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Public transport complaints spike in the first three months of the year as commuters returned to trains, trams and buses in much lower numbers than before the coronavirus pandemic.
The number of complaints per 100,000 Adelaide Metro boardings rose to 15.83 in January–March 2021, according to new Department for Infrastructure and Transport figures.
The numbers per trip are the highest they have been since a spike in January–March 2018.
The raw number of complaints is also the highest it has been since mid-2019.
The number of Adelaide Metro boardings in the first three months of 2021 was 29 per cent lower than it was at the end of 2019, before the pandemic.
Commuters on the Gawler train line have been forced onto substitute buses until this November for electrification works after previously being told some services would resume in April.
Munno Para resident Grace Thon said the substitute buses meant a much longer trip to university.
"I have to wake up early just to make uni instead of sleeping — it takes away my sleep, basically," she said.
Her friend Acho Ayii said the buses could get crowded at busy times.
Grace Thon and Acho Ayii wait for a Gawler line substitute bus.(ABC News: Eugene Boisvert
)Privatisation behind complaints?In figures released after this article was first published, the Department for Infrastructure and Transport said the number of complaints about trains was up 12 per cent compared with the previous quarter, while the complaints about buses were up 65 per cent and trams 31 per cent.
Along with the Gawler railway line closure, a department spokesman said the rise in complaints could also be due to more traffic on the roads delaying buses.
Building construction work on North Terrace had also delayed buses, he said.
Keolis Downer took over running Adelaide's train system in January 2021.
Opposition transport spokesman Tom Koutsantonis said he believed the privatisation was the main reason behind the increase in complaints.
Substitute buses for passengers on the Gawler train line.(ABC News: Eugene Boisvert
"I think privatisation has seen less amenity on our trains, there are less security guards now on trains, services are less frequent and less regular, there is obviously a shortage of train drivers, so I think what we are seeing here is a system in general decay," he said.
The government said the number of security guards on trains after 7:00pm has doubled from 30 to 60 since January and the number of services overall has increased because of higher frequency on the extended Flinders line.
Keolis Downer said it did not believe its trains were to blame.
"We have been out and about on the trains, meeting with passengers in the last four months, and we are hearing positive feedback on train cleanliness, performance and safety," a spokeswoman said.
"We are always open to feedback and ideas to improve our services, which is why our management team has been going out on the network every month to engage with passengers and collect their feedback."
Work is carried out on power lines during the Gawler rail electrification project.(Department for Infrastructure and Transport
)Minister says system cleaner than everTransport Minister Corey Wingard admitted commuter numbers had been "hit" by COVID–19, but he said the government was "doing all we can to get people back on to public transport".
"We've invested heavily to make sure we keep our trains and our buses and our trams as clean as possible," he said.
"What we do know since Keolis Downer took over the running of the public transport is they've injected a lot into making sure our stations are cleaner than they ever have been before.
"A lot of the feedback we've had is people have noticed the cleanliness of those stations and also the trains themselves so we're continuing to work all the time with the new contractor who have got a track record of delivering outstanding customer service when it comes to public transport."
He said the Gawler line closure had "caused some issues for people".
"We've made that really clear. We've put all that information out to that community," he said.
"And we understand that when this is done — that is something they've been teased with for a long period of time — that will also get people back onto public transport."
Elderly staying away?People for Public Transport spokeswoman Josephine Buckhorn said she had noticed fewer people on public transport, especially vulnerable users such as the elderly.
She said a key complaint of commuters was when services were cancelled or moved without notice.
"People often show up at the stop and find out when they get there — or their train is a bus," she said.
She said making people wear masks on buses could make people more confident to use them, although this was not a policy officially supported by the group.
Keolis Downer also faced criticism in March for strictly enforcing the number of bikes allowed on trains on the Belair line, although it has since relaxed its stance on the rule.
Mountain bikers complained after a restriction on the number of bicycles per carriage on the Belair line was enforced.(ABC Radio Adelaide: Malcolm Sutton
)The Tonsley line was extended to Flinders in December.
Passenger Priya Vemparala said the service was "really good".
"It is really beneficial for residents here because they don't have to wait for hours and hours together in the road traffic and it's so comfortable as well, to be frank, in the train as well," she said.
A separate privately-owned company took over running Adelaide's trams in July 2020.
Labor has promised to reverse the privatisation if elected next year, although it did not reverse bus privatisation when last in power.
This article first appeared on www.abc.net.au
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