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Bus service uncertainty

Monday, 19th May, 2014

By Craig Brealey

The bus services from Wilcannia and Menindee to Broken Hill could very soon not be run by the Central Darling Shire Council.

The Council operates the services under contract from Transport NSW but no longer has the money to keep them going and cannot meet the standard now required by Transport NSW, according to a report to the council.

The Ivanhoe bus service, which is mainly for people who need to travel for medical treatment and which connects to Hay, Mildura and Griffith, will continue to be operated by the Shire.

The Wilcannia and Menindee services run five days a week to and from Broken Hill and are subcontracted by council to private bus companies. Council provides the service directly in Ivanhoe.

“Funding for the services has been covered by federal/state government grants with some income from passengers and, in the case of Menindee and Wilcannia, with support of a local health service, although that support will finish this year,” said Greg Wright, the administrator of the Council.

Mr Wright has been in charge since the start of the year when the NSW Government suspended the councillors over the parlous financial state of the council.

“The services are well used, particularly in Menindee and Ivanhoe and, to a lesser extent, in Wilcannia,” Mr Wright said in his report. 

“Accordingly, they are services that are required by the community and need to be retained for the benefit of the community.”

The Menindee and Wilcannia services were predicted to make a small profit but the results for the current financial year showed this would not be achieved.

Because of that, council decided not to buy two new buses.

Council had also been unable to meet its obligations in respect to the contract with Transport NSW, particularly for the Menindee and Wilcannia services, Mr Wright reported.

Transport NSW had told the council that the level of service would have to be “significantly improved”. 

It said it would insist that “appropriate vehicles are bought or leased, that staff are trained in the basic requirements of the Home and Community Care (HACC) program, that the NSW Community Transport Program (CTP) funding is implemented and that basic procedures are developed for the community transport services, inclusive of complaints handling.

“Ideally, Council should consider installing a manager or director to oversee the operations of the three centres.”

Mr Wright said that under the council’s financial circumstances, “this is not considered a likely outcome.”

He has proposed in his report to the next council meeting that council end its contract for the Wilcannia and Menindee services on June 30.

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