Buses in Adelaide

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Buses in Adelaide
Adelaide Metro bus logo
SouthLink Custom Coaches bodied Scania K320UA on King William Street in September 2014
Torrens Transit Australian Bus Manufacturing bodied MAN 18.280 in July 2016
LocaleAdelaide, South Australia
Transit typeBus

Buses in Adelaide are the most extensive service of the South Australian capital's public transport system, the Adelaide Metro. A large fleet of diesel, hybrid diesel-electric, and natural gas powered buses operate services which typically terminate in the city-centre or at a suburban interchange. Buses get priority on many roads and intersections, with dedicated bus lanes and 'B'-light bus only phases at many traffic lights.


Buses in Adelaide has been known under several names. The State Transport Authority (STA) combinined the metropolitan rail operations of the former South Australian Railways Commission, and the bus and tram operations of the former Municipal Tramways Trust in December 1975. In July 1994, the STA was abolished and government public transport services were transferred to TransAdelaide, a publicly owned corporation.[1]

In 1995–96, there was a partial tendering out of bus services. TransAdelaide retained three contract regions, Serco, in its first Australian bus operation, won two contract regions, and Hills Transit, a TransAdelaide company, won the Adelaide Hills operating contract.[2] Services were run and marketed under each operator's name, presenting a disjointed network to the public.

The 2000 round of tenders saw the end of TransAdelaide's (and therefore the Government's) direct operation of bus services in Adelaide, although it retained tram and rail services. Serco won the north–south, Outer North, and Outer North-East contract areas, Torrens Transit the east–west contract area and City Free services, Australian Transit Enterprises (ATE) trading as SouthLink the Outer South contract area, and Transitplus, a joint venture between ATE and TransAdelaide, the Hills Contract area.[2] At this time the Adelaide Metro brand was implemented across all transport operators,[3] appearing to the public as a unified network, with common livery, timetable designs and a city Information centre.

Fleet and Vehicles[edit]

The Adelaide Metro bus fleet consists primarily of Scania L (4-series) (L94UB, L94UA) and K-series (K230UB, K280UB, K320UB, K320UA, K360UA) buses with various body styles from Custom Bus (CB60, CB60 Evo II, CB80) and BusTech (VST). There is also a significant number of older MAN buses of serval models and with several bodies. Smaller numbers of other buses also service the network. Contract operators also own some vehicles, with Torrens Transit/Transit Systems having a diverse fleet of buses transferred from other operations around Australia.

As of 2020, deliveries of Scania K320UB hybrid diesel-electric buses with BusTech VST bodies. In September 2022, the Minister for Transport announced that the final pure diesel bus have been delivered, and that all future deliveries would be hybrid diesel-electric or full electric.[4]


Adelaide Metro buses are split up geographically into six contract regions:

Region Current Operator[5] Previous Operator until June 2020[6] Comments
North-South Torrens Connect Torrens Transit Integrated bus and light rail contract, includes Free City Connector, O-Bahn services and Glenelg tram line
East-West Torrens Transit Torrens Transit
Outer North East Torrens Transit Torrens Transit
Outer South Busways SouthLink
Outer North Torrens Transit SouthLink
Hills SouthLink SouthLink

The new contracts, awarded in March 2020, began on 5 July 2020 for a period of eight years.

Former operators which had operated Adelaide Metro services in the past but no longer operate in Adelaide are:

  • Light-City Buses - operated the north–south and Outer North East contract areas (including the 300 Suburban Connector and O-Bahn services) from 2011 until its purchase by Torrens Transit in 2018.[7][8]
  • Transitplus - following the abolition of joint owner TransAdelaide in late 2010, Transitplus services were taken over by joint owner Australian Transit Enterprises's SouthLink.[9]
  • Serco - Serco ended its contract in 2004, at the contracted half-term break-point.

