NSW Premier Mike Baird and Minister for Transport and Infrastructure Andrew Constance last week announced that Keolis Downer has been awarded a 10-year contract – valued at approximately $450 million – to operate a new, integrated public transport system in Newcastle.
Newcastle Transport is the first multi-modal transport system to be contracted to the private sector in Australia, and integrates network planning with the operation of the city's buses, ferries, light rail and interchanges.
Chief Executive Officer of Downer, Grant Fenn, said Newcastle Transport would provide the growing population of Newcastle with a modern and integrated transport system that connected the city's new light rail with frequent and reliable buses and ferries.
"This integrated approach to public transport, combined with the Newcastle revitalisation and light rail projects, will greatly improve the city's transport network," Mr Fenn said.
The Premier said the State Government has invested more than $500 million to breathe new life into Newcastle, and the city will now have a transport system in place to support the extra jobs and activity at the heart of a truly revitalised Newcastle.
"Newcastle Transport will guarantee better and more frequent public transport options, giving Novocastrians the world-class transport they deserve," Mr Baird said.
Mr Constance said the successful Keolis Downer bid for Newcastle Transport delivered massive service improvements for Newcastle commuters, which is why it was chosen over lower cost bids.
"For the first time, the operator will have to guarantee a better deal for locals. Ferry commuters will get a service every 15 minutes throughout the day. Light rail customers will get a service every 7.5 minutes, an improvement on the expected 10 minute wait," Mr Constance said.
"Under this plan, buses will cover more ground, a new "night owl" bus service will be set up to support the weekend night-time economy, and the city will get on-demand buses.
Keolis Downer is the largest light rail operator in Australia, operating and maintaining Yarra Trams in Melbourne and G:Link on the Gold Coast. The joint venture between Keolis and Downer is also one of Australia's most significant bus operators, with operations in Western Australia, South Australia and Queensland.
Newcastle Transport will start running bus and ferry services in July 2017, and service changes will start in 2018 to minimise disruption. It will run the light rail when it opens in 2019. Fares will remain part of the Opal system.
Also last week, the State Government signed Stage Two of the contract with Downer EDI as Managing Contractor to design, construct and commission Newcastle's new light rail system, including a stabling and maintenance facility and associated precinct works.