On 7 February 2023, Transport Minister Chris Steel provided the ACT Legislative Assembly with a progress report regarding the procurement of 38 leased buses (12 Yutong and 26 Scania) to replace the remaining Renault PR100.2s. Below is an excerpt from his speech.

As the revised delivery dates were not met, further updates were provided on 6 June 2023 and 24 October 2023 – excerpts from these statements are also shown below.

26 Bustech VST bodied Scanias were expected to replace Renault PR100.2s by end of 2022

7 February 2023

(The full transcript can be found on the ACT Legislative Assembly Hansard website – 2023 Week 1, commencing page 129)

CHRIS STEEL MLA (Minister for Transport and City Services): I want to provide an update to the Assembly on the procurement and delivery of electric [and low-emission diesel] buses, the impact of the replacement of old buses and the actions Transport Canberra is undertaking to manage the impact of this in the interim.

A key objective of our [Zero-Emission Transition] Plan is procuring a zero emissions bus fleet. The Zero-Emission Transition Plan outlines a fleet transition strategy to move from older, disability non-compliant, polluting buses to new zero emissions buses. The first phase of this transition outlined in the plan involves replacing the Renault PR100.2 series buses with leased zero emissions and low emission vehicles.

To kickstart the transition, the ACT government announced in June 2021 that in the short term we would lease 34 buses, including at least eight battery electric buses and low-emission diesel buses, whilst beginning the procurement to buy 90 battery electric buses. Contracts were finalised for the procurement of a short-term lease of eight battery electric buses with Yutong VDI on 6 October 2022, and a variation was signed on 27 October 2022 increasing this to 12 leased battery electric buses.

I am pleased to confirm that all 12 buses arrived in Australia on 12 December, ready to undergo the commissioning and registration processes. Some of these electric buses – four as of today and six by the end of this week[1] – are already on the road picking up passengers. This has allowed us to retire some of the old Renault buses from the fleet, as they are being replaced one-for-one with the new vehicles. The remaining electric buses will progressively be put into service following essential Transport Canberra commissioning and registration processes, which are expected to be completed in the coming weeks.

In parallel with the procurement to lease the first 12 battery electric buses, Transport Canberra finalised the short-term lease[2] of 26 low-emission diesel buses in early 2022, with buses contracted for delivery by the end of 2022.

I can now advise the Assembly that the delivery of these 26 low-emission diesel Scania BusTech buses has been greatly impacted by international supply chain issues and parts availability. Updated delivery schedules provided by the main contractor, Scania, advise vehicles are now expected to be delivered progressively from February 2023, with all buses expected to be in service by mid-2023. I can confirm that the first bus has now been delivered and will be put into service this week.

A range of challenges and external factors have impacted the supplier’s ability to meet contractual agreements and caused these delays.

In the case of the current contract, the bus chassis producer, Scania, was contracted to
manufacture 26 Euro VI diesel chassis in Sweden and then deliver them to Adelaide, where the bodies would be built and fitted by body bus builder BusTech. When the ACT government initially awarded the contract on 28 March 2022, all 26 low-emission diesel buses were expected to be delivered from their manufacturing plant in Adelaide to the ACT between July 2022 and November the same year, well in advance of the deadline for all vehicles to comply with disability standards. However, substantial and compounding delays have emerged that have led to the vehicle delivery schedule being pushed back on multiple occasions. This is something that has been evidenced across many project time lines nationally and internationally over the past two years and is not unique to the ACT. I am referring to supply chain delays, scarcity of materials, labour absence through sickness or shielding from potential infection, and, of course, the availability of skilled workers. Whilst all the chassis were delivered by Scania to BusTech on time, supply chain issues have impacted production of the buses in Adelaide.

The need to vary the original contract for the provision of the 26 diesel buses was first identified on 6 June 2022. It was at this point that the ACT government became aware that increased costs to supply the raw materials to support the manufacturing process, as well as the wider supply chain delays within the bus industry, were affecting the delivery and scheduling of these services. Additional detail and a complete breakdown of costs was provided to TCCS on 17 June 2022. This provided confidence and evidence to proceed with a variation to the original contract on price and delivery time frames. The additional price request supported the completion and delivery of the ordered vehicles against the contract. At this time, Transport Canberra also requested that BusTech, the manufacturer of the bus bodies, pursue an arrangement whereby the buses could be manufactured at both their Adelaide and Burleigh bus building facilities to help buffer against further delay.

