Every SuperCoach knows that leadership occasionally requires being ruthless. There’s no room for plodders who are not performing on the field.
I don’t know if Premier Daniel Andrews plays SuperCoach, but he could certainly take a leaf out of the SuperCoach playbook when it comes to management of Victoria’s public transport network.
Let’s face it, the operators of Melbourne’s Train and Tram networks are not exactly Brownlow Medallists.
Since they were drafted in 2008, these two highly-paid overseas recruits have been missing performance targets and frustrating passengers right across the state.
Now, however, they’re contracts are up, and the State Government has a chance to rebuild the list.
The big question, however, is whether or not the Andrews Government has the courage to swing the axe on its underperforming Public Transport operators.
The word on the street is that transport bureaucrats have recommended keeping the status quo. That means we could be stuck with Metro Trains Melbourne and KDR (the operator of Yarra Trams) for another seven years.
It’s a multi-billion dollar decision that will have a significant effect on the lives of everyone who lives in Melbourne.
At present, the private operators take about $65 million a year out of the system in profits. This money goes back to overseas shareholders, when it could be used to upgrade infrastructure or provide additional services.
At the same time the service standards are getting worse and maintenance backlogs are getting longer.
So what are the State Government’s other options?
The first option is for the State Government to put the two franchises out for an open tender, as it did in 2008, when it decided against renewing the contracts of the previous private operators, Veolia and Transdev.
In essence, it could enter the draft and see what other talent is out there.
A bolder step would be to bring the contracts back into a more transparent public administration where corner cutting profiteering is forced to sit on the bench.
This would give the opportunity to set up Victoria’s own talent academy, build team capacity within the operation and increase our ability to draft local players.
There is an obvious precedent for making this decision – the re-nationalisation of V/Line in 2003.
Jeff Kennett privatised V/Line in 1999, handing the business over to UK-based company National Express. Three years later National Express walked away, and left RTBU members and the Bracks Government to clean up the mess.
While sense was seen on the regional network, the government cut its losses, and took back control of V/Line, the political will to take responsibility for the metropolitan Trains didn’t exist. No-one had the guts to drop the coach’s son.
Since then, V/Line has been put back on a sustainable footing by the State Government.
Of course, as footy fans know, it’s not just the players on the field that count: culture, facilities and tactics are crucial.
For the Public Transport network, it’s infrastructure, maintenance and timetabling.
Victoria’s Trains and Trams have to deal with an ever-increasing number of people living in the outer suburbs and commuting into the CBD.
It is dauntingly true that our century-old Rail infrastructure is creaking under the weight of this growth however these challenges shouldn’t be an excuse for the Government to walk away, or to hide behind the private operators.
In fact, these challenges are exactly why it is so important for the State Government to take full control.
The network needs to be brought under the management of an ambitious and determined government, with clear vision for the future of our State.
Renewing the franchise contracts with the current private Train and Tram operators would be throwing good money after bad.
That is the exact reason why the end of the existing franchise contracts is a golden opportunity for the State Government to take control of Melbourne’s public transport system, and to ensure that it operates for the benefit of Victorians.
There is only one thing that we all agree on – the current state of franchise contracts and asset maintenance standards sell Victorians short, and a secret negotiation won’t fix our transport woes.
SuperCoach Andrews, Victorian’s know the game so please, don’t let us down!
While members working for Metro & Yarra Trams have overwhelmingly called on the RTBU to run this campaign, the Union believes that it is the right campaign to run in the interest of not only RTBU members, but also the Victorian community. You know as well as I do that Victoria’s public transport system is being pushed to the limit and RTBU members are on the front line.
With a rapidly increasing population, pressures on our train and tram services will only get worse.
So you’d think the Victorian Government would be making sure every available cent in the public transport budget goes into more infrastructure and better services.
If you follow the money trail, you’ll see that the taxpayers and commuters of Victoria aren’t just paying for local public transport, they’re also paying to subsidise the public transport systems of other countries.
