Western Australians can look forward to better public transport at big savings.
Transport Minister Eric Charlton today announced the private companies who had been awarded preferred tenderer status for contracts to operate five metropolitan public transport bus services.
Mr Charlton said he had accepted the recommendation of a six-member independent evaluation panel and Director General of Transport Stuart Hicks.
"The outstanding quality of the successful bids will ensure that the Government's objective of providing better public transport at a lower cost to the WA public will be met," he said.
"The savings will be up to one-third off the operating costs calculated at the beginning of the 1995-96 financial year and this will mean a cut of many millions of dollars a year in the subsidy taxpayers currently have to provide for public transport."
The panel's evaluation processes have been reviewed by the Australian Industrial Relations Commission and the State Supply Commission.
"I doubt whether any previous Government tenders have been put through such a long and thorough assessment," Mr Charlton said.
"It has been an extraordinarily detailed process, taking full account of service delivery, employment, maintenance and financial factors."
The five bus service areas have been provisionally allocated to three private groups:
· Canning and Southern River to Swan Transit (which won the Midland area in the previous round of tenders);
· Rockingham to the TMG joint venture; and -
· Marmion and Wanneroo to the ATE joint venture.
The Government will now negotiate formal service contracts with the successful applicants. The contracts will have varied terms of 6-to-7 years, with options for a further 4-to-6 years. Contract negotiations are expected to take two to three months. Services under the new contractors are due to begin operating in late September.
Mr Charlton said the Government would take a no-nonsense approach during the contract negotiations.
"No contracts will be signed until the Government is completely satisfied that all of its requirements will be met and that the operators concerned can fulfil their promises," he said.
"However, the outstanding quality of the successful tenders leaves us in no doubt that the operators will deliver the goods and lift metropolitan bus services to a new level of operational and financial performance. This is very good news for the public."
"The travelling public's interests in vital aspects such as fares, concessions, timetables, routes, service frequency and quality of buses will continue to be protected. The Government will still control the buses and Transperth will have supervisory and regulatory powers," he said.
Mr Charlton said the latest tender decisions, which follow the previous awarding of contracts in three other service areas, completed the Government's program of contracting-out 50 per cent of metropolitan bus services.
MetroBus, the public sector operator, won two of the first three tenders.
Mr Charlton said the evaluation panel for the five latest tenders had concluded that despite improvements in efficiency achieved by MetroBus over the past three years, the successful private operators would deliver major additional savings from day one of operations.
MetroBus continues to operate more than half of all metropolitan bus services and in May was awarded the contract to operate the advanced new Central Area Transit System (CATS), which replaces the City Clipper bus service in central Perth.
Mr Charlton said there would be no forced redundancies among MetroBus drivers as a result of the latest tenders.
"New contractors will obviously welcome experienced drivers, so applicants from MetroBus would have an advantage," he said.
MetroBus drivers who did not want to join the new contractors would also have the option of redeployment within the public sector - which could include gaining new skills and choosing a new career path through fully sponsored retraining programs.
"I cannot emphasise too strongly that the bottom line of the contracting program is to achieve better public transport," Mr Charlton said.
"The contractors are required to deliver the same services at lower cost or expanded services for the same cost."
Note: TMG joint venture is the Transport Management Group on behalf of Sunbury, Bacchus Marsh and Skybus Groups. ATE is Australian Transit Enterprises Pty Ltd on behalf of Grenda, Hornibrook and Kefford Groups.
Media contact: Sally Squires 321 7333