Kick out Connex!

Public transport in public hands

With over 1000 train services in Melbourne cancelled in January alone, there has not been a single working day this year that has been free of train cancellations. Yet at the same time private operator continues Connex to receive $345 million per year in State Government funding! If the situation wasn’t so serious it would be a joke.

The crisis in Victoria’s public transport system can be traced back to the 1990s when it was privatised by the Kennet Liberal Government. Privatisation has already cost taxpayers $1.2 billion more than under a public system. It will be well over $2.1 billion by 2010.

The Brumby Government has recently admitted that it is “no cheaper” having a private operator like Connex run the system, but they say they want the international “innovation and efficiency” of a privatised network.

Suggesting that the privatised system is innovative and efficient is a slap in the face to the thousands of people who have been left stranded by train cancellations. In recent years we have seen the exact opposite of innovation and efficiency. Fares have skyrocketed and services have dwindled. Important aspects of the system that we used to enjoy have been abolished under privatisation.

Thousands of jobs have been lost as frontline staff like tram conductors and station staff have been sacked and replaced with thuggish ticket inspectors. Cuts have also been made behind the scenes with many of the maintenance workshops closed down. This has undoubtedly led to increased cancellations.

The State Government has extended the contracts to private operators Connex and Yarra Trams until November 2009. At the moment Connex is bidding against two other companies for the 15-year contract to run the city’s trains. The fight to stop the on going privatisation of our public transport needs to start now!

Privately owned public transport is a proven failure. The system needs to be brought back into public hands as a first step to fixing the current crisis. It will not, however, be enough to allow it to be run by the incompetent Transport Minister, Lyn Kosky or any other government bureaucrats.

Public transport should be under the democratic control of elected bodies which include public transport users and workers. With renewed organisation and investment we could easily improve train maintenance, restaff train stations, bring back tram conductors and introduce more frequent services.

A public owned and democratically run plan for the public transport system would put people’s needs and interests before profit.

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