An Upper House inquiry into the privatisation of Newcastle’s bus services has recommended the move be reversed, over concern the quality of services has declined, passengers now pay more, and drivers face worse pay and conditions.

Keolis Downer originally took over the city’s buses and ferries in 2017 for a ten-year contract, but the company’s changes have earned backlash from customers and local MPs in the years since. 

The inquiry’s found there was little consultation on changes to stops, routes, and the frequency of services.

The report is calling for bus services in Newcastle and Sydney to be put back in public hands, and for quality targets to be established for future private contracts.

Newcastle MP Tim Crakanthorp says the findings are hardly surprising.

“We’ve known this for a very long time,” he said. “I get an enormous amount of feedback on the bus service.

“When it was privatised, it was devastating for vulnerable people in our community, particularly the disabled and the elderly.”

The Greens and Labor members on the six-person committee have come under fire by the three Coalition members, however, who have described the report as an attack on the State Government ahead of next year’s election.

Labor says it will honour the current contracts if it wins in March, but it would look into the findings by establishing a new taskforce.

Mr Crakanthorp says it should be a wake-up call, both for the State Government and for the private operator.

“Ultimately, taxpayers are paying for this service, and the service needs to meet the need of the people paying for it,” he said. 

“They’re the people in our community who need to get from A to B. They need to do it on efficient, reliable, and clean transport.”

“They’re the priority, and the Government and Keolis Downer need to look at the report and take something out of it, and improve the services to that end.”