Major Australian bus manufacturer Volgren has announced it will restructure its Queensland operations as its joint venture partnership with Brisbane City Council will be concluded in June this year.

The bus supply contract between Brisbane City Council and Volgren has expired and contract extension options were not taken up by Council.

Volgren has been operating as prime contractor to Brisbane City Council since 2008, since that time it has supplied more than 850 buses to Council.

According to Volgren the facility at Eagle Farm has manufactured and delivered more than 1100 buses for the Australian market and says it has supported the local market through its after sales department.

The manufacturer says it remains in talks with Brisbane Council about ongoing maintenance and servicing of the current fleet but it says  ity has raised the possibility of job losses.

Volgren’s CEO, Thiago Deiro said the company explored several options with Council to continue operating but, says that despite the best intentions from both parties, a middle ground has not been reached.

Staff at Volgren’s Eagle Farm site were informed this month that the final bus will be delivered to Council in May this year.

“COVID-19 has had a major effect on all organisations around Australia and the world – and government bus operators haven’t escaped the consequences. It has affected budgets in all sorts of ways – passenger numbers alone have been down significantly, “ said Thiago Deiro.

“Based on this, we understand that Brisbane City Council needed to make a difficult decision, but this is a blow to local manufacturing and we are deeply disappointed for our staff,”  he added.

Deiro said that although their attention would eventually turn to Brisbane City Council’s next tender for bus manufacturing, at the moment the management team was concentrating on staff.

“Our focus is firmly on our Eagle Farm employees and we will make every effort to support all members of our team and their families as we work through a complex restructuring plan.

“We are determined to retain a presence in the Queensland and we believe a number of staff can, and will, remain in after sales support and servicing roles. There may also be an opportunity to redeploy staff to Volgren’s manufacturing sites in Melbourne and Perth,” he said.

In addition to those directly employed by Volgren, Deiro said, the discontinuation of the contract would affect workers connected to Volgren in its extensive supply chain.

“We are also very conscious of the fact that for many Queensland businesses and their employees, this contract was a significant source of work and revenue.

“These are, in many cases, people and teams with highly specialised skills and we are in close contact with them all about how best to manage the period after which we stop manufacturing buses for Council.”

Deiro said he was hopeful that Volgren’s strong presence in and outstanding knowledge of the Queensland market would stand it in good stead when any future Brisbane City Council bus tenders.

“Volgren has a proud history of supplying high-quality buses to all of Queensland and we have built up a dedicated team of people ranging from bus body builders and fabricators to accounts staff and maintenance experts.

Deiro said that 2020 had been a difficult year for much of the bus sector, but had left him and many within industry in little doubt that manufacturing had a stronger future than ever in Australia.

“As the vaccine begins to be rolled out, Australia can begin the post-COVID economic recovery in earnest and I think advanced manufacturing can play a central part in the rebuilding effort. It is not just about local jobs and local content – which are incredibly important – but about self-sufficiency. As international borders tightened due to the pandemic, Australian manufacturers did extraordinary things throughout last year.

“We are very hopeful that this decision is not the end of our story in Queensland. We look forward to again partnering with Council and continuing to build buses locally in the very near future.”