SMH public transport inquiry: final meeting

Went to the final public meeting for the SMH public transport inquiry. There were about 260 people. It was the eight meeting and there was security because “we’ve had bruises” when “high emotions” had flared. “Mostly in suburbs where people have read about trains and want to have them.” There was a demonstration of how the sound bloke would turn the mike off if anyone tried to go over their three minutes of chat time.

The attendees included Brezhnev characters, unionists, the Balmain intelligentsia, feisty articulate pensioners, a bloke who’d worked on the railways from 1948, passionate trainspotters, and CBD workers. A queue of people lined up to make comments or ask questions. For those too shy to go up, you could SMS a question to the MC, Robert Whitehead. It ran about 10 minutes over time.

One bloke said Rees reckoned we couldn’t spend on transport cause we might lose our AAA Rating with Standard & Poor’s. But he said the point of the rating was so the State could get cheaper loans. “So, get the cheaper loans and spend it on public transport

Discrimination against Singles: a woman said she went to buy the Family Funday Sunday rail pass — $2.5o a person — but just for her. The bloke said no, it’s $17 for you. She had to pay it. She said four Singles would take four cars, then, rather than pay $17 each. And when a family takes the train, that only saves one car on the road.

I felt most sorry for the pensioners — having to pay lots for various modes of transport, or having to waste their valuable time by catching cheaper and slower modes (often buses). Shuffling around with their Zimmers, and there aren’t enough ramps at stations either. Cruel after a lifetime of taxpaying service. The maximum pension is $253/week each (couple) or $335 single. Not enough to pay your bills.

There were handouts from EcoTransit Sydney that summed up the main problem: If Nathan Rees’s proposed CBD Metro-to-Roseville  project happens, it will use up a valuable corridor which could be used for better transport for “hundreds of thousands of people every day”. So that’s why commuters should be in a state of outrage. “You can’t put rail tunnels just anywhere under the CBD because of deep building footings, basements and underground car parks.”

Worse, the CBD Metro would stuff up existing services so anyone travelling in from the west or south would have to get off the train and get on the Metro CBD to get to Town Hall or Wynyard! Nightmare!

Why is Rees persisting with the CBD Metro idea? The EcoTransits say they have inside info that it’s to break the unions by starting up a new metro-style rail system “that’s privately operated, un-unionised, run with a minimum of staff …” to “reform the culture” of CityRail. The commuters suggest maybe they should run CityRail properly instead, as there’s a high probability that a CBD Metro would lose money and then the taxpayers would end up footing the bill.

There’s also a new law so the Rees Govt can sell off rail lines.

Also, Newcastle is stuffed with a plan to cut the rail line just five kilometres from the town centre and make everyone get off and catch buses! This will free up lots of waterfront land.

Also, when Rudd was giving out money for transport infrastructure — for long-term and definite plans — NSW didn’t offer up any plans — so it just got $91 million to do a feasibility study for the rubbish CBD Metro. Meanwhile, Victoria got $3200 million and the Gold Coast got $365 million.  NSW has ignored about five comprehensive long-term plans since 2001 — instead, it’s more open to private enterprise just catering to wherever they can make the biggest buck. *Fail*.

The commuter groups said Rees could have shown Rudd “shovel-ready” plans for a North-West and South-West rail links, areas with huge population growth, but he didn’t, and instead floated the CBD Metro idea which didn’t even have any concrete plans ready. So we’re stuffed.

The affable Dr Glazebrook is a transport uber expert who could answer all questions. I wished they’d left the map of the transport system on the screen all night, as I didn’t know what was what off the top of my head.

He said Singapore’s railway system when from nothing to brilliant after just 30 years. After listening at the meetings, he said people want: *more off-peak buses;  an integrated ticket-fare system; and more parking at train stations so they can park after 7am.

Dr Glazebrook said: “Sydney used to have 1500 trams — more than Melbourne has now.” And our train system routes are better than Melbourne as we made Westfield build huge shopping centres next to train stations — Kogarah, Hurstville, Bankstown. But we’ve badly missed out with no trains to Dee Why and Castle Hill. The North-West and South-West have no trains and it’s dire.

“We spend $22.9 billion a year on our cars. It would cost $3.2 billion to make a big different to public transport.”

He said the US funds public transport with sales tax, petrol tax and land tax. France funds it with payroll tax. He said there was a four per cent increase in US users of public transport.

City of Sydney Mayor Clover Moore said we need transport to Green Square and that the bad transport is “affecting our status as a modern global city”. She said the council has to negotiate with more than 11 transport authorities (that all hate each other) to get anything done, so council staff have to spend all their time in meetings.

“Singapore and Shanghai are infesting billions in transport. We have to do this.” She said if Sydney were a sovereign country, we’d have the world’s 50th largest economy.

Get your submissions in by 5pm Thursday, October 8, here. Remember, these plans are good for 2030 — so when you’re a doddery pensioner, you’ll want faster transport and a fairer ticketing system. Metro Madness blog here.

[The SMH MC RW  said the SMH had been asked to establish another 10 inquiries at least — “hospitals, and one on ‘Canberra’!”. He said this was the first one the SMH had done in 180 years, so … The fact there have been so many requests is interesting. People are desperate to be heard by their Govts and feel the weight of the SMH is necessary cause otherwise they’re dismissed. What an indictment.]

My personal views on public transport here.

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