The Tasmanian Greens want bus travelfor Tertiary Students on Metro Tasmania services to be free.
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2019 Government Businesses Scrutiny Committee - Metro
Parliamentary Activity - Wednesday, 4 December 2019
CHAIR - The schedule for this scrutiny is up to 12 o'clock so it will be less than two hours now. I welcome the minister, Chair and CEO to the committee. I remind members about the practice of seeking additional information for GBEs. The question must be agreed to be taken by the minister or the chair of the board and the question must be handed in writing to this committee's secretary. Minister or Chair, if you want to give a brief opening statement - it needs to be kept reasonable since we have less than two hours now.
Mr FERGUSON - Thank you, Chair. After taking responsibility for the Infrastructure and Transport portfolio in July I have thoroughly enjoyed becoming more familiar with Metro and its operations. Metro is a very important service provider for our state, particularly for people who want to get to work on time and for people who can't afford a motor vehicle. It's about connecting people with work, education and training, health, retail and services, loved ones and their community, and of course it takes pressure off our busy arterial routes.
In 2018-19 Metro did this over 8.5 million times, increasing patronage, I am very pleased to say, for a sixth consecutive year via consolidating network improvements, a better fleet and focusing on customer service. Today, I will briefly touch on some of Metro's key achievements in the past year.
Metro has successfully encouraged more people to use public transport and has attracted an increase of statewide patrons by 2.2 per cent. This is the sixth year that has occurred and it reflects the Government's and Metro's strong commitment to ensuring public transport takes Tasmanians to where they need to be and connects them with employment and education opportunities in the community.
Full fare-paying adult passengers represent the majority of Metro's patronage growth, rising 11 per cent in that financial year, and that follows growth of 16 per cent in the previous five years. From Metro's perspective, better mobility outcomes in Hobart rely on a reduction of single car occupancy, as one bus has the capacity to take up to 60 cars off the road, and we fully pursue that priority approach.
Measures like clearways, bus lanes and priority lights make buses a compelling alternative to the private car, offer a true commuter incentive and can be implemented relatively quickly and cheaply. Our $45 million investment in 100 new Tasmanian-made buses on-island for the Metro fleet is a vital project and it is progressing on time and on budget. By the end of the financial year Metro had welcomed the first 39 of these buses and was delivering nearly 80 per cent of services using low-floor vehicles. As the state's largest advanced manufacturing project, Metro's accelerated bus replacement is boosting the sector and has created over 30 new jobs in north-west Tasmania. We trust that the community is as proud as we are at these new buses that are being built in our state by our people.
In the customer satisfaction and safety space, Metro has confirmed that passengers agree that Metro is doing a fine job. Overall satisfaction has increased from 73 per cent to 76 per cent and we want to continue to see that improve. A total of 81 per cent of respondents were pleased with the service provided by drivers and respondents were emphatic when asked about their personal safety, with 83 per cent satisfied.
In ticketing, Metro is now implementing the Government's election commitment and is working with stakeholders, including the Department of State Growth and TasBus, to plan a transition to a more modern integrated ticketing platform. We see this as a real opportunity whose time has come and we expect to make an approach to market next year for a public transport integrated ticketing system.
In relation to the Launceston network, which I'm sure will be interest to the committee, in 2016 Metro launched a new bus network for Hobart. That has been operating for four years now and first boardings have increased by almost 7 per cent. The same principles that were adopted in that redesign are being adopted in the design of the new Launceston bus network. Many great people have been working hard and the design of the Launceston network has now been finalised. Extensive consultation has occurred, more than did occur with Hobart, which is lessons learned, making sure we go back to our community again, and that has happened. After that extensive consultation, it is set to launch on 19 January 2020. Information on the new network routes and timetables will be available on the web, and will be distributed to commuters in printed form over coming weeks. I know Metro and our drivers are very excited to be operating those new routes.
Bus prioritisation: Metro is working closely with the Department of State Growth to develop better and further bus prioritisation measures in Hobart. We need to see this happen. Significant measures to improve traffic flow and ensure Metro buses can move more freely through the city and incentivise public transport have now been introduced. We have extended the clearways on Davey and Macquarie streets, ensuring vehicles parked in clearways are now being removed, and also clearing crashes and breakdowns more quickly.
This year, the Budget contains more than $30 million, and we want to see more congestion-busting measures going forward, including bus priority measures on key routes.
I will be calling on local councils that have not yet actioned their proposals to provide dedicated road space for buses to get on and do that. The advice has been received, and we would like to see the same interest and urgency as the state government has provided. We want to see those sensible practical measures, implemented on roads that are not governed by the state, done by local councils. With that in mind I have written to the local council.
Metro should be congratulated on achieving this range of results. We are certainly aware of the challenges. We are up for those and will be pleased to respond to questions that the committee may have, noting of course that Metro does play an important role. We want to see Metro play a greater role in the day-to-day life of Tasmanians and the community we serve in 2020.
Ms DOW - Minister, Metro drivers report heightened levels of stress related to congestion and time delays and antisocial behaviour on buses. Do you acknowledge their concerns? What strategies does Metro have in place to better support their drivers?
Mr FERGUSON - Thank you, Ms Dow, for the question. I will ask the Chair and CEO to also add to my answer.
I totally agree that antisocial behaviour is entirely out of order and it should not happen. We feel very strongly, as shareholders, as a government, and as a bus transport company, that this is unacceptable where it happens. It is unfair that our drivers should ever have to experience that kind of abuse or antisocial behaviour in their workplace. We will respond to that further please, Megan.
As to congestion, this is a challenge for all road users, particularly in the busy capital city during periods of peak traffic times. We share those frustrations. As a state government, we have already implemented immediate action, and we now have further actions through our congestion-busting policy, which is unmatched across the political spectrum. We are implementing those very rapidly, as we are able to do with State Growth working very hard on that, and getting expert advice about how to do it.
In terms of welfare for our staff, I will certainly ask the Chair and the CEO to respond further.
Mr GARDNER - First and most important, we take the health and wellbeing of our workforce incredibly importantly and seriously. It is the highest priority for our organisation, and we do not like to see any of our workforce suffering stress in the workplace. Our operators are at the front line of our service delivery every day. As you will note, 8.5 million passenger movements means there will be times, unfortunately, when they do experience situations that are certainly not of our liking in terms of the behaviour of passengers.
However, we have processes within the organisation to provide support around that. We have a very active health and safety program, with a health and safety reference group that comes together from all parts of the organisation. The aim is to work through every one of these issues and to seek better outcomes, and to support our drivers in every opportunity we can, to ensure that we as an organisation are fulfilling our duty of care and providing support for them.
Ms MORSE - We acknowledge the extent to which congestion does underpin a significant amount of the stress in our workforce experiences on a day-to-day basis. It also tends to underpin a significant amount of customer feedback where that customer feedback is adverse - whether that is feedback we have received after an incident, or interactions on board. We have already stated the importance and the value of supporting free movement of our vehicles on road - and we can't overstate how important that is, right across our business.
Ms DOW - Minister, does it concern you that some drivers are having to knock on private-property doors to use their toilet, especially across regional areas where there are limited public toilets? How does Metro intend to address this, and other issues related to accessing toilet facilities, and extended periods of time on buses without access to a toilet?
Mr FERGUSON - I will ask our CEO, Ms Morse, to respond from an operational point of view. It has been raised with me as well, as the portfolio minister, by the union concerned, and I share their concerns where this has happened. We need to have full perspective on this. It is a rare occasion, I believe. I am advised that such an embarrassing situation may occur, and that it is very rare, but nonetheless it is for all of us to try to ensure it is avoided in all circumstances.
Ms DOW - It is pretty real for those people, though, particularly in regional areas.
Mr FERGUSON - I am advised by Metro that while the issue does get raised repeatedly, it is quite a rare incident in which an embarrassing event like that may occur. We comprehend and take on board the feedback. I will ask Ms Morse to respond on that.
I want to address your earlier question with some numbers, which I know the committee will find useful. As I said earlier, we find it absolutely unacceptable when people who work for our organisation are treated poorly by members of the public. There have been nine assaults on bus operators in the financial year. There have been 32 missile throwing incidents in that financial year, from roadsides or from overpasses - completely unacceptable. These are statewide figures for those incidents, from right across the state, but they should be zero. It is completely unacceptable, and it is something that we and the organisation take very seriously, and engage law enforcement whenever we can to ensure those incidents are apprehended.
Ms MORSE - Metro faces the challenge in how we support our workforce once they have rolled out of our depot, that we operate mobile and in a centralised business. At present we have access to 119 facilities across the state. They are a mix of facilities that Metro owns, maintains and provides, often in partnership - whether that is with local government, other community-based facilities such as neighbourhood houses, in some instances, it is retail and fuel outlets. We have a range of creative solutions in how we might support someone who is out in our network and experiencing a need for a comfort break.
In terms of that distribution across the state, it is reflective of how we are placed within our network as well. We have 60 sites in Hobart, 22 sites in Launceston, and 37 sites in Burnie. They are distributed across the regions, whether that is urban, non-urban, or east, north and south in a Hobart context. It is an area in which we are continuing to work with partners, as areas of potentially unmet need come to light. The business is proactive in attempting to identify possible solutions to assist someone out in the network.
Ms DOW - Last financial year, $106 000 was paid to Peopleworks for a consultancy for employee contact. What was delivered by Peopleworks, and why was it necessary to outsource this work?
Ms MORSE - Peopleworks was assisting Metro, and our People and Safety team specifically, in a range of return-to-work initiatives for staff who had experienced an injury or incident in the workplace, and whether that was being managed as a medical-time or a lost-time injury that they were a provider of assistance and support to us in that regard.
