The Berejiklian government has given Sydney commuters a “slap in the face” by privatising inner west bus services, according to the NSW Rail Tram and Bus Union.
Transport Minister Andrew Constance on Tuesday confirmed Transit Services would take over the region’s buses from July, and claimed more services would be added to four of the busiest routes.
And commuters will soon be able to order buses on demand like Ubers in the Canada Bay, Concord and Strathfield areas.
The Rail Tram and Bus Union accused the government of “betraying” commuters and claimed privatisation would in fact lead to “fewer stops, fewer buses and longer journey times”.
“This is a slap in the face to the commuters of the inner west,” said RTBU NSW Tram and Bus Secretary Chris Preston.
“You need to guarantee commuters of the inner west that you will not cut services, that you will not close bus stops and you will guarantee that they will not have a longer journey time than they currently have now.”
Mr Preston said the minister was back peddling on promises to bus drivers, and called on Mr Constance to guarantee workers would not lose out.
Region 6 represents more than one-third of the city’s publicly-run services, RTBU and the Inner West Council said.
Mr Constance has endured a trying 2018 with the ongoing Sydney Trains dispute and network meltdowns, as well as his ‘captain’s call’ to name Ferry McFerryface.
“The sooner he goes, the better,” Mr Preston said.
The Inner West Council, which is dominated by Labor and the Greens, claimed the Region 6 services had been outperforming buses in the eastern suburbs.
“The fact is, Andrew Constance is privatising inner west services because he can’t get away with doing the same thing in blue ribbon Liberal electorates,” Inner West Mayor Darcy Byrne said in a statement.
“This decision reeks of bias – we are sick and tired of drawing the short straw. Inner west commuters, pensioners and students who rely on these services will pay the price for Constance’s ideological crusade.”
The council said Region 6 buses were on time 91.3 per cent of the time last year, up from 87.1 per cent.
Shadow Transport Minister Jodi McKay said privatising the transport system was Mr Constance’s “only agenda”.
NSW Greens transport spokesperson Mehreen Faruqi also accused the government of deliberately running down the network and punishing progressive voters.
“I found out through Freedom of Information that the government had ignored repeated requests by the State Transit Authority to implement changes to improve on-time running for buses in the inner west,” Dr Faruqi said.
“It’s clear they want to run it down, then sell it off.
“The reality is that the Liberals want to sell off Region 6 bus services because they have no skin in the game. They’re punishing people of the inner west for not voting Liberal.”
The government’s plan
Mr Constance described the tender announcement as “a great day for people who travel by bus”.
“Within six months the new operator will introduce around 270 extra weekly services across three popular routes, between Kingsgrove and the city, Burwood and the city and Chiswick and the city,” Mr Constance said.
“More services on key routes will be progressively introduced over the first four years, with an extra 4.8 million of bus service kilometres – that’s a 21 per cent increase across the inner west by the end of 2021.
“The operator will also kick off a trial of four electric buses in 2019, exploring sustainable transport solutions for the inner west.”
Asked if he had plans to further privatise other areas of Sydney’s bus network, Mr Constance said he would “see how this goes” before going any further.
Transit Systems already operates bus routes in Parramatta, Fairfield and Liverpool.
The Region 6 contract is for eight years, with a review after five years.