Call for Metro, Yarra Trams to be stripped of contracts

 
Topic moved from News by bevans on 12 Dec 2016 16:31
  bevans Site Admin

Location: Melbourne, Australia
Surely this does not come as a surprise to anyone.  There have been many discussions on RP regarding the mess which is Metro Trains and maintenance.

Recalling we have the "cartel" of maintenance companies, we have poor maintenance practices and over $1b per annum in maintenance being paid.  The amount of subsidy is now substantial and therefore demands more transparency which the auditor general agrees does not exist.

Andrews needs to act quickly to restore confidence but I am sure he is not going to.

Call for Metro, Yarra Trams to be stripped of contracts

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  railblogger Chief Commissioner

Location: At the back of the train, quitely doing exactly what you'd expect.
Surely this does not come as a surprise to anyone.  There have been many discussions on RP regarding the mess which is Metro Trains and maintenance.

Recalling we have the "cartel" of maintenance companies, we have poor maintenance practices and over $1b per annum in maintenance being paid.  The amount of subsidy is now substantial and therefore demands more transparency which the auditor general agrees does not exist.

Andrews needs to act quickly to restore confidence but I am sure he is not going to.

Call for Metro, Yarra Trams to be stripped of contracts
bevans
If people protest them maybe he will for fear of losing the election.
  TOQ-1 Deputy Commissioner

Location: Power Trainger
I thought the general consensus was that Yarra Trams were doing a pretty good job of everything? Of course, when the only comparable thing is Metro, you're bound to come out on top.

If Metro keeps the contract, I hope the conditions and targets are more transparent and achievable, as well as somehow requiring more (thorough and correct) maintenance. I think maintenance of the network is really the major failing over the past two or three decades, and even more so more recently.
  bevans Site Admin

Location: Melbourne, Australia
I thought the general consensus was that Yarra Trams were doing a pretty good job of everything? Of course, when the only comparable thing is Metro, you're bound to come out on top.
TOQ-1

Save for the overcrowding on the city trams I thought the service is quite good.

Metro Trains not so however the issue is more about where the money is going and how the Government does not know how they are performing.  Not a good look for the minister.
  Valvegear Dr Beeching

Location: Norda Fittazroy
Metro definitely needs the Big A;  Yarra Trams is doing quite OK as far as I'm aware.
  bevans Site Admin

Location: Melbourne, Australia
Metro definitely needs the Big A;  Yarra Trams is doing quite OK as far as I'm aware.
Valvegear

Completely agree.  Metro needs to go.  It is a cultural issue.
  Iain Chief Commissioner

Location: Concord, NSW
Surely this is a predictable call from a vested interest that has continually opposed privatization. I too thought that Yarra trams was doing ok and on the occasions I have had to use them provided a good service.
  Lad_Porter Chief Commissioner

Location: Yarra Glen
The privatizations of the Kennett era, although considered (by some) as necessary at the time, are coming back to bite us. A "private" company is primarily interested in making a profit;  if you can do that without spending too much on service or maintenance, go for it.
  Bogong Chief Commissioner

Location: Essendon Aerodrome circa 1980
Lad Porter, the alternative to a private company is a bureaucracy.

I spent seven loooooong years as a bureaucrat and unlike private companies where the emphasis tends towards providing better outcomes for lower prices, the emphasis for bureaucracies is following "established procedure", or doing things in ponderously slow and inefficient ways because "that is the way things are done".

A good company can look at a bureaucracy and work out ways of doing things far more efficiently (without cutting corners in relation to things like safety). The resulting improved efficiency saves lots of money and those savings can be split between lowering prices and providing a profit for the company.

Governments (of both flavours) understand that private contractors or companies will almost always deliver a better product for a lower price than bureaucrats, that's why governments tender out everything from building houses to IT services. As flawed as Metro is, I doubt many people would expect a government run suburban train company to provide a better service for a smaller subsidy than Metro gets.
  PE2010 Station Master

Location: Newcastle
I think no wonder who runs the train the service and the breakdowns will remain as is unless substantial investment comes from State government into upgrading and maintaining an ancient network. I don't think this is part of any deal the state government made with the existing or former operator apart from "keeping the network going".

