Department of State GrowthTransport

Information for Operators

General facts and questions

Information updates for operators are included in the Transporter newsletter which is sent out to all contracted bus operators on a quarterly basis.  Past copies of Transporter are available here.

A series of frequently answered questions is listed below.

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All Contracts

When will the new contracts be available to operators to consider?

There are some key issues that the Project 2018 team and the Tasmanian Bus Association (TasBus), are still negotiating.  Both parties are very keen to see these issues resolved as soon as possible, but regardless, a new contract is unlikely to be ready for wider consultation before the end of February 2018.

How will the new contracts be paid?

It is proposed to move all contracts away from the top-up funding model and towards a net or gross cost funding model.

There are some good and simple explanations of these two funding models available at https://ppiaf.org/sites/ppiaf.org/files/documents/toolkits/UrbanBusToolkit/assets/3/chose.html

The current Rural School Bus contracts are an example of a gross funded service.

School Bus Contracts

When will the Urban Fringe contract decisions be finalised, especially for those operators who have been advised that their contracts are under review?  

The review of urban fringe school bus contracts commenced in Term 1 2018, and is expected to take at least two terms to complete.

Will there be vehicle size requirements on the new contracts?

Yes, but exactly how these will be specified is yet to be determined.

What is the length of time for the contracts?

All contracts will be 5 + 5 years, unless there are extraordinary reasons as to why this would not occur.

The Government has committed to extending schools to years 11 and 12.  Will this affect operators?

It is being considered, but it is not generally expected that this issue will greatly reduce student flows into urban areas.  It is likely to increase the numbers of students travelling to secondary schools that go through to year 11 & 12, but services can be contracted or modified based on numbers and information at that time.

Do the new contracts include the need for compulsory seat belts on buses?

The Department’s positon on not requiring seat belts on rural school bus services and having capacity for standing passengers remains unchanged as the ability to have standing passengers enables better management of peak student loads and reduces the likelihood of buses not being able to pick up students.

The Department recognises that non seat-belted buses are getting harder to purchase and the contracts will allow for some flexibility to deal with this, however, the default requirement for new buses will be that buses should provide for 3 for 2 seating of young children, they should not have seat belts, and peak standing capacity should be provided.

There are transition provisions in the current draft contract that will allow seat-belted buses with no standing capacity to be transferred from current contracts as long as they are able to meet the expected carrying capacity.

General Access Bus Services

Will services be extended to seven days per week, including Sunday and public holidays?

The Department of State Growth is looking at expanding many services to seven days a week and on public holidays in line with the General Access Service Standards that are guiding the project.

This is contingent on overall funding, but with timetables still to be finalised it is most likely that for those operators who currently operate a 7 days per week service, including Public Holidays that they will continue to do so.  As stated though, this is contingent on funding and is subject to change.

When will the proposed timetables be out, and take effect?

We are aiming for January 2019.  This is when most of the contract changes need to be made, although some changes may need to be phased in.  These issues will be discussed with all affected operators.

Has there been provision for extra drivers on standby for weekends and public holiday’s services?

We haven’t got to this level of negotiation yet as we are still primarily focussed on school bus contracts where this issue isn’t as prevalent.  However, we are aware of this issue and will certainly keep it on board for future discussion.

Have any decisions been made on bus sizes on the new general access contracts, and if so, what would be the size of the bus required, i.e. seating capacity?

Not as yet, but consistent with previous advice the default position will be that operators will use large coaches/buses only, unless the route specifically dictates that small buses should be used.

What type of vehicle is to be used – do they have to be a low floor bus or coach, and do they need to be fitted with items such as a wheel chair lifter?

This type of vehicle is dependent on the route, and route length.  Once again, this issue will be discussed with affected operators closer to the time that the contract and timetables have been finalised.

All new General Access buses will need to be Disability Discrimination Act 1992 (DDA) compliant.

Will the Government be assisting with the purchase of new vehicles for the new contracts, and if so, how will operators be paid?

Yes, but exactly how is still to be decided.  As per the principles laid out by the Minister to guide the project, the new contracts need to provide a fair return to the contractor, and value for money to Government.

Special Needs Contracts – National Disability Insurance Scheme

The Tasmanian Government has signed up to an agreement with the Australian Government to commence roll out of the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) in Tasmania.

