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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1999 Week 12 Hansard (25 November) . . Page.. 3728 ..

MR SMYTH (continuing):

one piece of legislation. The Bill covers all public passenger services using buses. It does not cover services that are not available for use by the public, such as those provided by schools using their own buses.

Developed in consultation with the industry, the Bill will introduce accreditation standards for all bus operators. Accreditation requirements will replace the current licensing arrangements. It is proposed that, where an operator is accredited with another jurisdiction, he or she be granted an equivalent accreditation in the ACT. This will reduce the regulatory burden on many operators and ensure that the scheme readily coexists with a jurisdiction such as New South Wales. The accreditation standards will ensure that the industry maintains sound commercial practices and provides high-quality services and safety standards.

To gain accreditation, operators will be required to meet standards similar to those which apply in other jurisdictions. The content of the proposed standards and regulations will be made available to the public as a discussion paper. The discussion paper proposes that the standards should require that the operators give details about maintenance facilities and maintenance programs for their vehicles. The operator will also need to monitor and record his or her employed drivers' compliance with the accreditation standards and traffic laws.

Other standards proposed in the discussion paper require operators to take reasonable steps to ensure that drivers comply with driving hour restrictions and oblige operators to make timetables and brochures publicly available. The standard also requires as a minimum the operator to maintain a telephone service between the hours of 9 and 5 on weekdays in order to answer any customer complaint, timetable inquiries and lost property inquiries. The regulations have been developed in consultation with industry and will deal with matters that ensure public safety and revenue protection for operators. For example, it will be an offence for a person to engage in offensive or threatening behaviour on a bus or to participate in fare evasion.

Under the provisions of the Bill, it will be in the discretion of the road transport authority, the registrar, to audit operators at any time to determine compliance with the accreditation requirements and to maintain service, quality and public safety. If the operator does not comply with government standards, the road transport authority has the power to suspend, cancel or vary an accreditation.

The Bill allows the Government to enter into contracts to provide regular public passenger services in the ACT. These contracts will be for route services which pick up and set down passengers in the ACT, such as those currently provided by ACTION and Deane's Bus Lines. However, services such as charter and tourist services will not be required to sign a contract, but will be subject to accreditation standards and the regulations. The issued contracts will contain matters such as service characteristics the operator will employ, timeliness of services, special fares and insurance.

The public transport bus services provided by ACTION within the ACT have been declared a regulated industry under the Independent Pricing and Regulatory Commission Act 1997. The Independent Pricing and Regulatory Commission released its final report and price determination on 30 April 1999 for the period 1 July 1999 to 30 June 2000.

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