Ms O'CONNOR - Minister, the Metro workforce, particularly the full-time workforce, appears to have shrunk this financial year. Can you provide the numbers of full-time, part-time and casual workers at Metro for this and the past financial year?
Mr FERGUSON - I will ask the CEO to respond and provide you with the part-time and full-time split for the financial year.
Ms MORSE - As at 30 June 2019 we employed 497 people and that equated to 431.7 FTE. Regarding the part-time and full-time split, I don't have that as a percentage but there are 286 full-time in Hobart, 63 full-time in Launceston, and 17 full-time in Burnie. The vast percentage of our workforce is employed on a full-time time basis.
Mr FERGUSON - I get 65 part-timers across the state, which I was mentally able to calculate while you were answering.
Ms O'CONNOR - Can we confirm, minister, that the Metro workforce appears to have shrunk and there is also one less bus in the Metro fleet this financial year compared to the last financial year? How many buses were cycled out of the fleet during the past financial year? Why were more not kept on for longer, given the need to increase access to public transport services and ease congestion?
Ms MORSE - In terms of our bus numbers at the end of financial year, I guess consistent with the accelerated bus replacement program, whether we still had a bus on hand that had not yet been disposed of would account for the variation of a single bus. Metro operates under a contract that specifies the number of vehicles we operate. That number has been consistent for a long period of time. In terms of not retaining vehicles that are being retired from the fleet, they are absolutely at the end of their working life. So it is very much the case that they're being retired, having provided the business with great service, but they are no longer viable in terms of continuing to operate.
Ms O'CONNOR - Thank you. Minister, given that there is a pressing need for more services on more routes, how do you see Metro being able to meet that increasing demand when the number of buses is down as well as the number of drivers?
Mr FERGUSON - We don't accept the accusation that is implicit in the way you have constructed the question.
Ms O'CONNOR - It is not an accusation.
Mr FERGUSON - I feel the CEO has adequately responded to that concern.
Ms O'CONNOR - The demand concern?
Mr FERGUSON - The concern as to the number of buses and staff. We take in good faith your question relation to services and we are absolutely committed to providing better services. That is what the public is telling us - and me as the new minister - we need to do. It is my informed opinion that the bus network in the north and north-west really has stagnated over the passage of time and we need to refresh and provide the community with a public transport service which meets their actual needs rather than asking them to fit in with our time frames.
Ms O'CONNOR - People in the south would argue that they need some upgrades here and better services and more consistency.
Mr FERGUSON - I am happy to go across the different regions. In the north and north-west we are advanced in our work on refreshing the network. We need a new network. It is not just about an extra bus stop here or an extra timetable schedule route added here or there. We need a new network. It is well past it. In Launceston, I am thrilled that the public consultation has been as positive as it has. Let's be honest, not everybody absolutely loves it but the majority of people are really looking forward to the new network because it will provide them with a service that will help them to get where they want to be. There will be more opportunities to catch a bus on key routes more often and there will be more express routes.
We wish to achieve the same in the north-west and we are going through that consultation process right now. I feel we have learned lessons from the way the network was refreshed in Hobart and while the consultation was well intended, we took advice that we could take a more comprehensive and repeated approach going back to the public in the north and north-west and we are doing that.
As for the south, where your question is concerned for, Ms O'Connor, I will always take advice about measures that can assist with helping people to choose to take the bus. I want to re emphasise, and I will take advice on this, that with the 2 per cent increase in patronage we have seen statewide, far and away the biggest increase in patronage of our service has been in the south. Is it not 16 per cent?
Ms MORSE - In terms of the comparison between the new network being introduced in January 2016, we have had a 16 per cent increase across those four years.
Ms O'CONNOR - I guess that is where I am coming from in good faith, that there is an increase in demand but there is no increase in buses, drivers or routes.
Mr FERGUSON - I might put it a different way. I am not rejecting the premise of the question but I am saying that people are responding to the new network. They are actually saying, 'I'm going to catch the bus because it now suits my needs'. It is not just an increase in demand; it is an increase in patronage. In fact, it may end up meeting the demand that pre-existed that we weren't meeting.
Mr GARDNER - It is also worth noting that as an organisation we work to the constraints of our contract and we provide all the resources we can to meet the needs of that contract. Ultimately it is the Department of State Growth that is the buyer of our services. They have mechanisms for identifying need and where they identify need and the associated funding for buses, we will put buses and people there to meet that.
Mrs RYLAH - The Government's $45 million investment into the 100 new Bustech Elphinstone buses built in Wynyard is the largest investment in public transport in Tasmania's history. Can you provide an update regarding the progress on this upgrade to Metro's fleet?
Mr FERGUSON - I can, and thank you for the question. I know everybody will be interested in this, and I won't labour the point but just indicate some key features of this. This $45 million project has been a huge investment by our Government and is the largest single public transport investment the state has ever made. It is going really well, with 100 new buses being built in partnership between Bustech and Elphinstone Sustainable Energy and Engineering Solutions, as you say, Mrs Rylah, in the beautiful town of Wynyard. That is creating over 40 new full-time jobs across a dozen local companies engaged in the supply chain, including Penguin Composites as well. This important project is being delivered on time, on budget and on our island.
As at 20 November 2019, a total of 52 buses are now in service in Hobart and Launceston, and most recently the new buses were launched into the Burnie network. There was quite a deal of extra excitement around the new buses for Burnie.
The team at Elphinstone Engineering Solutions is doing a magnificent job building these new buses, with 26 new jobs at its Wynyard manufacturing plant, and other local companies leveraging off this project to improve their skills and create new roles. Pleasingly, the new buses feature Euro 6 standard diesel engines, which are the lowest emitting diesel engines on the market. They have 94 per cent less nitrogen oxide, 96 per cent less particulate matter emissions, and lower sulphur than the buses they are replacing.
The new buses are also constructed with a specific design principle of a chassis which has the potential to be converted to electric once that technology is proven viable for the network topography - noting it is a bit hilly in some parts of Tasmania - and operating conditions that are encountered by Metro. In effect, the diesel engine can be swapped out and an electric engine swapped in when the diesel engine is at end of life and if and when electric becomes more sustainable and viable for us.
Every new bus has a low floor, which means that Metro can achieve 100 per cent compliance with the Disability Discrimination Act and a more accessible transport option for Tasmanians. Passengers on our new buses will experience a more comfortable, accessible and environmentally friendly journey in a fully air-conditioned bus. They are also safer. They come fitted with ABS brakes, quieter engines, reversing camera, and electronic destination signs.
I am very proud that we are able to build this next generation of buses right here in Tasmania as a superb and enduring demonstration of Tasmanian manufacturing capability delivering a better customer experience for Metro passengers. The project reflects this Government's support for Tasmanian jobs and manufacturing and is further proof of the world-class capability we have in our state. That is good news and we are really pleased the public are telling us how much they enjoy the new buses, and when they embark they can do so feeling very proud that it is a Tasmanian-built product.
Ms OGILVIE - Thank you, minister, and Metro representatives for coming along. I have been running my eye across some of your numbers, which I like to do. I am excited to see a 92 per cent by local hit rate. Great job there.
One number I have not been able to find, although I understand it is a radius of 22 kilometres, is the limits of your transport network coming out of Hobart. I have been lobbied by friends in New Norfolk, Kingston, Huon and regional areas who say they are outside of a radius area by which the current system delivers Metro buses. There is a request that you consider expanding that to a 40 to 45-kilometre area. I could not find the figures and I am wondering if you could expand on that thinking. How far does your reach go? Is it an actual number, or is it just an urban legend?
Ms MORSE - I suggest that is an approximate number that will primarily relate there, rather than size of our network per se.
Ms OGILVIE - Okay, the reach?
Ms MORSE - Correct. These are matters for the DSG perhaps, rather than for Metro. Our networks operate with an urban and a non-urban fare structure. That distance sounds about right for the parameters of the urban fare setting in each of our networks. But if you think about the size of our Hobart network end to end, it is certainly longer than 22 kilometres. As you have rightly pointed out, we are one of 158 contract holders across the state so there are other operators who deliver services in locations like New Norfolk.
Mr GARDNER - If I may add to that, the minister referred earlier to our investment in integrated ticketing. A key element of that is to remove the barriers between transition from different operators. At the moment, if we are to take over those areas, we displace other local companies working in those areas. They provide services but from a customer perspective, you want to be able to get on one bus and transition to another with no disruption, no different ticketing.
Ms OGILVIE - Bus stops seems to be of particular concern, when there are non-Metro bus stops therefore there are no bus stop shelters.
Mr GARDNER - From our perspective, we work within our space. Bus stop infrastructure, rests largely with the road owners, whether it is a local government road or a state government-owned road, then they have responsibility for bus stops on those roads.
Ms DOW - Minister, the employment profile of Metro shows your workforce is ageing and that you have significantly fewer numbers of women than men. There are a high percentage of employees who have had short-term employment with Metro. What do you attribute this short term employment to? I would like to understand better how new employees are supported by Metro and some of the current recruitment initiatives you have in place.
Mr FERGUSON - I will invite the Chair and the CEO to add to that, but I can tell you that my advice is that the split by sex for male/female staff - I do not have that broken down by occupation group, perhaps my colleagues will - but male is 78.2 per cent and female 21.8 per cent, which I am advised is higher than it has been in the past, however there is always room for improvement, isn't there?
Ms DOW - There is.
