2023 Policy Initiative - Public Buses in Public Hands

Taking back control of our public transport - Public buses in public hands.

Public transport is a public good. Its value extends beyond its direct profitability, and goes to the heart of what we value in our society. A well-functioning public transport system is vital for the economic health of our state, for reducing greenhouse gas emissions and for ensuring community mobility and equity. The people of New South Wales deserve accessible, affordable, frequent and reliable public bus services. 

But over the last decade, the Liberal-National Government in NSW has privatised every last one of our bus services. Particularly in Sydney and Newcastle, the vast majority of our bus services are now run by large national and multinational companies. The result has been disjointed and unreliable services and a workforce unfairly lumped with lower pay and far worse conditions. 

Privatising bus service contracts to large national and multinational companies was a colossal mistake by the Liberal and National parties. But it can be reversed.

Unpicking the mistakes of the Liberal-National Government will not be easy, but it will only get harder if we delay it, particularly where asset ownership is being increasingly transferred to public hands along with services. The Greens will take decisive action to bring our public buses back into public hands by restoring the State Transit Authority, reversing privatisations in Sydney and Newcastle, bringing bus manufacturing back to NSW and ensuring that workers across the industry are given fairer wages and conditions.

THE GREENS WILL: 

  • Bring back the State Transit Authority
  • Restore public bus services in Sydney and Newcastle by reversing Liberal-National privatisations
  • Create thousands of jobs and improve reliability of services by bringing bus manufacturing back to NSW
  • Ensure workers across the bus industry are given fair wages and conditions

Re-establishing the State Transit Authority 

The State Transit Authority should never have been gutted by the Liberal-National Government. The Greens will bring it back, ensuring that we have a public bus operator in NSW for generations to come.

The people of New South Wales should never be at the mercy of private corporations when it comes to the provision of essential public services. Yet the Liberal-National Government has made sure that we have no public operator of buses in our State.

The Greens will:

  • Restore the functions of the State Transit Authority
  • Ready the STA to take over public bus services from private operators
  • Ensure that the STA is the employer of choice for those in the bus industry

Restoring our public bus services

Privatising bus service contracts to large national and multinational companies was a colossal mistake by the Liberal and National parties. But it can be reversed.

The Liberal-National Government has spent the last 10 years privatising all of the passenger bus services in New South Wales.

Most egregiously, over 75% of all Sydney bus trips, as well as 100% of those in Newcastle, are now operated by large private players.

The result of privatisation has been disrupted routes, fewer services, higher costs for passengers and worse pay and conditions for bus drivers.

The parliamentary inquiry into bus privatisation, chaired by the Greens, found that the privatisation of bus services has not resulted in any real market competition because the competition occurs only at the tender phase after which time the market for a particular area is monopolised albeit regulated. The result has been a bus service delivery based on the lowest-cost model, rather than the best service for the public.

Newcastle was one of the first regions to be privatised by the Liberal-National Government. We need to restore buses as a comfortable and convenient form of transport in this growing city.

The Greens will:

  • Reverse the privatisation of Sydney Metro Regions 6, 7, 8 and 9, reinstalling the STA as operator
  • Reverse the privatisation of Newcastle’s buses, reinstalling the STA as operator
  • Bring back free shuttle buses in Newcastle – linking the centre of Newcastle with Newcastle Interchange, TAFEs, University campuses, John Hunter Hospital, shops, parks and beaches
  • Prevent further encroachment by large national and multinational private operators into regions outside of Sydney that are already well serviced by smaller, typically family-run operators
  • Review remaining contracts with large national and multinational bus operators with a view to allowing STA to take over contracts as they expire

Bringing bus manufacturing back to NSW

We have the skills and capability to manufacture our own transport infrastructure in NSW, including electric buses. The Greens will back our State to build the transport infrastructure of the future.

