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STANDING COMMITTEE ON RURAL AND REGIONAL AFFAIRS AND TRANSPORT
31/03/2009
Investment of Commonwealth and state funds in public passenger transport

CHAIR —Welcome. Gentlemen, we are going to invite you—we do not have a submission—to make an opening statement. Then we will go to questions.

Mr Lewis —Thank you very much for allowing us to be here with you. One of the important changes that have happened in Tasmania is since about 2004 there has been a complete core passenger service review undertaken by the department in conjunction with the industry. That review was completed a bit over 12 months ago. In the last 12 months we have had a rollout of contracts ranging from the school bus right through to general access. We will be predominantly talking with you today about general access.

In that, the funding model set out enables the operators who previously had to rely on the farebox to upgrade vehicles. The government states that, particularly in light of the Disability Discrimination Act, all new and replacement vehicles must be 10 years of age or less and comply with disability discrimination principles. Funding has been provided for that for the private operators, who are outside the four major areas of Hobart, Launceston, Burnie and Devonport, to bring the students or the general public in from the regional areas into the major cities. The vehicles and the equipment now have an average age of 12 years. In the general access population, we have to continually rely on the turnover of vehicles. That is where we need to grow the numbers of people. That is in line with where we are all looking, which is that we need to get people out of cars and we need to get them into public transport and for them to be able to complete their journeys in safety, as we know the bus industry provides.

Another area that we see the federal government being able to assist with is infrastructure. That is infrastructure in the sense of not only roads and priority lanes for buses but also the necessary street furniture so the disability access buses we are providing can be utilised properly. At the moment, we have buses travelling into areas where, due to there being no curbs and such, the buses cannot be utilised by people in wheelchairs. So it is another of those things.

We see the federal government role as providing some funding towards that. We also see that there should be some strings put on funding to the states. If the money is put towards the funding of particular services and they are not undertaken, there should be some recompense back from that. This is where the new contracts we have set up cover the funding. We have a commitment in the contract to develop service development plans, which we have to do within the first six months of the contracts. Every year thereafter, they must be looked at to see what areas we are missing out on and where we need to go to improve our services. Shane may have something to add.

Mr Dewsbery —The only thing I could add is that we now have the opportunity to provide Tasmanians with the same level of service expected nationally for the delivery of passenger transport services. We are a little unfortunate in that we have a dispersed population. Until now, we have sort of forgotten about the people outside the urban areas. Now we have the framework and the triggers in there to make sure that we address community needs. I suppose that, federally, if we know what is expected in other states, we will have the mechanism to put those expectations into Tasmania and deliver services, especially in rural and remote areas.

CHAIR —Thank you, gentlemen. I want to clarify a few points. There are three major companies that operate through the four major metropolitan centres, of which one is state owned and two are privately owned. Is that correct? There is Mersey Bus and Coach.

Mr Lewis —There is Mersey Bus and Coach in Devonport and Metro in the other three areas.

CHAIR —So there are two?

Mr Lewis —Yes.

CHAIR —Are they in competition with each other?

Mr Lewis —No. That is what I was saying. They are restricted to the urban areas and we are bringing people into the urban areas. So they do not move outside the urban zone. Really we need to complement one another so that we bring the people in and they will disperse them within the urban area.

CHAIR —So they will have their own set areas they operate in. What I am alluding to is that what we have heard through these hearings, in Sydney in particular, is that all modes of transport are in competition with each other whereas in Perth there is one major authority. Is that the same here? Is there a major authority that looks after Tasmania’s public bus systems?

Mr Dewsbery —We have the department of infrastructure, which manages our contracts. With the new contracts that came out, most operators have a corridor around Tasmania and they are the single operator of general access in that area.

Mr Lewis —To take your point a bit further, one thing now is that we are bringing people into the cities and Metro are travelling in the cities. We need to integrate the ticketing system so a passenger can get on in Dover and get off at North Hobart and be able to use the one ticket all the way through.