Mr GARDNER - It is very good question. I will start by saying that we are not alone in this space with large blue-collar workforces. Ageing and the diversity of workforce in this space is a national issue. You'll see in noting there are a number of employees that have a short-term employment duration, that relates to our efforts to actually attract new employees into the business and the operators into the business from a diverse range of backgrounds, be they female or from ethnic backgrounds.
I meet with all the trainee groups that come through. It has been very encouraging to see an increase in younger women in those groups. Notably, in addition to that, that ethnic diversity is expanding and growing enormously.
There are a lot of initiatives. We are very conscious of this as a strategic issue as an organisation. We are working very hard. First, our task has been to map the nature of the issue and then to work on initiatives to attract people. That relates to rosters and structures and how people, when they come in, are employed. That's an ongoing challenge for the organisation but one as a board that we're well aware of and is critically important to the future success of our business.
Ms DOW - The annual report states Metro missed its lost time injury frequency rate by more than a factor of 5. It almost doubled from 14.5 last year to 27.6 this financial year. Repetitive strain and back and neck troubles can be experienced from sitting for long periods of time. I'd like to understand better what are the main causes of the lost time injury frequency rate and what steps are being taken to address these. What's been the cost to the organisation and affected individuals?
Ms MORSE - You're right in saying that we didn't achieve our target, noting that our target is quite an ambitious goal. Ideally, we would like everybody to return home at the end of a working day with us in as good physical and emotional space as they started the day.
As you've rightly described, the nature of both our work and our workforce means that we are quite vulnerable in terms of muscular and skeletal strains. They're certainly the largest segment of injuries that are reported within our business. In terms of strategies that we are continuing to apply within the business, we are taking a very proactive approach to working with injured or concerned workers.
Ideally, working with people ahead of an injury being sustained. So, the earlier things are identified from an ergonomic perspective, the more proactively we are able to work with people. We've been very proactive again in upskilling our team in terms of the frontline managers and the support team who work with an injured or a concerned worker. We've had very proactive support from our provider partners, from our work cover insurer and our medical providers. We are obviously trying to lift the capability of our business to respond when a worker has a concern in these areas. Certainly, they are not the results that we're proud of. We would like to see that number head down in the opposite direction. We will be working very diligently towards seeing that occur.
Ms DOW - Are you seeing issues with mental health impacting more in your workforce?
Ms MORSE - We are. It sounds like an unusual thing to say but I think we almost feel like that's a good thing. If we go back to that profile of our workforce, it is a predominantly male and older workforce. Going back a few years, people just wouldn't talk to us about these issues, so the fact that we are able to have those conversations inside our business now is very positive. The fact that we can bring our EAP provider onto site and people will talk to them is a very positive sign for us. I realise everyone's concerned. We're concerned as a management team. Our board is concerned when those numbers don't appear to be heading in the right direction but I think there's a really positive story for us to be able to talk about in terms of our workforce's willingness to engage that mental health and wellbeing space.
Ms DOW - Metro has been locked in wage negotiations since January. Where are these negotiations presently at?
Mr GARDNER - We've had a very long year of wage negotiations. The organisation and the employees are very keen to get this resolved. I am very comfortable that all parties are at the table in absolute good faith with the intent of resolving this. We are hopeful that we will get this resolved very soon. We've made a lot of progress in recent months and with the goodwill of all parties to get there.
Ms DOW - What increase have you budgeted for in 2019-20 onwards?
Mr GARDNER - We haven't. For this year we currently run on the budgeted level we have. The current pay level is based on the agreement that we came in with is at 2 per cent as a base wage. We are yet to do the budget for next year.
Ms O'CONNOR - Minister, by not living in the south you might not get the same volume of the sort of correspondence that we do. Metro customers from time to time report to us that they will try to catch the bus at a particular time and location and the bus does not appear, or it appears 15 or 20 minutes late. It has been put to us that Metro needs to be more responsive to its customers through some sort of online interface or app. Does Metro Tasmania have any way or any plans to advise the public on service delays or cancellations? As you can imagine, Mr Gardner, it can really disrupt a person's day. It can affect their capacity to get to work or to pick the kids up or something like that.
Mr FERGUSON - The subject expert, Mr Gardner, and Ms Morse will answer this comprehensively. I comprehend the concern. I agree that it is annoying and frustrating, particularly if you are waiting for a bus and you may not be sure if it is on its way or if you have just missed it because were a minute late for the bus, but the bus might be five minutes late. I am doing a hypothetical exercise, which I would not normally do. In such circumstances it is a good idea for the technology to support real-time information about where is the next best opportunity to get on a bus to the intended destination. I want to affirm the notion. It is a great point and something I have discussed with the company. I invite you to respond further.
Mr GARDNER - Thanks, minister. There are a few elements to deal with. First, a bus not turning up. The number or percentage of dropped trips, which is the technical term, is incredibly low in relation to the overall provision of services. In fact, they would be less than -
Ms MORSE - Well under 1 per cent.
Mr GARDNER - We are talking a very small number of buses that do not turn up at all.
Second, we have a very active social media presence. If there are incidents in the network, there are things that are going on that are impacting our ability to get there that we know of, we are very active in pushing out messages through social media.
Third, where is my bus? This is the biggest piece because it plays most commonly. There is only so much we are in control of. The biggest impact on the reliability of our service relates to the road network and the level of traffic in which that bus runs. With the systems we have we are unable to provide that real-time data on where a bus is. However, the good news is that with the Government's investment with us in the procurement of an integrated ticketing system, so comes that capability. There is a Metro app and either through that or through some other related mechanism we will be able to tell people where their buses are. The biggest feedback from people is that they wait if they know where their bus is. Time seems much more bearable. What we can control is information about where their bus is. That is part of the investment and upgrade in integrated ticketing. We will continue to argue for bus prioritisation to allow buses to move more freely through our road network and get to people on time.
Ms O'CONNOR - Thank you, Mr Gardner. The conversations about the integrated ticketing system have been happening for more than a decade. We hear today at the table that there is likely to be a tender go out next year. On the basis of that tender will we see integrated ticketing across the networks in Tasmania, whether it is public or private operators or even community transport? When are we likely to see a real-time interface where Metro patrons can understand where their bus is and whether they should give up on it and catch a taxi?
Mr GARDNER - As I understand, the funding we have we have to expend in the next three years. We have funding from the Government to procure. We are about to receive the first piece of advice on strategic options from the consultants we have engaged to do this work. Within the next two months we will be in a much better position to answer more detailed questions.
Within that three-year time frame, I cannot tell you, without reference to that, exactly how that steps out over that period. That is the period in which we need to expend the funding. It also marries up to end-of-life of the Green Card system. We have to make that transition within that period. With that system -
Ms O'CONNOR - The tender goes out in 2019-20. There is a three-year funding and expectation envelope. When will integrated ticketing be in place in Tasmania, and potentially, and hopefully, and I would have thought necessarily, some real time information on where buses are?
Mr GARDNER - Sorry, I can only reiterate what I said before. Within the next month, we receive the first report from the consultants about exactly what our market options are. That gives us a much clearer view to how we are going into the market to procure. We want this done as quickly as possible. The most significant piece of feedback from our customers is that this is what they want. Therefore, this is what we want.
Government's given us the funding, and we are working as hard and as fast as we can to get that funding expended. This is not something you just go out and put a tender in the paper for. We are talking systems globally. Some have worked. Some haven't.
Mr FERGUSON - To supplement that. We accept the interest. It is great. I enjoyed the unanimous support at the RACT Transport Forum. There was agreement that this is the way forward. We are waiting for advice about how best to take the next steps, as Mr Gardner has outlined. We are full blooded into this, and it is not just about Metro. I have to emphasis, it is -
Ms O'CONNOR - I made that clear in my question.
Mr FERGUSON - Indeed, and I endorse that. This is about a globally integrated ticketing system, so that non-Metro providers of general access public transport services are also able to provide that to their customers. The customer can be agnostic as to which bus they are getting on, which ferry they might be getting on, and just get on with their journeys. We just endorse it. We look forward to having more to say in the new year.
Mr TUCKER - Encouraging more people to use public transport is important to reducing traffic congestion, and connecting Tasmanians with job and education opportunities. What was Metro's patronage performance in 2018-19?
Mr FERGUSON - I might have said it was 8.5 million journeys, in my opening statement. I can give you some further definition on that. Metro is the largest bus fleet provider in the state and plays a critical role in connecting Tasmanians to employment, education and social opportunities. On an average day in 2018-19, Metro had 219 buses in use, delivering more than 2000 services, servicing nearly 3000 bus stops on over 300 routes. We have enjoyed another year of strong patronage growth, with 8.5 million passenger journeys in the year. That was an increase of 2.2 per cent.
Of that increase, adult patronage is the standout increase, with full fare paying adult journeys growing by 11 per cent this year. There were also increases in adult concession journeys and student journeys. Green Card use increased from 81 per cent of boardings in 2016-17, to 84 per cent in 2018-19. More people were choosing that more convenient way of paying for their fare.
Since the launch of the new Metro Hobart Network in January 2016 there has been sustained patronage growth. My advice is that Hobart passenger numbers are up 28.1 per cent over the past three financial years. Earlier I used a 16 per cent figure. This is testament to the type of positive patronage growth that can occur when the network design responds to what the public needs, and wants, and tells us that they want.
Increase in Metro patronage also helps us to take cars off the road, and reduce traffic congestion. One full busload has the potential to remove 60 passenger vehicles off a busy route. This is the way to go.
The new networks plan for Launceston and Burnie, to begin in 2020, has been designed with the same principles in mind. We expect and hope that they will attract more passengers. I ask members at the table to think about how you too may advocate in your community for the new routes so that people can become more aware of them and use them more. By increasing patronage Metro is helping to contribute to more connected, liveable communities. I welcome more Tasmanians embracing travel by bus and enjoying the excellent service that Metro provides.
