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Media Release

26/07/2000

Commuters Angry Over Train Staff 'Scam'

Concerns That Promised Tram Conductors Will Suffer the Same Fate

The Public Transport Users Association today expressed dismay at the revelation that the $6 million of public money allocated for employment of more rail station staff has been siphoned off by the private rail companies to employ security guards and ticket inspectors instead. The Association has also expressed concern that a similar private deal with the tram companies, which will see the money allocated for conductors spent instead on inspectors, appears to be imminent.

Before the 1999 State election, the ALP's policy User-Friendly Transport promised:

Additional station staff
Through negotiation with private operators Labor will increase the number of staff at railway stations throughout the metropolitan network. Priority will be given to outer suburban locations to meet the safety needs of commuters who are arriving at stations later into the evening with up to 100 additional station staff throughout the metropolitan system, with the priority for after dark travel.

$12.4 million was allocated in this year's State budget to fund "the return of 100 conductors to Melbourne trams and an additional 100 staff at metropolitan railway stations" (Press release from Peter Batchelor, 2 May 2000). But yesterday it was revealed that the private rail companies had done a deal with the State government to spend the money instead on security guards.

PTUA President Paul Mees said:

"The PTUA strongly supported the then-Opposition over its promise to provide 100 additional station staff. We are dismayed to discover that the private operators have done a secret deal with the government to spend this money on security patrols and ticket inspection instead. These are important functions, but the operators should be paying for the tasks themselves. The public was promised an extra 100 station staff.

Dr. Mees added: "There are four specific reasons why we are concerned at this revelation:

"Firstly, the move is a clear breach of the promises made by the government when in opposition and reiterated as recently as May. We were promised 100 additional station staff, a promise which, if delivered, would have significantly improved the safety and convenience of rail travel.

"Secondly, the move amounts to cost shifting from the private operators to the community. Let's recall the history: a few weeks ago, Bayside Trains announced the employment of private security guards at the company's own expense. Now these are to be replaced by security staff and ticket inspectors paid for from the public purse. While such staff are necessary, the companies are obliged under their contracts to fund such staff themselves. Let's not forget that the private rail operators are receiving hundreds of millions of dollars annually in subsidies.

"Thirdly, the deal appears to have been done in secret between Transport Minister Peter Batchelor and the private operators. The PTUA has not been consulted, nor as far as we are aware have any other patrons of public transport. As far as we are concerned, the private operators have pulled a scam here, siphoning off money intended for station staff to fund their ordinary running expenses. The Bracks government should be standing up to the operators and protecting the public interest, not doing secret deals with them.

"Fourthly, we are now very concerned about the 100 publicly-funded tram conductors promised by the government. We have heard consistent reports that the government is on the verge of a deal with the private tram companies that will see the money spent on inspectors, rather than conductors." Dr. Mees said.

The PTUA has called on the State government to call off its deal with the private rail operators and consult with public transport users before it enters any further arrangements of this kind. "The public received clear promises on station staff and tram conductors before the election. These promises were made for the benefit of the public, not of private rail and tram companies. Public money has been allocated to fulfil these promises. The public has a right to demand that the government implement its promises." Dr. Mees said.

Contacts:
PTUA Office 9650 7898

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Last Modified: 5 August 2000