November 13th 2008
New owners for Island Bus Service
On November 28 the Magnetic Island Bus Service, operated for 30 years by Thea Eastwood out of her office on the corner of Mandalay Ave and Barton Street in Nelly Bay, will have new owners. They are Goldcoast-based Transit Australia, a company with 1200 staff, 800 buses state-wide who also operate Sunbus in Townsville, Cairns, Rockhampton, Sunshine Coast, Toowoomba as well as bus services in northern NSW.
Thea Eastwood, under whose leadership, the company gained a wall full of awards and was inducted into Townsville Enterprises' Tourism Hall of Fame in 2005, is clearly happy to savour her retirement from the bus business, having had it on the market for several years. She told Magnetic Times, "I'm sorry not to be serving our local public any longer but I'm very happy that we are out. It's time to smell the roses."
Transit Australia's Managing Director for Strategic Planning & Development, Megan Harkin, says the attraction to Magnetic Island was due to Townsville's strong tourist market.
"One of the benefits (of Transit owning MI Bus Service) is that we have a very good resource base including our board of directors, fleet managers, a service Implimentation Manager in Townsville, marketing teams, route planning and other resources from which a small network can only benefit."
Importantly for Magnetic Island employment Ms Harkin stressed that there was no intention to cut staff numbers and in the meantime it was "business as usual".
"It's a very efficient operation but eventually, down the track, our team will look at the service - at all aspects. What we do then is identify how it measures against our best practice then develop our plan." she said adding, "But we wouldn't make changes without community consultation."
Transit Australia are the biggest bus company in Queensland next to Brisbane Transport and incorporates Surfside Buslines and Bustech a company which build buses from a factory in Reedy Creek. Transit Australia are a private company owned by brothers Joe and Tony Calabro who built their family bus business over several generations.
Thea Eastwood told Magnetic Times, that although she had sold the land as well as the Bus Service business, she and her partner George still had a strong interest in the Island and, although based in Townsville would, when on Magnetic, be staying in their Island residence in Barton Street.
It is clearly too early to know just what impacts this major business change will have for Magnetic Islanders but, one might hope, with the new owners at both ends of the ferry route, a better co-ordination between Townsville's Sunbus and the Breakwater terminal for connecting ferry arrivals and departures - as occurred with the, now defunct, City Loop service - might be resolved.
Story & photo: George Hirst
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