Under the scheme, the National Disability Insurance Agency (NDIA) will be responsible for providing funding to people with disability to access the reasonable and necessary supports they need to take part in everyday activities.  This may include school transport for individuals who, because of their disability, are unable to use other transport options.

It was initially expected that all school-aged people with disabilities would be included in the NDIS by 31 December 2017, and it was agreed that existing Special Needs Bus services would operate until the end of the 2017 school year.

Since then, the Department of State Growth (State Growth) has been working with the NDIA to understand how it will provide transport to NDIS participants under the scheme and how to ensure a smooth transition.  However, this has taken considerably more time than originally anticipated.  As every state and territory has different arrangements, identifying a consistent approach requires more time.  For this reason, existing Special Needs Bus services will now continue until they expire at the end of 2018.

The Government has decided to put arrangements in place for services to be provided on a year-to-year basis from January 2019 for up to five more years (until December 2023).  This period of time reflects the fact that special needs bus services are not being recontracted as part of the Public Bus Recontracting Project (Project 2018).  Instead, State Growth will soon commence the work required to put in place arrangements that will ensure services can be delivered until the NDIA can develop a way to provide transport supports for students with specialist transport needs.   As more information comes to hand, State Growth will share that information in a timely way to assist operators to prepare as best as possible.

For more information on the NDIS and providers of services, visit the NDIS website.

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Demerit points scheme facts and questions

The Demerit Point Scheme is being used in Project 2018 to determine if an operator has met the performance criteria, prior to being offered a new contract. The Demerit Points Scheme operates in the same manner as the points scheme used, in 2012 and 2013, when determining if a five year contract extension would be offered.  Specific details on the points scheme can be found under Section 4 “Term of Agreement” in your current contract/s.

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How will the performance evaluation of contracts be undertaken?

The point scheme, used in 2012 for determining whether the five year extension of current contracts should be granted, will be used to evaluate performance.

Under this scheme, any non-compliance incidents recorded since the commencement of the second five year term of current contracts will be converted into points for assessing whether a new contract should be offered.  Under this process:

  • Minor Non-compliances are converted to 1 point
  • Serious Non-compliances are converted to 5 points
  • Major Non-compliances are converted to 10 points

The accumulation of 10 or more points from the commencement of the second five year term until the end of the contract will render the operator ineligible for offer of a new contract for that service, and any future contract will be dependent on the current contract not being ended by the Department due to the accumulation of non-compliances.

It should be noted that, in some situations, the accumulation of non-compliances to equate to 10 or more points could also constitute a basis for ending the current contract, and State Growth may choose to pursue this.

Non compliances are listed in contracts.

Are there any other performance grounds under which an incumbent won’t be offered a new contract if the service is needed?

Yes, if an operator receives a conviction for a crime or offence related to fraud, dishonesty, obtaining a financial advantage or of a pecuniary nature in relation to passenger transport contracts or any transport subsidy scheme this would prevent an operator receiving an offer in relation to any contract.

Have any operators already accumulated 10 or more points due to the application of the performance evaluation criteria?

As at 1 July 2016, there is one contract with 10 points and three other contracts with two or less non-compliance points.

What happens with performance evaluation where operators hold multiple contracts?

Where operators hold multiple contracts, points relating to an individual contract will relate only to that contract.

That is, while 10 points on one contract would prevent the operator from receiving an offer of a future contract for that service, they could still receive an offer for another service.

What happens with performance evaluation points if a contract is novated?

For the purpose of Project 2018, points will attach to the contract rather than the operator and those points will transfer to any new operator if a contract is novated.

Therefore, performance will be based on all points accrued on a particular contract throughout the second five year term, regardless of the identity of the contract holder at any particular time.

Attaching points to a contract, means that there is no distinction between selling a business and novating a contract in terms of the application of points.

Does attaching points to a contract, unfairly disadvantage any operators who have bought a contract?

No.

There are no contracts on which points have been accumulated in the second five year term which have subsequently been novated prior to this process being put in place.  Therefore, this proposal would not disadvantage the purchaser of a contract who was unaware of this proposal at the time of novation.

Doesn’t attaching points to a contract, unfairly disadvantage any operators who are looking at buying a contract?

The Department of State Growth has put in place a process so that any operator looking to take on responsibility for a contract through novation will be made aware of the performance evaluation process and any points that may be attached to a contract.

