PEAK BUS ASSOCIATION ‘AT WAR’ WITH STATE GOVERNMENT OVER OPERATOR ASSETS
THE BUS ASSOCIATION VICTORIA INC (BusVIC) says the State Labor Government has reneged on a deal it made whilst in Opposition to not put bus operator assets ‘on the table’ when negotiating new contracts.
As part of the current contract negotiations, Government is insisting that operators be obliged to ‘hand over’ varying parts of their family-owned and run bus business assets to Government or their nominee at the end of the new contract term, for use thereafter by any future contract holder the Government chooses, says BusVIC executive director Chris Lowe.
“What we are doing at present is fighting a war with the [Andrews] Government over assets ownership,” Lowe stated.
To date, as reported in the past issue of AustralasianBus&Coach(ABC) magazine, of the 13 Melbourne Metro operators (including Transdev), three of them – Ventura, CDC Victoria and Donric – have accepted the Government’s new 10-year contracts.
In extracts from a recent ABC Radio interview (15 March, 2018) with Jeroen Weimar, CEO of Public Transport Victoria - as hosted on www.handsoffourassets.com.au - the public transport authority spokesperson stated:
“I’m very, very clear, as is the Government, that there are a number of options being put forward to individual bus operators about which contract option they want to take. There are options for each operator to pursue, either to maintain the existing structure and shape of their business, or if they wish to have a longer-term contract there will be some options around how … there’s a handover of assets at the end of that contract, should that eventuate.
“What they are being told is there are three different contract options on the table, two of them [Package 1 (five-year tender), Package 2 (seven-year tender)] require no transfer of assets whatsoever [Package 3 is the 10-year tender].
“All the bus services in Victoria are funded entirely by the State, so the Victorian taxpayer is paying for every single bus service up and down across the State in Melbourne and elsewhere...
“In order for the State to get the best value for those contracts, to get the best possible flexibility for delivering bus services, if they wish to have a very longterm contract, a 10-year contract, then we’re willing to explore a facility to transfer those assets at the end of that contract. If they don’t wish to hand over their assets under any circumstances at fair price, they can have a seven-year contract or a fiveyear contract, or a seven-year contract.”
“... Let’s take this on to the Yarra Trams environment; so would we expect Keolis Downer at the end of their contract to hold on to those assets, to those trams, and to those tracks and to the power system – and then hold the State to ransom at the end of the contract and say, ‘Well, you can’t bring anybody else in because we’ve got all the assets and you now have to negotiate separately with us to go get them off you?’”
Lowe says Weimar is misinforming the public, stating categorically that the fiveand seven-year contracts oblige operators to sell their new vehicles, non-managerial staff and IP to the state or their nominee at the end of the term, whereas the 10-year contract obliges the operator to sell all vehicles, all depots, non-managerial staff and IP to the state or their nominee at the end of the term.