Concern over private bus line in Canberra

July 2, 1997

Concern over private bus line in Canberra

Martin Iltis

CANBERRA — An agreement between the ACT government and private bus company Deanes has been condemned by the Transport Workers Union and many others, as heralding the start of the privatisation of Canberra's bus services

Under the agreement, which is running for an eight-week trial period beginning June 21, Deanes is able to pick up and set down passengers within the ACT on its weekend services between Queanbeyan and Canberra.

Previously Deanes, based in Queanbeyan, was allowed to pick up and set down passengers within the ACT only at the Woden and Civic destination points. This meant that Action, the ACT-owned bus line, had sole coverage of routes within the ACT.

The legislation for the trial was introduced by the minority Liberal government and supported by the ACT Greens and independent MLA Paul Osborne. Labor voted against the bill.

According to Greens MLA Lucy Horodny, the trial does not herald the start of the privatisation of bus services in Canberra. She told Green Left Weekly, "The trial is not a threat in the long run to Action. This is about an information gathering trial."

She added, "The ultimate goal is to improve Action so that it is viable, strong, healthy and really attractive".

Horodny claimed that the results of the trial could be used to put political pressure on the government to improve Action services.

Trevor Santi, an organiser with Transport Workers Union, condemned the Greens position as "misguided".

He told Green Left Weekly, "It's naive to believe that a Liberal government would try to cut out a private operator. And very naive knowing the track record of this Liberal government in regards to the privatisation of everything that even smells of being government owned."

Santi also rejected claims by Horodny that Action had not put in a bid for the trial route.

Democratic Socialist spokesperson Sue Bull condemned the trial. She said, "Any move to introduce a private company into Canberra is a regressive step. Governments should put more resources into public transport so that the public can access services that are cheap, reliable and efficient.

"The ACT government should be spending far more money on Action rather than continuing to slash millions of dollars from its budget and consequently providing a service which does not meet the needs of most Canberrans."

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