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Govt unveils board to reform SA public transport

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The State Government has looked interstate and overseas to fill three out of four positions on a board appointed to lead reform of South Australia’s public transport system.

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Veteran Western Australian executive bureaucrat Reece Waldock – former head of Western Australia’s three state transport authorities – has been appointed presiding member of the South Australian Public Transport Authority board, beginning next month.

He will be joined by Sydney-based Monica Ryu – a long-time consultant on the commercial implications of new modes of transport, data analytics, strategic design – Fergus Gammie, a former chief executive of the New Zealand Transport Agency – and Chris Vounasis, a South Australian planner and development consultant.

Ryu is a former partner and global co-head of new mobility practise at multinational consulting firm L.E.K. Consulting, with expertise in surface transport, rail, freight and logistics, aviation and infrastructure.

She is also co-author of a 2012 paper that argues private companies deliver public transport better than governments can.

“There is a considerable weight of evidence to demonstrate that, relative to government-run public transport services, the private sector has stronger incentives to use infrastructure more efficiently, deliver better operational performance, and improve the customer experience,” the paper, Public Transport, Private Operators: Delivering Better Services Through Franchising, reads.

“Private companies are able to deliver these benefits because they can leverage significant, often global, experience from involvement with multiple public transport networks, and they are better equipped to attract and retain high quality staff,” the paper reads.

“This can be reinforced by financial incentives to realise efficiencies and deliver high levels of customer satisfaction. In contrast, public operators in monopoly markets tend to lack strong incentives to improve services for customers and increase efficiency.”

Last month, SA Transport Minister Stephan Knoll declined to rule out privatising Adelaide’s train and tram networks.

Gammie, who also lives in New South Wales, is credited with managing the establishment of New Zealand’s first light rail project.

He also reportedly resigned as chief executive of the New Zealand Transport Agency last year, amid controversy over the agency’s failure to carry out its regulatory function properly – resulting in thousands of vehicles having to be retested for warrants of fitness.

According to New Zealand media reports, he released a statement at the time explaining that the agency “has long been focused and reliant on education and self-regulation rather than focusing attention and resources on ensuring regulatory compliance and enforcement” and noting that that “the approach and focus of the Transport Agency has necessarily changed”.

Gammie’s reported statement expresses pride in his tenure as CEO, during which says he he set NTZA “on a path towards being a modern multimodal transport agency”, established a new safety and environment directorate, piloted “digital mobility solutions” in Queenstown and Auckland, while rebuilding New Zealand’s longest road following 2016 Kaikoura earthquake.

Vounasis is an experienced planner, who has worked with local governments and the private sector over the past 18 years.

He is the director of South Australian boutique planning and development consultancy Future Urban Group, which specialises in the delivery of urban planning and development services to developers, property owners, local and state governments, and the not-for-profit sector, his LinkedIn page says.

The board will meet four times a year.

Knoll said in a statement today that “public transport patronage growth has basically stalled over the last decade and we need to provide a better service to encourage more South Australians to catch a bus, train or tram”.

“We have assembled an experienced team with great technical expertise that will provide frank and fearless advice to government,” he said.

“SAPTA will be charged with improving South Australia’s public transport network and delivering better and more customer focussed services.”

In an interview with InDaily last month, Knoll explained how the Government intends to improve public transport services.

His vision involves making fewer services go further via better apps, improved ticketing systems and, in some cases, hard infrastructure upgrades – and a reliance on emerging transport technologies.

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