Improving the Performance of Metropolitan Bus Services

The Auditor-General, Mr Peter Achterstraat, today called for improvements in the management of Sydney metropolitan bus services.

“More people travel across the Sydney Harbour Bridge in the morning peak in the bus lane than all of the other city bound lanes on the Bridge combined. People rely on buses to get to work, school or home. Buses are vital for moving people and the public deserves good service.” said Mr Achterstraat.

“Sydney metropolitan bus services need to be improved.” 

Significant advances have been made as a result of the Unsworth review in 2004, with new bus contracts, a network improvement program, strategic corridors and uniform bus fares and concessions. 

But there remain major performance issues with Sydney metropolitan buses. Wide variations in service levels exist, with privately operated services less frequent and less accessible than publicly run services.

 “A survey last year showed that 1 in 4 bus users said they were left standing at the bus stop at least once a week and 1 in 3 wanted to catch a bus at times when the services had stopped operating,” said Mr Achterstraat. “This performance is not good enough.”
There is also a wide disparity in the costs of operating metropolitan bus services, with some regions costing just over $4 per kilometre compared with almost $10 per kilometre in other regions.

“With bus contracts worth $5.6 billion over seven years, the public is entitled to value for money,” said Mr Achterstraat. “Contracts were directly negotiated with existing operators and not through an open competitive tender process. This may prove more costly to the public,” he added.

These were some of the findings released today by the NSW Audit Office in the Improving the performance of metropolitan bus services report. The audit examines how well the performance of metropolitan bus services is being managed, focusing on the critical role of the lead Government agency, NSW Transport and Infrastructure.

Mr Achterstraat outlined three key solutions to improve the performance of Sydney buses.

“The transport department needs to benchmark performance, hold bus operators accountable, and introduce penalties for poor performance.

Secondly, they need to strengthen controls on operator self-reporting to ensure that performance information is accurate. Thirdly, there has to be more frequent customer satisfaction and usage surveys including the use of Mystery Shoppers.”

Further information

Emily Watson, Governance Officer, on 9275 7408 or email