Local Nationals Member Annabelle Cleeland has raised concerns that the Andrews Labor Government’s plan to move Victoria’s public transport network to zero-emission buses by 2025 has completely failed to consider the impacts to regional operators.
“Rural operators do not have the same opportunity to charge electric buses as their city counterparts,” Ms Cleeland said.
“Many of the buses are parked at the driver’s home, or a similar arrangement, which limits the opportunity to charge the buses.
“Rushing to move the transport network to zero-emission by 2025 without consideration of rural operators may simply not be achievable.”
Benalla Bus Lines Manager Travis Mee backed her statement, saying it just isn’t going to happen.
“There’s policy, then there’s reality,” said Mr Mee.
“The State Government has no idea what goes into running a school bus network in the country – it is just pure ignorance.
“There’s been no consultation, no contact, no communication.”
Mr Mee also highlighted that it takes two years to receive a single bus after ordering, also emphasising an impossible deadline.
Like most bus companies in rural Victoria, the Benalla fleet is not stored in a central place where they can all be charged overnight.
“We try and have the buses stay on the route,” said Mr Mee.
“We send drivers out in cars to the busses, which is much more energy efficient.
Mr Mee said it wasn’t odd to have a bus stored in a paddock under a tree.
“The three-phase power that is required to charge a bus is not available at many places within city limits, let alone from a tree in a paddock,” said Ms Cleeland.
The general capacity of the local power network to supply the energy required for bus charging infrastructure was also in question.
Speaking in Parliament last month, Shadow Minister for Roads and Road Safety Danny O’Brien asked the Minister for Public Transport to provide flexibility to ensure regional bus operators are able to continue to offer a reliable service to school students and passengers during the phase-in of zero-emission vehicles.
“I am seeking flexibility from the Minister to ensure that rural bus operators are not forced to attempt to implement this policy before these clear obstacles are adequately addressed.”