I welcome the first report from the Bus Industry Taskforce which has been released today. My electorate of Wakehurst has been severely impacted by delays, disruptions and cancellations to our bus services and I have been working with both the new Government and our local operator to ensure we can find smart solutions to fix bus services here on the Northern Beaches.
The fact that NSW Minister for Transport Jo Haylen has instructed Transport for NSW to begin implementing the Taskforce’s recommendations immediately is pleasing, however there is much more the Government must do to improve bus services in our state.
There are also questions around the privatisation of bus services that need to be answered. For example, the Taskforce notes that bus services across NSW are seriously underfunded when compared to the passenger load buses move daily. The Taskforce Chair’s John Lee stated just 2% of the capital budget is allocated to bus services, despite the fact buses move over 40% of public transport passengers in the state. How did the former Liberal-led Government allow this funding imbalance to occur? For most people in Wakehurst and on the Northern Beaches, buses are our only form of public transport, and the fact that previous governments severely defunded our bus services needs to be addressed.
There are also questions to answer around the motives behind the privatisation of our bus services. For example, it has been reported the privatisation of services on the Northern Beaches was forecast to lead to $100 million in savings. The Government needs to be transparent and confirm if these savings have been realised, and if they have, commit to immediately reinvesting these savings into our local bus network and community. This could, for example, come in the form of affordable housing initiatives to ensure bus drivers servicing the Northern Beaches can afford to live locally.
It’s also becoming increasingly clear some of the anticipated cost savings the former Liberal-led Government expected may have come at the expense of the local bus workforce – with Keolis Downer reporting significant job losses locally and telling me they are having issues finding replacement drivers. The former Government has questions to answer around why they prioritised profits over our community, over people, and over the local bus workforce.
Despite the challenges facing our local bus services, I have been heartened that both Keolis Downer and Transport for NSW have reacted positively to the deadline I set them to resume normal bus services on the Northern Beaches before Christmas. I will continue to work constructively with Transport for NSW, Keolis Downer and the new Government to ensure the people of Wakehurst and the Northern Beaches get access to the bus network we need and deserve.