– Written by Anonymous, replicated here without permission and without prejudice.
When you talk to people who work for Metro they will speak of an environment so toxic and so encumbered with a legacy of ingrained incompetence that it just isn’t a pleasant or safe place to work anymore. Former employes of Pacific National or Qube speak in similar terms with repeated reference to the line their bosses push of “you’re just glorified truck drivers”. Hardly an endearing comment to anyone who takes even the slightest bit of pride in what they do in this profession, and probably an indication of what they think of their employes in the core part of their business, namely road transport.
Then there’s good ol’ V/Line. Prior to May 2013, V/Line was seen, and rightly so, as “the place to be”. Then along came Theo, with his entourage of QR has – beens, and it all went south from there. Anybody with any practical railway experience in any sort of a supervisory role was quickly pushed aside to make way for Theo’s mates from the sunny State. The root of all the problems has so far been Public Transport Victoria, under the leadership of Ian Dobbs. PTV, as the overarching body that administers public transport is ultimately responsible for all that is good and bad on the network. Ian oversaw the privatisation process during the Kennett era and comes from the post – Thatcher UK style of union suppression and I suspect he truly believes he is doing a great job. It certainly goes a long way to explaining the proliferation of British immigrants on 457 visas that seem to be popping up everywhere. The reality of the situation is rather different. Over the last five years or so, there has been the appointment of Chinese company MTM to operate Metro, which has brought with it a constant drain out of the shallow end of the talent pool of U.K. transport administrators. Whereas once the administrators of our rail network had worked up through the grades and had an intimate knowledge of how the system worked, combined with a collective historical understanding of the job, that has now been replaced with a band of corporate gypsies. The vast majority of the decision makers now have no practical background in the industry, blatant disregard for the “rules of engagement” at treat the workforce with patronizing colonial contempt.
In effect, they have turned the Victorian Railways into
a safe haven for failed British administrators, and ripped
the taxpayer off for billions of dollars in the process.
So just what should be going on right now?
The resignation of Ian Dobbs has been a momentous step forward. The challenge now is to make sure that his entire mindset and ideologies go with him. It is not unreasonable to say that everybody on a 457 visa should be shown the door. That would be a good way to start the process. The institutional
incompetence and corporate greed must be rectified, and possibly made good. The problem with that is
the doubtful cost benefit to the taxpayer, given that various entities have ripped taxpayers off for billions,
would there be any gain in attempting to recoup those dollars?
There are many legislative guidelines that govern the way public transport should be administered, and surprisingly, many of them were put in place by the Kennett Government, the very people responsible for causing this mess in the first place during the privatization process. To go through and discuss all the relevant points would take many weeks simply because of the sheer volume of legislation
involved. There are about 7 or 8 Acts of Parliament that relate directly to the running of “the railways” in Victoria, and sadly, it would appear that not all of them are being complied with as well as they might be.
A lot of it is to do with the administration of the operators, and it would be improper of me to comment on that aspect of the business. There is, however, a great deal related to the practical day to day running of the railway, and it is quite reasonable that I or anyone in my situation could make some observations on
those matters. From the Rail Management Act 1996, with respect to V/Line’s steadfast refusal to clear or remove trees and provide a safe work environment and Metro’s refusal to do anything that costs money:
60A Relevant rail operator to whom this section
applies may clear trees without obtaining permit
(1) This section applies if any tree or wood—
(a) is on land owned or occupied by a relevant rail operator; and
(b) is in the vicinity of a railway track operated or maintained by a relevant rail operator; and
(c) poses a risk to the safety of anyone on, or using, the railway track.
The following trees pose a risk to the safety of a person using a railway track
(a) a tree that obstructs a view of a signal box from a portion of the track;
(b) a tree near the middle of a curve of the track that restricts the view of the track of anyone entering the curve;
(c) a tree whose roots are underneath the track.
(2) A relevant rail operator may fell and remove the tree or wood without the need to obtain a permit under any relevant planning scheme under the Planning and Environment Act 1987, despite
anything to the contrary in or under that Act.(3)
Fig1: Trees obstructing signals.
So the simple fact is this:
The railways need to be administered by people who have the best interests of Victorians and the Railways foremost in their planning. For nearly 140 years the network functioned well without the interference of outside
contractors, multinational business conglomerates and all their hangers-on.
Indeed, in the lead up to being privatised, palpable change for the better was present with the rail freight
task and passenger numbers both increasing.
Someone needs to take the bull by the horns, realise the current model is an abject failure costing billions, and just fix it.It’s that simple.
And then there’s this gem from S 38U also in the Rail Management Act:
(4) Rules made under this section—
(a) must be consistent with the principle of passenger priority; and
(b) must prohibit an access provider from, while carrying out a relevant capacity allocation
activity, unreasonably favouring itself or another person over any other person.(4)
Note clause (b), and I wonder how that sits with Metro causing V/Line to constantly
add 10–15 minutes running time in every timetable review.
