Passengers welcome Parliamentary Rail Inquiry

The Public Transport Users Association has thrown its weight behind the announcement by the Greens MP, Greg Barber, that he will seek a parliamentary inquiry to investigate failures on Victoria’s rail system.

PTUA President Daniel Bowen said the extraordinary number of train cancellations over January – well over a thousand – were “simply unacceptable” for a system that should provide an alternative to car travel.

He said the public deserved answers to the question of why the system had failed to cope with the heat on days with temperatures in the mid 30s and above. “This has huge economic consequences for the state of Victoria,” Mr Bowen said. “A reliable public transport system is essential to the viability of a city the size of Melbourne, and we can’t afford having it go into meltdown whenever the weather gets a bit hot.

“Train users have had enough of the buck passing between the operator, unions, the Minister and her department. If this really was an air conditioning problem, why wasn’t it fixed? People want answers, and if the system has any accountability they are entitled to get them.”

Mr Bowen said any inquiry should investigate the allocation of responsibilities under the private franchising system, and whether the government had been able to effectively oversee the operators and make adequate plans for the network’s future.

“The answer to both those questions seems to be ‘no’; and they are crucial given that the Brumby government looks set to lock Victorians into another 15 years of these franchises.”

The franchise is the agreement under which the private operators (currently Connex and Yarra Trams) are given the right to manage and run the metropolitan rail and tram systems by the Department of Transport.