Independent benchmarking commissioned by ACTION has shown that the cost of operating Canberra’s bus system is more than $31 million a year above the efficient benchmark, with drivers being paid well above the efficient benchmark and enjoying longer non-driving periods, and with the service employing more and better-paid mechanics, cleaners and refuellers per bus.

Chief Minister and Minister for Transport, Jon Stanhope said the benchmarking was undertaken by Indec Consulting and compared ACTION’s 2008-09 operating costs against the weighted average efficient benchmark of private bus operators in other jurisdictions.

The study found that ACTION had a strong customer service focus and provided longer hours of service out of peak periods and on weekends than the efficient benchmark, but that there was significant room for greater efficiency in a number of areas.

The key finding was that ACTION operated at $31.08 million above the efficient benchmark, with operating costs per kilometre 7.6 per cent above the efficient benchmark in 2008/09. The reasons for ACTION’s higher costs included:

• ACTION drivers are paid well above the efficient benchmark – costing ACTION $8.5 million more per annum;

• ACTION drivers spend 14 per cent of their time not driving (signing on/off, taking meal breaks, etc), compared to the efficient benchmark of 9.5 per cent – costing ACTION $2.19 million more per annum;

• ACTION employs more mechanics, cleaners and refuellers per bus than the efficient benchmark – costing $1.18 million more per annum;

• ACTION mechanical staff, including mechanics, cleaners and refuellers, are paid well above the efficient benchmark – costing ACTION $2.58 million more per annum;

• ACTION drivers take more leave than the efficient benchmark – costing ACTION $3.57 million more per annum;

• ACTION’s higher proportion of air-conditioned buses than the efficient benchmark costs ACTION $1.1 million more per annum;

• ACTION has a higher level of minor bus accident repair and bus cleaning than the efficient benchmark, costing $1 million more per annum;

• ACTION services operate longer hours than the efficient benchmark, with about 23.3 per cent of ACTION’s bus hours delivered after 7pm on weekdays and on weekends and public holidays, compared to the efficient benchmark of 17.7 per cent; and

•ACTION buses get to their destination faster than the average bus, travelling at 25.74km/h, compared to 21.48km/h for the efficient benchmark.

Mr Stanhope said the ACT Government was determined to create a genuinely sustainable transport system for Canberra – the first down-payment for which was made in this year’s Budget. Crucial to delivery of that sustainable system was the creation of a greatly enhanced public transport system, and tackling push and pull factors in relation to parking.

“In the context of that challenge, benchmarking data such as this is extremely valuable to the Government because it identifies areas in which improvements might be pursued,” Mr Stanhope said.

“The Government looks forward to working with ACTION and its drivers to deliver a bus system that serves our growing city in the best possible way.”