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THE Baillieu government has rewarded rail operator Metro with a bonus of more than $2 million for getting Melbourne's trains to run on schedule between July and September.
Metro received a $2.19 million ''incentive payment'' for exceeding its 88 per cent punctuality target in each month of the September quarter, when 90.3 per cent of trains were punctual - meaning they ran less than five minutes late.
It is the first time Metro has been paid rather than penalised for its performance since December 2009, when it received a bonus of $96,000, having just replaced Connex as Melbourne's rail operator.
''Metro has now met its punctuality and cancellations targets for six months in a row which is a good result,'' said Larissa Garvin, spokeswoman for Transport Minister Terry Mulder. ''The Coalition government wants to see ongoing improvement.''
But the opposition labelled Metro's improved performance a sham, achieved by changing the timetable to make it easier to hit punctuality targets without delivering a better service.
''You have to ask yourself, what's more likely - has Metro suddenly and miraculously improved train services or have the timetables and travel times been reworked to give the impression of improvement?'' said Fiona Richardson, the state opposition's spokeswoman for transport. She said the government had ''lowered the bar'' to make life easier for Metro, and taxpayers were wearing the cost. ''Not only are commuters being punished by these changes but now they are paying over $2 million for the privilege,'' she said.
In May, Melbourne's train timetable underwent a large-scale change. The number of services jumped by more than 100 each weekday, although some lines now experience increased travel times.
''The May timetable change added an average of three minutes to commuters' journeys on the Frankston and Cranbourne line, two to three minutes on the Pakenham line and one minute on the Sandringham line, allowing Metro to more easily meet performance targets without actually providing a better service,'' Ms Richardson said.
The government said the increased travel times were an unavoidable consequence of increased patronage and the new timetable better reflected this. ''Patronage across the metropolitan train network has grown by more than 50 per cent in the last six years. It now takes longer to allow all passengers to board or alight from trains,'' Ms Garvin said.
Metro has hit its punctuality target every month since June, the first full month after the new timetable. By comparison, it easily missed the 88 per cent target in April and May, for which it was fined $3.09 million at the end of the June quarter.
It was fined $457,000 for missing targets between January and March. The September quarter figures were published in the Department of Transport's performance bulletin Track Record.
In the same period, Metro cancelled 1.2 per cent of train services, meeting its 98 per cent service delivery target.
Read more: http://www.theage.com.au/victoria/metro-on-track-for-2m-bonus-20111212-1orep.html
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