Ms JO HAYLEN (Summer Hill) (19:31): This June marked the one-year anniversary of the privatisation of our inner west region 6 bus services. But the Government can pack away the party streamers because there is not much to celebrate. On-time running remains pitifully low. There are complaints about buses deviating from their routes because new drivers are getting lost. There are stories of buses literally falling apart, raising serious questions about maintenance. There are reports of commuters turning up for services advertised as accessible only to discover they cannot get on the bus—like Audrey from Marrickville, who has been left stranded countless times as the 423 bus could not accommodate her and her walking frame.
Critical training for drivers has been slashed, with a tragic fatality of a trainee driver last year. Drivers are being short-changed wages under substandard agreements. In short, it is a mess, and the Government knows it. In budget estimates hearings the Minister for Transport and Roads confirmed that on-time running of buses in the inner west sits at a stubborn 93.8 per cent. In the past year on-time running has never been above the benchmark figure of 95 per cent that the Government set itself when it sold our region 6 buses to the highest bidder. Members will remember that on-time running was the single biggest reason the Minister gave when he sold off inner west services, but now he claims that it is not actually possible because of congestion that makes on-time running too hard. Dare I say it? We told you so.
The Minister's dirty little secret is that rather than improving on-time running, the Government is instead shifting the goalposts. They have changed the formula used to determine on‑time running so that greater weight is given to when a bus leaves the depot as opposed to when passengers actually arrive at their destination. What is the point of inner west residents being on the bus at the scheduled time if they are not getting to their final destination on time? Public transport should run on time, full stop. It should not run on Minister Constance's new version of how to conveniently measure what on time is.
Not only are commuters being let down by the Minister for Transport and Roads, so too are our bus drivers. Local bus drivers have spoken to me about the issues plaguing the sector. The restructure of the workload and rosters has had a disastrous impact on many bus drivers and their families. Drivers are now being asked to do broken shifts, and are sometimes rostered for 12-hour days. Previously, a driver who started at midday could take the kids to school in the morning, or those who started at 5.00 a.m. could finish in time to pick up the kids after school. Now those shifts are making it impossible for many to balance work and family. The reality of these kinds of shifts are that people wake up in the dark and get home in the dark. New drivers are reportedly paid less than those who moved over from the State Transit Authority. That is causing frustration, division and low morale among driver ranks. It is imperative that in the process of harmonising these awards, no drivers' wages are reduced and all drivers' wages are lifted. Finally, drivers report that training continues to be a problem and it is putting commuters at risk. A bus trainer was tragically killed last year.
Trainee drivers were once given hands-on one-on-one training on out of service buses. Members would have seen them on the road. That allows drivers to have better knowledge and experience of the routes, as well as of course about the buses themselves. Now, trainee drivers are trained in groups, reducing the amount of time drivers have behind the wheel under the one-on-one supervision of trainers. I want everyone to consider what it would mean if we taught all drivers in that way. As parents would members feel comfortable if their learner driver kids were being taught how to drive a vehicle in a group? I know I wouldn't.
No wonder we are hearing countless stories of buses meandering through residential streets far from their designated route. No wonder we are hearing stories about frustrated drivers, about near misses and collisions and about passengers being left on the roadside as bus drivers are pushed to meet the new on-time running formula set by the Minister. This has led to an increase in inexperienced drivers who are less familiar with the routes and who have less experience driving large vehicles on Sydney's busy roads. The Minister needs to urgently investigate and guarantee that there is no increased risk to local commuters from his ham-fisted privatisation of region 6 inner west buses. The Minister should also investigate claims that Transit Systems has reduced the use of articulated buses in favour of shorter buses. This decision reduces capacity on our routes, reduces the pay of drivers and, more importantly, narrows the set of skills drivers have as well. A year on from the privatisation, the Government has nothing to celebrate.