When a public asset is privatised, maintenance suffers. This is something well known, a company only interested in making money for it’s shareholders will always seek ways to cut costs (and cutting maintenance costs is a good way to do this).
Take heed New South Wales, this is the lesson that Victoria has learned the hard way.
In November 2007, Singapore‘s SMRT Transit and Hong Kong‘s MTR Corporation Limited expressed interest in taking control of Melbourne’s suburban rail network from Connex in November 2009, when their contract was to be reviewed.
On 25 June 2009, Connex lost its bid to renew its contract with the Victorian Government. Hong Kong backed and owned MTR Corporation took over the Melbourne train network on 30 November 2009, operating as a locally themed consortium Metro Trains Melbourne. MTR is a non-public railway owner and operator in Hong Kong where it is well known for constructing Transit Oriented Developments (TODS) around its stations.
In 2006, Professor Paul Mees and a group of academics estimated in their article “Privatisation of Rail and Tram Services In Melbourne: What Went Wrong?” that privatisation had cost taxpayers $1.2 billion more than if the system had remained both publicly owned and operated. With the franchise extensions in 2009, taxpayers will pay an estimated $2.1 billion more by 2010.
Dr. John Stone wrote in his article “Melbourne’s public transport: performance and prospects after 15 years of ‘privatisation’”
Is Melbourne’s model of single – mode franchising serving the city well?
… franchising is not bringing costs down or improving operational efficiency.
This is despite significant patronage growth, and is contrary to the predictions of the early proponents of franchising.
He also made mention of “the lack of accountability for MTM’s increased maintenance payments”.
Platform White Line Painting and Edging
The latest to suffer (also the most obvious to the traveling public) are the platform white lines.
Once a job performed at the end of every Summer, line painting has now been canned as un “unnecessary expense”.
Nevermind that it has already resulted in injures to passengers and staff, every dollar saved is a dollar that can be sent back to the shareholders in China.
It has reached the point, that the cleaners who pressure clean the platforms no longer clean the white lines as not just the white paint, but also the asphalt, is being blown away.
Track Mud Holes
Long term employees of Metro Trains Melbourne and V-Line will tell you that since MTM took over the contract in Victoria, the condition of the tracks is the worst it has ever been.
Mudholes have have even developed on the Flinders Street to Southern Cross viaduct. What is essentially a concrete trough filled with ballast developed numerous mudholes on its northern viaduct track. This, like the estimated hundreds of mudholes on the network was ignored by MTM until, on the 29th of June at approximately 8am the rail cracked. The result was 3 hours worth of delays, this time.
Those readers who have travelled between Williamstown North and Williamstown Beach will attest to this lack of track maintenance. They have been putting up with substandard track maintenance for over a year.
And to think, MTM want to put XTrapolis trains on the Williamstown line! (If you want to know what this will be like we have an experiment you can perform at home: Take some eggs and place them inside a large metal biscuit tin. Shake vigorously)
Andrew Lund recently shared the following on twitter:
MTM have been pretty bad at this ever since they took over. Now, however, despite even the looming re-franchising MTM seem even more intent upon ignoring their contractual obligations.
The above and below graffiti was first spotted by a fan of the MetroMemes facebook page on the 17th of February 2016 at platform 13 Flinders Street Station. It ran almost the entire length of the platform.
Below is a section of the Metro Trains franchise agreement (Volume 2).
The graffiti above would require a track occupation to clean and as it is not offensive, MTM are given 1 month to clean it.
It was still there on the 26th of April when the fan sent in another picture to MetroMemes facebook.
Again, it was still there on the 20th of May, over 3 months later (and more than two months beyond the time given by the train franchise agreement).
The below graffiti was spotted at Hawksburn Station by a fan of Metro Memes on the 2nd of April 2015. It was still there a week later (despite the requirement that it be cleaned within 24 hours).
It doesn’t just apply to stations;
As can be seen from the Metro Train Franchise Agreement (Volume 2)
MTM have expressed disdain towards its contractual obligations at almost every turn.
PRIVATISATION or JUST MTM?
Is this the fault of privatisation or just MTM’s poor management?
While it is true that Andrew Lezala is a huge fan of giving giant bonuses to his management teams that meet their KPI’s,
and badly written and rewarded KPIs have a negative effect (see below example)
Ross GITTINS writes in his article “Why KPIs are a dangerous fad”
“Early in June our manager discovered we were a few percentage points away from meeting operational requirements for the financial year. Rather than explain to his boss that staff cannot perform well when there are continual computer problems and weekly changes in procedures and priorities, he instituted a series of ludicrous schemes to improve the statistics,” the person wrote.
“Any work that was already out of time was placed on the backburner, not to be touched until after July 1, when it would be counted in the next year’s statistics. In other words, work that was overdue would not even be looked at for another fortnight.
“For two days staff did nothing but go through their files searching for cases that could be closed without further action or referred to another area. We achieved absolutely nothing in terms of genuine output for those two days, but our percentage of resolved cases sky-rocketed. We then started on the new work, but only worked on simple cases that could be closed well within the acceptable operational time frame…
“On June 30 our manager proudly announced that we had achieved operational requirements.”
And he has a history of giving out huge bonuses to management who put even more holes into his already sinking ship:
As CEO of failed Metronet, there are allegations that Andrew Lezala oversaw lavish boat parties and flat screen tv giveaways to his executives.
the blame cannot be placed at the feet of MTM alone.
The State Government (Past and Present) must take some blame.
The Current Victorian Government are in Re-Franchising discussions with Metro Trains Melbourne already and are planning another 8 years of sub-par maintenance standards and shoddy workmanship.
PRIVATISATION IS NOT JUST FAILING US
John Stittle, Senior Lecturer in Accounting at the University of Esex, wrote in his article ‘Chaos on Southern trains a symptom of Britain’s rotten privatised railway industry’.
“Since July 2015, when Southern was incorperated into the GTR franchise, it’s performance in train operations has been woeful. It has continued to breach it’s performance targets specified in it’s franchise. However, rather than insisting GTR honours it’s agreed targets, the Department for Transport lowered the operators performance standards – and even these reduced targets continued to be missed.”
Sound like someone we know? MTM have lower performance targets than Connex did, and one of the first things that they did was add extra time into the timetables to give themselves a buffer.
“Amazingly, the DfT refuses to admit that the train operator is failing. Rather than remove GTR’s franchise , the DfT have continued to prop up the franchising system in particular – and rail privatisation in general.”