TRAIN DRIVER PERFORMANCE AUDITS
Prior to the 2005 Amendments to the 1983 Victorian Transport ACT, all train drivers (those men and women responsible for the safety of thousands of commuters each day) were required to undergo regular performance audits. The audits consisted of two parts:
Every six months a practical assessment would be conducted on the train drivers to ensure that they were complying with all train handling requirements (signals, track speeds etc).
Shortly after this assessment was conducted the driver was required to attend what was called continuation training in a classroom environment . This was effectually a debriefing on any changes to Rules and Operating procedures whereby an exam would follow, and if there were any shortcomings with the individuals performance they would be addressed with the individual to ensure compliance with the act. During this time the driver would have to sign the result of the audit so that it could be filed and checked at a later date in the event of an incident to ensure for legal purposes that the driver had met all competency standards.
Now as MTM have discontinued the practice of holding continuation classes for the past 18 months that effectively means that almost all suburban train drivers are, in theory no longer accredited to drive trains. This could have some serious legal consequences for the state (read taxpayers) in the event of a serious mishap and it was found that the driver was no longer accredited to drive a train when the incident happened.
No reason was given to the drivers, and no one has signed a document to say as to why the practice was discontinued and on whose authority, but where we have some serious concerns is that information from within PTV informs us that MTM are still being paid the training fee that was attached to holding continuation training classes even though they have not held a class for well over 12 months.
Could that be construed as taking money under false pretenses, gaining financial advantage by deception, or otherwise
fraudulently receiving taxpayers money?
Now when RTI (Rail Training International) was conducting the continuation training classes they were being paid in the vicinity of 400 dollars for each driver in the class. There would be on average 10 drivers to each class conducted over a five day period and this translated into a considerable amount of taxpayers money over a twelve month period. I believe that the fee that MTM receive from PTV now for training purposes is much higher than that now.
It is entirely possible that MTM have devised yet another scheme to scam more funds from the Victorian taxpayers by cancelling the need to hold continuation training, but still claim the money that is being paid to them via PTV for training purposes.
Whereas the continuation training was of a practical benefit to train drivers and therefore value for money to the taxpayers the version of training that MTM are currently pursuing now is nothing short of ridiculous. To ensure that MTM still receive the training bonus from PTV they have devised a program where everyone attending the training class is required to change the tyre on a formula 1 racing car in an area that is described as the Metro Academy.
This might sound like a scene from Monty Python or Faulty Towers, but It is not. This is corporate idiocy at its best. The transport act is quite specific in regards to train drivers being accredited and nowhere does it mention that train drivers have to partake of some sham training scheme that is of no relevance to train driving whatsoever.
There is no logical reason why a Train Driver needs to know how to change a car tyre, even if it is a racing car tyre. What relevance does it have in regard to them doing their job? We believe that the answer is purely because they want to be able to say to PTV that we conduct training of all staff and they believe that entitles them to taxpayer funds relegated to training.
Now the second part of a driver keeping his accreditation involved a trainer (Principle Driver) watching a driver during a scheduled run to ensure that the driver is still competent and hasn’t picked up any bad habits. Now this has worked since the transport act dictated that a driver needs to keep his accreditation valid so that he can legally drive a train. But once again Metro management have decided to change this work practice that has worked for years and now puts the whole train driver accreditation into doubt.
There is a piece of equipment fitted to all trains that was fitted as a result of the Waterfall train accident in Sydney some years ago. It is called the VICERS monitoring equipment and was fitted primarily so that investigators would know what the train speed, braking, accelerating etc was after a serious incident. The federal safety regulator (ONRSR) has not authorised the use of this equipment for anything other than accident investigation, but MTM have started to use the VICERS to personally secretly monitor all train drivers rather than do the practical in cab monitoring by a Principle Driver. The problem with this type of monitoring is that it is not completely accurate: documentation from the manufacture, Favelly shows.
MIS-HANDLING OF THE DRIVER TRAINING SCHEME
MTM during their tenure have totally destroyed the driver training scheme that has been in place for many years and produced a fully qualified driver in around 73 weeks. MTM have made such a mess of the training scheme that around a hundred trainee drivers have now been in the training system for over 120 weeks and are still not qualified and are not likely to qualified any time soon. Although I believe that if they are challenged on this they will blame industrial action taken by the instructor drivers, even though the Fair Work Commissioner stated that there was no industrial action taken by the instructors.
INCREASE IN SPADS
There has been an explosion of SPADS (Signals Passed At Danger) over the last 18 months since MTM changed the driver training scheme and implemented its NON driver accreditation policy. There have been more SPADs in the past 18 months under the incompetence of MTM management than Connex had over a three year period, and the scary part is that they are increasing rather than decreasing and now senior managers have stated that they intend to downgrade the qualifications of drivers and the training that they require so that they will be able to pay them less.
What MTM have been getting away with, in every applicable facet of the operation of the suburban rail network, from training to maintenance, during the tenure of the last government and in breach of the train franchise agreement could not have happened without the assistance of someone at a senior level at PTV and this needs to be fully investigated by IBAC.