Ms DOW - Minister, what increase did the executive team receive last year? I am taking you back to wages.
Ms O'CONNOR - It was 3.6 per cent, wasn't it? I am happy to confirm it for you, minister.
Mr FERGUSON - Thank you very much, Ms O'Connor, for your helpful advice. I will just speak with the Chair, however.
Mr GARDNER - If you've found already in the report that it was 3.6 per cent, I'm only looking at the annual report to see what it is in terms of comparison year on year, noting that in the previous period we've had significant vacancies in the executive team.
Ms DOW - Could I put a question on notice around looking at what the average increase was for the last five years? Would you be willing to accept that?
Mr FERGUSON - Could you unpack the question for me? We are not prepared to confirm a particular percentage amount at the table without the benefit of the advice or last year's annual report. I am happy to take on notice questions about executive salaries. If you would like that to happen I can take a generic question on board.
Ms DOW - Thank you. Correspondence we have suggests that under the directive of your shareholder ministers you are locked in at a 2 per cent increase. Is that still the case?
Mr FERGUSON - This is a process of negotiation. We have a Government wages policy which is in effect. We are pleased to see at least that the industrial representatives and members of unions have been able to agree to renewed enterprise bargaining agreements with our staff. The GBEs themselves are also aware of Government wages policy and observe that in their negotiations with the unions as well.
Ms DOW - You haven't answered the question though.
Mr FERGUSON - What is the question I haven't answered?
Ms DOW - Are you locked in at 2 per cent?
Mr FERGUSON - Metro operates in a different environment to public servants in Tasmania because it is a company and its regulation authority sits within the Fair Work regime. The company is negotiating with the union. That's how it works and they are observant of the Government's wages policy.
Mr GARDNER - I concur with the minister. We have been given advice as to what the broader state wages policy is but at no point has anyone specifically said we are locked into that and nor have we communicated that to anyone else. At the end of the day we are working within the financial constraints of our organisation. You will note the financial performance of this organisation. We are not laying cash out all over the place. We have to be incredibly conscious of what we are doing and we are working through that. I say again that all parties are negotiating in good faith to get the best outcome we can within the constraints of what the organisation can afford.
Ms DOW - Thank you. I want to bring you now to the Derwent ferries. Almost two years has passed since the election. When will the business case be completed and made public?
Mr FERGUSON - The Government at the election committed $2 million to establish a ferry service between Bellerive and Sullivans Cove. In 2018 Metro engaged consultants, MRCagney, to undertake the analysis of potential ferry service models together with an analysis of passenger demand. To inform the planning and analysis phase of the project, Metro held two community forums in October 2018 and also sought feedback through an online survey. The report was provided to Government in December 2018 and identifies a range of service models ranging from peak-only service through to our comprehensive seven day a week service and it also outlines the minimum service parameters that are needed for a ferry service to be viable.
We remain committed to a Bellerive to Hobart service and to that end, a working group comprising representatives from Metro and Department of State Growth is currently considering these matters and is completing a more detailed operating cost analysis. To support that, Metro has re-engaged MRCagney to complete this report. They will be informed by the work being undertaken by and for State Growth to determine the waterside access issues and requirements for a ferry service. We look forward to sharing more with the community and the parliament when we know more and when we are in receipt of that advice.
The bottom line here is that this is something the Government has devised and has committed to doing. It is not a simple piece of work because for Tasmania and Hobart it is certainly quite a new innovation to consider to help people get where they want to be and take some pressure off the busy arterial routes. I am not presently in receipt of that advice but we look forward to advancing it because we want to get on and do that.
Ms O'CONNOR - I also want to talk about the Derwent ferries. The annual report states:
In December we submitted the MRCagney report to Government and look forward to the review of the recommendations and playing an active role in the project working group in order to progress an operating model in line with passenger expectations.
That is an over-worded way of saying there hasn't really been much progress made on the plan to deliver a Derwent ferry service that has been promised by your Government for over three years now, but it would appear that there is too little funding allocated to progress this project. Did you want to speak to that, minister?
Mr FERGUSON - I am not prepared to speak to that because I am not in receipt of that advice.
Ms O'CONNOR - Which advice? The MRCagney report?
Mr FERGUSON - The advice I reflected in my earlier answer while the working group is doing a more detailed work and MRCagney have been engaged a second time to help support that final advice to government. I am not in receipt of that.
Ms O'CONNOR - You don't have that draft report?
Mr FERGUSON - I am not confusing the two reports. The first report was provided I think I said in December 2018, prior to my time as minister. There is further work and I am not in receipt of that further work.
Ms O'CONNOR - So to go back to the question?
Mr FERGUSON - I am not in receipt of the advice so I can't indicate to you questions around funding and whether or not it's sufficient for the purpose.
Ms O'CONNOR - You could make a commitment that funding will be provided to deliver this promise, you could provide details on the recommendations that were made in the December report.
Mr FERGUSON - I can do the latter and am happy to do so, but in the interests of time I didn't think I should do that. The report that was provided -
Ms O'CONNOR - It doesn't need to be long-winded.
Mr FERGUSON - Well, you asked me. The report that was provided to the Government in December 2018 identifies four service models ranging from a peak-only service through to a comprehensive seven-day-a-week service with portside infrastructure that would need to be provided by TasPorts. The report also outlines the minimum service parameters that are needed for a ferry service to be viable, including the following: service frequency; investment in supporting walking, cycling, private vehicle and bus networks, which I personally feel it is key to this initiative; ongoing annual operating funding; and ferry service operator requirements.
I am prepared to restate that the Government is committed to establishing a Bellerive to Hobart service but without having the benefit of the further work we have commissioned I am unable to answer all the questions you have asked. We are the only party that is committed to this service as far as I am aware. It is our idea and our initiative. It's our budgeted commitment and when we -
Ms O'CONNOR - The question is have you committed the funding? It's not your idea. People have been talking about a Derwent ferry for a long, long time. It's not your idea.
Mr FERGUSON - I welcome the engagement, I love it, but we are the only party and we are committed to delivering it.
Ms O'CONNOR - Can we go back to the question about funding? There is clearly insufficient funding allocated to date to deliver a Derwent ferry service. Is the Government committed to delivering that ferry service within this term of government?
Mr FERGUSON - As I have said, we are committed to implementing and delivering the service that we have stated. We are waiting for further advice about the best way to implement it. I think that were some other supporting infrastructure projects that are needed to make it stack up and to make sure it is use friendly. If there are funding considerations that Government needs to turn its mind to, then that would be considered through the budget process.
Mrs RYLAH - Minister, we have heard about the importance of having efficient servicing models, so ensuring that bus routes are quick and direct and having high frequency of services by increasing public transport patronage, can you provide an update on the new bus network intended to be launched in Launceston in 2020?
Mr FERGUSON - This is pretty important. We have already spent some time discussing it and reflecting on the new bus network for Hobart that happened three years ago. In that time, first boardings are increasing. That shows, I think, that there has been a maturing of our service and that there has been a greater acceptance by us, if you like, in the provider sphere that we are providing a service that meets the demand. It has probably always been there, but it has been latent demand because we have not been meeting the needs of the community as well as we could have.
With the benefit of those years since 2016, we have seen the growth in full fare adult patronage growing. I think that validates the slightly difficult work that Government must do with its agencies to make the reforms necessary to change a bus network, despite the usual criticism and politicking that occur, and no doubt was well intended but did not help anybody.
We want to engage those same principles of providing faster and more direct services to be adopted in the design of the new bus networks for Launceston. That has now been done. As a resident of Launceston, I am aware, including prior to becoming the Minister for Infrastructure and Transport, of the things that were coming in to our letterbox at home on numerous occasions, informing us, as a household, what the current network looked like, what the proposed changes could be, and inviting us, as residents, to respond. That process has occurred. My feedback, with the odd niggle that I acknowledge - not everybody supports it. If you are seeing a resource being provided to provide better services for the greater public, there are a few changes along the way. Somebody might be missing a bus stop that just happens to be right outside their house, for example.
The new and improved routes and timetables are very evidenced based and consulted with the community. They will reinvigorate the local bus network across Launceston and the surrounding regions, including the West Tamar, George Town, northern Midlands, the north east and the east coast. When I say the Launceston network, I am reflecting the greater community.
The changes will see more direct routes and more frequent services. Updated timetables will provide more consistent departure times, improved reliability and minimised transfer times. A huge win for commuters across the broad city area, is a new high frequency cross-city route linking the university with Kings Meadows via Mowbray, Invermay, Inveresk, the city, the Launceston General Hospital and Six Ways. Across the region there will be more services more often to major towns. I am particularly thinking of the Tamar Valley and West Tamar, including at Legana, Exeter, George Town, Perth and Bridport, and improved links for the West Tamar, the north east, east coast, and northern Midland areas and, importantly, new services on a Sunday.
A new 12-month trial service will be implemented in Riverside, Trevallyn and Waverley to Ravenswood to address concerns that were raised with us through the consultation process.
These network updates will be supported by renewal of on-road infrastructure and a comprehensive public information campaign ahead of its being implemented. In short, the new Launceston network will be entirely operated with the view to provide better services, more often in times that help people get where they actually need to go, with low floor buses ensuring that those services are as disability compliant as we would expect.
I am advised that Metro is fully prepared for the implementation of this new network in January and keen to deliver the service improvements to our community.
Ms OGILVIE - Minister, would the Metro Board, in concert with the department, look to provide small buses to transport primary-school-aged children to and from school around the south of Hobart, in particular, as a way of alleviating some of the congested networks, as an alternative to parents driving their children to school, as occurs in Canada and the USA? I ask this as a school run mum myself.