System features[edit]

Go Zones[edit]

Many arterial roads leading towards the city have several routes servicing them, allowing for high frequency with a maximum wait of 15 minutes between 7.30am and 6.30pm on weekdays and every 30 minutes at night on weekends until 10pm.[10] These are:

There is a Mega Go Zone on the Adelaide O-Bahn which has a 15 minutes maximum wait, 7 days a week. Mega Go Zone buses service Tea Tree Plaza Interchange, Paradise Interchange, Klemzig Interchange and the city.[11]

Limited stop services[edit]

Limited stop services combine limited stops with express services to reach the outer metropolitan areas of Adelaide. Limited stop services include:

Airport services[edit]

Torrens Transit Australian Bus Manufacturing bodied MAN NL202 on JetBus route J1 in June 2014

JetBus airport services were introduced in August 2005. These are direct routes that link Adelaide Airport with the city and other key destinations.[12] However, not all services are equipped with upright luggage rack facilities. On 10 November 2014, a new JetExpress bus, namely route J1X began running an express service between Adelaide Airport and the city with a BusTech CDi with Cummins ISL engine double-decker bus, equipped with a luggage rack on the lower deck.[13] This bus is the first one of its kind operating in Adelaide public transport system after double-decker trolleybuses were removed from service in 1958.[14] Bus routes are:

Free city services[edit]

Torrens Transit Custom Coaches bodied Iveco Metro in June 2014

Free City Connector buses are zero-fare, wheelchair-accessible circuit routes that service the Adelaide CBD and North Adelaide daily which are joint of initiative of Government of South Australia, Adelaide City Council and Adelaide Metro, on four routes:

There is another free service which only runs during the Adelaide 500.[19]

O-Bahn Busway[edit]

Pressed Metal Corporation South Australia bodied Mercedes-Benz O305G on the O-Bahn Bus in 1997

The Adelaide Metro's most frequented route is the O-Bahn guided busway to Modbury carrying around 9 million passengers a year. It is the world's fastest and until 7 August 2011 the world's longest guided busway, with a maximum permitted speed of 100 km/h (62 mph) and a length of 12 km (7.5 mi). It has three stations, Klemzig Interchange, Paradise Interchange, and Tea Tree Plaza Interchange at the Modbury end. Buses leave the track at Paradise or Tea Tree Plaza to continue services on normal roads, eliminating the need for passenger transfer.

After midnight services[edit]

Available only on Saturday nights, these night services run from midnight until 5am Sunday morning, departing the City every hour.[20]

Roam Zone[edit]

SouthLink Fuso Rosa in September 2014

The Roam Zone concept began operation in the Hallett Cove, Sheidow Park and Trott Park area in September 2001. At specified times passengers can be dropped off or picked up away from bus stops, taking them to their door (or as near as the bus could get). Having done this, the roaming bus returns to its scheduled route. Roam Zones have bright blue bus stops located throughout. Adelaide Metro now features one Roam Zone:

Adelaide Oval Footy Express[edit]

Adelaide Metro provide services between Adelaide Oval and areas across South Australia. Tickets for the games also act as the ticket to travel free on any Adelaide Oval Footy Express bus, train or tram, in order to alleviate overcrowding on regular services. Most services offer early arrival times and some routes will have services that leave an hour after the final siren.[22] The locations in metropolitan Adelaide include:

Interchanges and Park and Rides[edit]

Connecting various routes and services throughout the transport network in Adelaide are several bus interchanges. These play a critical role in allowing for transfers between bus routes and some furthermore onto trains and trams. Interchanges are located in critical localities on the network where various routes meet. Since 2021, Adelaide Metro has worked to improve the signage throughout these various interchanges, with new totem style signs being implemented in all critical locations.

Interchange Name
Aberfoyle Hub Interchange
Arndale Centre Interchange
Blackwood Interchange
Colonnades Centre Interchange
Crafers Park and Ride
Elizabeth City Centre Interchange
Elizabeth Interchange
Flinders Medical Centre
Flinders University Interchange
Glenelg Interchange
Golden Grove Village Interchange
Golden Grove Park and Ride
Klemzig Interchange
Marion Centre Interchange
Mawson Central Interchange
Mawson Interchange
Mount Barker (Dumas St Interchange)
Mount Barker (Dutton Rd Interchange)
Munno Para Interchange
Noarlunga Centre Interchange
Old Reynella Interchange
Paradise Interchange
Port Adelaide Interchange
Salisbury Centre Interchange
Salisbury Interchange
Seaford Interchange
Smithfield Interchange
Tea Tree Plaza Interchange
West Lakes Centre Interchange

