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Media Release

27/08/2003

Train staff would not be expensive, say users

A study has shown that re-staffing the public transport system would not be expensive, and would bring major benefits to passengers.

The study by the Public Transport Users Association showed that putting staff back onto stations and trams would be close to revenue- neutral, because of reduced costs from fare evasion and vandalism, and the increased patronage from a safer, more user-friendly system.

The PTUA's figures estimate that hiring 1000 conductors and 420 station staff, enough to fully staff all railway stations and most trams, would cost around $75 million per year. But in doing so the current estimated $50 million per year in fare evasion would be slashed to a fraction of the current level. Costs would also be saved by needing less roving ticket inspectors than at present, reduced vandalism on trams and stations, and by scrapping the proposed multi- million dollar Smartcard system.

"SmartCards won't stop fare evasion," said PTUA spokesman Daniel Bowen. "They can't tell you which stop you should get off at, can't give you change for the ticket machine, and they can't stop vandals spray-painting station waiting rooms. Only staff can do all that."

"The result would be a safer, more user-friendly system, which is just what we need if the government's aim of doubling public transport patronage by 2020 is going to be met."

Mr Bowen said that since the removal of most staff from the system, there was an expectation from many travellers that they would not encounter any staff on their trip. "This leaves some travellers feeling uneasy. Others take the chance to fare evade. We say there should be an expectation of meeting staff every time you travel. You should expect to get your ticket checked on every trip."

"Getting staff out onto the system to interact with passengers is the only way to cut crime, cut fare evasion and make the system easier to use", concluded Mr Bowen.

Contacts:
PTUA Office 9650 7898


Study on staffing costs (From PTUA News, April 2002)

Are conductors affordable?

Conductors and Station Staff - Would they bleed the system dry or are they worth their weight in gold?

In response to recent calls by the PTUA for the return of conductors and station staff to Melbourne, Transport Minister Peter Batchelor made the extraordinary claim that this would force ticket prices up by between 25 and 40 percent.

Applying some basic mathematics to this claim reveals that the Minister's claims are nonsense. Perhaps members can tell us if we have missed something here.

To work out the cost of returning staff to the system, we must inflict some figures and so the readers indulgence is requested. All figures are approximate.

First, we need to work out how many staff are needed. There are currently between 400 and 500 trams in service including the 43 revenue W-class currently out of service for modifications. For the purposes of this calculation we could assume all 500 are in service 20 hours a day, 7 days a week, but we know this isn't true.

Once we take account of the fact that some quiet routes wouldn't need conductors on weekends and that fewer trams run outside peak hour, 2 shifts per tram or 1000 conductors should be more than enough. For trains, there are 140 non- premium stations in metropolitan Melbourne. At three shifts per station, this requires 420 station staff. Less the 200 staff already budgeted for and not being used for their intended purpose, this means 1220 additional staff are required.

We will assume these staff are fairly well paid and allow $60k per employee (salary, overtime, super, payroll tax, and perhaps a small margin for administrative costs). This gives a total cost of $73.2m ($75m in round figures) to fully staff the system in accordance with PTUA policy. We can then factor in some tangible offsets:

- The operators claim to be losing $50m a year from fare evasion, and the PTUA believes this figure is probably accurate. A full re- staffing of the system could conservatively be expected to cut fare evasion by 80%, saving $40m.

- With conductors on trams and staff at stations, the roving ticket inspectors would become redundant. This would conservatively save $5m a year even if a few are retained for special events.

There are also several intangible benefits:

- Increased patronage through improvements in actual and perceived safety, cleanliness, slightly faster trams, fewer unpleasant incidents, and general commercial goodwill

- Reduced vandalism

- Scrapping ticket machines on trams (saved maintenance/ servicing cost, and room for a couple of extra seats)

Based on this back-of-the-envelope calculation the total net cost of a complete re-staffing of the system may be $30m p.a, but this figure is probably too high given increased patronage has not been considered and the figures used are conservative.

Given that total fare revenue is in excess of $300m p.a, if this initiative were funded entirely through a fare increase, the increase would be less than 10%. Of course, the initiative shouldn't be funded by a fare increase. The Medicare levy isn't increased every time a new public health initiative is announced, nor are petrol taxes increased every time a new road project is funded.

The net cost is minimal and well within the state's capability, and the Minister's talk of 40% fare increases is nonsense.

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Last Modified: 03 September 2003