South Australia’s Opposition says private transport company Keolis Downer still has not attracted enough staff from the public service to run Adelaide’s train network.

Key points:

  • Keolis Downer is taking over running Adelaide’s trains on January 31
  • It has not been able to recruit enough staff to run the system
  • The Premier says Labor is fearmongering about the switchover

Keolis Downer is set to take over the rail network at the end of the month as part of a 12-year contract worth $2.1 billion.

The shortfall in numbers will be made up temporarily from train drivers currently working for Adelaide Metro, as well as other public sector workers.

Opposition Leader Peter Malinauskas said the company was at least 150 staff short of what it said it would need to operate the network.

“And that’s on top of the 100 staff they’ve cut from doing the work,” he said.

Opposition Leader Peter Malinauskas with Josephine Buckhorn from People for Public Transport at the Adelaide Showground railway station.(ABC News)

Premier Stephen Marshall said the trouble getting staff to join Keolis Downer had been envisaged and was similar to other Government contracts, including from when Labor was in power.

He said the Opposition was “fearmongering”.

“We know that this is a really important reform for us in South Australia,” he said.

On Friday, Transport Minister Corey Wingard said drivers who chose not to cross to the private operator would have no guarantees for the future.

“There is an offer on the table — it is a very, very good offer — but it will end on January 31, so if drivers choose not to come across, then they’ll just be in the pool with the other thousand people that have already applied to be a train driver,” he said.

A Keolis Downer spokesman said more than 100 Department for Infrastructure and Transport (DIT) employees were transferring to the company and more than 1,000 external applications had been made to become train drivers.

“Keolis Downer continues to work with DIT employees and unions to offer secure ongoing employment with no loss of conditions,” he said.

Adelaide has five train lines.(ABC News: Eugene Boisvert)

Worry about readiness

Keolis Downer is due to take over on January 31 but has not yet received accreditation for the service from the Office of the National Rail Safety Regulator (ONRSR).

The company’s spokesman said it expected the accreditation to come through “just before commencement of operations”.

“The accreditation process is proceeding according to an agreed schedule, in close consultation with ONRSR,” he said.

“Given the extensive process involved, including legislative processing requirements, the timeframe is not unusual.”

The lack of certainty has raised concerns among public transport users, who are worried they will end up with a diminished service.

“[It’s] a system that people find so hard to use they just go and buy another car,” Josephine Buckhorn from People for Public Transport said.

The Premier said Keolis Downer was an experienced operator, running public transport systems around Australia and globally.

“They have excellent expertise in this area,” Mr Marshall said.

Labor leader Peter Malinauskas has pledged to reverse the privatisation if elected next year.(ABC News: Mahalia Carter)

Call to reverse privatisation

Relaunching an anti-privatisation campaign with union backing, Mr Malinauskas said the Government should release an unredacted version of its contract with Keolis Downer.

Much of the 1,700-page document published on the Tenders SA website has been blacked out.

“South Australian taxpayers are handing over $2.14 billion to this foreign-owned company and have a right to know the performance standards that have been set,” Mr Malinauskas said.

The Keolis Downer spokesman said it was commercial in confidence.

In June, former transport minister Stephan Knoll dumped a plan to reform bus routes and scrap hundreds of bus stops.

Adelaide’s tram services were taken over by a private operator in July.

Keolis Downer won a contract to run buses in the Adelaide Hills.

Labor has pledged to reverse the train and tram privatisations if elected next year.

It kept the bus system running privately while in government.