Farewell to Transdev Melbourne

31 January 2022 marked yet another deck chair shuffling exercise on the Melbourne public transport network – Kinetic Melbourne has taken over the operation of 534 buses on 49 bus routes. This is the story of their predecessor, Transdev Melbourne.

SmartBus departs the Transdev depot at North Fitzroy

The beginning

The story starts in June 2012 when the Victorian Government called for expressions of interest to operate the Melbourne Metropolitan Bus Franchise, which covered 30% of the city’s bus network.

It included routes operated by Melbourne Bus Link in the western and south-east regions of Melbourne, operated from depots at Footscray and Sandringham.

Melbourne Bus Link #426 7826AO on a route 216 service turns from Queensbridge Street into Flinders Street

And those of the National Bus Company in the eastern suburbs, from depots located at Doncaster and Fitzroy North.

National Bus #524 southbound on Queensbridge Street on route 253

National Bus having been a subsidiary of Ventura Bus Lines since 2004.

National Bus #559 6093AO departs Clifton Hill interchange on route 251

In April 2013 Transdev Melbourne was awarded the franchise, to run for seven years with an option to extend for a further three years, with operations commencing on 4 August 2013.

The rebranding

If there is one thing the Victorian Government loves, it is rebranding public transport operations – and Transdev Melbourne was no different – it was spelt out in their contract.

5.20 Fleet rebranding
(a) The Franchisee will rebrand each Contract Bus to comply with the PTV Master Style Guide during the first year of the Franchise.
(b) The Franchisee will achieve this by re-branding the exterior of each Contract Bus using vehicle wrapping with 3M self-adhesive vinyl film. Each vehicle will be wrapped as part of its periodical maintenance activities. The existing NBC fleet will be completely wrapped while the MBL Fleet will require partial wrapping due to the existing white livery.
(c) Failure to rebrand each Contract Bus by 31 July 2014 will constitute a Non-Compliance Event.

The first stage of the rebranding was covering over the logos of the previous operators – an easy task for the ex-National Bus fleet since they weren’t heavily branded.

Transdev bus #747 rego 1747AO, with yellow stickers covering the old National Bus branding

But the big ‘Melbourne Bus Link’ logo on the side was harder to cover up.

Transdev bus #425 rego 7825AO northbound on Queensbridge Street with a route 220 service

A change less noticeable once the ex-Melbourne Bus Link fleet were stripped down to bare white.

Bare liveried Transdev bus #374 rego 0374AO northbound at Queen and Bourke Streets with a route 220 service

Providing a clear base for the new PTV decals to be applied.

Transdev bus #743 rego 1743AO at La Trobe and William Streets

But the ex-National Bus and Ventura fleet presented a different problem – the colour!

Transdev bus #556 rego 5944AO with the PTV livery partially applied

The PTV decals could be applied to any colour bus, but the front fairings needed to be repainted – a task completed independently from the application of the side livery.

Transdev #542 rego 5838AO on route 251 at Market and Flinders Street

Cost cutting begins

Having won the Melbourne bus franchise due to their bargain basement tender price, Transdev Melbourne had to cut costs somewhere – and so gained a reputation as a cheap and nasty operator, their buses covered with graffiti.

Up the back of yet another filthy graffiti covered Transdev bus

A problem not acknowledged until 2017, where a cleanup campaign was launched.

But that wasn’t Transdev’s only problem – buses were running around with accident damage.

Damaged front bumper on Transdev bus #501 4988AO

Patched up with duct tape.

Transdev bus #938 7931AO held together with duct tape

Or even a missing front bumper!

The fleet crisis

September 2017 marked the start of the Transdev fleet crisis, with over 140 Transdev buses taken out of service after they failed roadworthy inspections.

Dysons bus 7964AO parked at the Transdev depot in Sunshine

With an array of hired buses used as a stopgap measure to continue running services.

Transdev buses #431 7831AO and #958 8038AO beside Kastoria buses #47 6843AO and #19 1419AO at Transdev's Sunshine depot

By late October 2017 things had started to return to normal, with Bus Safety Victoria working to ensure that Transdev implemented a robust safety system, to ensure such a crisis would not reoccur, and the Victorian Government investing $16 million to buy 100 new buses for Transdev.

Angling for a renewal

With their initial seven year franchise due to end in 2020, Transdev needed to get back into the good books with the government to secure a three years extension, but they were unsuccessful – in December 2018 the Victorian Government announced that their contract would not be renewed, with an extension to January 2021 allowing for an open tender process to find a replacement.

As a result Transdev pulled out all stops to prove themselves as a competent operator – launching a business case to upgrade route 302/304 services.

Transdev bus #925 6529AO on route 304 along Belmore Road, Balwyn North

And introducing Melbourne’s first 100% electric bus as part of ‘Project Aurora‘.

Transdev electric bus #3000 BS05MR on route 903 at Sunshine station

But it wasn’t enough – after an interim contract extension to 30 January 2022 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, in October 2021 it was announced that a new operator would take over the Melbourne Bus Franchise – Kinetic, parent company of Melbourne’s SkyBus service.

So another rebranding

Luckily for Kinetic, the buses they were receiving from Transdev were already in PTV livery.

Transdev bus #433 7833AO on route 429 departs Sunshine station

The old ‘Transdev’ logos being replaced by new ‘Kinetic’ ones on the weekend before the handover.

Transdev bus #439 9039AO terminates at Sunshine station on route 220

And the last bus

The last Transdev service was on route 907 service from the city, arriving at Mitcham station at 12:43am. But I went out to photograph the last Transdev bus departing Sunshine – the 23:54 route 426 service to Caroline Springs.