Mr FERGUSON - As this is an operational question I would like to defer to the CEO to give a response.
Ms OGILVIE - Is it something you've perhaps considered?
Mr FERGUSON - I am not sure we are able to make that commitment today. However, I am happy to listen to the suggestion.
Ms OGILVIE - That is okay. Conversation.
Mr GARDNER - In the first instance that is not part of our contract at the moment with the Department of State Growth. While we're always open to working with the department on anything that we can all see will provide a better solution for the community, what the evidence of our work has shown is that in terms of the mass transit, which is our core function, is that more frequency and reliability on consolidated routes is the thing that makes it work for our customers when we look at our larger patronage group and our broader customer base in terms of providing the best value for the money that is spent on through Metro and public transport.
Ms OGILVIE - Something you've looked at or not looked at?
Mr GARDNER - We haven't looked at that specifically, no.
Ms DOW - Minister, you're Government's second year agenda outlines that the planning that was to be undertaken for the required ancillary infrastructure berths and park-and ride facilities for the ferries project would be completed by September of this year. Can you explain why that hasn't happened? Or provide a progress update on that planning?
Mr FERGUSON - I will take advice on that. That's obviously outside of Metro's specific brief but I will see what I can provide for you. What I might do is offer to come back to the Committee with that answer before 12 o'clock if I can. If I am not able to do that, take it on notice. I have already referenced the work that's underway between State Growth and Metro in relation to the further analysis of options but I'll need to come back to you on that.
Ms DOW - The market testing also that's been said to be being undertaken, are you in a position to provide some results on that project?
Mr FERGUSON - Only what I've already said, which is that there's already been a round of community consultation which fed into the process which is being considered by the working group.
Ms DOW - Okay, when can we expect to have an understanding of what's in the business plan?
Mr FERGUSON - That's two different things. Do you mean the business plan, or do you mean the consultation?
Ms DOW - Surely the market testing will inform the business plan as well, won't it?
Mr FERGUSON - I was reflecting the community consultation that happened, I think I said, in October 2018 around the options. MRCagney was considering the options in that first round of work. In relation to the business case, I suspect that is language that I haven't currently used but the options analysis is currently being worked on. I've already said it's underway but I am not yet in receipt of it. I am not sure how to answer your question other than that.
Ms DOW - How much has been expended to date on the consultancy that's been undertaken on the project?
Mr FERGUSON - What I can provide to you at the moment is MRCagney's principal work is consultancy valued at $106 664. There are two minor consultancies; KPMG, $2533; and ICM Consulting $800.
Ms DOW - Minister, two years ago your Government promised an underground bus mall transit centre would be built in Hobart. Are you confident that it will still be built?
Mr FERGUSON - This is one that's not involving our Metro company in relation to that work which is underway. Metro and other bus operators would be a recipient beneficiary of a future Hobart bus transit centre. That works entirely being done by State Growth and consultants. That work is underway. What is the actual question that I may have overlooked? Are we still committed?
Ms DOW - Has your Government walked away from the project?
Mr FERGUSON - No, we have not.
Ms DOW - When do we expect to see the feasibility study?
Mr FERGUSON - Our Government proposed that Hobart should have a new transit centre. I am aware of the mockery and the cheap shots that get fired from the Labor Party.
Ms DOW - I am not firing any cheap shots. I want to understand when we will see the report.
Mr FERGUSON - I am aware of them, but we are getting on with the job. Hobart needs one and the current facilities -
Ms DOW - When will it be built?
Mr FERGUSON - If I can be allowed to answer. The current facilities are not anything that anybody is very proud of. We are doing that work right now. We are proud of our commitment and we intend to deliver it.
Ms DOW - To be clear, you have not walked away from it?
Mr FERGUSON - I have been very clear. I do not see why people want us to. We are interested in innovation and helping people get in and out of Hobart more seamlessly, treating our public transport patrons with respect, and putting some dignity and esteem back into public transport. That is what this is intended to do. There is work underway. I am not taking your invitation to walk away from it.
Ms O'CONNOR - I will follow up on Ms Dow's questions. You talk about wanting to put dignity and steam back into public transport, which is a saying I have never heard before
Mr FERGUSON - You heard it at the RACT forum when I said it.
Ms O'CONNOR - Maybe I was not listening to you at that precise moment. The fact is, minister, Metro's funding remains static within its contract envelope. You cannot have it both ways. Metro workers have been striking because of pay issues, commuters who are, from time to time, terribly inconvenienced and irritated because a service cannot meet their expectations, you have one less bus, at least one less driver and you want to put more steam into Metro. When is the Government going to properly fund Metro so it is not constantly trying to run on the smell of an oily diesel rag?
Mr FERGUSON - The Government operates strong budget management. There are always pressures from a range of portfolio areas for more funding. We always consider those through the budget process. One thing we are pleased with is with the resources Metro has, patrons are responding to better buses, better infrastructure, better vehicles that are being put on the road. For patrons, it is a better experience. There are also improved routes. If that continues occurring, the fare revenue is going to help the company.
Ms O'CONNOR - Why didn't the Government put in an Infrastructure Australia bid for funding for the underground bus mall or Derwent ferry infrastructure?
Mr FERGUSON - The Hobart bus transit centre is still not a proposal that has matured to the point of a funding proposition. The ferry infrastructure is the same. It is going through that process of considering the options analysis. I am not sure the Derwent ferry would be of the level that it would warrant investment by the federal government through IA.
Ms O'CONNOR - I understand you are dealing with funding hypotheticals, but can you break down some of the component cost parts of a Derwent ferry service? We are dealing with land-based infrastructure, ferries. What are those cost components that will make up the spend on the ferry services?
Mr FERGUSON - I do not know. I would be speculating, as you are in your question. There is the cost of running a maritime service and the operational requirements for that, then there is the land-side infrastructure.
Ms O'CONNOR - Has any costing been done, even in the MRCagney report?
Mr FERGUSON - There may have been in the first report. Tim or Megan, are you able to add to that comment? We are committed to a Derwent crossing service. We intend to deliver it.
Ms O'CONNOR - Just get on with it.
Mr FERGUSON - When you say things like that, it is fine. That is what oppositions say. We are actually in Government doing your calling.
Ms O'CONNOR - That is what commuters say in Hobart.
Mr FERGUSON - We are doing it on the best advice.
Ms O'CONNOR - I see. Could you be any more patronising? No.
Mr FERGUSON - The questions are pretty patronising. We are doing it on the best advice. How can it be done best for our community and a sensible use of taxpayers' money?
Ms O'CONNOR - No, that is terrific. What we are asking for is a sense of the ultimate cost of it. You are not able to provide that to the Committee.
Mr FERGUSON - You are inviting me to speculate -
Ms O'CONNOR - Even to break down some of the cost components.
Mr FERGUSON - You have been around long enough to know that I am not in a position to speculate on advice that I do not yet have.
Mr TUCKER - Minister, what are the Government's plans to make public transport more attractive in Hobart through bus prioritisation?
Mr FERGUSON - I have made some comments about this. It is incumbent on all road managers to help our public transport providers, including Metro, get better prioritisation on our roads. We have a comprehensive plan to bust congestion and we are delivering on it. Our plan includes very significant infrastructure investments and a range of innovative measures to respond more quickly to crashes and break downs at key locations. We are now responding quickly to incidents in our network. Our rapid-response tow truck fleet is already making a big difference.
We have extended clearways on Davey and Macquarie streets, which we now are responsible for. Vehicles parked in clearways are now being towed away. This measure has already noticeably improved traffic flow according to advice that I have had from traffic operations centre. These initiatives are helping all motorists and Metro buses to ensure traffic moves more freely during peak hours.
As well as that, we are building a fifth lane on the Southern Outlet -
Ms O'CONNOR - Yes, that will fix the traffic problem.
Mr FERGUSON - A Bellerive to Hobart ferry service. The Greens are opposed to a fifth lane.
Ms O'CONNOR - No, what we are opposed to is you building more lanes to create more congestion.
Mr FERGUSON - More park and ride facilities, a better bus interchange at Kingston and rolling out the latest technology to warn drivers in real time about traffic snarls.
Ms O'CONNOR - You will make congestion worse.
Mr FERGUSON - The Greens are opposed to a fifth lane.
Ms O'CONNOR - No, we are opposed to you doing nothing substantive about easing congestion.
Mr FERGUSON - You say, 'Just deliver your plan', now you say you are opposing it.
Ms O'CONNOR - No, no. We have said, 'Get on with the ferries', but adding lanes to roads -
CHAIR - Order. One person speaking at a time for the benefit of Hansard, please.
Ms O'CONNOR - On the evidence is failed policy.
Mr FERGUSON - Picking and choosing. This year's Budget contained more than $30 million of congestion-busting measures, including bus priority measures on key routes to make catching the bus more attractive, which is what I want to do.
Initiatives such as more clearways, bus lanes and queue jump lanes will make a substantial difference to Metro's ability to deliver efficient and punctual services.
The Government, as the owner of state roads, is doing its bit to make sure that bus services in Hobart are attractive and can have a real impact on traffic congestion. The state Government is not the only road manager in Hobart. There is substantial opportunity to improve traffic flow on routes that are controlled by council. Metro has identified that congestion on the Main Road/New Town Road/Elizabeth Street corridor has the greatest impact on its services due to both frequency of bus services on the corridor and the long-congested sections of that local government-owned corridor.
