The State Government has announced a freeze on Melbourne’s public transport fares to deflect rising criticism over the latest spate of cancellations on Melbourne’s rail network.
Premier Steve Bracks this morning announced the decision by the State Government to freeze the price increases, which were due on March 4.
The freeze in public transport fares provides little comfort for rail passengers who have had to tolerate yet another round of unreliable services and cancellations. Connex has failed to deliver reliable and frequent rail services and it is imperative that the State Government resolves this ongoing situation.
Meanwhile, lobby group Public Transport Users Association (PTUA) has called for Connex’s contract not to be renewed after it expires next year.
The PTUA is proposing a model similar to that used within cities such as Zurich, and the Australian example of Perth, where there is an independent public transport authority that retains control over scheduling, maintenance and coordination. Private operators would be charged with the responsibility of operating their services on a fee-for-service basis with terms determined by the relevant transport authority.
PTUA president Daniel Bowen said Connex had been aware of brake problems on its Siemens trains for more than two years but still went ahead with plans to scrap its older Hitachi trains.
The current arrangements simply allow for buck-passing between the State Government and operators such as Connex, so that no one appears to take any real responsibility for the decaying state of Melbourne’s rail system. Rail passengers have been rightfully concerned about ongoing cancellations, despite claims by Connex that the indefinite withdrawal of services would improve reliability:
Mr Makin said passengers were most concerned about ongoing cancellations. “Connex claimed that by withdrawing 37 services it would provide certainty and yet passengers are now facing another spate of quite random cancellations.”
Melbourne’s rail passengers and public transport users need to show that they expect action and resolution to the ongoing reliability issues plaguing Connex. The State Government knew about the braking issues back in 2004 and yet failed to act responsibly at the time.
“We urge rail passengers to express their frustration to local politicians and to the transport minister. It’s quite clear that action is required.”
The State Government must take responsibility and start implementing a structure that will lead to higher accountability and a higher level of service for Melbourne’s public trnasport users.