Public Transport Services and Safety
|About this Item||Subjects||Budget: New South Wales: 2006; Infrastructure; Public Transport; Railways
||Speakers||Clarke The Hon David
The Hon. DAVID CLARKE [5.29 p.m.]: As the countdown takes place to next year's election, the Labor Government is scurrying around to create the appearance that it is finally going to do something positive for the people of New South Wales. Almost with an aura of panic it is trying to convince one and all that the lazy days of inaction, ineptitude and incompetence under a Carr Labor Government are now behind us and that a new dawn under Morris Iemma has sprung forth. It is trying to convince the electorate that it has learnt its lesson, that it is listening, and an avalanche of press releases tells us that we are about to see positive and wonderful new programs. Happy days are here again!
The spin doctors of this Government, starting with Premier Iemma himself, tell us that we are about to see a massive program of rejuvenation, big new infrastructure projects, and the revamping of services. Whatever needs to be done and needs to be fixed, the Government will do it and the Government will fix it. But the Labor Government has a well-worn modus operandi: it announces new projects and when things die down these projects are shuffled off onto the backburner. The Government might undertake a feasibility study in one place and an environmental impact study somewhere else, but at the end of the day nothing much really happens. After a few years, when the public start asking embarrassing questions about lack of progress and the media start doing a little digging, with prodding from the Opposition, the Government revamps these discarded projects with a few cosmetic changes and a little updating and launches them once again as a new initiative, a new project or a new policy achievement.
It has now been leaked through the media that the Government is about to announce a brand-new package worth $4 billion to fix up public transport, especially rail transport. The people of north- west Sydney will supposedly see work commence on a long-promised rail link to join their region to the city. The Opposition will not be surprised if the long-suffering people of north-west Sydney do not jump for joy at this news. They have heard it all before. For years they have been promised new transport infrastructure, and they are still waiting. For years they have struggled on with woefully inadequate bus services and no rail services, and why would things change now?
The promise of a new rail link adjoining north-west Sydney to the city was first made by this Government in 1998, but only now have plans been lodged for the acquisition of land necessary for the project. Construction will now not start until 2012 and will not be complete until 2017. With population growth in the north-west escalating at a rapid rate, this is an appalling state of affairs. No wonder this Government is on the nose right throughout the north-west of Sydney. The Government's provision of rail services is a fiasco and a shambles—it is in a state of collapse.
The Government's much-touted new timetable to get trains running on time is a total failure. Despite rejigging the definition of what constitutes a late train by moving the bar downwards, trains are failing to meet even these new, relaxed targets. The official figures record that two out of three 3.00 p.m. peak-time train services are failing to meet running targets. So much for promises made a month ago that new timetables would rein in the problem. We were told that in return for putting up with the slashing of a number of train services and slower train journeys, trains would run on time. But the result has been slower trains, fewer train services and more late trains.
And what sorts of trains do we have? They are old trains, without airconditioning, one-third of them are more than 25 years old, and they are covered in graffiti. Train graffiti incidents have increased from 10,000 in February 2005 to 41,000 in February 2006. And what has happened to the promise to upgrade to modern, airconditioned trains? In March this year the Minister for Transport, John Watkins, promised the delivery of 498 new carriages by 2010, but only a few days ago the Premier was forced to admit we would have only 472 carriages—now by 2012. In other words, there will now be the delivery of fewer trains two years later than promised. And has there been any reduction in the number of train breakdowns we have all experienced? The answer is no; the problem has got worse.
According to the latest Independent Transport Safety and Reliability Regulator's annual report, between December 2001 and May 2005 there has been a 700 per cent increase in train breakdowns. Train breakdowns causing delays to peak-hour services have risen from 20 to 160 incidents a month. No wonder people are giving up travelling on trains. As at March 2006, 531,000 fewer people were using trains every week compared with 2001. Why would people want to travel by train? We have been promised new train lines but we have been let down. We have been promised up-to-date trains but these have not been delivered. We have been promised cleaner trains but we have to travel in graffiti-covered trains. We have been promised safer trains but we have experienced a 700 per cent increase in breakdowns over the past four years. We have been promised trains that run on time, but two out of three services run late during afternoon peak services. On top of this, we are getting trains that are running more slowly and we are getting fewer train services. As the Daily Telegraph said in its editorial today:
Premier Iemma's ambition in this Budget is to head off a voter backlash born of endless frustration for voters over public transport, toll roads, hospitals, schools, taxes—just about every area of State Government responsibility.
The Government has reneged and delayed time and again on its promises of new infrastructure. It may have delayed on providing better services and infrastructure again and again, but it cannot delay the holding of the next election. And that is the time when the people of New South Wales will tell this Government what they think of it and its broken promises.