Metro has previously identified prioritisation measures that could be implemented on this route. For example, removing selected parking spaces. There are other initiatives in that report, which I think goes back three years. I am advised that these have not been implemented by the relevant councils. I understand that councils have also not actioned proposals to provide dedicated road space for buses or introduced parking restrictions and for the relocation of bus stops. All these measures would play a role in helping to increase the efficiency of bus services so that we can give buses more priority in our traffic networks.
The Government will continue to do its share of the heaving lifting to reduce Hobart traffic congestion. I implore councils, particularly Hobart City Council, to play its role as we have done on our state roads. Go back to that advice and have another look at those options and implement them so that Metro and other bus providers can get better prioritisation on the routes and allow the public to get to work, to get to uni, to get to their social appointments with less frustration of congestion. This will have a side benefit of improving congestion generally for the community.
Ms HADDAD - Minister, Glenorchy Council has recently informed local residents that the bus mall will be temporarily relocated for at least five to six weeks while the existing mall is refurbished. Residents were shocked to find that this decision was made without community consultation and that the bus mall is going to be relocated to a residential part of Tolosa Street for that period of time. People are rightfully worried about access to their homes, and the safety of residents. They have been informed there will be limited access to their homes and driveways for a significant period of time. They understand that with any building works it could stretch out beyond the anticipated six weeks. Residents did suggest other places could be used - Terry Street, Cooper Street, parts of Main Road, parts of Springfield Interchange - but those ideas weren't listened to by council.
Did Metro have a say in that decision to temporarily move the bus mall to that particular part of Tolosa Street, and does Metro have a view on the workability and the impact on residents of that decision by council?
Mr FERGUSON - Thank you, Ms Haddad, for the question. I will ask our CEO to add to my answer. I am aware of the issue. I am aware, broadly, that Glenorchy City Council is undertaking a revitalisation of its local CBD area for the benefit of the community. No doubt it is a great thing to do. I am advised that the project includes infrastructure works at the intersection of Main Road and Tolosa Street, which as you know and you have said, is the location of the bus interchange. This is a situation where Metro doesn't get to call the shots, nor does Government. It is a local government decision as to where buses are able to pull up and load and allow passengers to disembark.
In relation to the bus interchange, Ms Morse will add to this, but we're more or less a client, rather than a boss calling the shots. I am advised that council considered a temporary relocation of the bus interchange to be its best option in terms of traffic management, safety risks and completing works in a timely manner. I am advised that the Tolosa Street bus interchange will therefore be temporarily relocated for approximately five weeks - I would be interested to see if there is an update on that - commencing 6 January 2020. I am further advised that council is considering issues raised by residents regarding the relocation and is looking at ways to mitigate those concerns.
I haven't previously heard the concern of driveway access being removed. That catches my attention. I would be interested in that. Further community consultation, I am told, will be undertaken in the coming weeks by the Glenorchy City Council to implement measures to try to minimise that disruption to residents, businesses and stakeholders which, no doubt, as a responsible council, they will seek to do as best they can.
In terms of engagement with Metro, I will invite the CEO to respond further but, in short, my view and my belief is that local government is the provider of street-side infrastructure for passengers to get on and off buses, whereas we provide the bus service.
Ms MORSE - I don't have a lot to add to the minister's answer, short of perhaps highlighting that the Glenorchy interchange is a crucial piece of infrastructure for Metro. We are very supportive of the Glenorchy City Council's agenda in terms of CBD revitalisation. They have worked effectively with us as a stakeholder, but it will be highly disruptive for our business over the period of time. For residents, passengers, our operators, it will be a challenging time.
In saying that, Metro has managed very significant disruptions in our network very effectively, particularly over the last four years. As a business, we are confident that we know how to do this, and that we will operate as effectively and as efficiently as we can to minimise disruption to passengers, to residents and to our own staff.
With reference to the duration of the disruption, it obviously leads into what is the peak of the bus year: the first week of the back-to-school period is the single busiest week of operation for our business. We believe Glenorchy City Council understands the criticality of that pathway, and they have given us every assurance that their intention is to stick to that plan. They have been very effective in managing the stages of work that have preceded this. As it stands, we have no basis to not be confident that they will achieve that deadline.
Ms HADDAD - Thank you. I also have a question about Seniors Week, minister. As you would know, in the past Metro offered free transport to seniors during Seniors Week, to allow people to easily get to and from the array of events offered during that week across the state. Can you explain why the decision was made this year not to offer that free transport to seniors during Seniors Week?
Mr FERGUSON - Thank you, Ms Haddad. I will certainly pass in a moment to the Chair, but Metro confirmed in 2018 that it would not be able to commit to future provision of free travel due to the Council on the Ageing (COTA) withdrawing key sponsorship benefits, and the changing nature of contractual revenue agreements in passenger transport.
However, Metro remains committed to connecting senior Tasmanians all year round, and offers Seniors Card holder passengers aged over 70, and older adults in receipt of a pension or benefit, concession fares on all services. Metro's eligibility requirements for concession fares are set out under Metro's passenger service contracts with State Growth. However, in early 2019, Metro assisted COTA to direct an ultimately successful funding request to the Department of State Growth, by providing data to aid in that submission. There has been a support in place, therefore, for the 2019 Seniors Week.
COTA subsequently received Tasmanian State Government grant funding. In September 2019 they approached Metro to coordinate a Green Card promotion, in which Seniors Card holders can apply for a free Green Card, with $5 bonus credit, via the COTA website, which does sound a bit like free travel. The State Government provided $20 000 funding for COTA to offer a Seniors Card Green Card benefit during Seniors Week of 2019. Seniors Card holders could obtain a free Green Card with $5 bonus credit, via the Council on the COTA website.
Any suggestion, therefore, that support was entirely withdrawn is wrong. It is a different approach. The important thing is that funding of $20 000 has been provided to COTA in 2019.
Ms HADDAD - Can I clarify, that is for the Seniors Week just gone? Do you know if there was a reduction in the number of people accessing that transport during Seniors Week, because of that change in delivery of the discount, or the free travel?
Mr FERGUSON - I would be very doubtful that we could obtain that data and separate different passengers based on who they are, or where they obtained their credit from. I am happy for Ms Morse to add to my answers.
Ms MORSE - Our adult concession passenger type includes a fairly wide range of passengers. It includes people who hold a Seniors Card, people over the age of 70, our tertiary students, and people who are receiving a Commonwealth subsidy or benefit. As the minister has rightfully pointed out, it is difficult for us to drill down into that data to the extent of being able to separate out one of those passenger types.
Ms DOW - Do you intend to keep it going that way for 2020 Seniors Week, or will that be a decision year on year, in the future?
Mr FERGUSON - What we have done today is try to be helpful in answering the questions, even though, being Metro, it is a State Growth grant that was provided in 2019.
Ms O'CONNOR - It was Metro that provided the free travel?
Mr FERGUSON - That is correct, previously. In this financial year, so far as it concerns Metro Tasmania, that would be a -
Ms O'CONNOR - It is incredibly mean spirited. I am quite taken aback. It provides no benefit to seniors themselves, who were having free travel before. Individual cost-of-living improvements in their lives have been taken away.
CHAIR - Are you taking the call?
Ms O'CONNOR - Yes, I am. Free travel for seniors during Seniors Week on Metro services has been a longstanding part of Seniors Week, and one of the mechanisms by which you can increase participation in Seniors Week, particularly by seniors who are on pensions.
When you talk about a $20 000 grant that has been made to the COTA via State Growth, you are not talking about the seniors who previously participated in Seniors Week and accessed free Metro services.
Do you agree that the decision not to provide free travel to seniors during Seniors Week in the end comes back to the chronic underfunding of Metro?
Mr FERGUSON - No, I wouldn't conceive that all. I think you are conflating two completely separate issues. I can understand that somebody who previously received free travel on the Tasmanian Government-owned Metro bus company might be disappointed that they weren't also able to obtain free transport in 2019 during Seniors Week, but that is -
Ms O'CONNOR - One week of the year - it's breathtaking.
Mr FERGUSON - You may say things like that but the simple fact is the organisation is providing a service to all Tasmanians regardless of their age and there are significant concessions available and in place to allow significantly reduced fares for people across a range of concessions, including but not restricted to pensioners, which you have identified.
Ms O'CONNOR - Maybe you can assess this notion and tell us whether you agree with it or not. Given the uptake of free travel by seniors during Seniors Week in the past, and given that this is apparently related to a sponsorship issue and Metro Tasmania is a public service albeit a government business enterprise, do you agree that it is a mean-spirited gesture on the part of your GBE to remove free senior travel during Seniors Week? It is one week of the year.
Mr FERGUSON - No, I am not prepared to make that statement and I am not -
Ms O'CONNOR - How much would it have cost Metro?
Mr FERGUSON - I have indicated what I have based on the advice from that period of time and I am simply saying to you that Metro provided assistance to COTA to successfully obtain a grant fund from the Department of State Growth and that should be welcomed. It is most important that you recognise that throughout the year there are important events and workplaces and study opportunities for Tasmanians to get to so I don't accept that you should isolate it to a single week. What matters most is how we help people with mobility challenges to get to where they need to be regardless of a particular week of the year.
Ms O'CONNOR - A final question on this theme. While Metro no longer offers free travel to seniors during Seniors Week, isn't it the case that it offers free travel to AFL matches and Big Bash cricket? Why are sporting patrons prioritised over seniors?
Mr FERGUSON - We also provide free transport on selected opportunities where it can help with congestion and we provide free transport through sponsorship arrangements, for example, through Launceston City Council.
Ms O'CONNOR - My question still stands: why would you prioritise sporting patrons over pensioners?
Mr FERGUSON - I am not prepared to make that statement.
