A study into the world’s biggest cities has found that all but a few have high quality train systems – Melbourne and Sydney are two of the six that don’t!
A quality train system is one that has high frequency, high capacity and isn’t inhibited by traffic or pedestrians. This means trains servicing stations at least every 10 minutes all day. Trains every 10 minutes reduces both waiting times and overcrowding, allowing people to travel quickly, comfortably and efficiently.
In Melbourne, fewer trains are running in peak hour today than in the 1980s. Outside of rush-hour, most lines have trains arriving only every 20 minutes. From Monday to Saturday in the evening, almost all lines run just one service every 30 minutes. On Sunday mornings and evenings, all lines run one service every 30 to 40 minutes. A 2009 study showed only 10-15% ofMelbourneresidents are serviced by ‘appropriate and timely’ public transport.
The crisis inVictoria’s public transport system can be traced back to the 1990s when it was privatised by the Kennett Liberal Government. Privatisation has already cost taxpayers $2 billion more than under a public system.
Since then, fares have skyrocketed and services have dwindled.Melbourne’s trams, trains and buses have become synonymous with lengthy delays, poor service, and serious safety concerns. Thousands of jobs have been lost as frontline staff like tram conductors and station staff have been sacked and replaced with thuggish ticket inspectors. The disastrous Myki ticketing system has cost tax payers $1.3 billion and still doesn’t work properly!
Privately owned public transport is a proven failure. Instead of subsidising private companies we could use the money to both expand the system and make it free by bringing it back into public hands. It will not, however, be enough to allow it to be run by the incompetent Transport Minister or other government bureaucrats.
Public transport should be under the democratic control of elected bodies which include public transport users and workers. It needs also to be made accountable and responsible to the public by having open and participatory decision making processes. With renewed organisation and investment we could easily increase services, improve maintenance, and restaff stations.
An expansion of the system would not only create thousands of jobs but be good for the environment. At the moment motor vehicles produce 81% of greenhouse gases attributable to transport, while public transport only produces 3%. In order to avoid catastrophic climate change we need to get people out of cars and into reliable public transport.
A public owned and democratically run plan for the public transport system would put people’s needs before profit interests.