Ballarat manufacturer OzPress Industries will re-employ some of its workers laid off during the country's automotive restructure as it gears up to deliver new buses for the state government.
Twenty jobs have been created as OzPress partners with south-east Asian company Gemilang to build 50 buses for the Victorian public transport network. The positions include panel beaters, body builders, auto-electricians, painters and after-sale staff.
Andrews Government Minister for Public Transport Melissa Horne made an announcement regarding the new contract at the Wendouree home of OzPress on Thursday morning. Another 50 buses will be built at the Dandenong factory of Volgren.
She says OzPress are currently looking for staff as well as re-employing some of those laid off after Toyota withdrew from the car manufacturing industry in Australia in 2017.
The minister says the buses will come onto the network from August 2019, and be rolled out over the year. They will incorporate low access platforms for people with wheelchairs, prams and other assistance devices.
Acting Public Transport Victoria CEO Alan Fedda says the first of the buses will be deployed around the Greater Melbourne area, and will be based on a diesel chassis for the time being, with future buses built on consideration of environmental advances.
"We're building skill and capability in Ballarat," said Mr Fedda.
"We're building those skills to build more buses for all of Victoria, including Ballarat. More than 60 per cent of each bus will be assembled here in Ballarat, and that's important for jobs locally."
Luke Dwyer, managing director of OzPress Industries, says the government contract has given the company the ability to diversify.
"We were in the auto industry for 30 years, and we're still sort of in the industry, but we've moved into buses," Mr Parker says.
"So it's a great opportunity for staff who stuck with us through change, and also gives us the ability to hire new people... we've been rattling around this big shed for a while looking for something, and this is a great opportunity."
Minister Horne thanked the population of Ballarat for their patience while the rail upgrades from Melbourne to the city were undertaken, saying buses were crucial to the replacement services offered.
Asked about current routes and whether they were efficient for patronage in Ballarat, Minister Horne said Public Transport Victoria was also undertaking regular reviews of the bus networks.
"I think it's really important to have bus routes going where people need to go," said the minister.
"Having those constant reviews in place means we can adjust bus routes accordingly and make sure we're getting the most 'bang for our buck' out of where those buses are travelling."
The last review in Ballarat was in 2017, said Ms Horne, and regional bus patronage was growing as reviews were promoting new routes. She did not offer specific examples of the growth in route patronage in Ballarat.
Asked about the future of the Velocity train project and overcrowding on the Melbourne to Ballarat train services, Minister Horne said the current government had made an 'incredible commitment' to providing new rolling stock.
"New Velocitys are key. We are seeing unprecedented growth on regional public transport, and making sure there's the new rolling stock, there's the new signalling, there's the new upgrades, there's the new station to get a more reliable service are absolutely critical.
"This is a government that has committed to new rolling stock for Victoria."
The Federal Budget handed down on Tuesday saw $2 billion allocated for a Fast Train network between Geelong and Melbourne. No comparable announcements were made for Ballarat.