The current operators of the rail and tram franchises are Metro Trains Melbourne and Keolis-Downer Rail Victoria (Operating as Yarra Trams).
Metro Trains Melbourne is 60 per cent owned by Hong Kong-based MTR Corporation, and the remaining 40 per cent is shared equally by UGL Rail Services and John Holland.
In turn, MTR Corporation is 76 per cent owned by the Hong Kong Government.
Victorians have helped swell the coffers of MTR Corporation, with its subsidiary the Melbourne trains operation making a solid $223.8 million in net profit after tax since taking over the contract at the end of November 2009.
Metro Trains Melbourne hasn’t released its 2016 financial year figures yet, so you can probably add another $50-60 million in profits for 2015-2016 on top of that.
As for the tram operations, KDR Victoria is a joint venture between the French transport operator Keolis, and the Australian-based engineering firm Downer. Keolis is the senior partner in the joint venture, with a 51 per cent stake.
Keolis is a massive global business based in Paris, and it is 70 per cent owned by – you guessed it – the French Government, through the state-owned railways company French National Railways Corporation (SCNF).
The French Government has every reason to say merci beaucoup to Victorians for the money that we send back to Paris, via profits from the Yarra Trams Franchise.
The Yarra Trams contract has so far generated over $78 million in net profit after tax for its owners.
All up, the two operators have raked in over $10 billion in revenue, and $350 million in profits have been drained from the Victorian public transport system over seven years under the franchise agreements.
Which begs the question, why can’t our own government run public transport?
The answer is: of course it can. In fact, it already does.
V/Line is successfully run by a Victorian Government-owned corporation, so there is no reason why the metropolitan train and tram services can’t be run under the same model.
The argument that the private sector is always better at running public transport doesn’t stack up – the experience of commuters around the world, especially in Melbourne, shows otherwise.
And the argument for contracting out to the private sector becomes completely farcical when you follow the money trail and realise that the private companies are actually owned by other governments.
Can you imagine the Hong Kong Government paying the Victorian government to come in and take over the Hong Kong metro? No way! They wouldn’t be so stupid.
That’s why the Rail, Tram and Bus Union has launched the Public Transport, Public Hands campaign, and already over 4,000 people have signed our online petition.
The time has come for the Victorian Government to stand up and admit that the privatisation of public transport has been an expensive and embarrassing failure.
Everyone makes mistakes, but wise men and women own up to their mistakes and learn from them. Only true fools dig in and continue once the depth of their error becomes apparent.
With the contracts for the metropolitan train and tram franchises about to expire this year, the State Government appears to be digging in – negotiating behind closed doors to roll over the existing contracts.
But there is still time to change course.
Premier Daniel Andrews has an opportunity to show genuine leadership, to show the State Government has learned from the mistakes of the past, and to return Melbourne’s train and tram services to the people.
If you are yet to support the campaign please do so by visiting https://www.publictransportpublichands.com/ and signing the petition. If you would like to get more involved contact the office directly on 8630 9100.
Watch the video and sign the petition to help bring public transport back to public hands!
There has been a lot happening in relation to the upcoming decision of the State Government to either retain the services of Metro & Yarra Trams, open up a competitive tender process or bring public transport back into the hands of the public.
Our Rail & Tram networks were privatized almost 20 years ago under the then Premiere Jeff Kennett.
Enough is enough. The experiment has failed and consequently the RTBU is calling on this State Government to undo the wrong.
The Government has the opportunity to explore more cost effective options that would protect the public interest while providing a better system for Victoria. Public transport should be controlled by Victorians, not overseas private companies. We are running this campaign because it is not only important to RTBU members, but also to the community.
If you are yet to sign the petition please do so by visiting;
We’re calling a public meeting to set out the next steps. If you are booked off on Thursday please make every effort to attend this community meeting.
If we don’t speak now collectively we run the risk of the contract being rolled over for another 7 years, now is our opportunity.