Bus body warns Friday’s V/Line scramble could occur again

The head of Victoria’s peak bus representative body has warned some of the state’s biggest coach operators will continue to not offer their services to replace V/Line trains on the Ballarat line as contract negotiations heat up.

On Friday the state government was forced to scramble to find buses for rail replacement services after the contracted suppliers backed out at the 11th hour due to a contract stalemate. 

Bus Association Victoria executive director Chris Lowe said member companies would continue to disrupt the government’s replacement services while the Ballarat train line undergoes a $518 million face lift. 

“The industry has made it clear to the government both verbally and in writing it will not be as cooperative with government as it has been until it takes the compulsory acquisition off the table,” Mr Lowe said. 

The state government has presented metropolitan bus providers with three potential options for renewed contracts, all of which would give the government some access to the business’ fleet at the end of the contract should their agreement not be renewed.   

Related coverage

The historically preferred 10-year option would provide the state government with control of a company’s fleet and depots, while the five and seven-year options would provide access to vehicles purchased during the contract period. 

In a statement a state government spokesperson said “our metropolitan bus contracts expire in June 2018 - they are old and out-of-date, and aren’t delivering the services passengers need”. 

Speaking on ABC radio on Friday, Public Transport Victoria chief executive Jeroen Weimar dismissed claims businesses would be compulsorily acquired. 

Ditchy's view

Ditchy's view

“We were able to find a number of operators who willingly stepped into the breach (on the Ballarat line) which enabled us to keep all of those services moving,” Mr Weimar said.

Ballarat’s V/Line train service is expected to be replaced by coaches on several occasions over the next two years as the Melbourne Metro Rail Authority work to deliver a series of upgrades such as new platforms at Ballan and Bacchus Marsh and a series of new passing loops. 

Contracts for regional and rural school bus routes are also set to expire at the end of 2019, while regular route commitments will cease at the end of 2021.  A government spokesperson said no decisions had been made on these contracts.