In July 2018, the Liberal-National Government’s decision to build buses offshore and interstate led to the closure of NSW’’s last bus manufacturer, costing 161 workers their jobs. Since then, most of our buses have been imported, but recently, Custom Denning has commenced manufacture of some electric buses in Western Sydney.

Not only does NSW still have the skills and capability to manufacture zero-emissions buses, boosting local manufacture will also be vital if we are going to transition to 100% electric buses by 2030.

The Greens will commit to providing local bus manufacturers with the support they need to commence or scale-up production, and to implement a local-first strategy of procurement in relation to transitioning our buses as quickly as possible to 100% electric. We will ensure that ownership of these buses and related infrastructure are kept in public hands, and work with smaller operators to ensure a quick and fair rollout across the State. 

Improving worker pay and conditions

Privatisation of our buses has led to lower pay and worse conditions for workers. The Greens will ensure workers get a fair deal.

The privatisation of bus services in NSW has resulted in two tiers of workers, depending on whether or not they were previously employed by the STA. Those employed under a separate industrial instrument with a private operator are paid less and have worse conditions than drivers working on exactly the same buses and routes who carried over from STA.

A fractured workforce is a weakened workforce. Our public transport system is too important to be left to the whims of private operators – and the public deserves to be able to expect the same quality of service and safety across the entire network, regardless of where they get on and off. By consolidating buses back into public operation, we can remove the perverse financial incentives that dictate the actions of multinational private operators – making sure all shifts worked are of a safe length, with adequate breaks and rosters are structured in consultation with workers in a way that means drivers are able to concentrate on their job of getting the public safely to where they’re going.

Not only do we need industry-wide enterprise agreements to put all workers on the same playing field, we need to markedly improve pay and conditions across the board.

The Greens will:

  • reestablish the STA to act as the model employer – setting improved employment, performance and service delivery standards
  • work with unions and workers to develop minimum pay and employment conditions to apply throughout NSW, removing the current two tier system that fractures the workforce and undermines workers bargaining
  • ensure all contracts set clear rostering standards for workers’ work-life balance – for the interests of workers and safety of the travelling public
  • ensure all workers have the opportunity and support to be upskilled and adequately trained in operating and maintaining zero emissions buses and infrastructure
  • reverse the privatisation and outsourcing of cleaners – making sure hygiene and safety standards are not sacrificed for profit
  • restore full access to the employee travel pass (entitling employees to travel free on the Opal network) for all bus drivers and maintenance and operational staff employed in NSW public transport

BACKGROUND - CURRENT BUS SERVICE CONTRACTS

Several of the private operators with a bus service contract in the Outer Sydney Metropolitan area are local, family-run companies that have been delivering bus services in their respective communities for many decades, notably in areas where there has never been a publicly operated bus service. There are also a number of private operators with bus service contracts in the Sydney Metropolitan area that have been held by family-owned and run bus operators for several decades.

Large national or multinational companies operate the large majority of Sydney’s daily bus services (11 of 14 regions). Regions 6, 7, 8 and 9 together constitute 75% of daily bus services in Sydney and these are all now operated by large private entities (whereas prior to privatisation they were operated by the State Transit Authority).

Busways is a family-owned business that has been in operation for over 80 years and is Australia’s largest private bus operator, employing more than 2,600 people. Premier Transport Group, a network of family-owned and operated businesses, employs over 600 staff. On a smaller scale, Interline Bus Services, Red Bus Services and Busabout are family-run businesses, employing 100-250 people each. In contrast:

  • Keolis Downer is a large company formed as a joint venture between Keolis (an international public transport operator) and Downer (a provider of integrated services in Australia and New Zealand), together employing around 114,000 people globally.
  • Transdev is a large international public transport operator with a presence in 17 countries, employing around 83,000 people.
  • U-Go Mobility, which will take over Region 10 from July 2023, is a joint venture between Cimic Group’s services company UGL and international transport operations provider Go-Ahead. Go-Ahead is the largest bus operator in London with operations in several countries. Together, these companies are part of corporate groups employing over 60,000 people.
  • ComfortDelGro (CDC) is a public company based in Singapore and is one of the world’s largest land transport companies in the world with a global workforce of over 22,000. It joined with Cabcharge in 2005 to acquire Westbus Group.
  • Transit Systems Group is a subsidiary of Kelsian Group Limited, Australia’s largest tourism and marine transport company, operating bus services across Australia and in Singapore and London. Kelsian Group employs around 8,700 staff.

