Bus SA Policy recommendations

Policy recommendations
Bus SA calls for all political parties to work with the bus industry to develop sustainable transport strategies that anticipate the transport needs of South Australians. Click on a link below to read our recommendations  in detail.

The Total Transport Model is one that is gaining significant impetus across the globe and Australia. At present there are various proposals and trials in place with State Governments (NSW, Tas, Vic) to develop this in some form. The model creates a governance and management structure, often referred to as a Regional Access Committees (RACs), that enable local mobility outcomes.

RACs are place based entities that provide tailored approaches to differences in demographics and asset availability according to that area. The broad work of Regional Access Committees is essentially the same, however each Committee will apply assets and deliver solutions based on their specific local needs.

A RAC would establish a central point to coordinate transport delivery and disseminate information about services available within its geographic region. It would also gather information about transport gaps from potential customers and use this to assess whether a particular demand can be met, perhaps from within existing services.

The work of RACs would broadly include:

  • Drawing together representatives of community transport, route bus operators, school bus operators, taxi services, local government, state government and other relevant transport stakeholders within an aggregated geographic area.
  • Encouraging the sharing of assets within the region by the local asset owner.
  • Collaborating with regulatory stakeholders to coalesce funding pots.
  • Assessing local transport demand and supply – including met, unmet and future demand.
  • Facilitating the establishment and on-going oversight of an integrated transport service to meet this demand.

To achieve desired outcomes, governments (local, state and federal) and other stakeholders will need to commit to pooling resources and funds from various sources to achieve an efficient model and facilitate further integration.

As well as polling of resources RACs require assistance from government in unlocking transport infrastructure and services to ensure knock on benefits from assets. This can be achieved through both regulatory and policy changes.

For example, in the South Australian context, a large number of school bus services, operated using state owned infrastructure, are run by the Department for Education. To unlock their potential in regional and remote transport these operating arrangements will need to change to facilitate integrated transport through policy amendments within Education and through regulatory reform.

At present school transport services in South Australia are delivered by a combination of private contractor fleets and a government owned and operated fleet of over 200 vehicles. At this time South Australia is the only state in Australia that operates school bus services, an activity that is highly operational and increasingly difficult to deliver on without expert knowledge and experience.

Bus SA is of the view that the majority of those government operated vehicles can be run more efficiently in support of local communities by the local bus operator.

This change can provide government a number of beneficial knock on effects, including utilising assets to:

  • deliver community services (education, health, elderly) under the guidance of Regional Access Committees (see Policy Solution 1 above)
  • lower involvement by school principals in bus operations, meaning principals can focus on educational outcomes at their school rather than bus operational issues
  • ensure continuity of quality service that the private sector can provide more easily than a government department.

Bus SA recommends that the government establish a Ministerial Passenger Forum to bring together users, operators, the Department of Planning transport and Infrastructure, representatives of workers and industry, and local government, to consider and advise on opportunities to improve South Australia’s public transport systems and networks, including bus networks.

A ‘20 minute neighbourhood’ is one where most people can do everything they need to within a 20 minute walk, cycle or public transport trip from where they live.

The Bus Industry Confederation (BIC) developed a paper focused mainly on the roles of density, supportive public transport requirements and walking in achievement of the 20 minute city.

The paper suggests that a model with good local and regional transport choices would improve personal and societal well-being and enhance livability. It would also be cost effective to service, and support increased economic productivity.

Flow on effects would include less traffic congestion, improved public health, lower accident costs, reduced emissions (greenhouse gases and air pollutants) and greater social inclusion.

In the short term, government could focus on delivering existing services effectively and efficiently, building confidence in the safety, reliability and quality of the public transport network. This could include improvements in bus priority and feeder networks to decrease congestion and make public transport a genuinely viable alternative to the car.

Bus SA calls for the South Australian government to develop a dedicated tour SA by coach strategy.

The State Government has strong goals for the tourism sector as part of its drive to grow the South Australian economy. It is the view of Bus SA that delivering excellent experiences in seeing and visiting South Australia are a key driver in achieving those goals. Any strategy related to developing tourism will require goals around destination infrastructure, including bus parking and stopping points.

A tour bus can be one of the best ways to see these sights, and it can be the pivot-point for a tourist’s total spend at a destination.

We believe strongly that an approach that partners Bus SA with the appropriate tourism authorities to develop the tour and coach market will have a strong and positive influence on this goal.

Bus SA believes that government and industry can work together to deliver a safe bus industry, starting with operator accreditation modules and allowing private business to be accredited as bus inspectors.

It is our position that the bus industry must become Safety First businesses and we must be prepared to prove our safety standards on an ongoing basis. Achieving accreditation should mean operators are required to meet a high enough standard across all levels of the business that provides a better level of safety and surety for everyone that procures bus services in this state.

A key tenet of mass transit is that it is fundamentally a safe means by which to move large numbers of people quickly and efficiently. This safety is often assumed by the traveller, based on a belief that there are appropriate government regulations and standards in place that allow an operator to set up and operate their business.

To draw an analogy,  it is not possible to setup and operate an airline and transport passengers without passing standards and regulations as proscribed by the Civil Aviation Regulations, and no airline business expects to continue to carry people without ongoing monitoring of those standards. People will select an airline with confidence that there are systems and procedures in place that ensure the service operator is running their business and aircraft appropriately and that there is regular monitoring of both by the regulatory authorities.

The bus industry needs to have the correct balance between regulating and monitoring the vehicle and regulating and monitoring the operator. There is a reasonable likelihood that the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator (NHVR) will introduce standards nationally that will force the State Government to move on this issue at some time. It is our view that industry, with government, can introduce a system that can achieve high safety standards that meet the NHVR regulations earlier than might be required by the NHVR. It will lift SA standards to within a reasonable level of the rest of Australia in a relatively short time.

Bus SA proposes the introduction of agreed minimum standards, including a model to provide for ongoing monitoring. This will assist government achieve governance of the sector in ways that are cost effective and covers all bus operators, not simply those that hold State Government contracts.

The corollary of accrediting the operator through regulatory systems and standards is to create a mandatory vehicle inspection regime that gives government confidence that the vehicles delivering services are in roadworthy condition at all times in any circumstance.

It is our view that there are benefits to be achieved for government by deregulating the inspection regime that currently exists, and allowing private inspections to be undertaken by suitably authorised entities. This approach has been successfully applied in other jurisdictions such as Victoria for the past 20 years and Tasmania for the past 10 years. This model affords benefits to government by relieving them of the administrative burden of these processes and enabling them to better monitor and police the regulatory environment. This is a case of industry and government working together to the benefit of both.