SYDNEY PUBLIC TRANSPORT
The Hon. PENNY SHARPE
[3.46 p.m.]: Question time in this House and the other place this week has been full of backslapping Dorothy Dixers and congratulations on the achievements of the first 12 months of the O'Farrell Government. However, most commentators have said, "Ho-hum". Tonight I draw the attention of the House to transport for Sydney commuters. For those who catch public transport to and from work this will be a familiar story. The price of a weekly rail ticket has risen above inflation, but it is more likely the trains will be running late, especially if travelling on the East Hills, South Coast or western lines. Those travelling from Blacktown to the city on the western line in the morning peak probably will not get a seat for the 50-minute journey, even if they leave home at 7.00 a.m. Those who commute by ferry are waiting to learn whether they too will face fare increases and whether services will suffer when the Government franchises Sydney Ferries later this year.
Given that three or four routes to be run by private operators have fallen over before they began, it is a matter of concern what this will mean for the full franchising later this year. Of course, there is no guarantee that the ferry to Parramatta will continue. It is an all-too-familiar story for commuters in Sydney and flies in the face of the Government's promises before it came to office. The O'Farrell Government promised better services. The O'Farrell Government promised to put the customer at the centre of everything it did. It also promised new express train services and upgrades to train stations and commuter car parks. But rather than start work on any of these projects, it has put them all under review, and has spent $18 million on consultants to do so.
It is important to give credit where credit is due. As I have said previously, Opposition members support the North West Rail Link. We also welcome the extra carriages for Newcastle and Central Coast commuters. That is good news. The new NightRide bus routes are also good. But while it is important to give credit where credit is due, it is also important for the Government to stop taking sole credit for the South West Rail Link, which was planned and funded under Labor. It also should acknowledge the significant amount of Federal funding going to the Northern Sydney Freight Line and most of the large road projects and the fact it is not paying its fair share for the Pacific Highway upgrade.
The O'Farrell Government cannot hide from the congestion and capacity issues that keep increasing across the entire CityRail network. Unless addressed, they will have a huge impact on the viability of the North West Rail Link. It could end up being a shuttle service twice an hour from Chatswood. This Government scrapped the City Relief Line, one of the few projects that would have increased capacity on the line. Unless the Government does something to address congestion, the CityRail network will not have the capacity to operate the new promised express services, let alone the North West Rail Link.
What is happening with bus services? Yesterday the Minister for Transport said that she had no plans to expand the very successful Metrobus program. She has said no to potential new services that have been rolled out in western Sydney while the North West Rail Link is being built. Although there are some new Growth scheme buses, they were paid for by the previous Labor Government. That fact is never mentioned. What of light rail? This Government came to power promising a light rail revolution, but we are still waiting on the Inner West Light Rail extension and the GreenWay has been scrapped on the way through. Light rail is a clean and efficient form of transport and has great potential in Sydney. Given the delays to the Inner West Light Rail extension, I for one will not be holding my breath.
It is not only commuters who have felt the brunt of the first year of the O'Farrell Government; transport workers also have been under attack. Their wages have been capped, 100 Sydney Ferries employees are gone, and 92 stations throughout the State risk losing staff under the O'Farrell Government's cost-cutting review of RailCorp. Under this $6 million, four-month review, the Government is looking at cutting everywhere it can, and frontline staff are not immune from these cuts. The rail network's transit officers will be replaced by police. Although the police have a role to play in securing the rail network, currently there are 600 transit officers and 300 commuter police. Following this so-called reform there will be 610 police and 150 transit officers—who will no longer do security, just fare compliance. Security on our transport services requires more and not fewer staff. The Minister for Transport came to office promising no cuts to front-line jobs, but that is exactly what we are seeing. Under this Government we have seen a growth in the money spent on consultants, but not much in return for commuters. The Premier has given the Minister for Transport a top-of-the-class rating for her performance for the year. I am not sure that commuters feel the same way.