Transdev bus #433 7833AO on route 426 runs the last Transdev service out of Sunshine station

Then headed over to their Sunshine West depot, which was already rebranded.

Signage outside Sunshine West depot already updated for the handover from Transdev to Kinetic

Full of parked buses that also had new logos applied, ready for the handover to Kinetic.

Transdev bus #1109 BS05CG parked at the Sunshine West depot awaiting the handover to Kinetic

Their @Transdev_Melb Twitter account was also closed.

And later deleted.

As was their transdevmelbourne.com.au website.

Footnote: Transdev’s electric bus

Melbourne’s first electric bus was as part of ‘Project Aurora‘ – a trial run by Transdev until January 2021 in association with the Victorian Department of Transport.

Transdev electric bus #3000 BS05MR on route 903 at Wright Street and Hampshire Road, Sunshine

The first stage of the trial program commenced in December 2019 on route 246, followed by stage two in October 2020 on route 250, and stage three in May 2021 on route 903.

Following the end of the trial in October 2021, the electric bus was then withdrawn from service in Melbourne, and sent up to Transdev NSW to join their fleet of four other electric buses.

The only consolation prize – Kinetic has to introduce 36 electric buses to their fleet by mid-2025.

But not much of an improvement over the 50 hybrid buses bought back in 2019?

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19 Responses to “Farewell to Transdev Melbourne”


    This is bad news as Transdev was the best bus company of Melbourne

  2. indigohex3 says:

    I remember a couple of years ago when I was in Sunshine, I saw a high-floor Kastoria bus at Sunshine station (I think it was on Route 220), and I think I saw a Sita bus (that was usually used for train replacements) on one of Transdev routes (I forgot what route it was). I thought Kastoria doesn’t operate routes in Sunshine, and I knew nothing about why that was happening. I later found out about the safety issues at Transdev. I think you even have a picture of a Dysons bus on one of the routes affected in your gallery (Route 237 I believe).

  3. Jordan says:

    Yes cost cutting did impact things such as being able to do repairs properly and regular maintenance but surely it doesn’t cost a million dollars to re-paint the back of a bus. If the Back of the bus was painted in black (like Sita’s busses) then the amount of tagging would be significantly decreased resulting in far more money being saved (less paint/anti-graffiti chemicals used, decrease in labour costs etc.) Even if it was done with a Spray paint can or even coloured in with a permanent marker it would look a hundred times better (comparing the graffitied Transdev bus above).

  4. Heihachi_73 says:

    Bus interiors are already repainted grey to cover up the graffiti (grey being the default colour of the interior panels and seat backs from the factory). If black paint was used the taggers would simply use paint pens or scratch their tags into the plastic with knives instead, there really isn’t a way around it. Some buses already have black interior walls, the newer Volgren Optimus buses even have stainless steel below the windows.

    The best thing to do is make sure that the CCTV is working, the images are clear (of course, easier said than done when the bus is shaking like jelly at idle), and the faces of the taggers can be put on the walls at each bus depot and on the Crime Stoppers boards at all the nearby shopping centres and stations. Quietly summoning AOs/PSOs from the nearest train station to meet the bus (if applicable and the taggers are still on) would do wonders too.

  5. Marc says:

    Great article to read. A good reminder of the journey I had for 8 years as a victim of that bad service. My favourite memory was a bus catching fire on the eastern freeway, having to deboard the bus on the side of the freeway away from the bus, and then wait for a replacement. It happened again about 6 months later to my wife. Scary stuff, no more I hope!

  6. […] operation became Transdev Melbourne in 2013, then refranchised to Kinetic Melbourne in […]

  7. […] Bus Link was replaced by Transdev in 2013, who were then replaced by Kinetic in 2022; and the depot in Footscray closed in 2016, replaced by […]

  8. indigohex3 says:

    We all bash Transdev Melbourne here, but I was on Wikipedia and found an operator in Sydney that is so bad that it made Transdev Melbourne look competent by comparison. It’s called U-Go Mobility (a 50-50 joint venture between UGL and Go-Ahead Group, 51% owned by Kinetic and 49% owned by Spanish company Globalvia), and just weeks after taking over Region 10 in Sydney, got a “show cause” notice from the NSW Government for its contract to not be torn up.

    And with several contracts up for grabs here in Melbourne, let us all pray that U-Go Mobility does not expand into Melbourne.

    • Marcus Wong says:

      As I understand it the Sydney operations doesn’t have much to do with Kinetic, as they only bought into Go-Ahead Group in late-2022. But since then they’ve been trying to turn the operation around.

      • indigohex3 says:

        I was just reading an article on Australasian Bus & Coach and the Region 10 contract area intervention by the New South Wales government has seen improvements in the region. So there is signs of improvement on the part of U-Go Mobility. I recommend that we watch the space in regards to U-Go Mobility, especially with the contracts for some operators being up this year for a start in 2025.

  9. […] was also making their brand more visible in Melbourne, having taken over the operations of National Bus Company and Melbourne Bus Link the month […]

  10. […] originally delivered to the National Bus Company, and then rebranded for Public Transport Victoria after their takeover by Transdev Melbourne in […]

  11. […] then bad news for Transdev Melbourne – in October 2021 it was announced that their bid for an extension of their Melbourne Bus […]

  12. […] And on La Trobe Street I found a route 24 tram, and a Ventura-liveried Transdev bus. […]

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