Franco-Australian  joint venture company Keolis Downer has been announced by Transport for NSW as the winning tenderer for the $900 million contract to operate and maintain bus services in Sydney’s Region 8, covering the Northern Beaches and the lower North Shore, for eight years, from  the end of October this year.

Keolis, is 70 per cent owned by the French national railway operator SNCF, and is the 51 per cent majority shareholder in the joint venture with Australian services and transport company Downer which the two companies entered in 2009 when it won the tender to operate the Melbourne Tram network.

Keolis Downer  said it  will work closely with Transport for NSW to ‘deliver a range of initiatives to further enhance the journey experience of customers, across all aspects of the service’.

Under NSW Transport Minister, Andrew Constance’s proclamation of converting the Sydney route bus fleet to zero emission, Keolis Downer said the contract will see the introduction of 125 electric buses over the next eight years.

Transport for NSW claims that  the move to privatise the operation of the Region 8 bus operations it expects to save the government more than $100m over the term of the agreement.

Minister for Transport and Roads Andrew Constance said Keolis Downer will deliver more than 1.2m services a year and will introduce electric buses over the course of the eight year contract.

“We are lucky to have some of the best transport operators in the world running buses in Sydney, and customers on the Lower North Shore and Northern Beaches will soon benefit from the expertise and efficiency Keolis Downer brings to the table.

The company said it will deliver more sustainable transport options for the local community from two newly electrified depots in Brookvale and Mona Vale.

The company went on to say it will also introduce innovative headway technology to further increase the reliability and quality of service of the highly successful B-Line express route from Mona Vale to the city.

It added that its ‘On Demand’ transport service, Keoride will also become a permanent part of the network.

“Keolis Downer is delighted to partner with Transport for New South Wales (TfNSW) to deliver positive public transport outcomes to the local communities in the Northern beaches and the lower North Shore,” a company spokesman said.

“Keolis Downer’s first priority is to ensure a smooth transition of all the employees and maintain high standards of customer experience and operations,” the company statement declared.

“Additionally, we are focused on introducing global innovations such as ‘headway services’, new electric buses, and wayfinding improvements that will deliver more connected and sustainable journeys.”

Keolis Downer CEO, David Franks said  that the company was “very proud to partner with Transport for NSW to support the future growth and transformation of the Northern Beaches.

“Drawing on our experience locally and globally, we will launch a range of new initiatives to enhance the customer experience building from the already excellent bus services in the area” said David Franks.

“We will introduce new service technology to enable staff to actively manage routes and monitor bus running times, improving the frequency of bus services,” he said.

“We are also very excited to continue to deliver the highly successful On Demand transport service, which we have been operating in the area since 2017. We look forward to further engaging with the community to deliver a safe, efficient and reliable transport system that supports the liveability and future prosperity of this vibrant, growing region”.