CHAIR —It makes a lot of sense. What about timetables? Are they integrated as well?

Mr Lewis —Not at the moment.

Mr Dewsbery —No. But the focus is on integrating the timetables. Because we have different operators in different areas, there is a key focus. Once we bring them into a service centre, we need the infrastructure and timetables and everything so we can do it easily. There has not been that focus until now. There are some corridors that do have multiple operators, but that is limited.

CHAIR —That would be a major impediment to people wanting to use the public transport system, would it not, if the timetables do not match?

Mr Dewsbery —Definitely. The provision of the information has been difficult because each operator has their own system for how they promote their services. When designing timetables, there is no consideration being given to how it links up with all the other providers in the state.

CHAIR —So how will that happen, Mr Dewsbery? Will government have involvement? Will government have all the operators around the table working together?

Mr Dewsbery —In the current contract, each operator must submit a service development plan in their area. That gives the opportunity for the department to look at your suggestions on how you run your services. In the service development plans you highlight how you are going to increase patronage and how you are going to look after the community. A part of the integration will be a part of your service development plan. You will highlight that in there. Then the department can look at that and provide feedback. We must go along and provide substance on how we got to where we got to with our service development plan. Surveying, talking to communities, talking to governments, talking to the people on our buses and driver feedback must all be submitted in the service development plan.

CHAIR —From the department of infrastructure we heard earlier today that Tasmania’s population as a whole is certainly not experiencing an explosion at the moment. But has there been a spike in public transport usage through Tasmania in the last number of years?

Mr Dewsbery —In private industry, we are finding that there is more call for services to go into their areas. Once they were provided with a service that took some time. Until now it has been skeleton services because it has been for the operator what is most efficient. But now there is the focus, ‘Let’s try different things to get people onto our buses.’ So frequency is going to be highlighted. They are trying to become more frequent. The standard of the services will be improved. That means that the vehicles will be accessible to the disabled and the elderly. Tasmania has a large elderly population. Proper information going out to the communities will help. We have seen under the new contracts an increase in passengers, be it students or the elderly or adults. There has been an increase in patronage.

CHAIR —What is the cost of this exercise over how many years?

Mr Dewsbery —The contracts are five plus five. There are formulas in the contract that recognise the cost of different operators and different corridors and different things they want to provide. But there is a formula in there. If we want to extend services or increase frequency, there is a pro forma in the contracts that works all that out. So when we put our service development plan forward, it automatically will give a cost to government of the extra services required.

Mr Lewis —Shane mentioned the increase in passenger numbers. One contributor to that has been that since July last year, students have been able to travel 24/7 on general access buses. Last year it was for 30 cents, this year it is 60 cents and next year it will be 90 cents a trip. That is Saturday, Sunday and every day. Previously—

CHAIR —You said 24/7. The buses stop at six o’clock. How does that work?

Mr Lewis —They can travel from one end of the state to the other for 60 cents. So that has really lifted the number of students.

CHAIR —That is good. I will go to questions.

Senator O’BRIEN —Could you explain a bit more for me, either Mr Dewsbery or Mr Lewis, this concept of how you are assisted in developing new routes or additional services in particular areas? How do you go about it? Do you put something in your plan? How does the funding work itself out in the contract?

Mr Dewsbery —With the service development payments, the first thing the operator needs to do is go through to the department and put forward his case on why we should extend our services or go to areas that are not being serviced. The formula works out the cost. Then it is up to the government of the day to work out whether they want to encourage the operator to go to those areas or extend the services or even run longer hours. So it will come back to the department, the state government, on how much they would like to invest into that area. Each trial has a limit of 12 months to see how it works out. So it is a 12-month investment. Then it can be monitored through passenger numbers and feedback through that trial. But, at the end of the day, I suppose it will be back to the government of the day to work out if they find it value for money.

Senator O’BRIEN —So presumably the government has a budget and it is to be allocated to new or extended routes or timetables according to the justification of the case?