The upgrades I'm talking about are:
- complete concrete re-sleepering
- make a more decent effort in converting all turnouts to high speed concrete turnouts
- re-railing
- overheads renewals (some structures I've seen on the train just look like they are about to fall)
- signal asset renewals (same as above)
- formation/civil upgrades (just look at those broken brick drains built a hundred years ago!)
- platform upgrades
- bridge upgrades

Sadly, none of the above are attractive in terms of votes per $dollar spent so they will never get done. Might as well spend another $150M-$200M for another level crossing upgrade - which doesn't really do much to improving or sustaining a reliable service apart from building a 2-3km section of new track with the items listed above. These projects are more for unclogging the roads instead of helping to improve train capacity and reliability.
  Lockspike Deputy Commissioner

"the emphasis for bureaucracies is following "established procedure", or doing things in ponderously slow and inefficient ways because "that is the way things are done".

"As flawed as Metro is, I doubt many people would expect a government run suburban train company to provide a better service for a smaller subsidy than Metro gets."
Bogong
A bureaucracy will not necessarily be "ponderously slow and inefficient", but WILL do the minister's/government's bidding. They will follow "established procedure" as documented procedures are the way for government/management to hand down how they want things to be run. If they are slow and inefficient it is because the government has allowed/promoted that culture.
I have seen for myself how direct intervention of the minister gets immediate action, nobody wants a 'ministerial' hanging about on their desk any longer than possible; you do whatever it takes to satisfy the demand.

Lockspike the soothsayer predicts, that IF the government of the day (whatever colour) TRULY holds the private operator (in the current case, Metro) to ACCOUNT, the operator will throw the towel in as playing trains in Melbourne will no longer be such an attractive proposition.
I think Metro will not be shown the door, (in favour of govt operation, or another private company) nor will they be held truly accountable. There may be some fiddling about the edges, but no great strides in accountability.
Why not you say? Politicians want don't want to be held accountable; they want to be able to say 'I didn't know', 'we didn't do it', 'it's not the government's fault', 'go ask the operator', when being asked difficult questions about the manner in which services are delivered.
  simstrain Chief Commissioner

I think no wonder who runs the train the service and the breakdowns will remain as is unless substantial investment comes from State government into upgrading and maintaining an ancient network. I don't think this is part of any deal the state government made with the existing or former operator apart from "keeping the network going".

The upgrades I'm talking about are:
- complete concrete re-sleepering
- make a more decent effort in converting all turnouts to high speed concrete turnouts
- re-railing
- overheads renewals (some structures I've seen on the train just look like they are about to fall)
- signal asset renewals (same as above)
- formation/civil upgrades (just look at those broken brick drains built a hundred years ago!)
- platform upgrades
- bridge upgrades

Sadly, none of the above are attractive in terms of votes per $dollar spent so they will never get done. Might as well spend another $150M-$200M for another level crossing upgrade - which doesn't really do much to improving or sustaining a reliable service apart from building a 2-3km section of new track with the items listed above. These projects are more for unclogging the roads instead of helping to improve train capacity and reliability.
PE2010

I disagreed with your statement about the level crossings not doing much and not your statements on the upgrade which I think are extremely important. Maybe this is the difference between Sydney and Melbourne but why should it be an either or situation. Surely the level crossing upgrades, network upgrades and new lines like your new cbd metro line should all be done regardless of cost.
  DalyWaters Chief Commissioner


Governments (of both flavours) understand that private contractors or companies will almost always deliver a better product for a lower price than bureaucrats, that's why governments tender out everything from building houses to IT services. As flawed as Metro is, I doubt many people would expect a government run suburban train company to provide a better service for a smaller subsidy than Metro gets.
Bogong
So you are saying that because private companies generally perform better, therefore MTM must be good?

I disagree.

