The South Australian Government has appointed a private operator to take over the running of Adelaide’s rail network.

Keolis Downer has been announced as the new operator of the rail network.

Minister for Infrastructure and Transport, Corey Wingard, met with both the Rail, Tram and Bus Union (RTBU) and a representative from a breakaway group of local train drivers, to discuss the upcoming transition and future employment and training opportunities.

During the meetings, Minister Wingard made it clear the timeline won’t be shifting and that the current offer on the table for drivers to transfer over to Keolis Downer won’t be changed.

“As it stands a total of 83 drivers have accepted an offer of employment with Keolis Downer and another 88 remaining on the government payroll will be made available to Keolis Downer to ensure essential public transport services continue to be delivered to the community,” Mr Wingard said.

Drivers who’ve accepted a job with Keolis Downer have secured permanent on-going employment with no loss of terms or conditions, a transfer of all entitlements, free public transport travel, and a $15,000 incentive payment.

They have also secured a commitment of no forced redundancies for the next three years, and the right to transfer to the future operator at the end of Keolis Downer’s contract.

In late-2020, a new enterprise agreement was also reached providing a two per cent per annum pay rise for train drivers and other rail staff.

The RTBU had been pushing for a $65,000 incentive payment and a four per cent per annum pay rise over four years despite both nurses and tram drivers accepting a two per cent rise just months earlier.

“From next month Keolis Downer will also start delivering training programs for drivers to join the workforce,” Mr Wingard said.

“Experienced drivers from other networks will undertake a 22 week program and will be ready to join the workforce in August.

“Further intakes for 33 week-long programs in May and September 2021 and also early in 2022 for new drivers will mean that progressively drivers made available to Keolis for the transition will no longer be required and will be moved into roles elsewhere in government.

“More than 1,000 applications were received by Keolis Downer for train driver positions and it’s clear there’s plenty of people excited and eager to join the sector.

“This transition will not only deliver better services but will also mean very significant savings to SA taxpayers.”

Mr Wingard said that the State Government has estimated a cost saving of about $118 million over 12 years, which would open the opportunity for reinvestment in other important projects.

“The new Flinders Line has now opened, offering more than 12,000 additional trips per year, including late at night and on weekends,” Mr Wingard said.

“We’re all about getting people from A to B faster so they can spend more time with their families and doing what they love. Public transport should be a convenience.

“Keolis Downer has an exceptional track record of running successful public transport systems across Australia and around the world and I look forward to seeing our public transport patronage grow as a result.”

Australasian Railway Association (ARA) Chief Executive Officer, Caroline Wilkie, said the privatisation of Adelaide’s rail services would deliver better outcomes for passengers under Keolis Downer’s direction.

“Keolis Downer has an outstanding reputation for delivering public transport services to the highest standards, with a strong focus on creating the best possible experience for their passengers,” Ms Wilkie said. 

“The transition process for the privatisation of Adelaide’s train services is on track to be completed by the end of the month as planned, with safety a key consideration at every stage of the process.”

Ms Wilkie said Keolis Downer and the SA Government had a clearly defined plan to ensure the highest standards of safety during the transition process, which remained on schedule for privatisation on 31 January.

She said the transition process for key staff was a critical component of this work and would ensure continuity for the travelling public over the coming months.

While many existing drivers would transfer to Keolis Downer as part of the transition, new drivers would also be recruited.

Existing drivers that had chosen to remain employed by the Department of Infrastructure and Transport would continue to work across the network until new recruits were fully trained and onboarded.

“It is really encouraging to see so many current employees working on the network moving to Keolis Downer as part of the transition,” Ms Wilkie said.

“The fact that Keolis Downer has received more than 1,000 external applications for driver roles just highlights the strong demand to be part of the future of Adelaide’s rail network, with an increased focus on customer service.”

Ms Wilkie said the privatisation of the network would ultimately deliver better outcomes for train users in Adelaide.

“Keolis Downer and its parent companies are known for delivering responsive, passenger focused public transport services both here in Australia and around the world,” Ms Wilkie said.

“The privatisation of Adelaide’s train operations will put the focus on a more responsive service, with increased reliability and real time information sharing to make the customer experience a great one.”

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