Oxley Explorer told by NSW Government to stop free extra curricular services

PLAYING BY THE RULES: Malcolm Macpherson at his Oxley Explorer bus depot on Friday.
PLAYING BY THE RULES: Malcolm Macpherson at his Oxley Explorer bus depot on Friday.

A crackdown by the state government on a Walcha based bus company will mean there will not be enough seats available to take students to extracurricular events in future according to its proprietor.

Malcolm Macpherson, who runs the Oxley Explorer bus company, told the Walcha News on Friday that non-eligible travel pass students might have to find another way to get to and from school and other events.

“We don’t want to leave children standing on the side of the street, but there is nothing we can do about it if we want to keep the contract,” he said.

“In the past, we have been transporting children free of charge between schools and to after-school daycare and sports events, and the NSW Government has said we are not to be doing that anymore and should never have been doing it.”

Mr Macpherson said that transport outside of the parameters of the contract was possible if space is available on the bus – at a cost.

“If there are seats available after accommodating travel pass students, we now have to charge a fare in line with government public transport charges which start at $1.70 per sector,” he said.

“Most trips within the Walcha town area are two sectors but we have proposed a flat fee of $1.00 per trip.”

We don’t want to leave children standing on the side of the street, but there is nothing we can do about it if we want to keep the contract

Malcolm Macpherson

Mr Macpherson’s family has had the Walcha bus NSW Government contract exclusively since 1988. The existing contract was renewed in 2016 and will be reviewed again in December this year.

Mr Macpherson said by trying to help families the company had breached its contract and he was in danger of losing the business if it continues to operate the way it has been.

“The crux of the government’s argument is that it contracts us to provide a service to eligible students from home to school and return,” he said.

“They do that throughout the state, and the rules are the same for everyone – basically they are not going to move from their standards for one community.

“The way the contract is set up if we don't change the way we are operating the government can just come in at any time and take over the operation until a tender goes out and a new bus contractor is found.”

The School Student Transport Scheme (SSTS) gives eligible school students free or subsidised travel between home and school, on NSW public transport, including trains, buses, ferries and light rail.

Mr Macpherson said if parents are unsure of their child’s eligibility or if they would like to discuss options for transport other than the home to school route they should check with his office to confirm space availability.