Despite repeated promises from the Transport Minister before and after the election that the government’s bus contract ‘franchising model’ would not involve the selling off of government-owned buses, today in Budget Estimates Transport officials revealed that they are actively investigating options that would involve the selling off of future bus stock in NSW.
When pushed by Abigail Boyd, Chair of the Transport & Infrastructure Committee to give assurances that buses would remain in public hands the Secretary said they were “keeping an open mind” and did not give that assurance. Footage of the hearing can be found here (exchange happens between 34:00 and 41:00).
Abigail Boyd, Greens Transport Spokesperson says:
“It seems the Government is scrambling to hide the fact they have no plans to continue to own Sydney’s buses, but the truth is coming out.
“In Budget Estimates last year Andrew Constance stated clearly that the government’s ‘franchising’ model would mean that buses and depots would stay publicly owned, claiming it’s not privatisation because the buses would stay in public hands.
“Yet today we heard directly from Transport bureaucrats that they are considering contracts where current publicly owned buses are replaced with privately owned ones.
“It’s just another broken promise from this government not even a year after the election. This is not what the people of NSW voted for.
“The lack of honesty and transparency from this Government is gob-smacking.
“The Greens are calling on the Government to rule out NSW buses ever being owned by private operators.”
Quotes from Andrew Constance in Budget Estimates on 28 October 2019:
“The taxpayers, the people of New South Wales, the Crown—continue to own the buses and the depots. They still remain in public hands. We regulate the timetables. I saw one journalist get this wrong last week. We actually still regulate the fares under the Opal structure, so none of that changes. Given that, this is a process called franchising. I know you do not understand the subtle differences of this but if the buses and the depots still belong to the community they are not being sold off. They are actually not being privatised; they still remain in public hands.” (October 28th 2019) Click here for transcript.
Quotes from Transport bureaucrats in Budget Estimates on 11 March 2020:
“It’s not necessarily that buses will be owned [by the Government] one way or the other” – Elizabeth Mildwater, Deputy Secretary, Greater Sydney, Transport for NSW (35:10 in footage)
“Potentially [future stock of electric buses] will [be owned by the Government] but we haven’t landed on that yet – Elizabeth Mildwater, Deputy Secretary, Greater Sydney, Transport for NSW (36:14 in footage)
“We’re keeping an open mind on what’s the best way for Government to have an electric bus fleet operate in Sydney.” – Rodd Staples, Transport for NSW Secretary (39:50 in footage)
Footage of the hearing can be found here.