Bus chaos creates ?Lismore Law

By RACHEL SCOLLAY

A PUBLIC campaign by the people of the Northern Rivers has led to the creation of 'The Lismore Law' to ensure bus companies maintain public services.

It arises out of widespread public opposition to timetable changes by Lismore bus company Kirklands.

NSW Transport Minister John Watkins yesterday tabled the new law and is hoping for support by all parties for a quick passage through Parliament.

People like Tamsin Jackson, one of the parents who spearheaded the campaign against the altered Kirklands timetable, and media support by The Northern Star, have paved the way for the new law.

Mr Watkins said the Government didn't want other communities to suffer a repeat of the Lismore experience.

The 'Lismore Law' would allow the Government to step in and temporarily run a company that failed to provide an adequate service.

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The 12-month window would allow the Government to fix the problem or find another operator.

"The Government won't stand by while bus companies leave children on the side of the road, or shunt them around for hours to suit their own needs," he said.

Mr Watkins told The Northern Star the law was designed to stop a company from withdrawing its service and leaving people stranded without public transport.

In his speech to the Parliament yesterday, Mr Watkins said the recent Kirklands experience had highlighted the inadequacies of existing contracts.

"Kirklands eventually relented, but not without six weeks of community disruption and six weeks of drivers having to bear the brunt of these changes," he said.

Mr Watkins said control of assets was the key to maintaining services.

Under old contracts, incumbent operators controlled the depots, buses and drivers, and could walk away from their obligations with only 60 days' notice, taking those assets with them.

Tamsin Jackson said the 'Lismore Law' would provide much-

needed security.

She said a lot of people had been unhappy with Kirklands, but had been worried they would end up with nothing.

State MP for Lismore, Thomas George, said the Bill had been tabled only at lunchtime yesterday and there was not enough time to vote.

Mr Watkins said the new powers would be limited to a 12month duration and would be used only in exceptional circumstances to ensure commuters weren't left stranded.

Mr Watkins said new performance-based contracts which contained a 'step-in' provision were being phased in, and the provisions of the new Bill would expire once all bus companies were covered.

General manager of Kirklands, Peter Shepherd, yesterday declined to comment on the 'Lismore Law', referring the matter to the Bus and Coach Association of NSW.



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