Page 4889 - Week 15 - Thursday, 15 December 2005

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That this bill be agreed to in principle.

The Road Transport (Public Passenger Services) Amendment Bill 2005, hereafter referred to as the bill, provides the regulatory environment for demand responsive public passenger services in the ACT. The bill has been prepared in response to industry’s desire to address transport needs in new ways that aim to reduce transport costs, improve the reliability of public passenger services, reduce travel times and/or improve equity of access.

The government applauds this development and will facilitate the introduction of demand responsive transport services through the provision of an appropriate legislative framework for these services. The amendments will ensure that flexible demand responsive multihire services can be regulated effectively under the Road Transport (Public Passenger Services) Act 2001.

The key features of demand responsive services are that the services are available to multiple hirers simultaneously; services may be prebooked through a booking service and/or services may be accessed on the spot without the necessity to book; services may be door to door and/or use bus stops, minibus zones or other pick-up points; passengers pay a fare on entering the vehicle; routes and times are variable; and, generally, the more personalised the service the higher the cost of the service.

The introduction of this new category of public passenger service represents a change from the existing mode-based approach to regulation of the industry to a more service-based approached. Unlike bus, hire car and taxi services, demand responsive services may use a range of passenger vehicle types. The main defining feature of the category is the nature of the service.

Demand responsive services are usually niche services that meet public transport needs at certain locations or times or for particular groups of people; they do not attempt to provide a universal service available to all throughout the day. However, demand responsive services have several characteristics in common with regular route bus services. For example, passengers share the vehicle with other passengers, and with taxi services a demand responsive service typically uses a booking service.

Indeed, from the perspective of passenger safety, consumer protection and public order, demand responsive services are similar to those services to which high levels of scrutiny are applied, that is, taxis and regular route bus services. The regulation of the new demand responsive services will also provide this high level of scrutiny. As currently required for regular route bus service operators, demand responsive service operators will be required to obtain accreditation and have a service contract with the road transport authority.

In addition, an authorisation to provide a demand responsive service must be obtained from the minister to ensure that such services do not undermine the viability of existing regular route services, to identify the vehicles used to provide the service and to provide any exemptions applying to the particular service. A decision to give an authorisation will be based on guidelines developed for this purpose. A demand responsive service contract will include, amongst other things, the details of the particular service—for

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