8 February 2024

'You had 11 years to sort this out': Replacement of non-compliant buses delayed yet again

| Claire Fenwicke
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The non-compliant Renault buses were meant to be gone from Canberra’s roads by now. Photo: Brock Ginman.

There’s still no firm date for when non-compliant Renault PR100.2 buses will finally be removed from Canberra’s roads.

The buses don’t comply with the Disability Discrimination Act 1992 and 26 new low-emission diesel buses were meant to arrive in the Territory by the end of 2022.

Now their delivery has been delayed yet again.

The ACT Government already has its hands on nine of the 26 promised buses, but Transport Minister Chris Steel told the Legislative Assembly on Tuesday (6 February) that while the rest had originally been expected to arrive early this year, that deadline won’t be met.

“We were expecting all of the Renault PR100.2 series buses would be retired by early 2024. That expectation was based on Scania Bustech’s delivery schedule, which they have not delivered against,” he said.

“Changes to the original delivery schedule have been reset on 11 occasions since contract execution.”

Mr Steel outlined international supply chain issues for the supply of raw materials and parts to complete construction of the buses, which included impacts to the supply of steel, air-conditioning units, internal fit-out components and shortages of fibreglass components.

The remaining vehicles are expected to be received by the end of the year, although the government is yet to receive confirmation of an updated schedule for delivery dates.

Mr Steel said he was “disappointed” by both Scania Australia and its partners’ performance under the contract and that he was seeking advice on what options are available for the government.

“Despite putting in place the contracts to support the replacement of non-compliant buses, revised delivery dates for the remaining buses on order on multiple occasions has meant Scania Australia has not been able to deliver the buses on time as per the terms of the contract,” he said.

“It is unfortunate that it is the delayed delivery of conventional diesel buses that has been the greatest problem in managing the renewal of the fleet during the transition [to 100 per cent renewables].”

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Both the Canberra Liberals and ACT Greens weren’t impressed with the update.

Shadow Transport Minister Mark Parton slammed the update as “unacceptable and inexcusable”, and questioned how Labor would react if the Liberals were in government and done the same thing.

“The retirement of these dinosaur buses was foreshadowed as a priority for this government a decade ago,” he said.

“It’s wonderful to sit here and blame the pandemic, blame the war on Ukraine, the weather, everything else. You had 11 years to sort this out. These buses became non-compliant more than a year ago.”

The Speaker has previously ruled the term “gaslighting” unparliamentary, so Mr Parton chose a different phrase instead: “What Mr Steel and this government is doing is ‘bus-lighting’.”

Green transport spokesperson Jo Clay also expressed her disappointment, questioning why the government had left replacing the buses to “the last minute”.

“If [the buses] were cars, they’d be classified as vintage cars … these buses belong in a museum, but they’re on our roads because Labor didn’t get rid of them when they should have,” she said.

“There’s no reason government couldn’t have bought these buses five years ago but they didn’t… because it wasn’t a priority.

“We are getting worried about the priority that is being put on public transport here. The ACT Greens are committed to public transport, we’re concerned that our partners in government aren’t.”

low-floor battery electric buses

Custom Denning ‘Element’ low-floor battery electric buses (BEB) are steadily being rolled out on the network and are accessible. Photo: Ian Bushnell.

Public transport advocates also raised questions about what this said about the quality of Transport Canberra’s procurement practices.

Public Transport Association of Canberra chair Ryan Hemsley said it simply wasn’t good enough.

“This is tremendously disappointing news. The government has known about the December 2022 deadline for phasing out the non-compliant Renaults since 2002. At the current rate, they’ll still be on the road a full two years after this deadline,” he said.

“Unless Transport Canberra adopts a proactive long-term approach to fleet renewal, they’ll be faced with similar problems next time Canberra’s buses are due to be phased out – and the community will be forced to shoulder the consequences yet again.”

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Mr Steel explained the remaining Renault PR100.2 buses couldn’t be pulled from service because this would “significantly risk” service reliability for Canberrans.

The plan is to only operate the old buses when the alternative would be to cancel a service altogether.

People can request an accessible bus on a specific route through Transport Canberra.

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Great opportunity – scrap the contract to buy diesel buses and go for electric ones instead.

Well there’s been a sign saying Athllon drive is being duplicated for about the last 6 years. The grass around my suburb is about 50cm tall. Tree stumps after the storm we had over a month ago haven’t been touched. But my rates have increased by 12% presumably to fund Barr and cos pay rise for the job they’re not doing.

The Midas touch of Minister Steel strikes again.

Geoff Jenkins1:19 pm 08 Feb 24

If TCCS cannot manage the mowing of ACT public parks that appear to be on a 2 month mowing cycle what chance would they have organising a bus order

The Transport Canberra representative on radio yesterday said they signed the contract with Scania in 2021 and he was blaming unexpected Covid for the delays in delivery.

I’m thinking we all knew about Covid supply chain issues back in 2020 long before the contract was signed, what was Transport Canberra doing about mitigating any supply risks related to Covid.

I know we can blame Covid for some things, but every negative thrown at an ACT government official or minister lately has them blaming Covid.

Capital Retro8:23 pm 08 Feb 24

No problems getting electric buses, electric garbage trucks and electric EV extinguishers (AKA fire engines), though.

Gregg Heldon9:07 am 08 Feb 24

11 occasions!?! I’m sorry, but after 4 delays a right minded, sensible person/minister/department would be looking at viable alternatives and termination of the original contract. Not 11.
There seems to be not a single thing that Minister Steel can get right. He’s Mick Gentlemen 2.0.
If, for no other reason but these two sorry excuses for Ministers, this Government has to go in October.

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