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Issue #1586      March 20, 2013

Translink review a blueprint towards a privatised system

On March 7 the Newman government authorised its Transport Arm Translink to issue its review of the South East Queensland Bus Network. The review was touted as necessary to reallocate resources to overcrowded runs and remove underutilised services. It was opened for submissions from the users and operators of transport.

The timing of the review’s release was significant in that it happened days after former federal treasurer Peter Costello released his report into Queensland government finances.

A smirking Costello had called for the privatisation of schools, hospitals and public transport, naming the train services and buses. Costello put forward that this was necessary to restore the state’s AAA credit rating.

Buses in south east Queensland are operated under contract to the Translink Authority, a creation of the previous state government but incorporated into the Department of Main Roads after the election of the Campbell Newman government. Neil Scales from Merseyside Transport took over from Peter Strachan, formerly National Express. The two have long-standing associations from their involvements in privatised transport in the United Kingdom.

Brisbane City Council operates most services in south east Queensland. The Council-owned system has a superior service level and better working conditions than the privately owned bus operators plying their trade in south east Queensland.

This review is a sophisticated attack on the Council bus service and extends the Department of Transport biases against the Council services.

It proposes increases to interchange services, particularly towards rail services, and reduction of services through the central business district. This is due to infrastructure restraints: amongst these are the inadequate access to the city provided through the Cultural Centre Bus Station, a poorly designed station which requires all services to queue at the station’s single lane access. The report proposes to fix this simply by reducing the number of buses travelling through.

It is keen to reduce frequencies of services outside the spread of 7am to 7pm and to remove services at non-peak time which are claimed to be duplications. It is also proposed to ask passengers to walk further, a problem in hilly Brisbane for the elderly and disabled. Passengers are encouraged to use rail services even though these are already short of capacity.

One astounding admission is that the report identifies that it was Translink and presumably government policy to increase the cost of travel on buses and public transport to reduce demand on government resources.

It is thus an admission that these policies are more about discouraging public transport growth than about increasing the provision of services. Bus ways which had provided a great growth in accessibility of transport were stopped by the Campbell Newman government.

It is hard not to draw the conclusion that this report and its consequences are to strengthen the position of those who would privatise the transport system more.

In many cities in Australia this has already been achieved and the plunderers have been in taking government money and delivering inferior services, and wages and conditions to public transport workers.  

Next article – QLD LNP govt’s slash and burn policies take their toll on jobs

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