Under the revised delivery schedule, the first bus was expected to be completed at the BusTech Adelaide manufacturing plant on 15 September. However, further supply issues emerged in the sourcing of major steel components, as well as delays in the delivery of critical air-conditioning parts. Because of this, and especially due to delayed air-conditioning components, progress on installing and assembling the bus bodies had to be paused. This was because components of the bus bodies, as well as delayed air-conditioning components, had to be assembled all together. These critical parts were required in all 26 vehicles and subsequently meant that the delivery dates for all 26 vehicles were again delayed.

Separate to those issues, external glass and internal 24-volt body electrical harnesses, which were expected to be fitted during a critical point in time in the manufacturing of the vehicles, were delayed by manufacturing capability problems, which again prompted further delays and adjustments to the delivery schedule.

At the final stages of manufacturing the first completed bus, another issue was identified. The quality of the paint finish on the first completed bus was found to be substandard because of a manufacturing defect involving the fibreglass panels fitted to the bus. The panels were required to be replaced on the first bus, and it was subsequently repainted. The defective fibreglass components that had already been delivered for other buses also needed to be replaced, which created further delays. The issues with the defective fibreglass have now been resolved with the supplier.

I was first briefed on the manufacturing delays in October 2022. Despite all previous delays, it was still expected that buses would arrive within quarter 1, 2023. However, I was advised of Transport Canberra’s intention to write to the Human Rights Commissioner requesting a short-term extension to the commitment date for 100 per cent compliance of the bus fleet, in case it was required. The exemption was only requested as a contingency in case the leased diesel buses could not be delivered by February 2022[3] (sic), as the full fleet was required to deliver the term 1 bus network.

The supplier has now advised Transport Canberra of a number of separate events that have each triggered a delay in the ability to complete the manufacture of the 26 buses. This has resulted in the delivery schedule being adjusted. I can now update the Assembly that the most current advice from the supplier is that the vehicles are now expected to be delivered from February through to July 2023.

On 30 November 2022, I told the Assembly that the first low-emission diesel bus had been completed at the Scania factory[4] in Adelaide and that Transport Canberra staff were going to visually inspect it. However, I was subsequently informed by Transport Canberra that the manufacturer cancelled this inspection at short notice, as they identified the fibreglass panel defect, following the final paint finish.

I can now update the Assembly that Transport Canberra inspected the first completed vehicle on 19 January 2023. That vehicle was delivered to Transport Canberra on 2 February and is progressing through the necessary inspection and commissioning activity. Transport Canberra will continue to manage the supplier within the parameters of the contract – ensuring, where required, that contractual mechanisms are enacted to ensure robust contract management.

Whilst the ACT government had put in place from this year the fleet transition plan to support the procurement of accessible buses to meet the disability access requirements, this has been impacted by the delays to delivery of replacement diesel buses. Transport Canberra will replace the non-DDA compliant Renault fleet progressively as new vehicles are delivered. The government is committed to providing all Canberrans with reliable bus services at the present service levels and to looking at improvements later on in the year.

The updated network and timetable from 30 January 2023 utilises all buses in the fleet, which is 456 vehicles. To deliver these services, there will be times when we need to operate the remaining Renault buses until they are progressively replaced as the new vehicles arrive. Transport Canberra has been in touch with the Human Rights Commission to seek advice on how to best manage the impact of these delays, which are outside of our control—specifically, how to minimise the impacts of continued use of the old Renault buses which do not comply with disability standards.

Transport Canberra will continue to work with the commission to provide updates as we work to provide a fully accessible and compliant bus fleet as quickly as we can. While a total of 93 per cent[5] of our city’s buses are already compliant with disability access requirements set out under the Disability Discrimination Act, unfortunately the old orange Renault diesel buses will continue to be used on the bus network for a short period to maintain services for the community until the replacement buses arrive.