Ms O'CONNOR - Why?
Mr GARDNER - Just to clarify, that is paid charter. We don't give free travel. We are paid by the providers of those sporting events to provide a bus service. It is a paid service.
Ms O'CONNOR - Mr Gardner, you might agree about the signalling there when everyday Tasmanians don't understand that Metro is being paid to provide free travel to patrons of sporting events and yet the longstanding practice of Metro providing seniors free travel during one week of the year has been taken away from them. The optics of that are appalling for a public service GBE.
Mr GARDNER - There are a number of elements here. One is that we service a very broad community. We do that every day across a number of groups. Second, we are only one of a number of public transport providers providing services in and out of urban areas. Every day of every week we have to make decisions around the best use of the limited funds we have. There will be a number of those decisions that personally you might not like, but we have to make that -
Ms O'CONNOR - It has nothing to do with me, Mr Gardner.
Mr GARDNER - I apologise for that.
CHAIR - Can we just allow the Chair to finish his statement without being interrupted.
Ms O'CONNOR - There was a statement made that I found personally offensive. It has nothing to do with me. It is about the seniors.
CHAIR - Order, Ms O'Connor.
Mr GARDNER - If I could step back from that comment, I apologise for making that personal comment. The board has to make decisions it believes are in the best interests of the company and we will do that with the full view of how it impacts on people. Ultimately, we provide services at a discounted price to concession passengers every day of the week.
Ms O'CONNOR - How much was Seniors Week costing Metro?
CHAIR - Ms O'Connor, the call needs to go to Mrs Rylah now.
Ms O'CONNOR - So I can only ask three questions at a time?
CHAIR - You have had six in a row.
Ms O'CONNOR - Did you fail maths at school?
Mr FERGUSON - I find that personally offensive, I say tongue in cheek. You can give it but you can't take it.
Ms O'CONNOR - No, but to say I'm asking those questions for myself is just ridiculous. Mate, I put up with your garbage every day in parliament. Look at your cheeks go pink. You're a bit hot under the collar there because you're shafting seniors.
CHAIR - Order, Ms O'Connor.
Mrs RYLAH - A signature of the Hodgman Liberal Government is our innovative, long-term thinking in regard to energy. Tasmania has a huge potential in renewable green energy. Is Metro considering the implementation of any alternative fuel source for its vehicles in its fleet?
Mr FERGUSON - Yes, we are, and we are the first Government to do so. Metro has advised me that it is continuing to monitor -
Ms O'CONNOR - Good on you, Mrs Rylah. The taxpayers of Tasmania would be delighted by that Dorothy Dixer.
Mr FERGUSON - You can give it but you can't take it.
Ms O'CONNOR - I can take anything you give.
Mr FERGUSON - I think we should keep it civil.
Ms O'CONNOR - But you provoke and incite.
Mr FERGUSON - Okay. Metro has advised me that it is continuing to monitor the development of alternative fuels and advanced tech in vehicles as they emerge, both within Australia and worldwide. When procuring vehicles in the accelerated bus replacement program in December 2016, Metro and the Government chose specifically to purchase proven technology in the Euro 6 diesel buses from Bustech Australia being built in Wynyard. These buses exceed the current Australian diesel emission standard of Euro 5, which I would have hoped would be more enthusiastically supported from members who were previously mocking during the asking of the question. The Euro 6 standard engines are the lowest emitting -
Ms O'CONNOR - It's the shameless self-promotion we mock.
Mr FERGUSON - diesel engines in the market, with 94 per cent less nitrogen oxide and 96 per cent less particulates than the buses they are replacing and which are being retired.
I am advised that electric buses are not currently a viable proposition in Tasmania and that is mainly due to our challenging topography and the fact that this technology is still in its infancy. It might well be advanced in light passenger vehicles, but it is not the case for the Tasmanian bus network fleet. However, the new buses are being built on the same chassis platform as Bustech's first-generation electric bus and this gives Metro the opportunity to convert these buses to electric at half-life if it is viable to do so and the technology is proven.
Mrs Rylah, to the question. We are continuing to monitor the progress of alternative fuel technologies, including electric batteries and potentially one day even hydrogen fuel cells. Factors for consideration include range, power and changing infrastructure requirements and, of course, the fact that Tasmania topographically is different to some other, for example, European cities that are finding it easier with their flat areas. Metro is closely monitoring the results of electric bus trials elsewhere in Australia, and the company is also aware of the opportunities in the hydrogen power industry that are being progressed by the Office of the Coordinator-General.
Ms OGILVIE - Minister, I refer you to page 19 of the Metro Annual Report. I have been looking at some of the statistics. I note that most of them have been moving in the correct direction, so well done, Metro. There is one I would like to interrogate a little further. Putting aside the reduction to corporate overheads, which has gone in the wrong direction but only by a small amount, the one that stands out to me is the percentage of the trips delivered on time which has reduced from 90 per cent - which is a great figure, by the way - to 87 per cent. That is a little bit of a jump. I wonder if I could get some detail on why we think that has occurred.
Mr FERGUSON - I will invite the Chair and CEO to respond to this, noting that I think the chart you are referring to is comparing targets to actuals. I don't have the 2017-18 figure before me but I will take that on advice.
Ms OGILVIE - Yes, I would be interested to know why there is a delta there.
Mr GARDNER - It relates consistently to our challenge in late running in busy, congested areas on major routes.
Ms OGILVIE - Still congestion issues, okay.
Mr GARDNER - Yes, it relates to traffic.
Ms OGILVIE - That is it, plain and simple. Thank you.
Ms HADDAD - Minister, you might know that when two adults are both entitled to a health care card, for example, a married retired couple who are both entitled to a health care card, they are listed on the same card. We've had concerns raised with our offices by several members of the public that when a couple in that kind of example that I just gave you travel together only the primary card holder - in other words, the first name listed on the card, and I am told they are listed alphabetically - receives a discounted bus ticket. This is also the case even if the secondary health care card holder, so the second name listed on the card, is travelling alone. I am wondering why that is.
There are a number of people whom we hear from in our offices, including people who are caring for their spouse who might have a disability or be otherwise incapacitated. It becomes cost prohibitive for them to catch the bus together when they are both entitled to a discount but only one can claim the discounted bus pass ticket.
Ms MORSE - Yes, this matter was recently raised with us through the minister's office. It was a little of a surprise to us. It was a matter that had never been raised directly with us as a business. To paraphrase the response that was provided: our concession policy is premised on the ability to demonstrate eligibility for concession. So, if the second card holder is not holding the card that's obviously problematic. I think in the particular scenario that was the catalyst for the question being raised. Advice was provided that the ability exists for both of those adults to hold a card that would allow them if they were - I guess this is particularly premised on people making a cash purchase. We have talked about the Green Card passengers. If you've demonstrated eligibility at the point of issuing the green card, you will then have a right to travel without the need to produce that card to make a cash fare purchase.
Ms HADDAD - When buying a Green Card at the Metro shop, for example, would both names -
Ms MORSE - There's an eligibility check that occurs at that point, correct.
Ms HADDAD - So both members of that couple in the example I gave would be able to purchase a Green Card at a reduced price.
Ms MORSE - Again it hinges on that ability to substantiate concession. We try to make that as simple for passengers as we can, but we also need to comply with policy. Proof of eligibility is part of that concession framework. We are certainly happy to work with anyone in terms of their individual circumstances to assist them with doing that.
Ms DOW - Minister, lots of people have raised with me their concerns about changes to bus services in the north west. Would you agree that drivers would know their routes best as well as the customers who access these services each and every day, and understand in great detail the way in which these changes would affect their individual customers? Is it true that Metro drivers were told not to communicate with passengers about the proposed changes to bus services on the north-west coast?
Ms MORSE - No, they weren't. The advice we shared within our business in relation to changes in Hobart, Launceston and Burnie are changes that have been initiated by State Growth. So, State Growth has been the primary source of information so we've directed passengers and indeed our own team back to the information that's been available through State Growth channels. It's completely natural that people would be asking our staff about those changes, and so we were very much of the mindset that we wanted to people to understand where they could provide feedback; for example, when the public consultations were underway. But in that sense, it was a State Growth initiative. The information wasn't sitting on our website; it was sitting on a State Growth website.
Ms DOW - Did you receive feedback as a company about the clunkiness of the feedback process, such as the ability to have to do it online. The fact that other information was fairly limited. There weren't a lot of face-to-face consumer forums or community information sessions about the changes.
Ms MORSE - From a Metro perspective, we've partnered effectively with State Growth in areas where our network has been subject to proposed revisions. Most of the community events that have occurred we have done in partnership with State Growth.
Obviously, as the operator of the bulk of the urban services in both Launceston and Burnie we're very committed to seeing these changes successfully implemented. So, we've certainly been an active participant in those processes but we understand that the prospect of change can be challenging for people. Understanding what that change means to you and your travel patterns can be challenging to people so we will be continuing to support passengers and obviously our own staff as those changes take effect in the coming year.
Mr FERGUSON - I would like to add to that please. I am aware of some statements made by the Labor Party that were quite false. I think the claim was that you had to go online if you wanted to make a comment. That is just not correct.
Ms DOW - That was one of the options; the other was to ring.
Mr FERGUSON - Yes, exactly. That is one of the options.
Ms DOW - The box is really small. Elderly people do not have access to the internet.
Mr FERGUSON - It is a shame when false claims are made willy-nilly because it misleads people.
Ms DOW - It is not false.
Mr FERGUSON - The other claim that was being made was that we were not communicating with people through conventional media methods and we were.
