Let’s move on real solutions, not just freebies

The government needs to scrap its re-privatisation of Melbourne trains and trams and get to work on real solutions to the transport crisis, the Public Transport Users Association said today.

“Today’s free travel is a gimmick obscuring the real issue,” said PTUA President Daniel Bowen. “It does no good when you’re about to collapse from heat exhaustion waiting for a train that doesn’t come to know that some people won’t have to buy tickets today. In fact it’s an insult for many long-suffering commuters who have weekly, monthly and yearly tickets – public transport’s most loyal customers.”

Mr Bowen said Public Transport Minister Lynne Kosky’s recent remarks about the cause of the problem gave away the government’s neglect and buck-passing. “Lynne Kosky talks about underinvestment in the network – which is true – but who caused this underinvestment? The same government that has been in power for nearly a decade but has done nothing to fix it. Problems have been passed back and forth between government and privatised operators, which seems to make everyone responsible but actually makes no-one responsible. This cosy arrangement got rid of the trains that were able to operate on the hottest days, and now they’ve been turned into cat food tins we’re stuck with the ones that break down.”

“What’s even more damning is that the government’s much-trumpeted transport plan does nothing for these problems – it throws all the money into white elephant projects which we don’t need. Ms Kosky still seems to think the solution is to write a blank cheque to the French companies that run our public transport and to the same bureaucracy that created the problem in the first place.”

The only solution, said Mr Bowen, is to have a public entity that takes charge of the system. “You have to have a bunch of competent people who aren’t afraid to say, the buck stops with us. We’re in charge. We make the timetables and we specify the rolling stock. And we know what it feels like to be a passenger because we use public transport ourselves.”

“Dozens of cities around the world have this kind of agency,” said Mr Bowen. “Perth has one; Brisbane’s getting one; most of Europe and Canada has had them for years. But we’re currently in a re- privatisation exercise that’s going to perpetuate world’s worst practice in transport management.”

“The government would really be responding to the current crisis if it said it was going to set aside the re-franchising and take a clue from other cities with systems that don’t fall apart,” Mr Bowen said. “But if the Minister can’t see any other way but to persist with business as usual, she needs to resign or be sacked in favour of someone who can.”