State’s public transport remains poorly co-ordinated: Auditor-General John Doyle

The Age: State’s public transport remains poorly co-ordinated: Auditor-General John Doyle. August 6, 2014. Clay Lucas, City Editor, The Age

Victorians pay almost $3 billion a year to private train, tram and bus operators, but despite this rely solely on the ‘‘goodwill’’ of the companies to improve co-ordination between public transport modes, Auditor-General John Doyle has found.

His report, released on Wednesday, marks the third time the Auditor-General has found little or no improvement in public transport co-ordination since the Coalition government came to power in 2010 promising to revolutionise train, tram and bus travel.

In 2010, the Coalition promised a new authority to ‘‘rescue the Victorian public transport network from its shambolic state after 11 years of Labor’’.

But in his Co-ordinating Public Transport report, Mr Doyle found services remained poorly co-ordinated, and that there had been little progress in fixing the problems of making trains, buses and trams work better together.

The report said the Auditor-General had produced four reports in the past five years, including one under the previous Labor administration, looking at the planning and co-ordination of public transport.

But despite a decade of promises, ‘‘long-standing deficiencies’’ remained.

Mr Doyle found the body the Coalition created, Public Transport Victoria, had begun to address the problems but must ‘‘do more to achieve adequate co-ordination’’.

Public Transport Victoria’s establishment and focus on improving services was a key development, the report found, and had improved ‘‘understanding of the challenges and actions needed to improve co-ordination’’.

But the authority needed to do better at finalising co-ordination, and better monitor whether services ran on time.

The Auditor-General found the various contracts for trains, trams and buses signed by the state cost Victorians $2.7 billion each year, but were not explicitly focused on achieving co-ordination between modes.

As a result, the government ‘‘largely relies on the goodwill of operators … to achieve co-ordination improvements’’, the report said.

The report found only 21 per cent of trains connected with a bus.

Melbourne University transport expert John Stone said it appeared there was no political will to genuinely improve public transport.

‘‘The only thing exciting the government is the East West Link, and that is sucking all the oxygen from the urgent reforms that the Auditor-General is recommending,’’ Dr Stone said.

‘‘This government owes its place in government to its promises to fix these things, and yet the Auditor-General is making the exact same criticisms of it that it did the previous government.”

Dr Stone said Public Transport Victoria was ‘‘moving in the right direction’’ by reorganising elements such as bus routes.

The authority, he said, ‘‘knows what it needs to do, it just doesn’t have the champion within government to brings its proposals into action’’.

Opposition transport spokeswoman Jill Hennessy said the government was ‘‘too focused on glossy brochures and television advertising’’ for transport to concentrate on better co-ordinating it.

Despite the report’s negative findings, Public Transport Minister Terry Mulder welcomed it, saying it was evidence ‘‘public transport in the state is heading in the right direction’’.

‘‘By honouring our election promise to set up Public Transport Victoria, we have engineered a proper integrated approach in the planning of new public transport services,’’ he said.

Public Transport Victoria chief executive Mark Wild said his agency was already tackling the co-ordination issues outlined in the report.

‘‘Since 2012 there have been a number of timetable updates, including the most recent in July 2014, where one in five bus routes received new timetables with services that co-ordinated better with other transport modes,’’ he said.

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