Labor boards transport privatization inquiry after ‘major step forward’

A $1 million inquiry commission to advise the state government on returning South Australia’s rail and tram operations to public ownership has been dropped after “positive negotiations” with the services’ private operators.

The $1 million pledge was funded in this month’s state budget, as a first step in reversing the “privatization” of the former Liberal government’s passenger train service — which the now-opposition claimed could cost as much as $70 million. cost.

Transport Minister Tom Koutsantonis said the government had “been able to suspend its plan to hold a commission of inquiry” after rail and tram service operators, Keolis Downer and Torrens Connect respectively, “agreed to work with the government to fulfill its election pledge. of public rail services”.

“This is an important step forward in delivering on its election promise by the government,” Koutsantonis said in a statement.

“This move also saves $1 million in taxpayer money that would have been spent on a commission of inquiry.

“I would like to thank the two consortia for working together to ensure a seamless transition to get our trains and trams back into government hands.”

Koutsantonis said that “all parties” were now “working towards the same goal: to bring light and heavy rail public transport back into public ownership”.

The Commission of Inquiry would also advise the government on the feasibility of returning SA’s privatized bus services back into public hands in 2000. The Koutsantonis Ministry of Infrastructure and Transport will now conduct an internal review on that point, with a report due next February.

The minister said the agency would also investigate “if clauses were included in the privatization contract…

Earlier this month, he told parliament that if such clauses were added to the contract, “obviously the officials involved in them will have to bear the consequences”, arguing that such action would be “close to mismanagement or misconduct.” can come”.

Koutsantonis confirmed to parliament at the time that he had received advice on the costs of terminating the contract with Keolis Downer, but did not provide further details.

Later he told InDaily he expected no costs to put train and tram management back into public hands.

“Since before the last election, we made it clear to all potential bidders that we would undo this privatization and therefore we maintain that we do not expect any costs,” he said at the time.

“Keolis Downer is constructively working with us as we take the next steps.”

The opposition says it has previously received information from the Ministry of Infrastructure and Transport showing that the cost of canceling the Keolis Downer contract could reach $70 million before June 2023.

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