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Issue #1778      May 24, 2017

Public transport, public hands

While members working for Metro and Yarra Trams have overwhelmingly called on the RTBU to run this campaign(Public Transport, Public Hands Campaign), the union believes that it is the right campaign to run in the interest of not only RTBU (Rail, Tram and Bus Union) members, but also the Victorian community. You know as well as I do that Victoria’s public transport system is being pushed to the limit and RTBU members are on the front line.

With a rapidly increasing population, pressures on our train and tram services will only get worse.

So you’d think the Victorian government would be making sure every available cent in the public transport budget goes into more infrastructure and better services.

Wrong.

If you follow the money trail, you’ll see that the taxpayers and commuters of Victoria aren’t just paying for local public transport, they’re also paying to subsidise the public transport systems of other countries.

The current operators of the rail and tram franchises are Metro Trains Melbourne and Keolis-Downer Rail Victoria (Operating as Yarra Trams).

Metro Trains Melbourne is 60 percent owned by Hong Kong-based MTR Corporation, and the remaining 40 percent is shared equally by UGL Rail Services and John Holland.

In turn, MTR Corporation is 76 percent owned by the Hong Kong government.

Victorians have helped swell the coffers of MTR Corporation, with its subsidiary the Melbourne trains operation making a solid $223.8 million in net profit after tax since taking over the contract at the end of November 2009.

Metro Trains Melbourne hasn’t released its 2016 financial year figures yet, so you can probably add another $50-60 million in profits for 2015-2016 on top of that.

As for the tram operations, KDR Victoria is a joint venture between the French transport operator Keolis, and the Australian-based engineering firm Downer. Keolis is the senior partner in the joint venture, with a 51 percent stake. Keolis is a massive global business based in Paris, and it is 70 percent owned by – you guessed it – the French government, through the state-owned railways company French National Railways Corporation (SCNF).

The French government has every reason to say merci beaucoup to Victorians for the money that we send back to Paris, via profits from the Yarra Trams Franchise.

The Yarra Trams contract has so far generated over $78 million in net profit after tax for its owners.

All up, the two operators have raked in over $10 billion in revenue, and $350 million in profits have been drained from the Victorian public transport system over seven years under the franchise agreements.

Which begs the question, why can’t our own government run public transport?

The answer is: of course it can. In fact, it already does.

V/Line is successfully run by a Victorian government-owned corporation, so there is no reason why the metropolitan train and tram services can’t be run under the same model.

The argument that the private sector is always better at running public transport doesn’t stack up – the experience of commuters around the world, especially in Melbourne, shows otherwise.

And the argument for contracting out to the private sector becomes completely farcical when you follow the money trail and realise that the private companies are actually owned by other governments.

Can you imagine the Hong Kong government paying the Victorian government to come in and take over the Hong Kong metro? No way! They wouldn’t be so stupid.

That’s why the Rail, Tram and Bus Union has launched the Public Transport, Public Hands campaign, and already over 4,000 people have signed our online petition.

The time has come for the Victorian government to stand up and admit that the privatisation of public transport has been an expensive and embarrassing failure.

Everyone makes mistakes, but wise men and women own up to their mistakes and learn from them. Only true fools dig in and continue once the depth of their error becomes apparent.

With the contracts for the metropolitan train and tram franchises about to expire this year, the state government appears to be digging in – negotiating behind closed doors to roll over the existing contracts.

But there is still time to change course.

Premier Daniel Andrews has an opportunity to show genuine leadership, to show the State Government has learned from the mistakes of the past, and to return Melbourne’s train and tram services to the people.

If you are yet to support the campaign please do so by visiting www.publictransportpublichands.com and signing the petition. If you would like to get more involved contact the office directly on 8630 9100.

RTBU Express

Next article – Perth “Stop Adani Protest”

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