The State Government has announced that 13 of the 14 bus contract regions will be put out to tender next year for a takeover date of 1 July 2021. All regions except for Region 6, which is the Inner West region privatised last year, will be out out to a competitive tender.
Controversially, this will include the three State Transit operated regions. The privatisation of these regions will mean an end to government operated bus services in Sydney after nearly 89 years.
This announcement generated much controversy, particularly because of the planned privatisation of Regions 7, 8 and 9. These regions cover the Eastern Suburbs, Northern Beaches, North Shore and North West and are the remaining regions operated by State Transit, the government owned bus operator. The thousands of drivers working for State Transit will be offered jobs by the new operators, however duplicated backroom roles could potentially be made redundant.
This announcement infuriated the Unions and the Labor Party;
- Unions NSW secretary Mark Morey said job security for public transport workers and those who supported them had “just been demolished.” Further, he claimed “Under any privatisation, the new operator is behind the eight ball before they start because they have to cut budgets. This is a deep betrayal by the Liberals who said nothing of this before the election.”
- NSW Labor leader Jodi McKay said the privatisation of the last remaining bus regions in Sydney would be a “shocking betrayal of Sydney commuters. The Premier said no more privatisations, and here we are just months after the election and she is busy selling off our public assets.”
- Tram and Bus Division Secretary of the Rail, Tram and Bus Union (RTBU) NSW, David Babineau said. “We know privatisation doesn’t work. Recent bus privatisation in the inner-west and Newcastle has failed dismally. On-time running is down, routes have been cut, stops have closed, and workers’ conditions have plummeted,”
- Labor’s transport spokesman Chris Minns said the decision was based on an “ideological obsession”, rather than performance data. “The only region that Andrew Constance has privatised, region six, has never met its on-time running KPIs. Never. Not one month,” he said.
When Newcastle and Inner West bus services were privatised, the government said poor on time performance and high levels of complaints on run by State Transit as justification. However, in both areas, on time running has fallen and complaints have skyrocketed since privatisation. This means that there is no justification for the privatisation of these bus services. State Transit has the lowest operating costs and highest on time running in NSW.
Since the announcement there have been large concerns about the future of bus services in the areas that will change operators. There are concerns that some routes will be cut or truncated or that stops will be closed, as occurred in Newcastle and the Inner West.
Minister for Transport Andrew Constance claimed that the services are not being privatised as the government will continue to own the buses and depots as well as set timetables and routes. However, given he is engaging the private sector to operate previously government run services, it is fair to call it privatisation. Further, we know that in both Newcastle and the Inner West, the new operator was given significant freedom to cut bus services which led to worse outcomes for commuters.
Mr Constance said “The NSW Government will engage with the private sector to transform the current, one-size-fits-all model of service delivery, to one with multiple service types including high-capacity routes and local and on-demand travel.” He also further demonstrated the fact that the move is purely ideological when he claimed “Today’s announcement is not a reflection on the performance of State Transit bus drivers who have been doing an excellent job dealing with the strong surge in passenger numbers and demanding road conditions,”
Here at Transport NSW Blog, we are 100% opposed to privatisation in any form. Public services should be operated by the public sector for the public good, not the private sector for the private profit. These new private operators will deliver poorer service outcomes for passengers and lower quality of life for drivers as has been demonstrated across other operators. Both the Unions and the Labor Party are expected to fight this privatisation move.