Ringwood Bowls Club – On the Green Corporate Challenge

The Ringwood Bowls Club, established in 1929, has over 300 members that enjoy the club’s bowling facilities located at 2-12 Loughnan Road in Ringwood.

Tonight, along with the State Member for Warrandyte, Ryan Smith, and the Federal Member for Deakin, Phil Barresi, I was invited to the launch of the Ringwood Bowls’ Club Get on the Green Corporate Pairs Challenge. The event, to be held over a series of eight weeks, is designed to widen the appeal of bowls for business owners and employees and encourage ongoing participation in the sport.

The Ringwood Bowls Club received a strong response from the Ringwood and Maroondah business community and it appears that the event will become an outstanding success for the club as it approaches its 80th year of operation.

The Ringwood Bowls Club is open to people of all ages. For further information please visit www.ringwoodbowls.asn.au.

The Age: Schools add to rail squeeze

The Age has reported on the worsening rail crisis as passengers are stuck in severely overcrowded trains or left behind on rail platforms.

PTUA vice-president, Alex Makin, said peak-hour train passengers had been treated like cattle since Connex sidelined 31 of its 72 Siemens trains because of safety concerns following revelations of brake problems.

While students have returned to school added to the number of rail passengers, Connex has officially withdrawn a total of 37 peak-hour services, on top of other ongoing cancellations and delays.

Mr Makin said crowding was so bad that many passengers were simply being left behind on platforms.

“Drivers (are) telling people to cram in as much as possible,” Mr Makin said. “It’s like we’re being treated as cattle rather than simply having a reliable, frequent train service.”

With no end in sight to the current braking issues, the Public Transport Users Association (PTUA) has called on Connex to take steps to improve the efficiency of its current fleet and hence allow the rail operator to provide faster journey times and maximise its fleet utilisation:

The PTUA’s Mr Makin said Melbourne trains ran approximately 25 per cent slower than Perth trains and called upon Connex to immediately increase the service frequency of the 75 per cent of trains still running.

Improving Melbourne’s rail speeds to a standard comparable to Perth would allow Connex to provide a higher standard of service amid a time of worsening rail problems.

“It’s about getting the maximum utilisation possible out of the existing trains on the system,” he said.

He claimed the journey time from Dandenong to the city could be 10 minutes faster, allowing more services to be scheduled.

“That’s a proposal that could be implemented in the short term to take advantage of the modern fleet (of trains),” he said.

Unfortunately Connex has shown its contempt for Melbourne’s rail passengers by refusing to undertake any suggestions that would help improve effiency and provide a better service:

Connex’s Ms De Clercq called Mr Makin’s claims “ludicrous”, and said increasing train services would require a complete revamp of the Connex timetable.

“That would be a massive job.” Ms De Clercq said.

Unfortunately the task of attempting to mitigate the ongoing rail debacle seems to be beyond the capabilities of Connex. The only ludicrous notion is Connex’s rejection of best practice examples, such as Perth, which achieve a much higher utilisation of rollingstock due to faster journey times.

Likewise it would be ludicrous for the State Government to renew Connex’s contract given the contempt and incompetence it has shown Melbourne’s public transport users.

The Age video news bulletin: Ride trains at your own risk

Melbourne’s rail network is in disarray amid the removal of 31 Siemens trains from service due to ongoing braking issues. Furthermore a senior transport official has told The Age that all of the 72 Siemens trains should be removed from service due to safety reasons.

As Melbourne’s rail passengers face worsening cancellations due to a shortage of rollingstock, The Age interviewed me as part of their video broadcast which explored how the latest debacle is affecting public transport users. These braking issues were first identified in 2004 and yet both the State Government and Connex failed to rectify these issues or to ensure that an adequate number of surplus trains were available.

Maroondah Leader: Wheels were in motion with plenty of tricks

To ensure safe skating, Maroondah City Council has organised two free skate clinics for users of Ringwood’s Skate Park. The Maroondah Leader reported on the success of these clinics and the continued interest in the Ringwodo Sakte Park.

Cr Alex Makin said participants left the clinics with basic skills like standing and balancing on the board, pushing along, doing kick turns and going down a ramp.

Staley’s (the Ringwood Skate Park) has received a tremendous response from Maroondah’s youth and it is encouraging to see such interest in Maroondah’s skating clinics.

Maroondah Forum for People with Disabilities and Carers – First meeting for 2007

Today marked the return of Maroondah’s quarterly Forums for People with Disabilities and Carers. These forums provide the opportunity for people with disabilities, as well as carers and vendors, to exchange information and raise any issues that affect accessibility within Maroondah.

Today’s meeting included a guest speaker from State Trustees who spoke about the various legal protections and guardianships that are available for people in need. Maroondah City Council’s Engineering services department also provided an update on the various capital works projects that are being completing to improve accessibility throughout the municipality.

Attending these forums allows me to serve as a direct conduit between forum participants and the elected councillors. An an example, a number of items were raised which will require discussion within council:

  • Ensuring community engagement for the future Maroondah pedestrian and footpath strategy. This strategy is currently being developed and will help Maroondah City Council address shortcomings within the footpath network.
  • Seeking agreement to increase the amount of capital expenditure allocated to retrofitting infrastructure for disability compliance. Maroondah City Council currently spends $20,000 per annum on these projects and while the council has made good progress in enhancing accessibility, additional funding would help expedite a number of projects.
  • Investigate methods that would help increase the rate of community participation for people with disabilities. This could include the creation of other forums or committees to complement the Maroondah Disability Forums.

