The Herald reports that changes to the STA will allow Sydney Buses to maintain existing services with fewer buses and drivers via a more efficient allocation of buses between depots. Currently, many buses must travel long distances to the starting point of the bus route and then do the same to return at the end of their run, a process known as dead running because the bus is unable to carry any passengers.
While commuters will not notice any differences with service levels, the reduced number of buses needed to maintain the same service levels means the STA will be able to retire some of its older buses, particularly non-accessible and non-air conditioned buses. No bus drivers will lose their jobs directly, though the STA plans to reduce staffing levels via natural attrition.
These changes were made possible by the reorganisation of the Transport Department into Transport for NSW, which also involved putting all government transport agencies directly underneath it and transferred responsibility for planning to Transport for NSW. This meant that rather than assigning buses to routes at a depot level, it is now done at a Sydney-wide level, allowing for efficiencies like these to emerge.
What is disappointing is that the savings that arise from these changes will be going into general government revenue rather than back into public transport. The same is true of the government’s share of station access fees on the Airport Line.
Finding savings in public transport (or raising extra revenue) should be encouraged as a way of expanding services without having to increase its budget. After all, public transport costs the state government billions each year in operational subsidies. But this cannot be done if these same savings are then used for other purposes.