Mr Dewsbery —Yes. That is the way it would be.

Mr Lewis —The capital of the bus is calculated out on the peak services of the day over the five days. If you want to put weekend services on, all you are doing is running costs and driver wages. So the cost is not duplicated.

Mr Dewsbery —We must identify triggers in our service development plan. So we must talk about non-peak and peak services. We must clearly show where we have spoken to people, why we think it is valuable, what services we can see that are not being tapped into and what makes us think that people are going to use our service and for what reason. So it is fairly detailed when we put our case forward.

Senator O’BRIEN —Are there some examples that you can give us of how that is working in practice out there in Tasmania?

Mr Dewsbery —I know that some operators are putting forward that they want to extend some services into communities on a Saturday. There are areas that do not receive Saturday services. They are going to put forward that the community deserves Saturday services, and for the reasons of trying to get kids into the cities to do training for their sport, to go to the pictures, to go to the library and all that sort of thing. In Hobart, there are opportunities for employment. We have Salamanca market, shopping needs and all that sort of stuff. There are communities that are locked out of that.

Senator O’BRIEN —This is still theory at the moment, or have any of these been put in place?

Mr Dewsbery —No. It is still theory. We will be testing the new contract framework with that.

Senator O’BRIEN —Have you got any indication as to how much money has been allocated for these extension services?

Mr Dewsbery —No.

Mr Lewis —No.

Mr Dewsbery —We all know that the budget is tight. With passenger transport in Tasmania, other than the main contract framework, which has been focused on, we are not sure if any funds have been put aside now to extend those contracts to what we think the community deserves.

Senator O’BRIEN —What sort of subsidy is currently provided to the private bus sector?

Mr Dewsbery —For all the contracts that have just been signed, there have been negotiations between the operators and the government to get their subsidies and to make sure that each operator is viable in what he is currently doing. The discussions over the contract were about what he is currently doing. It is not what the future is going to bring. One of the big things they have subsidised is the capital payment of the vehicles. We never received any capital before.

Senator O’BRIEN —Can you give us a number on that? Is it a proportion of cost? Is it per vehicle? Is it a bucket of money?

Mr Dewsbery —It is per vehicle. You have a replacement program in your submission. It is a full costing sheet provided to the government. It was an open book. The Tasmanian Bus Association used an industry accountant from Melbourne to put it all together to take it back to the department. We must admit that the department worked well with the operators and used the same module right throughout all the operators’ discussions. So we looked at all the costs of every operator.

Mr Lewis —To give you an idea, on a DDA compliant bus you are looking at about $60,000 per year to lease it. If you are carting 20,000 passengers, it equates to $3 a passenger.

Senator O’BRIEN —How much would the government be putting towards that?

Mr Lewis —If you are carting a concession passenger, they will be putting the whole amount. If you are carting a full fare passenger, naturally the full fare payer has to pay the whole amount.

Senator O’BRIEN —So it is a subsidy based on the proportion of concessional passengers you are likely to carry?

Mr Lewis —That is correct. And the total number of passengers overall.

Mr Dewsbery —The fare structure has also been changed. They broke the fare up into three components. It was a capital component, a performance component and a fixed component. So it is identified in the fare how much is going through to capital and how much is going just as a fixed payment. We also have a performance payment because our contracts are a performance based contract, so we must provide what has been asked to be delivered in the contract. That way, when we came to the fare, it means the fare for the distances around all of Tasmania were similar where it has been different fares in different areas. But that will now have a more—

Senator O’BRIEN —Now it is sort of like a kilometre standard, is it?

Mr Dewsbery —Yes.

Senator O’BRIEN —Is it possible, without identifying an operator or a route, to get a bit of paper to show how that is worked out in the contract?

Mr Dewsbery —Sorry, how?

Senator O’BRIEN —How the subsidy, the components of the fare and the labour work out for a particular fare, without naming places or the operator?

Mr Dewsbery —Yes. That could be done through the accountants that the Tasmanian Bus Association use. They could show their format and how they got to it and which was used in the contract negotiations.

