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Transdev wins contract from Ventura despite government pledge to buy and trade locally

AUSTRALIA Transdev has won a contract to run Melbourne’s busiest bus routes. The move is seen locally as a blow to Victoria’s largest bus company, Ventura, and sparked an angry response from industry group Bus Association Victoria.

According to local press, the Victoria State Government under Premier Denis Napthine has been pressing residents and businesses to buy and trade locally – and saying it would lead by example. Bus Association Victoria sees this move as flying in the face of the administration’s own rhetoric and turning its back on local businesses.

Public Transport Victoria has awarded Transdev the contract to operate the Doncaster rapid bus service and SmartBus orbital services – which represent 30% of the city’s bus routes. The contract is for the next seven years with an option to extend for a further three. Family-owned Ventura had developed these routes significantly over the past few years and seen substantial passenger growth on the services. The Melbourne public transport network carried 118m passenger journeys last year.

Transdev had merged with Veolia in 2011. Veolia ran Melbourne’s trains under the Connex brand for 10 years until it was dumped for Metro in 2009. The operator has promised to overhaul the bus routes when it takes over in August, adding new services, simplifying routes and increasing the hours of operation on weekdays and weekends.

“These improvements are a foretaste of the future as we work to develop a completely new timetable for 2015,” said Edward Thomas, Transdev Melbourne’s CEO. “Reliability will also improve as we introduce an operations control centre to assist drivers and improve information for customers, particularly during disruptions.”

Public Transport Victoria said Transdev is required to offer employment to staff, including drivers, who work on the routes it will take over. The authority’s CEO, Ian Dobbs, said Transdev had been awarded the contract because it put in the best-value bid for Victorian taxpayers. Its performance will be monitored using a GPS tracking system, with penalties for late or cancelled services. Bonuses and penalties would also be tied to patronage growth.

Bus Association Victoria said the Napthine government had turned its back on local businesses and thrown years of hard-won experience out the door. Its CEO, Chris Lowe, said: “It was only two weeks ago Denis Napthine was waxing lyrical about buying local and how the government will lead by example. Now, an agency of the state, PTV, decides to buy bus services from overseas rather than the local industry, which has a safety and performance track record second to none.”

However, Mr Lowe extended a welcome for Transdev to Victoria’s bus industry, acknowledging it had proved its competency through its extensive experience both interstate and overseas.