  1. As at 7 February 2023, only two Yutong ZK6131HG1 buses were in service, with a total of four in service by the end of February. ↩︎
  2. The lease period for the Scania K320UB diesel buses in shown in the contract to be 10 years. ↩︎
  3. This should be February 2023. ↩︎
  4. This is most likely a reference to the BusTech factory, since Scania do not have a factory in Adelaide. ↩︎
  5. The proportion of buses in the fleet compliant with the Disability Discrimination Act only reached 93% once the first two new Yutong buses entered service. ↩︎

6 June 2023

(Full transcript commences page 1574 – 2023 Week 06 Hansard)

CHRIS STEEL MLA (Minister for Transport and City Services): All 26 buses were expected to be delivered by February 2023 under the amended schedule in that [contract] variation. Since then, as part of the robust contract management process, Transport Canberra has been closely monitoring the bus production progress at the BusTech manufacturing facility, with prime contractor Scania Australia providing support where possible.

However, the impact of supply chain disruption on the provision of raw materials has continued to be significant, with impacts to the supply of steel and components such as air conditioning units, as well as shortages of fibreglass components. This has resulted in further delays in the delivery schedule.

The government is aware that global supply chain disruptions have impacted the entire bus manufacturing sector in Australia. Shortages of components and materials needed to manufacture buses have resulted in delays to the delivery of buses by Australian bodybuilders across Australia.

When undertaking due diligence in its management of the contract with Scania Australia, Transport Canberra came to the realisation that changing suppliers at this stage would not result in the delivery of buses in a shorter time. Although the delays are unfortunate, they were not deemed unreasonable under the circumstances being experienced by the sector.

In addition to the supply chain challenges, the industry is now experiencing a nationwide skills shortage, which could result in further delays. Transport Canberra have been advised of a critical impact to BusTech’s business, with the lease for their current premises in Burleigh coming to an end. The requirement for BusTech to relocate to new premises will impact their ability to deliver against the contract that is currently in place. This is affecting the supply of buses to a number of BusTech’s clients, including the ACT government.

A small positive outcome is that BusTech has already secured new premises in the south of Brisbane and the relocation of plant, equipment and warehousing will be undertaken this month. The new premises is expected to be fully operational by July and will supply critical spare parts and build materials to the Adelaide site. The premises will not be manufacturing vehicles in the initial stages of coming online.

Transport Canberra has now taken possession of four of the Scania BusTech diesel buses, with all four buses in service. At this time, Transport Canberra expects the remaining 22 buses to be delivered between June and November of this year.

24 October 2023

(Full transcript commences page 3225 – 2023 Week 11 Hansard)

CHRIS STEEL MLA (Minister for Transport and City Services): Today I will provide an update to the Assembly on the delivery of these low emission diesel buses and four additional Custom Denning battery electric buses, including the impact on the replacement of old buses. I will also outline the actions Transport Canberra is undertaking to manage the impacts in the interim.

Since my last update to the Assembly, international supply chain issues for the supply of raw materials and parts continue to greatly impact the delivery of the further 26 low emission diesel buses.

The impact of supply chain disruption on the provision of raw materials has continued to be significant, with impacts to the supply of steel and components such as air-conditioning units, as well as shortages of fibreglass components. This has resulted in further delays in the delivery schedule. The government is aware that global supply chain disruptions have impacted the entire bus manufacturing sector in Australia. Shortages of the components and materials needed to manufacture buses have resulted in delays to the delivery of buses by Australian body builders across the country.

Transport Canberra has now undertaken possession of nine of the 26 Scania BusTech diesel buses, with all nine buses in service. Transport Canberra expects a further nine vehicles to arrive before the end of 2023 and the remaining eight to arrive early in 2024.

To further support the retirement of non-DVA (sic) compliant vehicles with zero emissions replacements, the ACT government entered into a contract with Custom Denning for a further four battery electric buses. These buses will be based at the Belconnen bus depot, where charging equipment is being installed.  I am pleased to advise the Assembly that the first of these four additional Australian-made Custom Denning buses has now arrived in Canberra and has begun the commissioning process. The remaining three Custom Denning buses will be progressively delivered and commissioned over the coming weeks. This will increase the total fleet of battery electric buses to 16.

The remaining Renault [PR100.2] buses which are currently part of Transport Canberra’s permanent fleet will be progressively decommissioned as new low emission diesel buses and the new Custom Denning electric buses are delivered. We are expecting all of the Renault PR2 series buses will be retired by early 2024.

No further Scania K320UBs were delivered in 2023 following the Minister’s update in October. While the four Custom Denning Element-2 buses were delivered, technical problems have delayed their registration and commissioning. The Minister provided a new update to the ACT Legislative Assembly on 6 February 2024.

This page was last updated on 5 May 2024