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Rail privatisation contract may be terminated

South Australia Premier-elect Peter Malinauskas is yet to confirm if he will move to end the $2.1 billion rail network privatisation contract signed by the Marshall Liberal government. 

In January last year, Keolis Downer took control of the rail network as part of a 12-year contract. 

In the lead-up to the state election, Malinauskas vowed to reverse the decision if elected, and bring the trains and trams back into public ownership and control. 

“In our first 100 days, we will establish an Independent Commission of Inquiry into the Return of Public Transport Services,” he said. 

Malinauskas said the Commission would consider: 

  • The most efficient and cost-effective method of ending or exiting any contract for the privatised operation of train and tram services, either by negotiation, with contract provisions, legislative means or any other manner. 
  • The separation costs of exiting the contract, if required. 
  • The appropriate way to return a trained and competent workforce to the public sector to manage and operate public transport services in a cost-efficient manner. 
  • An analysis of the privatisation process and the contracts to ensure no extraordinary, inappropriate or improper concessions or penalties have been inserted or created for “political or other purposes, to bind or frustrate, a future Labor Government”. 
  • The feasibility of the return of bus operations and services to the Department of Planning, Transport and Infrastructure (DPTI). 

Malinauskas said such moves were not without precedence. 

In 2006, Labor reversed the Liberals’ 1995 privatisation of the Modbury Hospital and took it back into State Government control. 

The cost of bringing Modbury back into public hands, before the contract had ended, was approximately $240,000.  

Employees had the option of transferring their annual leave and long service leave entitlements back to Government or having them paid out by the private operator, Healthscope, as part of the agreement. 

Malinauskas said Labor believes public transport is an essential service that should remain in public hands to deliver social and economic benefits to South Australians and their economy. 

“Many South Australians rely on public transport; whether they are workers, students, school children, those with mobility issues, or older South Australians no longer willing or able to drive,” he said. 

“Too often, privately-run public transport services are focused on getting more people to catch fewer services – this inflates patronage levels, but to achieve this, there are fewer buses, trains and trams available to the broadest number of people. Some people are served well, while others miss out completely.  

“Publicly-run transport services can be tailored to best meet the growing needs of our community. The Government has full control over what services are increased or expanded, without being subject to the requirements or contractual demands of private corporations.” 

While on the election campaign, Malinauskas  had said that “the very definition of Labor is work”.  

“It’s business that creates opportunity and provides the chance for people to get jobs and be in work.”