Minister met operator before announcing privatisation

TRANSPORT Minister Andrew Constance met with a company keen to run Newcastle’s transport services in July – months before he publicly revealed his plan to privatise the network. 

NSW ministerial diaries show Mr Constance had an ‘‘introductory meeting’’ with Keolis Downer on July 14. 

The company’s chief executive Benedicte Colin told the Newcastle Herald last week it was interested in the contract to run the light rail, buses and ferries and the company had had people in Newcastle ‘‘every week . . . since the conversation began about light rail’’. 

The government has not spelt out the detail of the privatisation, before a two-month ‘‘market sounding’’ process gets under way. 

Diary records show Mr Constance also met with Transdev about ‘‘light rail’’ on July 29. 

It is part of a consortium that won the 19-year contract for Sydney’s $2 billion CBD and South East Light Rail project, but is also interested in the Newcastle proposal. 

‘‘Integrated public transport operations is where the industry is heading internationally, particularly in mediumsized European cities such as Toulon and Reims,’’ Transdev Australasia spokesperson Kathy Lazanas said. 

‘‘Newcastle is one of the nation’s fastest growing cities, and it needs an integrated, best practice public transport system to deliver the city’s future needs.’’ 

‘‘This new, bold approach by the government will ensure that Newcastle receives the right balance of public transport services to meet current and future customers’ needs,’’ Ms Lazanas said. 

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