A call to privatise rail services
Rhys Haynes Transport Reporter Daily Telegraph
From: The Daily Telegraph January 01, 2010
CITYRAIL should be run by a private operator who would face millions of dollars in fines if its services ran late, Australia's largest infrastructure company said.
As the network hits full capacity today with commuters returning to school and work, the nation's peak infrastructure body Infrastructure Partnerships Australia has decided enough is enough.
With the backing of Tony Shepherd - the chairman of Transfield Services, one of the Australia's largest infrastructure companies - IPA has called for Premier Kristina Keneally to follow the Victorian Government lead and allow a private operator to run CityRail.
Known as franchising, the ownership of the state's rail assets would remain in public hands but a private company would be responsible for the running of the service.
"The rail service is the backbone of the transport network, if it's not functioning well it affects millions of people, drives up congestion and costs billions to the state economy," IPA executive director Brendan Lyon said. "It's already been done in Brisbane, Melbourne and Adelaide and on the Manly route for Sydney Ferries, with excellent results.
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"Franchising Sydney's transport networks will simply bring NSW into the 21st century."
A private consortium running the CityRail network would be forced to meet on-time targets and pay significant financial penalties when trains were late, cancelled or dirty, according to Mr Shepherd, one of the pioneers of public-private partnerships in Australia.
"Franchising is a very good way to go in terms of public transport reform because it is not privatisation - it leaves the assets in the hands of the state and the public."
Sydney commuters welcomed the idea of taxpayers being rewarded if trains weren't arriving on time. Many said they were delayed last Monday, for example, when defective track signal cable at Penrith had to be replaced between 7am and 9:30am.
Cityrail said 28 services out of Penrith were delayed, causing chaos during the morning peak.
Dulwich Hill resident Sarah Brown, 20, said she would welcome a private operator to improve reliability. "It's never good having a late train, but it would make me feel better knowing that [taxpayers] would get the money if the private company had to pay for being late," she said.