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The Forum > Article Comments > A tale of two different rail cities > Comments

A tale of two different rail cities : Comments

By Richard Allsop, published 17/9/2009

If Sydney's metro proceeds it will add to the money already wasted by the nationís worst public transport system.

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I was very interested to read what I expected would be a clearly articulated argument supporting your assertion that "a key reason for Melbourne's public transport renaissance...(is)...the Kennett Government's decision to privatise the operation of Melbourne's trains and trams". This assertion is central to your whole piece but you don't back it up. Could you expand please?
Posted by Claudiecat, Thursday, 17 September 2009 10:12:08 AM
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"A benchmarking study, undertaken last year, found that by retaining train guards and keeping staff at low patronage stations the NSW Government is paying $130 million more than it should to operate its metropolitan rail system," says Allsop. Evidently he gives no weight to safety or customer service.

Then he adds with approval: "By contrast, in the 1990s in Victoria, the Kennett Government removed train guards and tram conductors, reduced the number of station staff, and streamlined maintenance practices in a comprehensive reform agreement that the public transport unions ended up accepting without strike action. These gains were then entrenched by privatisation."

Of course, because privatization puts profit before safety and service. Private operators will keep reducing staff numbers as long as the wage savings outweigh the loss of patronage due to danger and inconvenience. The idea that danger and inconvenience are intrinsically unacceptable does not enter into their calculations.

And in the IPA's view, this is all good.
Posted by grputland, Thursday, 17 September 2009 12:17:45 PM
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LMAO This guy has no idea about railways. Certainly no idea about the farce that has been Melbourne's transport privitisation.

Heres a few examples.

<<The report concluded that the results, after almost seven years of franchising, were clear: ''The experiment failed spectacularly and unambiguously: subsidies have increased, services have not improved, inappropriate rolling stock has been purchased, accountability and transparency have disappeared, the regulator has been 'captured' by those he is supposed to be regulating, there is no real planning for the future.''Melbourne's franchise system is a failure, both financially and practically.

In short, the franchising system has cost taxpayers in excess of $2 billion in the past 10 years in today's dollars, compared with continued operation under the stodgy Public Transport Corporation. The system has become a rort. Turning over the franchises buys favour with the big end of town. Losing franchisees go home with their profits intact.

The cost to the taxpayer of processing the new franchises is estimated to be about $200 million, which represents income to lawyers, accountants, logo designers, etc.>>

<<The Public Transport Users Association ... found that train passenger trips have, since 1999, increased by a thumping 60 per cent. Meanwhile, the number of extra trains running has grown by just 11 per cent. Little wonder many regular train travellers complain of severe overcrowding during peak times and growing problems during mid-morning and mid-afternoon periods.

Bowen notes that most passengers have been subjected to a bewildering array of new logos and rebrandings, while services have become less reliable. ''Over the past decade, trains have run under the banners of The Met, Bayside and Hillside, M>Train, Connex, and now Metro,'' says Bowen. ''In the meantime, reliability has dropped and overcrowding has got worse.''>>

Privatisation of community assets is a fraud and a swindle. Look at who advocates such things and what they stand to gain before you trust them with your rail systems
Posted by mikk, Thursday, 17 September 2009 1:21:21 PM
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I have been following the discussion regarding railways in Australia. I'm from the United States and I've noticed some similarities in my concerns when using urban mass transit.

The northeast area of the US (I'm referring to New York and New Jersey, with an emphasis on New York City) has a highly developed system of trains and buses. People don't just use these transports because they're the only systems around. We rely on them to be operational, but more than anything else, to be SAFE.

I've worked in New York City late at night, then walked two blocks to a subway station, boarded a subway train and ended up at the Port Authority Bus Terminal, a huge transport facility for buses. I'll always be aware of my surroundings but I feel comfortable and safe. The stations may not have squadrons of police but there is a police presence and there are numerous cameras. The passengers on the subway and on the buses don't have the same fears as those who rode the same system years ago, when a corrupt clown of a mayor named David Dinkins nearly sunk the city.

The point I'd like to make is that passenger safety is paramount. If the Australian transit systems provide little or no police oversight, if the security monitoring facilities are sparse and if there is a minimal attempt to protect riders, then the mass transit systems will lose ridership. That results in lost revenue and a vicious cycle of fewer passengers and higher fares.

Friends of mine in Australia have described incredible situations where passengers on trains and buses have been harassed and victimized by thugs, thieves and aggressive panhandlers. When there is a vacuum of security then criminals will always find a way to fill the void.

Regarding the US national trains (Amtrak) I urge Australians to study our system in the hope that your railway managers do not repeat the mistakes of the US's railway system. In any case, I'd like to thank the Online Opinion Forum for the opportunity to express my opinions.
Posted by newsplan1, Thursday, 17 September 2009 5:48:40 PM
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This will come as an utter shock to you I know Richard, but patronage increased in Melbourne for reasons entirely unrelated to, and in fact in spite of, privatisation.
Try high interest rates, outrageous fuel prices & increasing population.
The system is grossly overloaded, under maintained, capital starved, atrociously managed, and exceptionally fragile.
In short, it borders on dysfunctional on its best day and on a bad one disintegrates into utter chaos without warning. (Think Oaks Day, summer heat wave, Siemens trains, Comeng air conditioners - and letís not forget tah dah - NATIONAL EXPRESS!)

Point and signal failures, brakes that donít work, radios that donít work, buckled rails, broken rails, air conditioners that donít work, short terminations, last minute transposals, blame shifting and yes, cancellations and endemic late running are all symptomatic of much larger (and dare I say it, unfixable) organisational and operational problems.

Furthermore, getting rid of the current operators will achieve nothing unless the underlying structural deficiencies, and the insidious, near incompetent and overwhelmingly negative influence of the DoT are addressed.

These problems are now so great as to be effectively insurmountable without the investment of huge amounts of public money which isnít there, and time which is in short supply when the long lead times for anything rail related are taken into account.

Privatisation of rail in Victoria, as elsewhere in Australia and overseas, has been an unmitigated disaster, and your attempt to put a positive spin on it and massage that evil history into some semblance or respectability is transparently false and deliberately misleading.

Itís no better than I would have expected, but ďÖyou canít fool all of the people all of the time.Ē (Abraham Lincoln said that!)

Fuel prices and Melbourneís population are creeping up, interest rates will inevitably rise, and the downward spiral will continue.

You are, of course, entirely free to continue deluding yourself, and attempting to delude others, but the reality will continue to declare itself, regardless of your wishful thinking.
Posted by fivefootthree, Friday, 18 September 2009 7:52:29 PM
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I live in Melbourne and the situation is exactly as FF3 described, overcrowded, under-resourced.


I don't think you are trying to subvert anything - what you describe in USA fits with my experience when I was there. However, it is different here, we used to have a comprehensive public transport system, with adequate staff to provide security. Since both privatisation and the population boom in the past 15 years, the system is now inadequate.

Public transport cannot be competitive and should have remained in the Government sector, however now it is sold and there are insufficient funds to buy it back - but what really grates is that the government still subsidises the private transport monopolies. We, the tax-payer lose both on service and our taxes are going directly into private O/S companies.

Not everything is better privatised.
Posted by Fractelle, Saturday, 19 September 2009 9:40:41 AM
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