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Privatising Adelaide’s public bus services worked well – for a time – but what about the trains and trams? Former State Government public transport planner Tom Wilsondetails the questions that would need to be answered before privatisation is extended to rail.
There are lessons from the privatisation of the buses for any Government seeking to do the same for Adelaide's train and tram services.As a public transport planner who worked for the Passenger Transport Board and its descendants through the period when Adelaide’s bus services were “privatised”, I feel it is necessary to comment on the latest news about the possible privatisation of our train and tram system. I am not rusted-on Liberal nor Labor and neither for nor against privatisation. My aim is to see that decisions are made on the facts and that an outcome is a good public transport system for Adelaide.
Firstly, some people refer to the proposal as “selling off”. The bus system was not sold off when it was privatised, and neither should the rail system. The State Government-owned buses and depots were made available to the bus service contractors to use. Since that time, some contractors have also purchased some buses of their own. The Government continues to purchase new buses for the contractors to use. Contractors have also built their own smaller depots, closer to bus terminating points, to provide the bus services more efficiently.
I would presume that if the rail and tram network were privatised, the same system would apply and that the Government would retain ownership of all the tracks, trains, stations and depots.
When the contracting-out of the public transport system was proposed by the Liberals in 1993, it was intended that the operation of the buses, trams and trains would all be contracted out. By April 2000, the buses were all operated by private contractors. For reasons never fully explained, the same contracting-out system was never applied to the trains and trams.
This article first appeared on indaily.com.au
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