June 4 - 10, 2023: Issue 586


NSW Government takes urgent action to recruit more bus drivers: Bus Passenger Forum for our area to be held June 24 2023 at dee why - or email in comments

On Saturday June 3rd the NSW Government announced the Bus Industry Taskforce, established by the Government, has identified immediate actions to help address the bus driver shortage and get more services running.

These actions are aimed at supporting increased driver recruitment and ensuring private operators are running the most efficient timetable for passengers.

''With more than 500 driver vacancies across Greater Sydney and Outer Metropolitan areas, it’s clear more needs to be done to get more drivers onto the road and carrying passengers.'' the government stated

A major change will be introduced to make it quicker, easier, and cheaper for drivers to get their bus driver authority by:

  • waiving the $70 application fee for the next 12 months
  • allowing drivers over the age of 25 to apply if they hold a current unrestricted Australian driver licence and have held any kind of Australian driver licence, or a nationally recognised overseas driver licence, for at least three years
  • enabling electronic issue of documents
  • scrapping duplicated paperwork requirements and streamlining the application process.

The Bus Industry Taskforce will also hold an urgent bus industry roundtable on 21 June 2023, where current operators, drivers and industry representatives can suggest practical solutions to workforce shortages.

Bus Passenger Forums, chaired by Parliamentary Secretary for Transport Marjorie O’Neil, will also capture community feedback on bus services from members of the public and representatives from community groups, local businesses and non-government organisations.

Forming a key part of the work carried out by the Bus Industry Taskforce, the forums will provide a much-needed opportunity for the commuting public to have their say.

One is scheduled for the northern beaches on Saturday June 24th, 2023 at Dee Why from 12 to 2pm. Register here: www.surveymonkey.com/r/buspassengerforums

Alternatively, residents can provide your feedback right away. Email bustaskforce@transport.nsw.gov.au and let the taskforce know what you think about bus services in your area.

Parliamentary Secretary for Transport, Dr Marjorie O'Neill, will chair the forums over the coming months, with the first forums taking place this month in the Northern Beaches and the Hunter Region.

The forums will be hosted across Greater Sydney, in outer metropolitan areas and in Regional NSW, including some online sessions to make it easier for people to attend.

Members of the public and representatives from community groups, local businesses and non-government organisations will be invited to have their say.

NSW Minister for Transport Jo Haylen with Wakehurst MP Michael Regan at Brookvale Depot early in May 2023. Photo: NSW Gov.

The government states a recruitment drive will be boosted across the public transport network and in communities to attract people to the job.

However, those who have quit the industry since it was privatised under the previous coalition government have stated, already, that poor wages and conditions will continue to stymie any recruitment drives.

Others have stated that lowering the entry requirements will significantly affect the quality of service and safety of passengers and other road users.

Still more have asked if this means that previously cancelled services and routes will now be reinstated or if this means meeting timetables will be adjusted so buses don't roar past people at bus stops in order to not be penalised by those they are working for.

Soon after taking over the portfolio NSW Minister for Transport Jo Haylen found the contracts drawn up by the previous state government imposed financial penalties on the companies for failing to meet ‘on time running’ targets  whereas bus services that are cancelled do not count as late.

There are penalties for cancellations also, but only up to a certain number. Once that threshold is reached the companies make more money if they cancel a bus that might run late.

Since privatisation, these provisions have left millions of passengers stranded at bus stops waiting for buses that never come, including young children trying to get to or from school.

In August last year alone, 28,000 buses were cancelled across Sydney.

The new state government has stated Transport for NSW will continue to work with operators on timetable adjustments to ensure communities are being serviced to the best of the operator's ability.

Minister for Transport Jo Haylen said on Saturday, “The Bus Industry Taskforce has hit the ground running and has already identified the key steps we need to take to address the bus driver shortage.”

“The shortage of bus drivers has had a massive impact on bus services right across the state. If we can begin to fix the driver shortage, we’ll be well on the way to fixing our bus services.”

“There are quick and easy immediate actions that we can take right now to recruit more bus drivers."

“The current system needs to be simplified, so we can make it cheaper and easier for aspiring bus drivers to get a job and get on the road.”

“Another practical step is talking to the industry on other solutions that could help deliver better bus services in Greater Sydney and across NSW.”

On May 1st the NSW Government announced the creation of a Taskforce to make recommendations to improve the reliability, quality and effectiveness of bus services across NSW.

Transport for NSW is responsible for regulating bus services across the state, working with bus operators to provide consistent fares, concessions, timetables, and service standards for passengers. It also utilises passenger information data and systems to analyse the quality of services. 

The Bus Industry Taskforce will bring together bus operators, industry experts, the workforce, and community representatives to determine how to deliver more efficient and reliable services.

The initial focus of the Taskforce will include performance issues experienced by passengers such as on time running, service cancellations and complaints management. It will make recommendations to the Minister on options to improve contracts, how services are planned and communities are consulted on changes to routes, supporting technology and infrastructure, the transition to clean energy, employment arrangements and any necessary legislative or regulatory changes. 

In formulating its advice to the Minister, the Taskforce will also consider the Report into the Privatisation of Bus Services.

Members of the Taskforce are:

Taskforce Chair: 

John Lee, Former CEO of State Transit Authority & multiple private bus companies

Panel Members: 

  • Matt Threlkeld (Executive Director of BusNSW)
  • Joanna Quilty (CEO of NSW Council of Social Service)  
  • Darriea Turley (Local Government NSW)     
  • David Babineau (Rail Tram and Bus Union)
  • Mick Pieri (Transport Workers Union)

The taskforce will engage with key stakeholders, seeking their views and input. These stakeholders include:

  • Bus Operators  
  • Transport for NSW, and associated entities 
  • Rail Tram and Bus Union, Transport Workers Union and Unions NSW 
  • BusNSW
  • Bus Industry Confederation
  • Bus industry suppliers 
  • The Office of Transport Safety Investigations 
  • National Heavy Vehicle Regulator
  • Department of Premier and Cabinet and NSW Treasury 
  • Local Government 
  • Education authorities
  • NSW Council of Social Service

The Taskforce will also engage directly with community through meetings, submissions and the establishment of a Passenger Reference Group.