SA trials Uber-style bus service

By Shannon Jenkins

Tuesday January 14, 2020

Adobe Stock

Mount Barker and the Barossa are the first regions in South Australia to test a state-funded on-demand bus service.

The six-month trial — which began on Monday — is part of a $1.7 million state government grant to Keolis Downer. The public transport provider will operate nine buses across the locations, which the public can order using the Keoride app.

Like the ridesharing app Uber, passengers can order a bus to their location and track its journey, according to acting Minister for Transport and Infrastructure David Spiers.

“We are electrifying the Gawler line, extending the Tonsley rail line to the Flinders education and medical precinct and building Park n Rides along the O-Bahn,” he noted.

“Passengers will be able to track the wait time and bus location in real-time on the app and get picked up from their home or within 60-130 metres from their location.”

He said the initiative is a bid to encourage more people to use public transport.

The service runs seven days a week, with four buses in Mount Barker and five in the Barossa Valley. A bus in each location complies with the Disability Discrimination Act 1992 requirements.

As part of the Mount Barker service, Adelaide Metro bus timetables will also be integrated into the app “to ensure a seamless interchange between the on-demand and metro bus services”.

The on-demand service is currently being trialled in various parts of New South Wales, including Newcastle, where Keolis Downer runs the public buses, ferries and trams. The city’s year-long trial began in October.

Newcastle councillor Peta Winney-Baartz said at the time that she wanted to “encourage higher levels of public transport patronage and active travel to create a more pedestrian-friendly city centre”.

Keolis Downer came under fire last year when its manager of government partnerships emailed fake news about Labor ministers to the Transport Minister Stephan Knoll’s office while competing in a tender process to operate Adelaide’s tram services. The relationship between the company and Knoll was questioned late last year after leaked documents revealed the on-demand bus service contract did not go out to open tender. The documents showed eight applications were received.

Opposition transport spokesperson Tom Koutsantonis was critical of the approach.

“How was Keolis Downer chosen?” he said. “An exclusive contract given to anyone to conduct trials gives that company an unbelievable head start.”

Knoll had reportedly met with the company in Newcastle earlier in 2019.

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