Experience with Contracted Bus Operations[edit]

The tendering out of bus operations has been a bumpy ride for Adelaide commuters. The original 1996 partial service tendering saw services run and marketed under each operator's name, presenting a disjointed network to the public. The Adelaide Metro brand was created in 2000 to restore a unified face to the public.[3]

Contract holder Serco withdrew in 2004, at the contracted half-term break-point, after failing to renegotiate its contract on better terms. Serco had previously informed the Minister for Transport that it was not willing to continue to operate the bus services for a further five years on the terms contained in the then existing Contract. Serco had made a submission to the Department of Transport and Urban Planning proposing to operate the bus services in the contract areas on new terms and conditions. This submission was rejected by the Department of Transport and Urban Planning. The company unsuccessfully rebid for the contract in the subsequent competition.[2] [23]

Light-City Buses was awarded two of Adelaide's six public bus contract regions commencing operation in October 2011, taking over the North South and Outer North East Contract Areas from Torrens Transit. These two contract regions cover 43% of the bus services in Adelaide,[6] valued at $567 million over the eight-year life of the contracts.[24] The contracts are in place for an initial eight-year term, from 2 October 2011 to 30 June 2019 with an option to extend for a further four years, subject to government approval.[6] Since the start of operations of bus services by Light-City Buses in October 2011 service interruptions and delays which were initially dismissed as teething problems have continued to frustrate commuters. [25][26] Transfield has claimed most of the problems have been resolved and they are working on resolving the rest, however in May 2012, Transport Services minister Chloë Fox imposed a fine of $121,000 for failing to meet Performance Benchmark Targets:[27]

  • Transfield performed "significantly worse" than the other two companies operating contracted buses in Adelaide in reaching its contractual benchmarks.[28]
  • The number of Transfield buses running on time from 1 January – 31 March 2012 ranged from as low as 51.6% on Transfield North South contract region to 66.9% on the Outer North East region. Transfield was fined $121,000 for late running buses services as a result.[28]
  • In the 1 April – 30 June 2012 period Transfield, on-time running increased only marginally to 52.2% for the North South contract region and 71.3% for the Outer North East contract region. Transfield was fined $70,000 for its poor on-time running performance.[29]

Transfield have said that new timetables in July 2012 should help get buses running on time.

The negative experience following this latest change of operators reflects the advice given to the Government in 2009, when it was recommended that contracts should be extended by negotiation, rather than re-tendered.[30] The expert advice was based on:

  • the efficiency of existing tender prices
  • the incumbent operators' service quality performance
  • the incumbent operators' entrepreneurship in regards to service development[31]

The expert advice stated that:

  • there are significant risks in any transition from one operator to another, including public uncertainty and staff unrest,
  • there would be difficulties inherent in 'unpicking' the then current network structure and timetables,
  • any change in operators was likely to present considerable risks, such as reduced service quality, reduced patronage growth, and limited benefits.[31]

The South Australian Government went ahead with tenders in 2010. As noted above, the resultant change of operator from the incumbent Torrens Transit to Light-City Buses in the North South and Outer North East Contract Areas has seen many of the warnings given come to fruition.

Professor David Hensher, Director of the Institute of Transport and Logistics Studies at the University of Sydney, has commented that while three rounds of competitive tendering in Adelaide had ironed out the cost inefficiencies and lack of service incentives under the previous public monopoly model,

all the research on competitive tendering versus negotiated performance-based contracts is showing that one cannot squeeze any more out of the cost efficiency stone after three rounds and the risk of declines in service quality is real if this is pushed

— David Hensher, [32]