Unfortunately, appointments designed to create a "corporate" type image at V/Line are ruining what was a fine Government owned company. Otherwise we could hold up V/Line as an example of what could be.

One big problem we now have is the bloated public service under the guise of PTV, TfV, DOT, DOI, etc., that owe some of their existence to overseeing the private public transport operators (and they certainly do a poor job of it).  They will cling to their positions forever. They would not be needed if we had the old system of a railway that governed itself.
  Bogong Chief Commissioner

Location: Essendon Aerodrome circa 1980
I wasn't saying that Metro (or Connex) are necessarily the best, I was simply saying that a service or project will usually be conducted better, cheaper and more efficiently if it is run by a contractor or company than if it was run bureaucrats.

Of course there may be a few exceptions to this, but I'm confident the principle applies in the vast majority of cases. Smile

I agree with you about the "bloated public service". Sadly cost control isn't part of their culture and more departments and agencies seem to appear from every costly review, rather than the efficiencies that most of us would like to see.
  railblogger Chief Commissioner

Location: At the back of the train, quitely doing exactly what you'd expect.
I wasn't saying that Metro (or Connex) are necessarily the best, I was simply saying that a service or project will usually be conducted better, cheaper and more efficiently if it is run by a contractor or company than if it was run bureaucrats.

Of course there may be a few exceptions to this, but I'm confident the principle applies in the vast majority of cases. Smile

I agree with you about the "bloated public service". Sadly cost control isn't part of their culture and more departments and agencies seem to appear from every costly review, rather than the efficiencies that most of us would like to see.
Bogong
How can it possibly be cheaper when we are paying to line the pockets of CEOs?
  PE2010 Station Master

Location: Newcastle
Simstrain

I think level crossing removals are important in terms of improving safety and other benefits but I'm saying existing tracks upgrade and maintenance do not get anywhere near as much focus or funding from our government.

Tracks continue to buckle in heat in summer,  ancient overheads and signals assets simply give up, wooden sleepers rotted through or broken and left on track, graffiti everywhere on our lines becoming permanent features, etc.
  bramt Deputy Commissioner

The union seems to be making this call based on the AG report.

Can someone explain the union's logic here?
They seem to be saying that because the report shows PTV are doing a terrible job overseeing and auditing the maintenance work Metro does, Metro should be fired and the government should take over.


This seems to be backwards. It's not Metro's fault (necessarily) that PTV / the government isn't overseeing maintenance properly. Expanding PTV's role would likely make the situation worse.
  simstrain Chief Commissioner

I think level crossing removals are important in terms of improving safety and other benefits but I'm saying existing tracks upgrade and maintenance do not get anywhere near as much focus or funding from our government.

Tracks continue to buckle in heat in summer,  ancient overheads and signals assets simply give up, wooden sleepers rotted through or broken and left on track, graffiti everywhere on our lines becoming permanent features, etc.
PE2010

Going on the issues that seem to be affecting Melbourne after reaching 33c that didn't occur in Sydney at 37c. I would agree that track maintenance is a huge issue in Melbourne. Unfortunately it wasn't until the Granville incident in Sydney that track quality was really taken seriously here in Sydney. I fear that until something similar happens in Melbourne that nothing will be done.

Just look at the LX removal program coming about because of LX incidents that involved several fatal incidents.
  simstrain Chief Commissioner

I wasn't saying that Metro (or Connex) are necessarily the best, I was simply saying that a service or project will usually be conducted better, cheaper and more efficiently if it is run by a contractor or company than if it was run bureaucrats.

Of course there may be a few exceptions to this, but I'm confident the principle applies in the vast majority of cases. Smile

I agree with you about the "bloated public service". Sadly cost control isn't part of their culture and more departments and agencies seem to appear from every costly review, rather than the efficiencies that most of us would like to see.
Bogong

The trick is keeping bureaucrats out of the project. An example of this is happening in my home town in Liverpool at the moment. Bureaucrats gave the job of re doing a mall to a private company which then proceeded to leave the mall in a mess and went bankrupt over a period of a year or 2. Council workers tasked with fixing the mess have taken about half a year to fix up all the issues created and get the mall nearly finished.