Senator O’BRIEN —If we could get that as an example on notice, that would be good. Finally, how has all this been received across your membership? We heard from the department earlier this morning that some are more proactive about this initiative than others in the private bus sector. What is your feedback?

Mr Dewsbery —There is finally an opportunity for the operator to really do what he does best. Until now, as I said, we had to be efficient. The service was designed around where the money was. Now there is an opportunity for operators to go and grow their business, increase passengers and service the communities. With a partnership from government, the framework is there to really move forward with passenger transport in Tasmania. It has been a long time with all the discussions and the review. We have also rationalised our service. So the services that were out there costing a lot of money that really were not needed have now been solved. That means there has been hopefully more money put back into the industry. Having performance based contracts now means the community can be assured of a certain standard of service. With the model now encouraging operators to increase their business of service throughout the community, all we need now is a joint approach from local councils, state government and, we reckon, federal government to really put it all together and have a passenger transport focus. Tasmania has not until now.

Senator O’BRIEN —So this is the genesis of that, you believe?

Mr Dewsbery —Yes.

Mr Lewis —Yes.

Senator MILNE —I will start from the point about having a passenger transport focus. I certainly acknowledge what you are saying about us not having one until now. I wonder if you have looked at other models around the world, such as New Zealand, for example, or Turkey, where you have decentralised populations and a service based on mini buses feeding main routes and extremely good services? Is there any prospect of getting that kind of planning in Tasmania?

Mr Dewsbery —As we move forward with the new contracts—remember that the new contracts are only two months old—the Tasmanian Bus Association has even encouraged our members to do a joint study tour to work out how other regional communities work. We are only going to do that through Australia to start with. We are going to visit different areas to look at different models of how remote areas utilise different forms of transport, be it a taxi, a local school bus or a community car, to bring passengers into the main trunk and then, from the main trunk, into the urban centres.

Senator MILNE —They are going to have a look around Australia. Presumably you would be informed by studies of other places.

Mr Dewsbery —Yes. Well, the Tasmanian Bus Association is also a member of the Bus Industry Confederation, which is the national body. We are always getting feedback from there and research and information.

Senator MILNE —I am concerned about what you are saying first about it going to the operators to say how they can grow their business. I cannot remember what you said second. Third was community access or whatever. This is where the state government has to take an overview and put together the strategy. Otherwise it is always going to be the best routes. Obviously private sector operators want to be able to make money out of a business. That is where I am concerned. Do you think that the very small unit the state government has inside the department is capable of bringing out a strategy in a timely manner? Does it need more resources from the state government to make this happen? It is all very well for you to put it up. But unless there is a unit capable of translating that into a state-wide strategy in a timely manner, this could drag on for five years.

Mr Dewsbery —We certainly need cooperation from the state government. There is a team in place in the department called the implementation team of the new contracts. We are yet to see how that performs and the role that that plays. But we acknowledge that at least there has been a team put into place for that. There is a team internally concentrating on the service development plans. How that progresses from here it is hard to say because we are yet to test it.

Senator MILNE —What is the timeframe? When can we expect to get what you and the other operators have put in come out the other end? Have you been given a timeframe on any of this at either a regional or state-wide level?

Mr Dewsbery —We only know that the service development plans must be submitted within 12 months of signing the contract. Some operators will be going forward before that 12 months to put forward their suggestions and ideas. Until we test that out, we do not know.

Senator MILNE —I want to go to a specific problem. It is the commuter who goes from the University of Tasmania in Hobart to the university campus in Launceston, both academics and students, and the number of medical service and state government employees in government cars going up and down the Midlands Highway. It is frequently one person but sometimes two. Do you think the public transport system provides a convenient, reasonable alternative to what is excessive car use at the moment?

