Con­tracts that run Mel­bourne’s bus net­work will be over­hauled this year and the cur­rent terms will be rene­go­ti­ated

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Con­tracts that run Mel­bourne’s bus net­work will be al­tered this year and the cur­rent terms will be rene­go­ti­ated, the Vic­to­rian Gov­ern­ment an­nounced.

Bus As­so­ci­a­tion Vic­to­ria ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor Chris Lowe says that the state gov­ern­ment has writ­ten to op­er­a­tors con­firm­ing they will ne­go­ti­ate the re­newal of their ser­vice con­tracts, so no ten­der­ing.

“We wel­come this, as this has been the cus­tom for decades. Ne­go­ti­a­tion is a much more effective method of pro­cure­ment than ten­der­ing,” he says.

He says that his­tor­i­cal de­clin­ing bus pa­tron­age is a re­sult of a myki tick­et­ing sys­tem that still doesn’t work prop­erly; poor ser­vice plan­ning by state gov­ern­ment and the price of oil.

“We re­ject any im­pli­ca­tion or as­ser­tion by any­one that de­clin­ing pa­tron­age is be­cause of the Mel­bourne’s 12 pri­vate bus op­er­a­tors. The rea­son why we have the pub­lic trans­port net­work we do is be­cause it’s all con­trolled by the state gov­ern­ment. Op­er­a­tors are con­tracted to do what the state pre­scribes and op­er­a­tors need more plan­ning con­trol and flex­i­bil­ity to at­tract more pa­trons.”

Lowe says that op­er­a­tors have been mak­ing sub­mis­sions to suc­ces­sive gov­ern­ments with in­no­va­tive so­lu­tions for decades and th­ese are al­ways hit on the head.

“Har­ness­ing the power of lo­cal knowl­edge with trans­port ser­vice de­liv­ery is some­thing that needs to oc­cur in this next con­tract­ing regime if we’re go­ing to have more de­mand re­spon­sive ser­vices.

“BusVic and its mem­bers very much look for­ward to start­ing the ne­go­ti­a­tion to en­gi­neer a win-win; hav­ing a con­tract that achieves both the gov­ern­ment and the op­er­a­tors’ ob­jec­tives.”

Mean­while, the Vic­to­rian Gov­ern­ment has put out a state­ment say­ing it does in­tend to start phas­ing out ex­clu­sive bus con­tracts over the next decade, a process that it claims will pave the way for bet­ter ser­vices.

To sup­port both big and small op­er­a­tors through the tran­si­tion to non- ex­clu­sive con­tracts, op­er­a­tors will be able to choose be­tween short and long-term agree­ments that best suit the needs of their busi­ness.

Vic­to­rian Min­is­ter for Pub­lic Trans­port Jac­inta Al­lan says the state gov­ern­ment will ne­go­ti­ate new con­tracts with 12 met­ro­pol­i­tan bus op­er­a­tors which to­gether run 70 per cent of Mel­bourne’s bus net­work.

“The re­al­ity is our bus con­tracts are old and out-of-date, and aren’t de­liv­er­ing the ser­vices pas­sen­gers need,” she says.

“Through th­ese ne­go­ti­a­tions we will mod­ernise, ex­pand and up­grade Mel­bourne’s ex­ten­sive bus net­work, so it works bet­ter for the thou­sands of pas­sen­gers who rely on it ev­ery day.

“It’s the next step in our com­pre­hen­sive over­haul of our pub­lic trans­port sys­tem – which in­cludes the Metro Tun­nel, 50 level cross­ing re­movals and more than 100 new trains and trams for Vic­to­ria.”

More than 120 mil­lion trips are taken on Mel­bourne’s ex­ten­sive bus net­work ev­ery year, which sup­ports more than 3500 lo­cal jobs, but the num­ber of peo­ple us­ing Mel­bourne’s buses has been in de­cline since mid-2014.

The cur­rent con­tract ar­range­ments have been dubbed “old and in­flex­i­ble” and, in some cases are not meet­ing the chang­ing needs of pas­sen­gers, ac­cord­ing to the Vic­to­rian Gov­ern­ment.

Mel­bourne’s train and tram con­tracts are also be­ing rene­go­ti­ated and an over­haul of Vic­to­ria’s taxi and hire car in­dus­try, to reg­u­late rideshare and de­liver more re­spon­sive ser­vices, is also un­der­way.

The De­part­ment of Eco­nomic De­vel­op­ment, Jobs, Trans­port and Re­sources will man­age the bus con­tract ne­go­ti­a­tions on be­half of the Vic­to­rian Gov­ern­ment.

The re­main­ing 30 per cent of the bus net­work is op­er­ated by Trans­dev, through an on­go­ing con­tract signed in Au­gust 2013.

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