I will discuss each of these items within Maroondah City Council and report on progress at the next Maroondah Disability Forum, which is currently scheduled for Monday the 30th of April.

MX: Off Track – Bus mix-up leaves commuters in cold

The MX has reported on the latest public transport bungles with passengers stranded for up to two hours between Coburg and Upfield Stations because Connex failed to ensure that replacement services were available to handle a signalling fault that interrupted rail services.

Connex spokesman Andrew Cassidy said passengers could have taken other bus services, organised something else or “unfortunately had to hang on”.

Connex has once again demonstrated its contempt for Melbourne’s travelling public with public transport users being confronted with continued poor service. Connex has a responsibility to operate Melbourne’s public transport system in an efficient and reliable manner to tell people to simply ‘hang out’ displays pure contempt for the trasnport needs of Melbourne.

The Public Transport Users Association’s Alex Makin said the incident demonstrated Connex was losing its grip. That the incident happened at a lower-profile station was no excuse to neglect passengers and tell them to find their own way, he added. “It is nothing but an unreliable, shambolic system,” he said.

2007 Australia Day Awards and Citizenship Ceremony

As part of the Australia Day celebrations, Maroondah City Council held its Citizenship Ceremony and Australia Day Awards at the Karralyka Centre. Under existing legislation, local councils are responsible for conducting citizenship ceremonies, providing new Australian citizens with often their first formal contact with local government.

In addition to welcoming new citizens, Maroondah provides Australia Day Awards to acknowledge the dedication of volunteers under the categories of Citizen of the Year, Young Citizen of the Year and Community Event of the Year. The high calibre of the nominations demonstrates the strong sense of community that exists within Maroondah.

Congratulations to Maroondah’s new residents and the volunteers who nominated for the Australia Day Awards.

Media Release: Successful project a hopeful sign of things to come

While the Middleborough Road grade separation has definitely had its share of teething problems, the fact that the project will be completed two weeks early, marking what will hopefully be an end to era of projects being delivered over time and over budget.

While the early completion of the project is a positive outcome, the State Government must learn a number of lessons from this project, including the need to ensure positive and timely community engagement and to ensure that effected residents (such as Laburnum residents in this case) are provided with a higher level of care and replacement services.

On the whole, the early completion of the project is a positive and the replacement bus services between Blackburn and Box Hill, which ensured relatively seamless integration with rail services must serve as a role model for any future rail interruptions.

In recognition of the early completion date the Public Transport Users Association (PTUA) has issued the following media release:

Continue reading “Media Release: Successful project a hopeful sign of things to come”

Maroondah Leader: Holiday schedule causes delays

The ad hoc implementation of summer timetables demonstrates that the extent of the poor integration faced with Melbourne’s public transport. With buses, trams and trains all having differing summer timetable dates overall coordination and ease of use is restricted during the ‘summer timetable period’.

The Maroondah Leader has reported on the effects that summer timetables have for Maroondah residents who are largely served by National bus services.

PUBLIC transport users say Maroondah commuters face long waiting times over summer because train, tram and bus schedules are out of sync.

Of particular concern is the fact that bus routes formerly operated by National Bus Company (and now operated by Ventura) have punitive off-peak service cutbacks meaning that passengers that want to use public transport for recreational trips (such as students) are faced with a mere hourly service.

Alex Makin, a Maroondah councillor and vice-president of the Public Transport Users Association, has called for an end to summer timetables and service cutbacks.

“The Ventura-owned National Bus Company, the main operator in Maroondah, is on a summer timetable for most of January,” Cr Makin said. “This means bus services are out of step with train arrivals and departures.

“An already poor service is, in effect, unusable.”

Melbourne’s metropolitan bus contracts are to be renewed this year, meaning the State Government is a unique and rare opportunity to end the haphazard and detrimental impact of off-peak service cuts on Melbourne’s bus routes.

“The problem is that reductions to train and tram services usually only affect peak hour runs, whereas bus operators cut their services by about 50 per cent across the board.”

While there may be a slight reduction in peak-hour travel, there is huge potential ensure that public transport is able to cater to the increased demand of recreational travel, particularly for students who are often managing a part time job and socialising.

Mr Makin said public transport operators should be aware that cutbacks created social isolation and made it difficult for secondary and tertiary students to work part-time or enjoy their holidays.

These off-peak service cuts could be a thing of the past, if the Public Transport Minister Lynne Kosky, takes the initiative to remove such oddities from our public transport contracts.

Maroondah Citizens Advice Bureau – first meeting for 2007

I have been a committee member of Maroondah’s Citizens Advice Bureau for approximately six months and today marked the beginning of the 2007 meeting cycle.

The Maroondah Citizens Advice Bureau, with offices located in Ringwood and Croydon, provides referral services and support for some of Maroondah’s most vulnerable residents and 2007 will present a number of challenges as the Citizens Advice Bureau continues its service to the community.