NSW Transport Minister Andrew Constance says he sees a day in the future when the private sector will deliver public transport services instead of government.
Speaking about technological change to a business gathering, Mr Constance said the impact of automation on transport in the coming years would be huge and called on people to "embrace disruption".
"As a Liberal minister I'm not going to have to deal with the rail union any more because we're going to have driverless trains here," he told the Committee for Economic Development of Australia function.
"And guess what, that starts in 2019. And guess what, the union and Labor Party are opposed to metro because there are no more train drivers; no more union members."
Mr Constance, who has been pushing strongly for the use of technology in transport, is overseeing the construction of a $20 billion-plus metro line along which single-deck driverless trains will run every four minutes from Sydney's north-west, under Sydney Harbour to the CBD, and onto Bankstown in the west.
"I have a very clear view ... that, into the future, government will no longer be providing services when it comes to transport – there's no need," he said. "We know that the private sector can deliver transport very effectively."
He is also embroiled in an industrial battle with the Rail, Tram and Bus Union after he pushed ahead with plans to privatise scores of bus routes in Sydney's inner west.
Bus region six – covering suburbs from Kensington in the south-east to Strathfield and Olympic Park in the west – is one of four in NSW that has been run for years by the government-owned State Transit Authority, and whose drivers are heavily unionised.
Mr Constance said automation would require governments to put more effort into understanding the implications for workforces.
"Sydney is about to get its first driverless train within the next two months – that's going to affect the rail workers. The bus workforce is going to change dramatically in the next 15 years as we see fully automated buses on our roads," he said.
"We have to plan for the disruption in terms of the workforce. Whilst for some disruption is a challenge, we all need to embrace it."
The member for Bega in southern NSW said bus and train drivers would not be needed "into the future but we are going to need software developers and obviously people who know the ins and outs of the back end of delivering many of these systems".
This month the government began a two-year trial of autonomous vehicles, which involves operating a driverless shuttle bus at Olympic Park.
Sydney commuters will also get the chance to book shuttle buses from or near their homes to a local transport hub within the next few months as part of a trial of on-demand public transport.
Pricing for a standard trip will range from $2.60 to $5.60, and customers will be able to book online, by phone or via an app on their smart device.
Mr Constance said the on-demand shuttles were designed to complement existing bus services and he expected people to use them "given the experience we have seen in ride-sharing" such as Uber.
But the Rail, Tram and Bus Union described the trial as "pie in the sky" and said similar schemes in the US and Sweden had failed because of "dead running" where buses ran empty from one job to another.
The secretary of the union's bus division, Chris Preston, said Mr Constance could improve Sydney's bus services by cancelling his plans to privatise them because they had "no public support and will result in higher fares, fewer stops and closed routes".
The story 'We won't need train and bus drivers': Transport Minister's prediction first appeared on South Coast Register.