Privatisation to blame for compensation bungle

Government bears ultimate responsibility, says user group

The Bracks Government should take responsibility for the Connex / Eastlink compensation debacle, the Public Transport Users Association said today.

Due to late completion of work on the Eastlink tollway on Monday morning, thousands of peak-hour commuters on five suburban train lines were stranded, or forced onto severely overcrowded services due to knock-on effects.

The Eastlink contractor involved will compensate Connex for the bungle. However, under the contract between Connex and the State Government, Connex is not obliged to pass any compensation money through to passengers.

“This shambles proves once again that Victoria is being run for the benefit of a few lucky private companies, while the people of Victoria have to put up with their failures,” said PTUA Secretary Tony Morton.

“This is all part of the same pattern. Whether it’s the increased subsidies the governement pays out in return for mediocre service, or the money that changes hands when there’s a cock-up like this, the result is always to enrich the private operator at the expense of the travelling public,” Dr Morton said.

Dr Morton said the government and not Connex bore responsibility for the failure to compensate passengers. “Connex is just a private entity that’s entered into commercial arrangements that happen to be very favourable,” he said. “It’s nice work if you can get it. The Minister meanwhile is laying low and hoping to escape responsibility – yet it’s his contracts that mean passengers won’t be compensated, the same contracts the government was trumpeting three years ago when Batchelor re-privatised the system.”

Public transport required two urgent reforms, said Dr Morton: a new Minister and the resumption of full public control.

“With a publicly run system of the sort most cities have, that compensation money would have gone straight to a public authority,” Dr Morton said. “Not only that: they would have a mandate to use the money in the public interest, either by funding new services or by returning it to passengers.”

Contacts: PTUA Office (03) 9650 7898 / media at ptua.org.au

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