The Government today announced the successful tenderers to operate Adelaide’s bus and tram network from July, when the eight-year contracts of Torrens Transit and Southlink expire.
Torrens Transit have been granted eight-year contracts to operate the Outer North East, East West and a new Outer North area, while North South – now including trams – will be run by Torrens Connect, a joint venture between Torrens Transit, UGL Rail Services and John Holland.
The latter two firms are part of a consortium operating Melbourne’s passenger rail network.
Hills services will continue be run by Keolis Downer, of which Southlink is a subsidiary.
Torrens Transit is a local arm of Transit Systems, owned by the Sealink Travel Group of companies, which run the Kangaroo Island ferry.
Southlink is a subsidiary of Keolis Downer, which runs trams interstate and is bidding to operate Adelaide’s metropolitan train network under a State Government tender process now underway.
Outer South services will be run by Busways South Australia.
“These new bus service contracts are going to deliver better, faster and more frequent services for South Australians,” said Transport Minister Stephan Knoll.
“In the coming weeks, we will be releasing details about the bus service improvements that will benefit South Australians ahead of a consultation period we will undertake.
“Now the contracts have been signed, we can begin working with the providers to deliver the best possible bus and tram network for South Australians.”
But the Rail, Tram and Bus Union slammed the decision, saying it would fight to keep trams in public hands.
“The people of South Australia know a dud deal when they see it, and this is a complete stinker,” said union secretary Darren Phillips.
“We know from the experience interstate and overseas that private operators seek to maximise their profits by reducing costs wherever they can. Inevitably that means cuts to services and safety.”
Phillips said it was “extraordinary that the State Government could enter into a long-term contract for the private operation of a public service without even presenting a business case to justify the decision”.
“The Marshall State Government has failed to meet the most basic and fundamental standards of governance. These days you can’t even get a loan to set up a fish and chip shop without doing a thorough business case. It is clear that the Marshall Government cannot be trusted to manage public assets,” he said.
Opposition Leader Peter Malinauskas said “privatisation” of public transport would mean cuts to services and higher fares.
“A private operator will be seeking to make a profit,” he said.
“That means they’ll be more interested in increasing revenue and cutting expenditure than providing a quality public transport service for commuters.”
At a press conference later, Knoll was asked about possible job losses and said: “Those issues are being worked through as we speak.”
Sealink Travel Group CEO Clint Feuerherdt said he was “excited to bring their world class innovations to the local market, including high frequency services throughout the term of the contract”.
“We passionately believe that if we make public transport more reliable and convenient, we will attract more passengers on board, which is why we seek to improve connectivity, performance and patronage in all of our contract areas,” he said.
He said the North South region had been “designed as a fully integrated bus and Tram network, where both modes work together – complementing each other”.
“Between high frequency services, and integrated bus and tram outcomes, we will open up new destinations on the public transport network for customers,” he said.
“The new tender has allowed us to bring in our global best practice experience, matched with our local market knowledge and history, to truly create a tailored series of network improvements for Adelaide.
“It’s a very unique opportunity for residents of Adelaide, to have one of Australia’s leading multi-modal transport operators based right here. It means we are not making assumptions or guessing – we know the market, we know transport and we are confident we can continue to improve performance and not just attract more passengers on board, but get them to where they are going safely, and more enjoyably,” he said.
Announcing the tenders in February last year, Knoll said the state’s public transport network needed reform.
“Adelaide’s public transport system is stuck in the 20th century and this new contract is an opportunity to bring 21st technology and service delivery methods to Adelaide to benefit commuters,” he said.
Bus contract tenderers were asked to grow patronage, deliver more and faster services, improve integration with other public transport and cut service delivery costs.
“This new bus services contract is the single biggest lever we have to improve bus and tram services and drive patronage growth,” Knoll said today.
“We know that public transport patronage flatlined under the former Labor Government. More people caught a bus, train or tram 10 years ago than when Labor left Office in 2018.
“That’s why the Marshall Government has taken this opportunity to reinvigorate our bus service network and provide better, faster and more frequent services.”
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