No jobs will be lost in the privatisation of Adelaide’s railway service, according to the South Australian Government, which has awarded the $2.14 billion contract to a joint venture group , that includes one company that prompted controversy over fabricated quotes it offered to help stymie political attacks.
- Minister promises no jobs will be lost in privatisation of train operations
- Former Downer Group employee offered fake quotes to help defend privatisation push
- More services to be added to the Tonsley railway line after Flinders Link is finished
Keolis Downer (KD), a joint venture between the Downer Group and French transport company Keolis, was on Friday announced as the winning bidder to run the city’s train network for the next eight years.
Transport Minister Corey Wingard said KD would take over from the end of January.
“Train drivers will meet with Keolis and transfer over.
“Those that don’t go over still have the option of working with the Government, and they’ll be going through the redeployment program into other positions.”
Opposition Leader Peter Malinauskas said the number of drivers would diminish as a result of privatisation because KD would be “prioritising one thing above all else and that’s the interests of overseas profits”.
Fake quotes offered
Freedom of Information documents sourced late last year by opposition transport spokesperson Tom Koutsantonis revealed an email sent by the Downer Group to the Government included fake quotes attributed to both himself and Labor MP Stephen Mullighan.
It was sent on July 2, 2019, one day after the Government announced plans to privatise the running of Adelaide’s passenger rail network.
This was despite promises by Premier Steven Marshall ahead of his 2018 election win that he did not have a privatisation agenda.
“These might be helpful,” the Downer Group’s former manager of government partnerships Sasha Grebe wrote, before detailing a series of quotes attributed to Mr Koutsantonis and Mr Mullighan when they were frontbenchers in 2014.
The quotes — which were fabricated and appeared to be drawn from an April Fools’ Day newspaper article — state the former Labor government was considering a partial privatisation of rail services.
The Government did not act on the emails, but at the time Mr Koutsantonis said the company had conducted itself in a “deeply inappropriate way” by attempting to “influence political debate”.
A Keolis Downer spokesperson said that while Mr Grebe may have been an employee of Downer Group, he had never represented the KD venture, which was a separate entity.
He said KD had no knowledge of what occurred and that Mr Grebe was no longer employed by Downer.
The Rail, Tram and Bus Union today said questions remained about the “integrity of the privatisation process” and criticised the Government for pushing ahead with privatisation despite its pre-election promises to the contrary.
“This is a sad day for SA, but we will not give up fighting to protect jobs and protect services.”
An ‘exceptional track record’
Mr Koutsantonis today drew attention to January media reports about Keolis’ venture with UK infrastructure service provider, Amey, which has been fined 2.3 million pounds by the Welsh Government for the poor performance of its train operations, including service cancellations.
But Mr Wingard said Keolis Downer had an “exceptional track record of running successful public transport systems across Australia and around the world”.
Mr Wingard said it was important to note that the Government still owned all the rail assets, including trains and stations, and would continue to have control over fare price, revenue and standards for service levels.
KD chief executive officer David Franks said the group would have a strong focus on customer service, “for example, by providing more channels to access real-time information”.
He said KD had a strong “zero harm” culture and would work to improve safety on the network.
The Minister also announced that the city’s Tonsley Line would have additional services once construction finishes on its 650-metre extension to Flinders Medical Centre.
He said a new weekend service would be added to the line, along with later services on weekdays.