ed­i­to­rial | ig­ni­tion

Do gov­ern­ments, re­gard­less of what­ever po­lit­i­cal per­sua­sion, re­ally care about and un­der­stand the Aus­tral­asian bus and coach in­dus­try – or are they just tak­ing the ____? Re­ally, what is go­ing on?

ABC (Australia) - - CONTENTS -

Do gov­ern­ments of what­ever po­lit­i­cal per­sua­sion re­ally care about and un­der­stand the Aus­tral­asian bus and coach in­dus­try – or are they just tak­ing the piss? Ed­i­tor Cot­ter asks “Sin­cerely, what’s go­ing on?”

It is time to have THAT con­ver­sa­tion. Not so much by choice, but rather ne­ces­sity. [Mur­murs heard in the back­ground] Wait, wait! Okay, not THAT con­ver­sa­tion in­volv­ing bees, birds and the le­gal im­pli­ca­tions of ac­ci­den­tal stings, but more the one about be­ing a busie, col­lec­tively speak­ing, and try­ing to con­vince main­stream so­ci­ety, or more of it – but mainly gov­ern­ment – that we ac­tu­ally re­ally do mat­ter.

Well, at least I think we do mat­ter. And I’m pretty sure many of you in the bus and coach game think the same way, too.

The prob­lem is, if you are think­ing like that then you’d also be think­ing ‘if we deep down have to even ask our­selves if we do mat­ter’ then we are do­ing so for a rea­son. And that rea­son is, un­for­tu­nately, we are pretty sure we are the ones that are eas­ily kicked in the guts when most con­ve­nient for oth­ers to do so.

So… what’s brought this on? A few things, re­ally. I mean, I guess I’ve al­ways recog­nised we bus peo­ple, prod­uct and in­dus­try were a lit­tle bit dif­fer­ent to oth­ers, but while we cel­e­brate that, I don’t think oth­ers do so enough, if at all!

In the pub­lic trans­port game, we are the thing that the gen­eral pub­lic en masse are happy to loathe or den­i­grate at will, but few will sing our praises when we’ve saved their ba­con by trans­port­ing them safely and rel­a­tively cheaper than they would nor­mally have needed to.

Peo­ple love cars. Cars break down or cost too much – then it’s trains and buses for most. Peo­ple love trains. But when trains break down or their re­place­ment costs are known – then it’s buses to the fore. And even then, no mat­ter how much we can save peo­ple and gov­ern­ments money, this is of­ten ig­nored. Light rail? Ha!

When our con­ve­nience and flex­i­bil­ity to move peo­ple in crises should be our shin­ing hour, it’s of­ten just taken for granted. And quite frankly … I’m jack of it!

THE CALL

What kicked this off was get­ting a call re­cently by an op­er­a­tor based, let’s just say in a costal/re­gional area of a par­tic­u­lar state, who was quite upset at learn­ing of a par­tic­u­lar sit­u­a­tion or event that they had read about in ABC mag­a­zine.

This per­son was to­tally p*ssed off that his or­der from ‘a gov­ern­ment’ for a city bus was now 18 months late, yet a large num­ber had been de­liv­ered es­sen­tially to a ‘gov­ern­ment-con­tracted’ op­er­a­tor. And the caller needed one new bus so that he ful­filled his con­trac­tual agree­ment to have X-amount of buses on his fleet, so as to be able to … I guess … have a chance to have his con­tract re­newed, etc.

It was the dou­ble stan­dards he was an­gry with and just wanted to let off some steam. This was his cry for help, and ar­guably – from their point of view – jus­ti­fi­ably so.

“The small op­er­a­tors are get­ting squeezed out,” he said. “And this is all I’ve known and [I’ve] worked hard for it.”

This is some­thing I’ve heard of­ten from dif­fer­ent states and ar­eas of Aus­tralia, and while each con­ver­sa­tion in­vari­ably comes down to ‘po­lit­i­cal per­sua­sion A’ doesn’t like me be­cause I’m ‘po­lit­i­cal per­sua­sion B’ (and vice versa), I’m not sure that’s en­tirely the case.