Mr Dewsbery —There are plenty of services between Launceston and Hobart on the Midlands Highway. Whether that is timed to the needs of everybody, I cannot answer. I know there are empty seats on the buses that go between Launceston and Devonport. They are different target markets. What they are getting and what they are not, I cannot answer. But there are certainly services now that can provide for some needs.

Senator MILNE —This is what I am getting at. Who is going to look at this? You have a situation where the community is horrified because of road deaths involving students. That is a tragedy for Tasmania. But it is also a tragedy for academics and students to have to spend hours behind the wheel when they could be driven and, therefore, able to do other work and so on along the way. There are several services. Who is going to the consuming public—that is, the academics, the students, the public servants and so on—and saying, ‘When do you need to travel? When do you need to come back? How much would be reasonable? Is this service being provided?’ Where is that kind of analysis going on?

Mr Dewsbery —That is in the operator’s service development plan. They must consult with that part of the community. I will give you an example. I know an operator who is servicing an area. They did a survey of their school students to make sure that they would get them to school on time. They asked what time they need to go and what is the best time of the day. They surveyed the councils and said, ‘Okay, we’ve done a survey of the students. What is required now? What is the feedback that you are getting back from your community?’ It was,  ‘I need to go shopping at midday. Do not take us in at six o’clock in the morning because I do not work.’ So those sort of things are happening. That is when the operator would go to the universities to see how that fits in with their service development plan. If it is a market that is using it, I am sure between the partnership of the operator and the department they would acknowledge there are going to be some needs there.

Senator MILNE —As I say, I do not see that it is happening. The other area I am concerned about, just as an example, is Port Sorell, Horley and Shearwater. They all commute from there. It is a commuter suburb of Devonport now. Who is looking at the adequacy of public transport from that commuter area?

Mr Lewis —Perhaps I can answer that because that is my area. There is a service provider. There is now a general access service. I think there is one at 7.30 and one at eight o’clock in the morning into Devonport. It can link up and go all the way through to Burnie with the Phoenix and Metro service. There is another service at 10 o’clock in the morning. It leaves Shearwater and Horley. It comes back again at two in the afternoon. The average usage is four people. It is a bit like Shane said earlier. Things come as it goes along. The whole of the north-west coast has been forgotten about for years.

Senator MILNE —Yes, it has.

Mr Lewis —We have an avenue now where we can go from Port Sorell through to Wynyard. You made a point earlier about commuters. Something thought of at one stage was maybe Ulverstone should have an express commuter service. So those areas will be looked at. As Shane said, the operators only just started in the area in January.

Senator MILNE —That is what I am about to say. I am not surprised that there are only four because I am not sure it has been going long enough. It started in January.

Mr Lewis —No. The morning service started about last October. The early morning ones have only just started.

Senator MILNE —What strategy have you got to publicise that service so that that whole community is aware that those services now exist and are integrated to services going right along the coast?

Mr Lewis —There are a couple of points on that. The local operators have been providing their times in the media and the local free newspaper. One thing the association has worked with the department in the review on is that once it all gets completed, we have one website with every service in the state where you can see on the one website for each of the corridors the times that they are running so you can plan your trip. We will have that under a website that is cobbled to everyone.

Senator MILNE —Finally, in terms of all of the individual operators putting in their development plans to the state authorities, is the bus association getting copies of those plans so that you can second-guess and put to the government the best ways of maximising all of those opportunities as they come in?

Mr Dewsbery —We do not necessarily see each operator’s individual submission. I must say that the association does discuss regularly with the authorities the transport options and the feedback. One of the difficulties at the moment is whether you go out and say, ‘This is everything that is happening’, or you make sure everything is happening so you can go out and say, ‘Now you can use it.’ As I said, two months into it, we are tossing up whether we should go and blow our trumpet or make sure we have it all up and running first to make sure we can go out and say, ‘There is frequency and top-of-the-market vehicles and if you do come along in a wheelchair in Huonville, you can catch the low floor bus’. We do not want to say, ‘There is a low floor bus on it, but sorry, I’m not quite sure where we can pull up.’ So that is where we are at the moment. As an industry, we just have to make sure we get our backyard in order, and we have the opportunity to do that now.