I can tell the committee that the consultation for the proposed improvements to north-west bus services commenced on 16 September through to 27 October. There was advertising for that consultation through print and radio. People read the newspaper, people listen to the radio, letterbox drops, flyer distribution and also bus posters. Local councils and school communities were also directly approached so that they could help disseminate information. That engagement is really important. It is really precious to us. I have made the point repeatedly that you get the best results when you are prepared to share the information and share the proposals, indeed share the problem. Then make it as easy as possible for people to make their comments.
I feel that it is wrong and misplaced to suggest that that has not happened. Through the engagement and the consultation process, I am advised that the feedback is considered to be a strong engagement with 300 responses received. The department is now reviewing the feedback and will provide a consultation report, not just to me but it will be publicly released, with detailed responses to the issues that are raised.
For example, a person might feel that they have a very good idea. 'Wouldn't it be a good idea to take this little deviation and go around these streets and put an extra bus stop here?' To that person that may be as very good idea. We take it on board. Our kind and caring staff think about it, consider it, assess the cost to the network and whether that might mean that fewer people would now choose to catch that route because it has a deviation. The consultation report would outline a response. In some cases, such as the one I indicated earlier for Launceston with Waverley/Ravenswood we have been prepared to take that on board and give it a go.
That is how I hope that this will continue to travel. I ask that members of all of these local communities find it within their political powers to not just jump at any issue and turn it into a negative but work with the community, State Growth and my office. Let us know anything that you are hearing if people feel dissatisfied. Often the feedback response to that might be quite constructive and allow that person to understand why what they thought was a great idea might not be a great idea for the network. In the end, we will have a network and it will please most, I hope. It might displease a smaller number but we need to nonetheless be able to provide a network that meets the greater needs of the community.
Ms DOW - Was consideration given to holding community forums or information sessions at community houses?
Mr FERGUSON - I would need to take that on advice. I do not know about specific venues but there have been face-to-face opportunities.
Ms MORSE - In the north-west context, the planning for the north-west network has unfolded over quite a long period of time, I hasten to add, not led by Metro. We have simply been a participant in the process but there were quite large community forums at the initiation of the planning cycle. As the network approaches the point of implementation Neighbourhood Houses are a great option to disseminate information. They are highly likely to be one of the channels through which information shared as the network gets closer to implementation.
Ms O'CONNOR - Minister, we know that there is no clear pathway to electrification of the Metro fleet despite innovations in bus technology. I acknowledge what you said before about the new buses being able to be refitted with electric engines. Minister, ABC television reports in 2015, and I will just quote from the article -
State-owned public transport operator Metro Tasmania has ruled out investing in electric buses until the technology improves and becomes cheaper.
Metro chairwoman, Lyn Mason, told a Government Business Enterprise scrutiny hearing that it was preparing a long-term carbon reduction plan but could not afford to buy any electric buses.
I will make the point that it was the Greens who asked that question.
Mr FERGUSON - The Greens had the portfolio at that time.
Ms O'CONNOR - 2015? What time-warp are you living in today, minister? Is Metro able to update the House on its carbon reduction plan?
Mr FERGUSON - The Chair would love to answer that, but I will begin by saying that this is a business and we want the business to be successful. We want the business to meet its primary objective, which is to help the Tasmanian travelling public get where they want to go, and to do so in the most business-like, affordable and sustainable way possible.
I have already spoken proudly about the new buses. Those new buses have significant environmental improvements, both from an emissions point of view as well from human health point of view with less particulates. It has been a deliberate design specification that the engines can be swapped in and out as the technology evolves. I hope and expect that it will in years to come. I invite the Chair to respond to the broader carbon emissions question.
Mr GARDNER - Thank you, minister. Metro has a strong focus and drive on carbon emission reduction. It is incredibly important.
Ms O'CONNOR - Do you measure the emissions?
Mr GARDNER - Yes, we do. We are required to report on that to the federal government annually. We are, through the 100 new buses, seeing a reduction in emissions. The challenge we had when we went to the market last time is indicative of how quickly this technology is moving. When we went to the market for the 100 buses that we were currently half-way through receiving, there was no commercial electric bus offer which stacked up. The best option was a bus that during its useful life could have its power system changed. In a little under 18 months this tranche of buses will be built. We are keen to see our bus fleet continue to be replaced and our carbon footprint continue to reduce rapidly.
We are currently, internally with some assistance, doing a body of work around the options for that whether it is electric, battery powered, hydrogen powered, what the timing of those is, when they come into the market. We are engaging with Hydro Tasmania, TasNetworks, the university and with ARENA around design and funding for that exercise. It is a priority for us. We are very driven to get our fleet renewed.
We not only believe it is the right thing to do from an environmental perspective but it is also a critical part of our service offering to our customers. We want to get more people using the vehicles, knowing that they are clean vehicles and that we are getting our emissions down.
Ms O'CONNOR - There is nothing you can describe in a document as a carbon reduction plan? All those things you talked about, Mr Gardner, are very worthy and I wish you, on behalf of the travelling public and every Tasmanian who cares about clean air and a safe climate, all the best of luck, but there is no carbon reduction plan developed by Metro, is there?
Mr GARDNER - No, there is not a specific carbon reduction plan for the entire organisation. However, what we have mapped, with the fleet replacement we are doing at the moment, is the level of expected carbon reduction. That is mapped out through the transition of fleet with the new buses.
Ms O'CONNOR - Does that have targets?
Mr GARDNER - Yes.
Ms O'CONNOR - That would mean you have a base-line understanding of what Metro's emissions were in a given year and you have reduction targets.
Mr GARDNER - Yes.
Ms O'CONNOR - Can you, before we go to the next question, give us a little information on what that is and whether emissions are coming down?
Mr GARDNER - We have some emission reduction from the previous period, 2018-19. We saw a small reduction of 157 tonnes of CO2. We had just started bringing this new part of the fleet in and we saw an immediate, small, step-down. There is quite specific data on the emissions of the new buses and therefore the impact that has on our carbon footprint. We have had a small step into this period. We expect to see a significant reduction in the current period as we will have a full year of new buses coming in.
Mr FERGUSON - Chair, I would like to add to a previous answer when a reference was made in relation to executive remuneration. When it has been referred to the overall executive remuneration paid over the past two years, you will see a reduction last financial year in real terms. I am advised that the average increase for 2018-19 was 2.21 per cent. I do not know where that 3.6 per cent figure has come from. It is not a figure that is in any of the advice I have been given. Given the acting arrangements the Chair reflected on in his answer to the question over the past two years, I can appreciate that year-on-year amounts are potentially a little difficult to follow. Therefore, comparison may be challenging. That is my advice. On best efforts in the time available my advice is that the average increase for 2018-19 was 2.21 per cent.
Ms DOW - Are you able to provide further response on the infrastructure question about the berthing and park to ride that you committed to?
Mr FERGUSON - I would be happy to take that on notice.
Mr TUCKER - As this Hodgman Liberal Government is known as one of the most environmentally minded state governments in Australia, especially renewable energy -
Ms O'CONNOR - Point of order, Chair, this is an Estimates scrutiny table. To start questions off with an outright lie should not be tolerated by the committee.
CHAIR - That is not a point of order. Mr Tucker, continue please.
Mr TUCKER - As we heard with your answer to Mrs Rylah's question on green hydrogen energy, how is Metro helping to reduce Hobart's peak hour congestion during the critical back-to-school period between late January and late February with the free before 7 a.m. promotion?
Mr FERGUSON - I made a brief reference to that and thank you for your observations about the Government being responsible for our state. I take it on board and agree with you. As you have identified, the back-to-school period is a time of peak use on the Hobart road network. For local residents, including some members at this table, I appreciate with the growing economy and more people in work, which is a good thing, it has had the consequence -
Ms OGILVIE - Growing pains.
Mr FERGUSON - Growing pains, it has had the consequence of making our roads busier. We understand that and are committed to tackling it.
One of the initiatives launched by the Government has been Metro's early bird free before 7 a.m. promotion that runs during this time. The promotion offers free travel to customers when boarding an urban Hobart bus scheduled to depart before 7 a.m. on business days. The promotion was first run in 2017. In 2019, Metro ran the promotion from late January to 22 February, helping to minimise back-to-school congestion, that sudden change in driver behaviour and volumes. It increased Metro's capacity during peak travel periods, hopefully shifting some of the existing patronage into an earlier time slot.
Metro recorded a 30 per cent increase in patronage by adults, full fare and concession fare passengers, before 7 a.m. compared to the 2016 base period and an increase of 17 per cent when compared with the promotional period only one year before that, in 2018. There was also a 42 per cent reduction in incidences of buses reaching their full capacity during the morning peak travel period compared with 2016, a decrease of 14 per cent compared to 2018. The figures demonstrate that the promotion is having a positive impact on taking traffic off the roads and freeing up existing bus capacity so the passengers can board during the back-to-school period.
Metro undertakes considerable promotion of the early bird initiative via print, radio, on board and outdoor advertising to ensure that the community is aware and able to take advantage of the promotion. Metro's online marketing campaign data shows strong community engagement and interest with the promotion, reaching over 78 000 people during the promotion period in 2019. This compares to 22 000 people reached during the same period in 2016. I acknowledge the efforts of Metro with this successful promotion, which is helping to ease congestion on our busy roads, particularly during that critical window at the back-to-school period at the beginning of the year, where Hobart network traffic is at its peak.
It might be something of particular interest to members for Clark of our House, and other members locally, to share the news for next year.
CHAIR - Thank you, minister, the time for scrutiny has expired. The next Government business to appear before the committee is Tasmanian Railways.
I suggest everyone takes two minutes.
The Committee suspended at 12 p.m.