BY JADE MORELLINI
Randwick Council is standing up against the privatisation of Sydney buses. During the Council’s last meeting on 28 November, a Mayoral Minute opposing privatisation of Sydney Buses was approved.
It stated, “Council voice its opposition to the privatisation of Sydney buses, and its support for the STA bus drivers, on Council’s website and Facebook page, as well as in the Mayoral Column. Further, Council write to the Transport Minister for NSW, stating our opposition to the privatisation of Sydney buses.”
Deputy Mayor Murray Matson, Greens Party councillor, said the reason Randwick Council voted against privatisation was, “We understand that if the buses aren’t privatised and there are buses that connect to Kensington and Kingsford from other areas, we are concerned that that act of privatisation will make it very difficult for the Council to get an agreement on the finetuning of those buses.”
This means that bus routes and services may be changed or slashed and this will significantly impact on the community, especially those who are frequent bus users.
Mayor of Waverly Council, John Wakefield, said, “The privatisation is likely to result in a reduction of services in medium terms. There will be an undertaking – there always is by the private operators – they will keep things the same but inevitably as time goes on, they will cut the services.”
“When any public service is privatised,” Cr Matson added, “it is always a concern that the profit objective will overwhelm the objective of providing reliable public transport. When the light rail starts working there will be changes in the bus services provided.
“The councillors and myself are of the view that the role of a councillor will be to speak up for residents and suggest a finetuning of the way the remaining buses and the new light rail vehicles service the public transport needs of Kensington and Kingsford. So if buses are privatised it will mean that commuters who are trying to get to other areas of the city not serviced by the light rail, may find themselves inconvenienced.”
According to Cr Wakefield, privatisation may also cause bus fares to increase. “I believe in the medium term it will make Opal fares increase. All the rationalisation is relative in the Eastern Suburbs, while the whole vast route is profitable there will be sections of it that aren’t profitable and those sections are likely to be cut by the private operators.”
After the opening of the Inner West public bus services to tender by private operators on 15 May this year, it is still unknown whether Eastern Suburbs buses have gone to tender.
“The state government is extremely secretive about everything they do,” Cr Wakefield said. “The tender for the inner west privatisation occurred within days, the public became aware of it within days of it done so I’m not quite sure yet, hopefully we will find out soon.”
On 11 December, pickets gathered at the 12 government bus depots to protest against the privatisation of buses.
They plan to rally again on 18 December.
According to Jefferson Lee, spokesperson for S.T.O.P (Sydney Transport-Users Opposing Privatisation), on Christmas Day, they hope to present 12 turkeys to the 12 depot masters entitled, “Turkey stuffed by Minister Constance and the Keolis-Downer Bus Privatisation Plan.”