Some industries are better for private companies and some others are better in public hands. In this case it would seem that privatising the rail has had a horrible effect on the operation of the heavy rail system in Victoria. Yet the trams do not have the same issue. The problem with the union is that they should only be focusing on the problem child that is metro and vline and not yarra trams.
  kuldalai Chief Commissioner

Go back to AG report .  Primary issues here are loosely worded  franchise agreements, and above all a lack of PTV  expertise / resources to monitor and manage the franchisees to see that they are delivering as required.

So non existant or poor monitoring of performance by PTV then of course Metro will drag the chain on removing graffitti and removing SR ' s etc .  

Guy who headed up this area within PTV was responsible for performance monitoring, is now PTV CEO so don t hold your breath .

So Government should monitor the franchises properly and enforce requirements, then if that does not work then consider a return to  Government management .

Before being too strong on the Government run is best line look at the shambles that is VLP  today, a real Nanny State operation , costing the tax payer  near  $  20  subsidy per pax journey carried .

Yarra Trams are better than their predecessor franchisee, and Metro Trains are miles better than Connex albeit Metro are cunning and use every loop hole in loose franchise agreement to get away with excessive  SR's,  graffitti  etc .
  DalyWaters Chief Commissioner



Yarra Trams are better than their predecessor franchisee, and Metro Trains are miles better than Connex albeit Metro are cunning and use every loop hole in loose franchise agreement to get away with excessive  SR's,  graffitti  etc .
kuldalai

MTM are miles better than Connex ????

MTM have been paid over $150 million per annum more than Connex for the same base contract (without adding the bonus extras for extra services).  For this money, John Brumby promised that the taxpayers of Victoria would see dramatic and immediate improvements to the service.

Can anyone name one improvement attributable to MTM?
  don_dunstan Minister for Railways

Location: Adelaide proud
Governments (of both flavours) understand that private contractors or companies will almost always deliver a better product for a lower price than bureaucrats, that's why governments tender out everything from building houses to IT services.
Bogong
My understanding is that the last few years of the Met operation it was running extremely efficiently. A government-appointed board is also the preferred model in most large cities in the United States - the home of free-enterprise, privatisation and outsourcing so perhaps something at arms' length like that might ultimately be the model to go back to.
Lockspike the soothsayer predicts, that IF the government of the day (whatever colour) TRULY holds the private operator (in the current case, Metro) to ACCOUNT, the operator will throw the towel in as playing trains in Melbourne will no longer be such an attractive proposition.
Lockspike
That's my fundamental issue with the existing system. I'm not sure if the contract has changed substantially since I last lived there but every time Metro/Connex had significant problems due to hot weather/vandalism/whatever they would be duly fined for poor performance and then promptly given the money back in "compensation". It's not actually a proper privatisation where the operator is not responsible for poor performance, is it.

My understanding from chatting to someone in the system some years ago is that having a proto-privatised system (as they do) is the government's preferred model because they don't have to get involved with everyday things like stoushes with the unions, hiring and firing etc. but at the same time no private operator in their right mind would want to be wholly-responsible for Melbourne's creaking ancient suburban train infrastructure so that's why the contracts operate in this way.
  N463 Locomotive Driver

Don't forget the shareholders... they have their snouts in the trough just as much as the CEO's.

Any private company exists to make a profit, and for public transport that profit comes from either higher fares and/or higher taxpayer subsidies. I suspect that many in the electorate will not be prepared to accept handing over huge amounts of money to foreign companies at the same time that we are expected to accept well over inflation fare rises.