 

Figure 1: Bus service privatisations

SYDNEY METROPOLITAN BUS SERVICE CONTRACTS

Region

Operator

Suburbs

Contract term

Greens plan

1.

Busways Blacktown

Blacktown, Mt Druitt, Penrith

6 October 2013 (out for tender, to be awarded Feb 2023)

Review

2.

Transit Systems

Liverpool, Bringelly, Leppington, Edmondson Park, Glenfield, Minto, Campbelltown 

New contract awarded 20 Feb 2023

Review

3.

Transit Systems (NSW) Liverpool

Fairfield (Parramatta, Blacktown, Hills, Hornsby) 

2023 - 2031

Review

4.

CDC NSW

Hills (Parramatta, Blacktown Hills, Hornsby) 

2023 - 2031

Review

6.

Transit Systems West

Inner West, CBD, Rockdale, Canterbury, Burwood, Kogarah, Sydney Airport, Campsie 

1 July 2018 - 1 July 2026

Reverse privatisation

7.

Busways North West

North Shore and West (Chatswood, Epping, Macquarie Park, Ryde, Lane Cove, Willoughby)

9 Jan 2022 - 9 Jan 2030

Reverse privatisation

8.

Keolis Downer Northern Beaches

Northern Beaches (Wakehurst, Manly, North Shore)

30 October 2021 - 2029

Reverse privatisation

9.

Transdev John Holland

Eastern Suburbs (Bondi, Kingsford, Maroubra, Randwick, Coogee) 

April 2022 - April 2030

Reverse privatisation

10.*

U-GO Mobility

Sutherland, Menai, Tarn Point, Miranda

July 2023 - 2031

Review

12. 

CDC NSW

Chatswood, Gordon, Hornsby, Berowra 

2023-2031

Review

13.

Transit Systems

Bankstown, Parramatta, Liverpool

2023 - 2031

Review

14.

CDC NSW

Northern Beaches

2023-2031

Review

*Region 11 absorbed into Region 10 in 2009. Region 5 absorbed into Region 10 in 2023. Region 15 absorbed into Region 2 in 2023.

 

SYDNEY NON-METROPOLITAN BUS SERVICE CONTRACTS

Region

Operator

Area

Contract term

Greens plan

1.

Rover Coaches

Cessnock, Kurri Kurri

Ends 30 June 2028

N/A

2.

Hunter Valley Buses (ComfortDelGro)

Maitland, Raymond Terrace

Ends 30 June 2028

Review

3.

Port Stephens Coaches

Port Stephens

Ends 30 June 2028

N/A

4.

Hunter Valley Buses (ComfortDelGro)

Toronto, Wyee, Morisset

Ends 30 June 2028

Review

6.

Busways Gosford

Central Coast

Ends 30 June 2024

Review

7.

Red Bus Services

Gosford, The Entrance

Ends 30 June 2024

N/A

8.

Blue Mountains Transit (ComfortDelGro)

Blue Mountains

Ends 30 June 2028

Review

9.

Premier Charters

Helensburgh

Ends 30 June 2028

N/A

10.

Premier Illawarra

Wollongong South

Ends 30 June 2028

N/A

11.

Hunter Valley Buses (ComfortDelGro)

Wyong

Ends 30 June 2028

Review

12.

Seapost (Dion Bus Services)

Wollongong North, Bulli

Ends 30 June 2028

N/A

Newcastle

Keolis Downer

 

1 July 2017 - 30 June 2027

Reverse privatisation

 

References: 

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