transit tenders have been spilt, it will likely also mean changes to the tender process for other regions as well.
Scroll to the end of the article to see a list of Northern Beaches routes renumbered from May 3 2020.
There will be a number of upcoming changes to the numbers of some bus routes across Sydney. Focusing in on routes with non-standard route numbers (any route without a regular 3-digit route number), all routes will be renumbered into a regular system. All routes will either have a three digit number (e.g. 000, 374, 999), a three digit number followed by ‘X’ to denote an express or limited stops version of a route (e.g. 000X, 374X, 999X) or a three digit number followed by ‘N’ to denote an overnight route (e.g. 000N, 374N, 999N).
A large majority of routes already have a regular route number, so these changes will be mainly focused at ‘express’, ‘limited stops’, ‘metrobus’ or ‘T-Way’ route services. Of course, some of these routes have already received this change. All CDC Hillbus express services have been numbered with a ‘X’ suffix at the end of years, and recently STA introduced this on their Botany Road corridor. Some overnight services on flagship corridors, such as STA’s 333 and 400, have had services between midnight and 5am renumbered 333N and 400N for over a year. The changes now are to ensure that this is uniformly applied across the network.
Transport NSW Blog supports these changes to the network. We believe that it is important to retain a uniform numbering system for all bus routes across Sydney and NSW, and that integrating all routes across Sydney more uniformly into the current system is a big win. Despite this, we want to ensure that these changes are indeed applied across the whole network. Too often we see half hearted changes that get applied to half the network but then never get fully rolled out. All routes need to comply with the new system fully, and realistically all non-compliant routes should move across at the same time in order to avoid any drawn out period of noncompliant routes.
STA Region 8, covering the Lower North Shore and Northern Beaches area will be making these changes across all of its express and limited stops routes from Sunday 3 May 2020. It is understood that STA Region 9, covering the Eastern Suburbs and Inner City as well as TSA Region 6, covering the Inner West and Inner South will change over to the new system when the long awaited changes to the South East bus network due to the opening of the light rail occur. It is anyones guess as to when that and the other regions renumbering will occur, however it is expected to be completed later this year across STA and TSA.
LIST OF NORTH SHORE AND NORTHERN BEACHES ROUTE NUMBER CHANGES
Route E50 renumbered to 150X
Route E54 renumbered to 154X
Route E60 renumbered to 160X
Route E65 renumbered to 165X
Route E66 renumbered to 166X
Route E68 renumbered to 168X
Route E69 renumbered to 169X
Route E70 renumbered to 170X
Route E71 renumbered to 171X
Route E75 renumbered to 175X
Route E76 renumbered to 176X
Route E77 renumbered to 177X
Route E78 renumbered to 178X
Route E79 renumbered to 179X
Route E80 renumbered to 180X
Route E83 renumbered to 183X
Route E85 renumbered to 185X
Route E88 renumbered to 188X
Route E89 renumbered to 189X
Route L90 renumbered to 190X
No routes or timetables will be changing on 3 May 2020, only the route numbers that buses show on the destination board and in timetable apps.
Thanks to Leon Sharpe for providing images of buses displaying new route numbers for use in the article.