Senator BACK —I am a bit confused. Has this been or is it a competitive tendering process? Is it a process whereby existing service providers are now being brought into a new model?

Mr Lewis —The 1997 act and the 2000 regulations said that if the service was still required, the incumbent operator had to be offered the service. Then the role of the association and the government was to come up with a funding model that provided to that operator a sustainable future in that service.

Senator BACK —How long are the contracts typically for? Are they for the same length of time with each operator? Are they different lengths of time?

Mr Lewis —They are all the same length of time. They were all signed just at the end of last year for a five plus five-year term. The second five years is dependent on your performance standard.

Senator BACK —Is there some mechanism whereby some operators can buy other operators out, or is it structured so that each will remain relatively similar in the size of their business?

Mr Lewis —No. One operator could buy out the whole of the state if they wanted to. They could buy Metro, I suppose, if they wanted to. All the private operators are totally independent. It is a contract for that corridor, providing they are fit and proper and pass all the criteria.

Senator BACK —I guess my question is: is there a level of competitiveness, if at all, drawn into it? Has does one operator shine and how do others as a result of it get hauled along, in a sense?

Mr Lewis —The operator will shine by the performance of the standards he provides to his customers. Therefore, he will grow his business. There are those that do not provide the standard. For example, on Boxing Day, one operator put on three brand new vehicles to start running his new service. If operators do not do those sorts of things, they will not grow the business. The operators are prepared to put that out. The government has now provided the funding to do that. Therefore, you have the chance to expand your business.

Senator BACK —Can you give me some idea within this contractual arrangement what the dispute resolution process is?

Mr Lewis —The dispute resolution process is if there is a dispute at the beginning, it is naturally between the two parties. Then it goes to arbitration. If it cannot be resolved there, it goes to a court.

Senator BACK —Lastly, you have spoken a little about incentives. I am keen to learn how an operator can really be active in getting out there and genuinely growing this business. I heard you say that they can put a case to the government and the government can consider it. But can they do more than that?

Mr Lewis —Well, they can do more than that. Take Senator Milne’s example of Port Sorell. Port Sorell will not stand on its own. Of course, the government will have to put some funding behind that to have more services coming there. At the moment, that operator is running that service for four people. Now he is losing money, but he is prepared to do that to try to grow it. On the other hand, if you have a funding model and you need X number of people to fund the bus, from which you have a guarantee, the further you go over that, that is where you will then get an increase in your funding. The more passengers you cart, the more funding you will return because there is no reduction in the rate per passenger once you go over a model.

Senator BACK —Finally, in terms of what is on the buses themselves, for example, if there is an apparent demand for bicycles to be carried, is there a process whereby bike racks can be put on the front et cetera?

Mr Dewsbery —There is the opportunity in the regulations, but it is all too difficult, to be honest.

Senator MILNE —Why?

Mr Dewsbery —Because of the way you have to have the frame of the bike not covering the number plate and not covering the lights. It must not come out too far. It is something that we are looking at. We have had discussions with operators in Canberra. We are trying to discuss it with the body builders of these buses. The only real feedback we are getting is from Canberra at the moment. We just have to look at our regulations to make it easier to do it. That is on the low floor urban fringe buses. With the larger coaches, you can put the bikes into the luggage compartments.

Senator BACK —Thank you for your answers.

Senator LUDLAM —I think in the ACT, where we were a week or so ago, they were talking about using it on the high frequency trunk routes and it had been quite successful, so I am just not quite sure what it is that would be the hold-up here.

Mr Dewsbery —It is in the design of the bike rack on the front of these vehicles. As far as I am aware, there are different regulations in different states on how this device goes on the front of the vehicles.

Senator LUDLAM —Surely that is just a stroke of the pen. They have had it working successfully in the ACT for a couple of years.

Mr Dewsbery —I know that there have been discussions between operators and body builders to work out how best we do it. There is information that is making it difficult for the operators.

