THE South Australian state government and Keolis Downer have signed an agreement outlining the process for transferring the management of the 130km Adelaide Metro commuter network to public ownership in January 2025.

The agreement includes the following stipulations:

  • Keolis Downer Adelaide (KDA) to return operational functions for drivers, operations control, network and timetable planning to government by January 31 2025
  • the delivery of customer service and security management functions to remain with KDA, returning to government control in June 2027.
  • maintenance of fleet and infrastructure to continue to be managed by KDA until 2035, and
  • KDA to continue to provide expertise to government on future innovation opportunities for customer service and the broader rail network.

The government says the agreement is not a reflection of the performance of KDA, which is said to be performing well since taking over the network under a $A 2.1bn ($US 1.41bn) contract on January 31 2021.

Nevertheless, South Australia’s Labor premier, Mr Peter Malinauskas, promised during the election campaign to end the private operating contract, with the government confirming its intention to honour this pledge in June 2022.

The government claims that the economics of the original contract, which was signed in 2020 by the previous Liberal government, do not stack up. Transport minister, Mr Tom Koutsantonis, says that instead of delivering $A 118m in savings, the deal would have instead cost taxpayers up to $A 120m over the contract's potential 12-year life.

The extra cost was largely because 134 staff who did not transfer to the private sector when the contract was agreed currently remain “unassigned” but on the public payroll, Koutsantonis says.

“As a public transport operator, our objective will always be to partner with governments to provide services that are safe, performing and deliver a positive passenger experience,” says Mr Julien Dehornoy, CEO of Keolis Downer. “Our people are at the heart of the successful delivery of transport services, and we will ensure they are supported as we enter this new partnership.”