Opinion Pieces: Expertise in government and industry – the major challenge facing the sector

Opinion Pieces: since 2007, Prof. David Hensher has written an opinion column in the Australasian Bus and Coach magazine, where he monthly discusses a lot of different transport-related hot topics. In this section we are revisiting these columns.
December 2010
Over the last year or so, it has been mentioned repeatedly to me that the biggest constraint the bus sector faces is the lack of expertise in the government sector in particular, but also a recognition that the industry of bus operators has not escaped this dilemma either. The expertise that has been highlighted relates to performance management, contracting processes and the strategic understanding of planning and monitoring bus transport as a system serving a network. Why has this occurred? There is a real problem in attracting new blood to an industry that undersells itself – there is no great sparkle when the community sees the industry as nothing more than a career in driving a bus, maintaining a bus, designing timetables and a bureaucratic career in managing bus contracts. It may come as a surprise to many in this industry that until new graduates actually work in the sector, they have no idea that there are challenging jobs in planning, strategic development, finance, marketing and dare we say strategic thinking.
It seems to be, observing from a distance, that there are too many people in the industry who lack a strategic focus and/or vision, are more concerned about the day to day operational issues and less concerned about the long term implications of such micro-detailing of issues that may appear important and urgent at the time, yet end up being non urgent and not important. I am sure all readers can relate to this. Compliance management has taken over from strategic commitment to worthwhile change. The level of detail in the growing array of documents that are produced in establishing formal relationships between the regulator and the operator might best be described as governance breakdown or institutional malfunctioning. Why do we need all this paperwork and detail when the requirements of service delivery are so much more simpler? Can someone please answer this question? It seems to me that it is worthwhile revisiting what I might describe as essential rules to ensure compliance, in contrast to the numerous rules that have been added over the years to numerous regulatory and implementation documents to ‘protect’ the transparency of a flawed process. My biggest concern is that despite all of this detail and unnecessary complexity (which produces nothing short of ambiguity and lack of clarity), we still remain somewhat data poor in understanding this great industry. My wish is that we start to recognize even more than we have to date, that there is so much wasted effort in competing bodies compiling data on the sector that is often in conflict in regards to the evidence. Can we one day sort this out.
Food for thought
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