Bus and Tram Express
Bus and Tram Express

Not good enough to just compare the dollars

Dec 17, 2015News

LOGO_NSW_Audit_Office_Large1Comparing STA bus costs to private operator costs is like comparing apples to oranges, but that’s just what the NSW Auditor-General has done, and what the Baird Government is relying on as evidence to privatise Newcastle Buses and Ferries, so reports the Newcastle Herald today.

The Auditor-General, the officer in charge of deciding whether government money is being spent efficiently, released a report in September spruiking the cost savings of private contractors running metropolitan bus routes.

The report says that payments to private operators under the contracts are lower per kilometre than under the previous contracts, and even lower again when compared to STA running costs.

The report outlines that the cost per kilometre of running a private contract bus was $5.43, while the cost of STA buses per kilometre was $8.94 – a 60% increase over the private providers.

Drivers know how different the two services are, and the constraints placed on STA as the sole service provider in the CBD and major metro area that private providers just don’t have, such as traffic, fleet size, control over timetabling, and patronage numbers.

On sheer numbers alone, STA conducts more than 150 million passenger journeys every year – more that triple the combined number of all private providers at about 50 million.

STA is the backbone of the public transport network and works in tough conditions each and every day. A report cant compare a private provider shuffling passengers between Parramatta and Hornsby to the work of the STA in the heart of CBD traffic, or the wear and tear on the buses, or the difference in the flow of passengers.

That the Auditor General can condense all factors that go into providing a high frequency metro bus service into a per-kilometre dollar figure is over-simplifying the service provided and the real life experiences of running the routes.

Economic documents like this should not be used as the basis for privatising state government services. The report itself concedes “there are a range of reasons why STA’s costs are higher than the private operators”, and government should not hide behind false arguments to carry out their privatisation agendas.