Senator LUDLAM —All I would suggest is that there have been a lot of submissions. We have some cycling advocates in here next. They show how if you make your buses cycle friendly, you quite dramatically increase the catchment of your buses. Instead of a 400- or 800-metre walk, if suddenly within three kilometres people can cycle, you get more people on the buses and the bus is more full. I think it might be worth looking at.

Mr Dewsbery —The industry is keen to move forward with having the opportunity to put bike racks on their bike.

Senator LUDLAM —Spell it out for me where the hold-up is because I am not seeing it.

Mr Lewis —State regulations on vehicles.

Senator MILNE —On that, from Hobart to Fern Tree, how was that taken up when the bikes could be put on the buses?

Mr Dewsbery —I do not know. You would have to discuss that with Metro.

Senator LUDLAM —I have a couple of other questions. Pull me up when we are out of time. Does your organisation do policy research and promotion? Where does that function lie?

Mr Lewis —For most of the research we rely on our national body to help us with that because they are doing it for the whole of Australia. So they are providing most of the research for us. The promotion of the industry is now such that we have a framework to work with. That is where we can take the promotion of the industry forward.

Senator LUDLAM —I apologise—I should have said this earlier—for missing your opening statement. If you have covered any of it, let me know and I will check it in theHansard. We heard earlier about the difficulty between councils and the state government in even getting a couple of hundred metres of bus priority lane. Is that something that you advocate for? Have you looked into rapid bus transit between key centres?

Mr Dewsbery —We have been big promoters of trying to get better infrastructure for buses—bus lanes, priority lights, better infrastructure in general—right across the board right from day one.

Senator LUDLAM —How is that working out?

Mr Dewsbery —We have a bus lane down the southern outlet. The operators are loving it as far as it makes it easy to get into the city. It needs to be taken further. It is a small trial. It needs to grow. There are a lot of other cost effective examples that we are always discussing with government and what we can put in. There is no-one stronger than the association as far as that is concerned.

Senator LUDLAM —I would expect that. Off the top of your head, what is your wish list? Where would you go next with priority lanes?

Mr Dewsbery —The wish list? To extend the southern outlet into the city, to have priority lanes along the Brooker Highway and to have priority services over the bridge. In Launceston, the same would be through the congested area, having some priority lighting.

Senator LUDLAM —So for the benefit of a Western Australian who is a long way from home, why has it not already happened? What is the block?

Mr Dewsbery —Sorry?

Senator LUDLAM —Why has that not already happened? Bus lanes are not exactly high technology. Why are we still thinking about it?

Mr Dewsbery —Well, it comes back to the passenger transport culture here in Tasmania. We have always concentrated on congestion without thinking about the other benefits of passenger transport in Tasmania. We can go on and on. Other than congestion, what are the benefits of passenger transport? When we try to implement a thing like a bus lane, we have car users who say that we are taking something from them; they do not see the benefit.

Senator LUDLAM —Well, you are taking dozens of people out of their cars.

Mr Dewsbery —Exactly right. We put that story across, without the safety and everything else that goes with it. But without people thinking about the positives of passenger transport, be they in decision-making areas or the community or whatever, until we get that across, it is always going to be a struggle.

Senator LUDLAM —But can you pin down for me where the blockage is? You are obviously advocating for your industry in making the case. What are the doors that close?

Mr Lewis —I think until now the doors have been in the bureaucracy. With the core passenger review now completed—and there were 121 recommendations out of that put forward—that has put a whole new perspective. As Shane mentioned earlier, there has been an implementation team set up. Now that that is rolling on, I think that is where we are going to see the blockage undone.

Mr Dewsbery —I am not sure that we have really researched passenger transport within the councils. So the councils are aware of the role that passenger transport plays within their area.

Senator LUDLAM —You have a sustainable transport officer in the City of Hobart, who is obviously pretty keen. But it just seems as though there is a big disconnect and a lot of good ideas that do not seem to be going anywhere.

