Save Public Transport has written to the Premier, Mr Wran and the Minister for Transport, Mr. Cox, asking for a public enquiry into public transport administration and policy-making in New South Wales. A spokesperson for Save Public Transport, Mr. Don Morison, said: "We hope that such an enquiry could reveal to what extent mismanagement and inadequate funding are responsible for the highly unsatisfactory situation which has been brought to public attention by evidence already given to the Granville Disaster Enquiry and other recent disclosures."
He continued: "We do not mind whether the enquiry we are seeking is conducted by Judge Staunton and his colleagues with new terms of reference or a new board is appointed, provided the Government takes steps to set up the enquiry without delay." Mr. Morison concluded: "We disagree with those who say that no benefit can come from the government setting up further enquiries and feel that what we are requesting is not only desirable but essential to the public interest."
NOTES FOR EDITORS, CHIEFS OF STAFF
WHY AN ENQUIRY INTO PUBLIC TRANSPORT ADMINISTRATION AND POLICY-MAKING IN NEW SOUTH WALES IS NEEDED URGENTLY
The enquiry we propose would be an independent public enquiry with power to recommend improvements. It would deal mainly with the Public Transport Commission but also have the power to examine how the decisions of other authorities such as the Department of Main Roads and the Maritime Services Board affect public transport.
Two recent revelations demonstrate the urgent need for the state government to set up this enquiry. Both concern lengthy delays in attending to matters affecting public safety.
Firstly, in November 1975, eleven P.T.C. divisional engineers wrote to the then Chief Commissioner, calling for an immediate reassessment of rail maintenance policies and stressing that railway safety could not be guaranteed. Why did it take till October 1976 for an enquiry into track maintenance and safely to be launched?
Secondly, why were a further two hundred carriages containing highly inflammable seating ordered after a carriage containing such seating was completely burned out at Liverpool in 1973? And why, after a second fire at Redfern in June 1976, did it take till October 1976 for an investigating committee to recommend replacing the seats?
An enquiry is needed to closely investigate these matters. However, they alone do not constitute our basis for calling for such an enquiry. A large number of disturbing allegations about the conduct of the Commission have come to our attention at various times. Nearly all of them relate to the period before the present Minister, Mr. Cox, and the present Chief Commissioner, Mr Reiher, took office. Because of this, we felt it might be best to see what course things would take under their leadership, before calling for any enquiry. However, the recent revelations we mentioned suggest that the reform of the Commission, which we believe Mr Cox and Mr Reiher are undertaking with the best of intentions, needs the assistance of a full public enquiry.
In October 1975, a report was prepared on institutional decision-making in bodies concerned with providing public services in the Sydney area. This study was undertaken for the Commonwealth Bureau of Roads by a team from the Department of Government and Public Administration at Sydney University led by Dr M. J. Painter. Unfortunately we have only gained access to the sections relating to the P.T.C. and the Bureau of Roads has apparently still not made the report public. The conclusion to the report's chapter on the Public Transport Commission reads as follows: "In no sense has the Public Transport Commission been a success. Internal administration is chaotic, industrial relations is in the worst condition in memory, the level of services provided for passengers has fallen, and despite greatly increased fares, the financial condition of the services under the P.T.C.'s administration has deteriorated sharply. The P.T.C. has survived longer than its predecessor "experiments" solely because of political desperation in the first place and bewilderment thereafter."
Among the allegations made in the body of the chapter are: that "bus, train and ferry services have been curtailed without any economic analysis at all". and that "the P.T.C. has adopted a policy of contracting secondary distribution (from central rail-heads) to commercial hauliers and of closing even revenue-generating branch lines - without proper evaluation and without regard to the provision of rail facilities as a public service."
Some of the other allegations that have been made in the press and to the Save Public Transport Committee by public transport users and employees include:
A broad enquiry into public transport administration and policy making would presumably take much longer than the enquiry into the specific causes of the Granville disaster. If steps were taken now to set up such an enquiry, it could be ready to consider how the findings of the Granville Enquiry bore on the overall administration and policies of the PTC, as soon as those findings were given. At present, public service regulations and conventions prevent the officers and employees of the P.T.C. from publicly answering the criticisms of the P.T.C. being made in the media. Only, a broad enquiry, such as we are requesting, will give those people the opportunity to defend themselves and make public their own opinions as to how things can be improved. It would also be desirable that persons involved in the previous administration, such as Mr. Phillip Shirley, give evidence to the enquiry.
Our object in calling for this enquiry is not to find particular people to blame for the mistakes of the past. It is rather to discover what steps have been taken and what further steps need to be taken to ensure that those mistakes are not repeated. We cannot expect everybody in the Commission to do his or her job perfectly. But an enquiry is needed to determine why mistakes have not been discovered and corrected more quickly. The time has been reached when the public will not be satisfied until the full truth about public transport policy-making and administrative procedures in New South Wales is brought out into the open.