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Is time running out for Queensland Rail as we know it?
Since October 2016 Queensland Rail has had a terrible time getting trains to arrive on time.
Queensland Rail's March 2017 figures now show one in every 10 trains does not arrive on time.
Should the Queensland government now look at having a non-government transport operator putting in a bid to run Queensland Rail?
That has happened in Melbourne, almost 20 years ago.
In March and April 2017 in Melbourne 90.8 per cent of their trains now arrive within five minutes of the scheduled time and 99 per cent of train services run to the end of their run.
Melbourne Metro asks for trains to arrive within five minutes of the scheduled time to be considered "on time" and expects 88 per cent of trains to run on time.
In Queensland, Queensland Rail says trains are considered running "on time" if they are within four minutes of their scheduled time.
Infrastructure Australia reveals a study that says $3 billion could be saved by allowing monopolies Queensland Rail and Brisbane Transport to face 'competitive tendering', similar to Melbourne's Metro. Photo: Michelle SmithThe latest results show in March 2017, show 90.5 per cent of Southeast Queensland trains were running on time.
A SEQ train service is considered on-time if it arrives within three minutes and 59 seconds of their scheduled time.
Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk and Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull talk outside Waterfront Place in Brisbane. Photo: Felicity CaldwellQR aims to have 95 per cent of peak services arriving on time.
So, if Queensland did allow someone else to run our passenger trains, would it really mean more than $3 billion could be saved by 2040, as Infrastructure Australia reported on Friday?
"Queensland Rail needs to understand that their future is on the line here."
Rail Back on Track spokesman Robert Dow
Or would it mean major job losses and a similar level of service, with a different coat of paint, as Queensland's Rail, Tram and Bus Union believes.
Two years ago, there were problems with the new Melbourne Metro, which were reported by Fairfax Media.
Interestingly, the private consortia running the Melbourne Metro received $1.18 billion in subsidies and $11.78 million in "incentive payments" in 2013-14, but there was criticism their trains were simply skipping stops to meet "on time" running targets.
That was 2015.
Is it better now?
Earlier this year, Fairfax Media also reported dumb, sexist and bullying behaviour from Melbourne Metro train drivers.
Melbourne Metro says the problems are not widespread and its on-time running is improving, not worsening like Queensland Rail.
Many questions should be asked about Queensland Rail and Transport for Brisbane, Brisbane City Council's bus division.
In south-east Queensland are we – as commuters – satisfied with the performance of Queensland Rail in failing to have enough drivers to cope with expansion on the south-east Queensland train network?
Should Queensland have a stand-alone "Public Transport Queensland" which runs all buses, trains and ferries, similar to Victoria, Western Australia and South Australia?
Are we satisfied – as commuters, with the job Queensland Rail and the Department of Transport did when the new rail line from Kippa Ring was delayed for months because two communications systems did not talk to us.
Should we – as commuters – worry when Commissioner Phillip Strachan handed down an extremely critical report into an under-performing Queensland Rail on February 27, 2017?
Is it time that a stand-alone transport operator also ran Brisbane City Council's bus operations?
In August 2016, it was revealed that some Brisbane City Council bus services were taking 25 minutes longer to complete their runs than their timetables allowed.
Brisbane City Council' s deputy mayor and Public and Active Travel committee chairman Adrian Schrinner said Brisbane City Council would not change its Transport for Brisbane division, which runs Brisbane City Council buses.
"Council has no plans to change its current contract arrangements for Transport for Brisbane, under which Council is a service provider to Translink," Cr Schrinner said.
"Brisbane City Council has one of the largest and the most modern bus fleet in Australia, which is a result of significant investment in recent years. This financial year alone Council is investing $122.6 million into bus infrastructure and services."
What about our CityCats, which are already run in a franchise agreement with Brisbane City Council?
There have been complaints about CityCats colliding with rowers in 2012 and 2015 and staffing issues emerged in November 2015.
Cr Shrinner said Brisbane City Council's 10-year contract with Transdev to run the CityCat fleet expired in 2020 and they were happy with Transdev's performance.
However, Queensland's two major parties were both virtually silent about the public transport report when it was issued on Friday morning.
Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk only answered questions about the ability of any savings – the $3.3 billion – being able to be directed to Brisbane's $5.4 billion Cross River Rail underground rail project linking Brisbane's north and south.
"I'm starting to think about Infrastructure Australia not being really serious about considering our projects, that's the message I'm starting to get," Ms Palaszczuk said.
"Once again we're changing goal posts," she said.
Transport Minister Jackie Trad was too busy with Adani Mine negotiations to answer questions about trains on Friday. She launched this response to Phillip Strachan's report into Queensland Rail's failings in late March.
But there is a lot more to Infrastructure Australia's report, that was not discussed by the Queensland Government on Friday.
Rail Back on Track – Queensland public transport commuter group – is clear that change is in the wind for Queensland Rail.
"I've felt for some time that there is grave doubt for Queensland Rail's future," Rail Back on Track's spokesman Robert Dow said.
"We really have a very serious issue now because we have very poor co-ordination between bus and rail particularly," he said.
Mr Dow believes Queensland Rail should be reshaped as part of a single public transport body, a Public Transport Queensland, which oversees all trains, buses, and ferries in different divisions.
"The only way we think things can be progressed is if pressure can be bought to bear on the original operators," he said
"I think this (report) is timely because it is following on from a disastrous period in service delivery from Queensland Rail," he said.
Queensland Rail's figures show fewer trains arrived on time in 2017 than they did last year.
In fact, Queensland Rail since October 2016 is repeatedly not meeting its own standards to have trains run on time.
Mr Dow said the public transport "franchise" debate was important, because there were several examples where franchising public transport services was working; the Gold Coast's light rail project, Brisbane's City Cats and Melbourne Metro in more recent times.
"Queensland Rail needs to understand that their future is on the line here," he said.
"If there is a change of government at the next state election, we are pretty confident the LNP would move to franchise Queensland Rail," he said.
"And I'm pretty sure they will take on Brisbane Transport (Brisbane City Council's transport arm) as well."
The Queensland Opposition's public transport spokesman Andrew Powell was unwilling to comment on Friday despite several attempts by Fairfax Media.
Fairfax Media pressed several times until we got a message.
"On this occasion we've decided not to comment on the IA report on rail," it said.
"Thanks for the opportunity."
So many questions, with so few willing to debate.
This article first appeared on www.smh.com.au
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