Is there a risk of an operator trying to sell a contract before points are attached?

State Growth will check for any pending non-compliance issues in providing advice about the performance history of a contract to a potential new operator.

Further, if an investigation of a compliance incident is underway, State Growth will treat this as grounds on which it will refuse to approve the transfer of a contract.

How can I find out how many points (if any) exist against my contract?

The Department of State Growth will have confirmed the number of demerit points, if any, in the Negotiation Deed that was sent to you.

Be aware that any demerit points that have been accumulated since then will count towards this performance assessment process.

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Short Term Contracts

In August 2017 Short Term Contracts were sent to all operators who hold regular passenger contracts for student services that expire during the 2018 school year, and that do not have 10 or more demerit points against them.

The Short Term Contract from the Secretary, Department of State Growth provided a single contract for the provision of current contracted services until 31 December 2018.  All contracts have now been signed by the Delegate.

Under the Treasurers Instruction 1110 a list of the awarded contracts has now been published.

View a list of contracts and operators here (227KB PDF).

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Q.

Why did the Secretary offer Short Term Contracts?

A.

Most school contracts expire part way through the school year, and many part way through a school week.  Therefore any changes to bus services on the contract end dates could be confusing and disruptive for students, schools and parents, especially with different services changing at different dates.

Short Term Contracts were offered to operators that had services expire part way through the 2018 school year to allow them to continue until the end of the 2018 school year. This meant any network changes could be communicated to parents of new and existing students prior to the start of the school year, making the change much cleaner.

This will also allow the Department of State Growth (the Department) to simplify contracting with operators who currently hold multiple contracts leading to efficiencies for both operators and the Department.

Q.

Who was offered a Short Term Contract?

A.

A total of 303 new contracts were offered to 115 operators.  A full list of contracts and operators is available here (227KB PDF).

Contract offers were sent out in August 2017 and were made to incumbent operators who had school bus contracts expiring during the 2018 year. The new contracts will be effective until
31 December 2018.

The Short Term Contracts are new contracts, not extensions.

Q.

What services are covered by the Short Term Contracts?

A.

The contract covers all eligible rural school bus, rural fare paying, town, urban and urban fringe student only (UFSO) services which end on, or prior to 21 December 2018 (the last day of term 4).

Q.

Will the offer of a Short Term Contract affect my current contracting activities?

 

The offer will not affect normal contract management activities, and changes to routes or services can still be made.

Q.

Are there any exceptions in relation to the offer of a Short Term Contract?

A.

There were two identified exceptions:

  1. Where an operator had 10 or more demerit points awarded against a contract at the time of the offer then the service will end at the current contract date. There are only two contracts that this has applied to at the date contracts were sent out.
  2. Where a current service is operated by, or on behalf of, a private institution (school) for use by people enrolled at, or affiliated with, that school, and therefore does not meet the legal definition of a regular passenger service.

Q.

How does the Short Term Contract offer affect the existing timeframe for the 5 + 5 year contracts?

A.

If you are an operator with school bus contracts which expired before the end of the 2018 school year, the Short Term Contracts allows you to operate until the end of the 2018 school year. The 5 + 5 year contracts will then cover those services continuing beyond 2018, resulting in operators being in a better position.

Q.

I accepted a Short Term Contract offer, but have previously received advice that my service is under review. Does this offer mean my service is going to be recontracted?

A.

No - the offer of a Short Term Contract was made regardless of whether the Department expects to recontract a service for a further 5 + 5 year period, not recontract a service, merge a service, redesign a service or put a service into a closed tender.

What the contract offer does is ensure your existing service can continue through to the end of the 2018 school year.

Q.

When are the 5 + 5 contracts starting?

A.

For services ending before the beginning of the 2019 school year, (including those provided under Short Term Contracts) the 5 + 5 contracts will now start from the beginning of the 2019 year. The Department plans to make the offer for these contracts six months prior to the expiry of current contracts.

Q.

What about school bus contracts that end in 2019?

A.

The Department will provide separate advice on contracts ending during the 2019 school year.

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Early Exit Payment Incentive Package

The Early Exit Incentive Packages have now ceased.  The packages allowed for rationalisation of services for operators to provide proposals to the Department for the removal of some services.  The deadline for these proposals was 20 October 2017.