NSW Bus Taskforce second report released

The NSW Government has released a new blueprint to improve bus services across the state in the Bus Industry Taskforce’s second report.

The Taskforce was established in May 2023 and chaired by John Lee with the second report outlining a plan to enhance the bus system that carries 40 per cent of all public transport passengers despite receiving two per cent of transport capital expenditure.

In order to achieve this, the report includes some key recommendations which includes:

• Immediately addressing investment in school and local bus services and additional frequent and local services to areas with no or very poor service levels
• Providing a long-term vision for rapid bus services to be rolled out on key Sydney corridors.
• Calling out the continued challenges with bus drivers and operational staff to ensure the growth can be matched with appropriately trained and available workforce.
• A renewed focus within Transport for NSW on better asset management, risk management and safety outcomes, and,
• A practical plan for the roll out of electric and zero emission buses.

The 204-page report calls for modern, fit for purpose bus contracts in the regions. The outdated contract model has meant bus services in rural and regional NSW have not been given the same degree of attention as services in Sydney.

Local Government also plays a critical role in how bus services are delivered which can be improved by identifying funding options and streamlining delegations to speed up decisions that improve local roads and footpaths for bus users, pedestrians, and cyclists.

The report makes clear more work needs to be done to better plan and manage essential transport infrastructure, including depots, facilities, bus stops and supporting technology.

The Taskforce has consulted extensively with the community and stakeholders in developing the report, with the Parliamentary Secretary hosting bus passenger forums around the state, forums with councils and industry and around 8,000 submissions received to date.

The NSW Government has asked Transport for NSW to put plans in place for how to best move forward with the recommendations, including:

• Transport for NSW is developing a proposal for a State-wide Medium Term Bus Plan, short-term improvements to local services to catch up to population growth.
• Exploring changes to the roll out of Zero Emissions Buses including looking at options for more ZEBs and supporting infrastructure in Western Sydney. Improvements to rural and regional contracting to be in place by 2026 with a detailed plan outlined in the Final Report.
• Working closer with councils and across government to look at strengthening the ability of Councils to enhance public transport infrastructure on local roads.
• Reviewing aspects of Bus Operator Accreditation Scheme and replace out of date guidelines with a risk-based approach for better safety outcomes.
• Work is already underway to address some of these issues and recommendations handed down in the First Report, including technology enhancements to help eliminate ‘ghost buses’ appearing on planning apps and more transparent service performance data provided to customers.

Howard Collins has already been appointed as the Coordinator General, reporting directly to the Secretary of Transport for NSW, centralising responsibility for bus operations within one area.

The Taskforce will provide the NSW Government with its Final Report and recommendations by 1 May 2024. The Second Report can be found here.

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