From what I can see, and try to ex­plain to them, ul­ti­mately, some­one’s out to screw some­one at the end of the day,

“NO MAT­TER HOW MUCH WE CAN SAVE PEO­PLE AND GOV­ERN­MENTS MONEY, THIS IS OF­TEN IG­NORED.”

and in the mod­ern era the con­sol­i­da­tion of pub­lic trans­port en­ti­ties and as­sets seems to have evolved into, ‘ just the way things now are’. No per­sonal, geo­graphic or weird-trousers with short socks agenda, it’s just a fi­nan­cial de­ci­sion. Busi­ness just be­ing busi­ness. And like BusVic’s Chris Lowe said ear­lier this year, call­ing it out for what it is, it’s ‘reg­u­la­tory cap­ture’ it seems.

THE RE­PORT

So in NSW when a re­cent doc­u­ment called The Tourism and Trans­port Plan, Sup­port­ing the Vis­i­tor Econ­omy didn’t in­clude a firm com­mit­ment within 10 years to build a new re­gional coach ter­mi­nal as part of a AUD$955 mil­lion Cen­tral Sta­tion up­grade, it got me

think­ing: do gov­ern­ments re­ally get what’s go­ing on when it comes to buses and coaches?

Sure there are some times gov­ern­ments, re­gard­less of what party or what tier, seem to in­ter­pret the im­pli­ca­tions of pub­lic trans­port prop­erly, and in our in­dus­try they re­ally get the im­por­tance of a great bus ex­pe­ri­ence. For ex­am­ple, this is­sue’s story about the new WA Swan Val­ley bus ser­vice to en­cour­age and gen­er­ate tourism in that area is spot on.

The NSW sit­u­a­tion, how­ever, where the fi­nan­cial ben­e­fits of trans­port and tourism are clearly il­lus­trated in its own ma­jor doc­u­ment, yet it fails to see how a new coach ter­mi­nal – some­thing that’s been miss­ing for at least 20 years ac­cord­ing to some of the coach driv­ers I spoke to when vis­it­ing down there – still needs to be “in­ves­ti­gated” is baf­fling to me.

I guess on be­half of the op­er­a­tors that phone up and see a chang­ing world, or for even the op­er­a­tors for which that world has changed in a pos­i­tive way, I guess we just need all gov­ern­ments of what­ever po­lit­i­cal con­vic­tion to se­ri­ously not un­der­es­ti­mate the im­pact or in­tel­li­gence of the Aus­tral­asian bus mar­ket. Be­cause it is watch­ing…

IN­SIDE LINE

This is­sue is a bit of a spe­cial treat and some­thing a lit­tle dif­fer­ent ‘from the norm’. It’s been 30 years since ABC mag­a­zine started in its mod­ern-day form, so we thought we’d com­mem­o­rate that fact with a big sexy badge on the cover. Okay, so it’s not 25 or 50 years, but 30’s a nice num­ber and ... so ... why not?

In­side you’ll find a cover story on two crack­ing coaches that form Volvo’s lat­est ‘9000 range’ that has just come out in Europe. Why look at it? Well, given the in­creas­ing im­por­tance and fo­cus on coach travel to sell the bus ex­pe­ri­ence to the masses, such ve­hi­cles stylis­ti­cally de­serve a look at. Yet per­haps more im­por­tantly, with one win­ning a ma­jor sus­tain­abil­ity award, it shows where and how coach build­ing is head­ing.

Also in­side, we fi­nally take the Coach De­sign 1,000th-bod­ied, 500hp+ (373kW) Euro 6c three-axle MAN chas­sis coach for a test spin and grab a chat with re­tir­ing bus driver Derek Jones from Lo­gan, Queens­land. It is peo­ple like him who re­mind us con­stantly what a great mob bus peo­ple in this re­gion can be.

It’s been an­other pos­i­tive month for bus de­liv­er­ies again, turn­ing in just over the 100 mark, plus we’ve a mas­sive re­port on the 2018 BIC/BCA NZ Con­fer­ence in Cairns, which was an ab­so­lute gem of a thing. Proper wicked!

A great col­lab­o­ra­tive ef­fort and it sets the scene for fu­ture events of its ilk. The next one’s in Can­berra, so keep your eyes peeled for more de­tails on that one com­ing out soon.

Un­til the next thrilling in­stal­ment…

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