Question Time: Bus Services on Demand

Wednesday November 13, 2019

Mr BELL (Mount Gambier) (14:50): My question is to the Minister for Transport. Can the minister inform the house how Mount Barker and Barossa were selected as on-demand trial sites, and were any other regional sites considered?

The Hon. S.K. KNOLL (Schubert—Minister for Transport, Infrastructure and Local Government, Minister for Planning) (14:51): They were considered because they were the best opportunity to actually provide a test case for how this solution might work in a broader context. One of them, obviously, is inside the metro boundary for Adelaide Metro services and one that is outside and is within one of the exclusive contractual arrangements.

I am more than happy to have a discussion with the member and get some detail on whether options were considered in other regional towns, but quite clearly when it comes to this kind of service you need a level of density to make this work. We do actually have 28 separate regional bus contracts—off the top of my head 10 or 11 of them are fixed-route sort of point-to-Adelaide type coach services essentially. Then there is a smattering of different kinds of arrangements for intracity services in towns across regional South Australia, and whether it would be towns like Port Pirie, Port Augusta or Mount Gambier there are different and quite an eclectic group of arrangements in place.

Can I say that one of the hypotheses that I have is that providing an on-demand service can actually be a solution for those services as well. So what you see in a lot of these regional communities is a nice tightly defined township area that has some two, three or four specific points of interest: the high street, a separate shopping centre, or some sort of larger sporting or community facility. What we have at the moment is a series of very antiquated dial-a-ride type services where you literally need to dial up beforehand and book a service. We actually do have some fixed-route services with low frequency. I think that on-demand is a way, if it works, that it can be rolled out into regional centres.

In fact, it is something that has worked well in Warrnambool, and can I declare to the house that I did meet with an operator who undertakes those services in Warrnambool. They showed how they can use technology and quite an interesting model of how they are able to improve public transport services within those townships using the existing bucket of money. I think the point here is that we are operating in a time when we see $2.3 billion worth of writedown to GST and to stamp duty, and in that environment we need to make sure that we drive those dollars as far as we can.

If you have a capital asset, a bus, and you have a guy who is in a bus sitting around not doing too much, then that is not the best use of resources. The opportunity to provide a more flexible service that increases and encourages patronage means we can actually get better use of that existing bucket. I think that it actually does have positive implications for regional South Australia, but again we need to undertake the trial. We have high hopes for this thing, but once again we will be guided by reality.