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Media Release


Private Train, Tram Operators’ Financial Problems ‘A Unique Opportunity’ - PTUA

The Public Transport Users Association claims that today’s revelation of the financial difficulties being experienced by private train and tram operators offers the Bracks government a never-to-be-repeated opportunity to undo the damage created by the Kennett government’s privatisation of the public transport system.

PTUA President Dr Paul Mees said: “When in opposition, Labor condemned the Kennett privatisation of public transport, because it balkanised the system into unco-ordinated fiefdoms, and because it confined government oversight to passive regulation, rather than active planning for the public interest. Labor promised that, while it could not undo the actual privatisation, it would intervene to ensure co-ordination and higher standards of service.”

“But once Mr Batchelor became Transport Minister, he reneged on his pre-election commitments. Ever since, he has claimed that his hands are tied by the Kennett contracts. But now we know that the private operators want the contractual arrangements changed, or else they will go broke. So Mr Batchelor needs to take the initiative, otherwise the public will be entitled to assume that he is using the Kennett contracts as an excuse for doing nothing.”

Dr Mees also sounded a warning that the private operators, realising their financial predicament, are in the process of lobbying Mr Batchelor for private deals to increase public subsidies and shift costs to the public sector.

He said: “The private operators have already obtained subsidy increases worth tens of millions of dollars in behind-closed-doors deals with Mr Batchelor. These include:

  • Yarra Trams has received public funding for the extension from Mont Albert to Box Hill, which their contract with the Kennett government required them to self-fund
  • M-Train have received public funding for the Sydenham rail extension, which they were also supposed to pay for themselves
  • Mr Batchelor has agreed to pay Yarra Trams an as-yet-undisclosed sum to cover the costs of the Route 109 project
  • The two rail companies have taken public money which Mr Batchelor promised (before the 1999 election) was to be for staffing unmanned stations and instead spent it on train security patrols which, under their contract with Kennett, they were obliged to pay for themselves
  • The two tram companies have taken the funding that was to be for tram conductors and used it to employ tram attendants, who travel in groups and check tickets but do not sell any real range of tickets, and are therefore de facto ticket inspectors. Again, the companies are supposed to self-fund ticket inspectors.”

“Mr Batchelor has to stop doing cosy deals with the private operators and start acting in the public interest. The current financial problems of the operators provide a never-to-be-repeated opportunity to do this.” Dr Mees concluded.

PTUA Office 9650 7898

  • Extract from 1999 ALP policy User-friendly Transport: Labor’s Plan

“Labor will demand that private operators implement measures and commit resources to ensure that Labor’s stricter and higher standards are complied with in relation to service reliability, fare structures, health and safety, timetabling and service frequency... Labor will establish partnerships between the public and private sector to ensure ongoing investment in transport infrastructure... Labor will not walk away from its responsibility to play an active role in planning, monitoring and regulating all public transport services including timetabling and fares... Labor will implement measures to ensure that the public transport system continues to operate as an integrated whole.” (pp. 4-5) Page not found | Public Transport Users Association (Victoria, Australia)

Last Modified: 04 December 2001