Privatisation of NSW buses a 'disaster'

·2-min read

Privatising bus services in NSW has been an "absolute disaster" that has let down the community and workers, a parliamentary inquiry has found.

Transport committee chair Abigail Boyd said the public and workers were paying the price, after tabling the report on the privatisation of bus services in NSW on Tuesday.

"There has been a continual degradation of services following privatisation and workers and the community are furious," the Greens MP said.

The harms of privatisation were most obvious when is came to public transport transport because its value extended beyond profitability, she said.

"Privatisation of bus services has led to fewer services, longer travel times, and terrible outcomes for workers," Ms Boyd said.

"The realisation of the NSW government's objective to cut operational costs, and the private operators' objective to make a profit, has come at the expense of effective and reliable bus services for the public."

In a dissenting statement, the government's three committee members dismissed the report as "a political document", to be used "to attack the government in the lead up to the election".

The "privatisation" it examined was actually "franchising", and the shortage of drivers was because there was less immigration and a more competitive labour market and absences due to the pandemic.

"These factors are not the result of 'privatisation'," the trio said.

Dissenting to the first recommendation of the report, the government MPs said terminating the contracts would hurt the state's reputation and make it harder to attract private investment, however the first recommendation does not actually call for termination.

Ms Boyd said that was not being considered, "but a smart government plans for the future".

The report recommends the government consider restoring services privatised in Sydney and Newcastle to once again being publicly owned and operated.

Ms Boyd said that won't cost anything if the government waited for the contracts to expire, but in the meantime it needed to prepare to resume operating.

Contracts with private operators run up to eight years.

The committee noted privately run bus services had always operated in NSW, and in some cases were "an obvious success", when they were run with a view to customer and staff satisfaction rather than purely profit.

One of those operators was facing the prospect of their contract being put up for tender, in a process the committee said benefited larger, global companies which could leverage economies of scale.

"There's real concern that region will be taken by an impersonal multinational," Ms Boyd said.

Opposition transport spokeswoman Jo Haylen says Labor will honour the existing contracts if it forms government next year but would also "establish a taskforce involving the industry and community stakeholders which will assess the findings and recommendations so we can improve bus services".

Treasurer Matt Kean said the government was always looking at options to improve service quality.