Mr Dewsbery —I agree.

Senator LUDLAM —No disagreement from you. We have already covered cycling. Oil prices spiked a couple of years ago. This might be more relevant for the way your contracts are structured now. What happens to your operators if the price of petrol doubles?

Mr Lewis —In our model, we have a cost index which rises roughly for fuel and labour and quarterly for the CPI and parts. So if the fuel spikes, there is an index whereby the operators get a recovery.

Senator LUDLAM —The oil contract will just pass those costs back through to the state?

Mr Lewis —To the government.

Senator LUDLAM —To the state government.

Mr Lewis —I should also mention that there is a trigger point. Unless the increase is more than 1½ per cent, it does not get passed on to the punter.

Senator LUDLAM —So there is a bit of flowthrough?

Mr Lewis —Yes.

Senator LUDLAM —At what point would it get passed on to the punter?

Mr Lewis —If it is greater than a 1½ per cent increase.

Senator LUDLAM —Over a long-term average?

Mr Lewis —In a period of time. If fuel spiked very quickly and it went up by 3 per cent, that would go straight away.

Senator LUDLAM —So that is going to be added to the bus fare, to the bus ticket, straightaway?

Mr Lewis —Yes.

Senator LUDLAM —That is interesting. So there is no provision for the state government to absorb any of that?

Mr Lewis —The state government will be absorbing it in their concession fares. It will be only in the full fare paying that we will be responsible for the increase.

Senator LUDLAM —That brings me to my next question. We have heard quite a bit of criticism that the proposed CPRS will actually disadvantage your industry and the rail industry relative to people in private cars, who will be shielded from the cost signal for three years. Do you have a specific view as to that policy?

Mr Lewis —Not at this stage. But we are like you. The industry is going to cop it fairly hard, so there is going to have to be a recovery back and somebody has to pay for it.

Senator LUDLAM —Presumably, that will be people trying to do the right thing and traipse on to a bus.

Mr Lewis —On to a bus. I think that is one of the things at the moment too. I do not think the price of fuel is really going to do much towards increasing the public transport numbers. It is the carbon imprint or the carbon footprint of people realising what they are doing and that they have to reduce it.

Senator LUDLAM —It would be wonderful were that the case. A lot of the public opinion surveys that we have seen, though, rate the environment quite low. Mainly it is convenience that is in the top tier reasons. If you had your way, what would be the key recommendations that you would like to see flow from this committee? What can the Commonwealth do to get people on to public transport?

Mr Lewis —It is infrastructure. It is infrastructure in two ways. It is in providing better resources for the buses to get into the city and then, as we said earlier, to do with in the regional areas being able to pull up with a bus that is capable of taking a wheelchair and somebody being able to get on. They are perhaps the two big areas. Also remember that a wheelchair bus or a disability discrimination compliant bus is not only for wheelchairs. It is also for people with a hearing impairment, the sight impaired or people with sticks and callipers and so on.

Mr Dewsbery —I think we also need minimal service levels. We need to work out what are the service levels that we expect our communities to get, no matter where they are in Australia. If that comes federally, at least everybody is getting the same. We do not have that at the moment.

Senator LUDLAM —One of the key things that has come through for us has been determining the point at which people do not need to bother looking at a timetable because they can pitch up and know that something is just around the corner.

Mr Dewsbery —Yes.

Senator LUDLAM —How many routes in Hobart are on that kind of basis?

Mr Dewsbery —Most of it would be only the urban services. Once you get outside the urban areas, really there are limited services. It depends on the distance of the service. If you are looking at 100 kilometres, of course, it is not every hour. But even if it were every hour or every two hours, it is not like getting in in the morning and then not getting home until late at night. But even if it is as regular as that into the outlying areas, it is frequent like that.

Senator LUDLAM —Thanks for your evidence.

CHAIR —Mr Dewsbery and Mr Lewis, thank you very much for your assistance today.

[2.16 pm]