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Transit Systems wins bus privatisation race in Sydney

Sydney Morning Herald logo Sydney Morning Herald 13/02/2018 Matthew O'Sullivan

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The Berejiklian government has pushed ahead with the privatisation of bus services in Sydney's inner west, confirming Transit Systems will take over from the state-run operator in July.

The move has infuriated the Rail Tram and Bus Union which claims privatisation of bus region six – covering suburbs from Kensington in the city's south-east to Strathfield and Olympic Park in the west – will lead to lead to fewer stops and buses and longer journeys times.

"That is exactly what has happened in Newcastle after the government sold off their buses. It will certainly happen here,” the union's divisional secretary, Chris Preston, said. “This is yet another captain’s call from the Transport Minister."

But Transport Minister Andrew Constance said the awarding of the tender to Transit Systems would in fact result in extra services on four of the region's busiest bus routes.

“From day one of the contract, customers will be able to order a bus like they order an Uber, with on demand mini-bus services around Canada Bay, Concord and Strathfield," he said.

“Within six months the new operator will introduce around 270 extra weekly services across three popular routes, between Kingsgrove and the city, Burwood and the city and Chiswick and the city."

The inner-west region has been one of four in NSW in which buses are run by the government-owned State Transit Authority. The latest decision takes the number of regions in the hands of private operators such as Transdev and Hillsbus to 12.

The new contract covering bus services in Sydney's inner west will begin in July. © Peter Rae The new contract covering bus services in Sydney's inner west will begin in July. Transit Systems' contract will start on July 1 and run for eight years, and includes a review after five years to ensure its performance is up to scratch.

The naming of the successful tender is the worst-kept secret in the industry, coming just after Labor piled pressure on Mr Constance during question time in Parliament to confirm that Transit Systems had indeed won the contract.

The company already has contracts with the state government to operate other routes in Sydney's west such as those at Parramatta, Fairfield and Liverpool.

About 1200 bus drivers are affected by the latest decision to privatise services. In all, STA has about 3700 drivers in Sydney and 12 bus depots.

The Rail Tram and Bus Union accused the Transport Minister of ignoring tens of thousands of commuters who did not want the bus services privatised, as well as a written guarantee to drivers in late 2016 that there jobs were safe.

"He’s ignored them. I completely understand why the community is furious,” Mr Preston said.

“We call on Minister Constance to guarantee Sydney commuters that stops will not be closed and bus services not be cancelled under a private operator.”

The government said bus drivers affected by the awarding of the contract to Transit Systems would be offered jobs with the private operator and an 18-month employment guarantee.

In May last year, about 1200 Sydney bus drivers walked off the job for 24 hours in protest against the plan to privatise the bus services in the inner west.

The union and the government have also been in a battle on another front for weeks over a new pay deal for thousands of Sydney rail workers.

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