It is not just service performance which is suffering; Government data shows a steady increase in patronage over the first two complete rounds of competitive tendering, followed by a sharp drop-off in the past two years.[32]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ State Transport Authority (South Australia)
  2. ^ a b c Wallis, Ian; Bray, David (June 2001). "Competitive Tendering for Bus Services: The Improved Adelaide Model" (PDF). Thredbo Series. Retrieved 18 September 2012.
  3. ^ a b Morgan, Peter (21 April 2000). "A new deal on the buses". The Advertiser.
  4. ^ Twitter https://twitter.com/tkoutsantonismp/status/1575367433665523712. Retrieved 29 September 2022. {{cite web}}: Missing or empty |title= (help)
  5. ^ "Private operators named for Adelaide's tram network". InDaily. 10 March 2020. Retrieved 10 March 2020.
  6. ^ a b c Minister for Transport - Report on the Adelaide Metro Bus Service Contracts Archived 19 December 2013 at the Wayback Machine, August 2011, retrieved 2011-12-03.
  7. ^ "Torrens Transit acquires local rival Light City Buses". News Pty Limited Australia. 9 May 2018. Retrieved 9 August 2018.
  8. ^ "Torrens Transit acquires Light City Buses". Transit Systems. 4 June 2018. Retrieved 9 August 2018.
  9. ^ SouthLink
  10. ^ "Go-Zones". Adelaide Metro. Retrieved 9 November 2014.
  11. ^ "Adelaide O-Bahn". Adelaide Metro. Retrieved 9 November 2014.
  12. ^ "JetBus Airport Service". Adelaide Metro. Archived from the original on 14 July 2014. Retrieved 9 July 2014.
  13. ^ "About JetExpress". Adelaide Metro. Archived from the original on 9 November 2014. Retrieved 9 November 2014.
  14. ^ "Double-decker buses back on our streets with express service between the city and Adelaide Airport". The Advertiser. Retrieved 27 October 2014.
  15. ^ Previously known as The Connector, the service makes also makes use of a Solar Bus, Tindo (Tindo stands for solar in the local Aboriginal language.
  16. ^ a b "Your Say Adelaide: New free City connector bus service". Adelaide City Council. Archived from the original on 22 December 2015. Retrieved 8 July 2014.
  17. ^ "Trains, trams & buses".
  18. ^ "Tram to replace Bee Line bus service". ABC News. 7 September 2007.
  19. ^ https://superloopadl500.com.au/files/10119_superloop_adelaide_500_free_raa_shuttle_service.pdf?v=654 [bare URL PDF]
  20. ^ "Free and special services". Adelaide Metro. 17 May 2021. Retrieved 18 January 2022.
  21. ^ "Roam Zone". Adelaide Metro. 13 December 2011. Retrieved 8 July 2014.
  22. ^ "Adelaide Oval Footy Express". Adelaide Metro. Archived from the original on 25 March 2014. Retrieved 9 July 2014.
  23. ^ Kain, Peter. "AUSTRALIAN AND BRITISH EXPERIENCES WITH COMPETITIVE TENDERING IN RAIL OPERATIONS". Archived from the original on 2 December 2012. Retrieved 18 September 2012.
  24. ^ Transfield Services awarded $567 million Adelaide metropolitan bus contract Archived 27 April 2012 at the Wayback Machine, Friday, 29 April 2011, retrieved 2011-12-03.
  25. ^ Kelton, Sam (27 October 2011). "Minister admits there are still 'teething problems' with Adelaide's bus service". AdelaideNow. Retrieved 22 January 2012.
  26. ^ "Major issues with new Bus Operator Transfield". Sensational Adelaide Web Forum. October–December 2011. Retrieved 22 January 2012.[permanent dead link]
  27. ^ Kelton, Sam (6 October 2011). "Bus operator Transfield criticised for late and absent services". The Australian. Retrieved 22 January 2012.[permanent dead link]
  28. ^ a b Fox, Chloë (2 May 2012). "BUS CONTRACTORS PENALISED FOR PERFORMANCE" (PDF). Government of South Australia. Retrieved 13 June 2012.[permanent dead link]
  29. ^ Milnes, Michael (17 August 2012). "Buses on schedule just half of the time". Adelaide Now. Retrieved 23 August 2012.
  30. ^ Washington, David. "No more blood out of this stone". Flinders Indaily. Retrieved 4 October 2012.
  31. ^ a b Wallis, Ian; Bray, D; Webster, H (September 2009). "TO COMPETITIVELY TENDER OR TO NEGOTIATE - WEIGHING UP THE CHOICES IN A MATURE MARKET". 11th Conference on Competition and Ownership in Land Passenger Transport.
  32. ^ a b Washington, David. "Government bus strategy wrong: researcher". Retrieved 4 October 2012.

External links[edit]