I agree with you about the "bloated public service". Sadly cost control isn't part of their culture and more departments and agencies seem to appear from every costly review, rather than the efficiencies that most of us would like to see.
Bogong

Privatisation wasn't the answer here. What the the government should have done was hire competent management to fix the bureaucracy, not hand the public transport system over to a bunch of money grubbers. The Kennett government tried to take the easy way out by passing the buck to someone else (the franchisees), instead of doing the head work of fixing the actual problems in the system. There is no reason why a government run system cannot manage the system as well as (or better than) a privately run one, if they chose the right people to manage it. Instead we got saddled with funding the profits of the operators, for no benefit that we could not have achieved without them.


Before being too strong on the Government run is best line look at the shambles that is VLP today, a real Nanny State operation , costing the tax payer near $ 20 subsidy per pax journey carried .
kuldalai

I doubt anyone think that V/Line's management is doing a good job. This just serves to reinforce the point about better management being needed, regardless of government vs private operation.

My understanding from chatting to someone in the system some years ago is that having a proto-privatised system (as they do) is the government's preferred model because they don't have to get involved with everyday things like stoushes with the unions, hiring and firing etc. but at the same time no private operator in their right mind would want to be wholly-responsible for Melbourne's creaking ancient suburban train infrastructure so that's why the contracts operate in this way.
don_dunstan

Even under a private model, the government is still ultimately responsible for providing the service, and if they won't do it themselves, and can't or won't make their hired help do it then they will ultimately pay the price for their failure.
The value of the private operator as a scapegoat for the government is decreasing... These days when there are failures/industrial action etc, the government of the day still seems to cop a large share of the blame (as they should). If there is one thing you can rely on whoever is in opposition to do, it is make sure that as much of the blame for any failures is pinned squarely on the government. In 1999 privatisation was still something of an unknown, and many Victorians were prepared to give this model a chance to deliver. By 2010 and 2014 many in the electorate was all to ready to vote against a state government due to failure to deliver improvement to, or even maintain public transport.

Victoria has now had 17 years of privatised public transport. If privatisation was able to deliverer the improved reliability and cost savings we were all promised, it would have done so long ago. That the privatised system has failed to do either after all this time is proof that privatisation has failed.

Apologies for the long rant.

N463
  don_dunstan Minister for Railways

Location: Adelaide proud
Victoria has now had 17 years of privatised public transport. If privatisation was able to deliverer the improved reliability and cost savings we were all promised, it would have done so long ago. That the privatised system has failed to do either after all this time is proof that privatisation has failed.
N463
Not sure if its completely the fault of a privatised system - Melbourne has grown by something like 1.4 million extra residents since privatisation was implemented, it's a stupid amount of new people to be trying to integrate into a city, any city. In both Sydney and Melbourne infrastructure simply hasn't kept up with the breakneck pace of expansion - simple as that - although I do think to some extent privatisation in Melbourne was a smoke-screen for a chronic lack of investment, particularly in increasing frequencies during peak times.
  bevans Site Admin

Location: Melbourne, Australia
I would suggest Sydney has taken a far more proactive approach to the provision of transport infrastructure than Melbourne ever has.  Getting money spent on rail in Victoria has been a generational issue now.  Sydney on the other hand has continued to invest into many oil projects which makes the state of the network and reach for customers far more efficient than Melbourne.

Desperately needed rail projects are priced far too high.  Victrack quote crazy prices for getting anything done and lack quality engineering talent to make it happen.  Replacing a few sleepers costs millions not thousands.  Money which would be invested into the Melbourne network is being shunted off shore in the form of cascaded profits whilst the PTV turn a blind eye. Eyes wide shut.

The entire freight network and parts of the v/line network is at crisis point.  Andrews knows this but is not in the least bit interested.  You also need to ask about the growing out of control cost of road maintenance and how large trucks which were kicked off the Westgate bridge were EVER allowed onto the roads with those weight limits.

@N463 I agree the privatisation of the network has ben a disaster for the network and the government is well aware.  The issue now being the government is spineless and will always do the minimum and therefore will try and maintain the status quo so they can blame someone else.  Australian politicians (well many not all) mist be some of the laziest people on earth never interested in tackling the big issues other than re-election.

The signifiant worry is Andrews does not get it.  I already think he is a dead man walking for the next election.

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