Dodgy Dealings – The non-Inner West bus routes to be privatised

Despite Constance assurances from the State government that only Region 6 Inner West Bus routes are being sold off to Transit Systems and that all other current STA routes will remain in government hands, it now seems that isn’t the case.

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The STA network is very complex and contains some routes which stretch across 2 or more regions. This has meant that some trade offs have had to be made when it comes to delegating routes in the privatisation, with some routes crossing into Region 6 retained by STA and some routes with portions outside of Region 6 being handed over to TSA.

What we are now seeing is the proposed privatisation of routes that either barely scrape the edge of Region 6 and are predominantly based in other regions or in some cases don’t actually operate in Region 6 at all. These decisions come despite constant assurances from Transport Minister Andrew Constance that only Region 6 Inner West bus routes are being sold off.

It is understood by Transport NSW Blog that Transit Systems played a large role in choosing which bus routes they would and wouldn’t operate, in some cases cherry picking more desirable routes, perhaps better suited to STA operation. We also understand that STA was given very limited say in this process, despite the fact that numerous routes in their operating regions are being given away to TSA.

There is some debate over what actually constitutes Region 6 and whether or not the routes have been fairly divided based on the offical drawn boundary maps published by Transport for NSW. For example the eastern boundary of Region 6 on offical maps is from Botany Bay, the Alexandria Canal, Huntley Street, Sydney Park Road, Illawarra Rail line to Central. Theoretically, this puts many routes planned for TSA operation solely in STA operating regions.

There are other instances in which the operation of a route would likely be more efficient in STA hands. If the purpose of privatisation is to make more efficient cheaper services, moving depots further away from termini seems counter intuitive. In one example, the closest STA depot to a routes western terminus (located on the Bordet of Region 6) is 5km away at Ryde, whilst TSA will have a depot 5km away in Leichhardt, this probably doesn’t cause efficiency problems. The bigger issue is when you look at distances from the eastern terminus. The nearest STA depot in Randwick is 3km away, whilst the nearest TSA depot will be in Tempe, some 12km away. In this case it is clear the only consideration has been the routes western terminus being in Region 6 as the route would likely have been much more efficient in STA hands.

The following routes either with only portions inside or entirely outside Region 6 that will be handed over to Transit Systems are;

305, 308, 348, 389, 418, 440, 530, M10, M20, M30, M41 and M50.

With some of these routes, their placement in Region 6 is understandable. Most of these routes are long cross regionals with both large stretches in and out of region 6, making it difficult to classify a route as more Region 6 or more other STA region. It is incorrect however to characterise the privatisation of STA services as limited to the Inner West region 6, as many of these routes operate in Regions 7 and 9.

In particular, I have taken issue with a few routes that I believe would be better off served by STA rather than Transit Systems. The reasons for this are listed next to the route;

  • 305 Railway Square to Stamford Plaza Mascot; Route 305 operates predominantly within STA Region 9 with arguably no part in Region 6. Its operation would be more efficient from Region 9 depots.
  • 308 City Australia Square to Marrickville Metro; Route 308 is arguably a Region 9 route, being mostly located just within the western edge of Region 9. Operation could potentially be more efficient from Region 9 depots.
  • 389 Bondi Junction to Maritime Museum via Five Way; Route 389 operates predominantly within STA Region 9. Its operation would be more efficient from Region 9 depots.
  • M20 Gore Hill to Botany via Zetland; Route M20 operates predominantly within STA Regions 7 and 9, with arguably no part in Region 6. Its operation would be more efficient from Region 7 and 9 depots.
  • M50 Coogee to Drummoyne via Central – Route M50 is interesting, whilst part of the route is technically spilt between Region 6 and STA Region 9, like many other of the Metrobus routes, I believe its operation would still be more efficient from Region 7 and 9 depots. The example above was referring to this route.

In some cases the line between whether a route is better off in Region 6 with TSA or with STA is very fuzzy. In some cases, it is likely that the right decision has been made, but I’m not convinced on the merits of every decision made. Questions need to asked about this process. Are Botany, Mascot and Zetland really the inner west? Should one out of many duplicating routes have been privatised whilst other aren’t? How much power were TSA really given in this decision? Were the STA consulted enough about the changes?

 

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