Does the practice of continually padding out V/Line time tables to allow for delays caused by Metro put PTV, Metro and / or V/Line at odds with the Legislation? Does the practice of delaying passenger trains by not inconsiderable amounts of time in order to run an empty suburban move on time put Metro in particular at odds with clause (a) of the above? Is it reasonable to expect a trip to Traralgon in the afternoon peak should
take over 3 hours because a particular train is timetabled to follow suburban trains from Richmond to Pakenham, despite ample opportunities for such a train to run through suburban trains at Caulfield, Oakleigh,
Westall and Dandenong?
The following excerpt is taken from S. 22 of the Rail Safety (Local Operations) Act 2006, and with respect to the condition Metro has allowed the network to deteriorate to, would be of interest to those involved.
The questions raised here are whether Metro is at fault for the dereliction of its duty to maintain a “safe” network, PTV is at fault for not enforcing the relevant legislation (again), or a combination of the two.
Fig 3: Severe mudholes like this have been allowed to develop throughout the suburban area. Metro’s solution is outright denial that a problem even exists.
(2) A rail contractor who supplies railway operations to a rail transport operator must, so far as is reasonably
practicable, ensure the safety of those operations. Penalty: In the case of a natural person, $300 000 or imprisonment for 5 years or both; In the case of a body corporate, $3 000 000.
(3) Without limiting subsection (2), a rail contractor contravenes that subsection if the rail contractor fails to do any of the following
(a) in the case of a rail contractor that manages or operates rail infrastructure, provide or maintain rail infrastructure that is, so far as is reasonably practicable, safe;
(b) in the case of a rail contractor that operates rolling stock, provide or maintain rolling stock that is, so far as is reasonably practicable, safe;
As I said recently, I haven’t been blundering around in the dark for 30 years with my eyes shut. It would seem that PTV, Metro and V/Line are fairly loose and easy with their understanding of their responsibilities and obligations. The following is taken from The Transport Integration Act 2010, and while it has to be said that an attempt has been made at complying with most of these requirements, there has been no attempt “to support economic prosperity through efficient and reliable rail freight services”.
It should also be remembered that the current operators of freight, mainly Pacific National and Qube, are trucking companies, and their “loyalties” will always preference road over rail.
The current rail freight task in Victoria
has deteriorated to a point not seen since
the development of railways in this State in
This is the legislation under which V/Line operates, and perhaps if senior management were to spend less time picking fights with their workforce, creating jobs out of nowhere for mates, and propping up the ever expanding but increasingly irrelevant HR department, and more time actually getting on with the job of running the railways like they’re supposed to be, rail transport in Victoria (Freight and Pass) wouldn’t be the basket case that it is now.
131 Object of V/Line Corporation
(1) The primary object of V/Line Corporation is to provide rail passenger and rail freight services consistent with the vision statement and the transport system objectives.
(2) Without limiting the generality of subsection (1), the primary object includes the following
(a) to ensure, in collaboration with transport bodies and public entities, that its rail passenger and rail freight
services operate as part of an integrated transport system which seeks to meet the needs of all transport system users;
(b) to manage its rail passenger and rail freight services in a manner which supports a sustainable Victoria by
(i) seeking to increase the share of rail passenger and rail freight services as a proportion of all transport trips in Victoria;
(ii) while seeking to give effect to subparagraph (i), also seeking to improve the environmental performance and minimise the adverse environmental impacts of its rail passenger and rail freight services;
(c) to contribute to social wellbeing by providing accessible and reliable rail passenger services, particularly to regional, rural and remote communities;
(d) to support economic prosperity through efficient and reliable rail freight services;
(e) in collaboration with relevant bodies, to improve the safety of rail passenger and rail freight.
The problem now is that so much effort has been put into manifesting a political agenda of suppressing unions, finding jobs for mates, keeping foreign shareholders and parent companies on side, that the main objective of having a rail operation has been lost on those who currently administer it.
Nobody in their right mind would argue that the current
management structure of V/Line is the best it could be.
No, far from it. Most workers either laugh at the utter incompetence or feel total contempt, hatred and disgust toward the people who like to think they are the bosses. As I said earlier, I have never seen this in my 30 years on the job. Finally, it should be pointed out that frequently, throughout the Transport Integration Act, reference is made to “economic prosperity” and “benefits to all Victorians”. It seems to be an almost weekly event now that we at V/Line “welcome” a new member to our “team”. Invariably, that new member will be someone either from Queensland or the UK on a 457 visa, generally with little or no practical railway experience.
In almost every case, the “new member” replaces an
experienced Victorian employe with a lifetime on the
railways, and fosters an ever deepening hatred and
distrust felt towards management
If somebody is able to explain to me how that “benefits all Victorians” and promotes “economic prosperity”, please feel free to do so, because I am at a complete loss to explain what possible benefit there is to Victoria with the railways being mismanaged the way they are now. As for the honesty and integrity of those overseeing the operation, while you might well have your own thoughts on the matter, it would be inappropriate of me to comment any further.