Tonight for the first time, the NSW government has confirmed what has been long expected. It plans to privatise the State Tranist Authoritiy Sydney Buses services.
The contract for Region 6, covering most Sydney’s Inner West including Burwood, Drummoyne, Leichhardt, Newtown, Olympic Park, Rockdale and Strathfield, will be put out to private tender. It is one of four regions operated by the government owned State Transit Authority.
The tender will begin in July this year and is expected to be completed with the new operteor in place by July 2018. Large companies such as Keolis Downer and Transit Systems ahve expressed an interested in the lucrative contract.
‘There have been improvements in recent years, but the State Transit (Authority) still lags a long way behind its industry competitors in measures like on-time running and reliability,’ The services had some of the worst on-time running results last year, and attracted the highest number of complaints out of Sydney’s metropolitan area in recent years.’ The Transport Minister Andrew Constance said in a statement on Monday.
Labor’s spokeswoman for transport Jodi McKay says she fears the plans are a prelude to a wholesale sell-off of Sydney’s transport network. ‘This is a government that is rapidly getting out of the business of running public services, Buses should be run for the public benefit, not for private profit.’
About 1200 bus drivers will be affected by the decision, with the workforce highly unionised. The Rail Tram and Bus Union has signalled it will engage in strike action should the tenders go ahead as they claim they have been mislead and betrayed by the government.
Rail Tram and Bus Union divisional secretary Chris Preston said workers had been told as recently as December that STA’s contract for bus regions in Sydney would remain after a restructure that included the axing of 200 back-office staff. “This is the biggest betrayal this Minister Constance can do to these workers. The rest of Sydney’s bus drivers will be furious as well,” he said.
It is understood that the other regions will be privatised once major new infrastructure is in place. Sydney Metro in Region 7, The B-Line in Region 8 and the CSELR in region 9. It is believed that the operators of those services will take over the STA buses as well.