STATE RAIL EMPLOYEE SENIORITY
Predictably APT's well publicised support for the State Rail Authority's moves to introduce employee promotion solely on the basis of merit drew some adverse comments from rail unions. (It is interesting to note that most rail unions ignore consumer groups until those groups start to publicly challenge work practices and other issues related to the question, "Is the public transport customer getting value for money?"). Peter Mansford of the Australian Transport Officers Federation (ATOF) approached APT and staunchly defended the principle of promotion by seniority. ATOF's official newsletter recently defended the principle by quoting a hypothetical situation of an SRA officer at Broken Hill who would not be able to come under the notice of SRA management and therefore could not be promoted on merit to a position, for example, at Transport House, Sydney. This raises interesting questions from the rail customer point of view - who is this officer accountable to? Would not the number of customer complaints, or commendations, concerning that officer be part of the measure of merit? APT accepts that promotion by merit is not the perfect system nor is it the panacea for all the SRA's ills, but when customers have to bear the brunt of rudeness, inefficiency and complacency on the part of some State Rail employees who live in a world of seniority-based se1f-sufficiency then it is understandable that the people who pay the wages want a different system. APT's members, most of whom work in the real world where promotion by merit has been the norm for years, appear to have strong views on this issue perhaps because so many of the public-contact people in the SRA (ATOF and Australian Railways Union members) are affected by the promotion issue. APT will continue to press for complete promotion by merit to all vacancies in the SRA and UTA.
TRANSPORT TO PARRAMATTA'S COMMONWEALTH CENTRE
The opening of the Commonwealth Centre at Parramatta in 1988 will see a significant growth in Parramatta's work force and changed travel patterns for many public servants who now commute to the city. Public service unions such as the Administrative and Clerical Officers Association have been somewhat naively campaigning against the relocation of some Commonwealth Government departments to Parramatta. Now that the relocation is fait accompli the ACOA, and the departments affected by the move to Parramatta, would do well to direct their energies into examining transport arrangements to Parramatta. Already there have been some sensible suggestions regarding the implementation of limited-stop cross-suburban bus services (similar to the "Red Arrow" concept) from centres such as Hurstville and Sutherland to Parramatta. Of course the private bus "territorial" issue and the attitude of the Department of Motor Transport would be factors to be reckoned with before such services could be introduced. Perhaps this is an excellent opportunity for the Department of Motor Transport, the private bus industry and the Urban Transit Authority to adopt a fresh approach towards the implementation of cross-regional bus services in Sydney.
BURWOOD'S MISSING TRAINS
A number of APT members attended a meeting at Burwood's Westfield shopping centre on 25/10 to protest against the reduction in the number of trains stopping at Burwood. Many people at the meeting commented favourably on the presence of John Brew and Russ Shepherd from the State Rail Authority even though they did not address the gathering they did take the trouble to attend and listen to the views of Burwood community representatives. Not so favourable comments were made concerning a member of Transport Minister Ron Mulock's staff who was noted moving amongst the crowd handing out a leaflet from the Minister entitled "These are the facts". Despite the fact that Mr Mulock was quoted in the "Western Suburbs Courier" as saying that the campaign for more trains to stop at Burwood was phony he thought the meeting was important enough to organise a leaflet distribution stating his viewpoint! The leaflet listed the number of trains currently serving Burwood and provided a comparison with Ashfield but it avoided mentioning that in the period between July 1980 and July 1985 56 fewer westbound trains stopped at Burwood; in the city-bound direction the reduction was 60 services. Mr Mulock's leaflet stated that Fairfield, Liverpool, Parramatta and Blacktown all have less services than Burwood but greater numbers of passengers, however the growing importance of Burwood as an employment centre and its lower car ownership per head of population compared with the aforementioned centres was not mentioned. Unfortunately the debate about Burwood's train services seems to have descended into the area of party politics with Ashfield State Member, Paul Whelan, now trying to whip up an Ashfield versus Burwood fight (Ashfield's rail service has increased at Burwood's expense). Whelan appears to be also trying to enlist other Labour MP's in a campaign against Liberal Burwood Member Paul Zammit. Whelan seems to have forgotten that the reduction in trains to Burwood has adversely affected his own constituents who, despite the establishment of a regional shopping centre at Ashfield, still need to travel to the larger Burwood shopping centre (eg. to shop at Grace Brothers and Burwood's wider range of specialist shops). APT hopes that the debate about Burwood's rail service is lifted to a higher level - we will be monitoring this issue closely. Perhaps the Commonwealth Bank's new EDP centre at Burwood, which will employ about 500 people, is the evidence needed to convince some people of Burwood's continuing and growing importance as a regional centre.
It is gratifying to see that after a long campaign by the Macarthur Development Board, Campbelltown community groups and, initially, Action for Public Transport, Macarthur station is finally receiving an off-peak train service (approximately hourly, but unfortunately not a complete memory timetable) to enable shoppers to reach the adjacent Macarthur Square shopping centre. Amidst the rejoicing however APT would remind the State Government that Macarthur station is uncompleted - the original plan to provide a siding to park terminating trains clear of the main lines has not reached fruition - perhaps a train every 30 minutes during shopping hours would be a reasonable objective if the siding was built.
The difficulty of obtaining "hard" information - the where, when and how much - has been a longtime complaint from State Rail's actual and potential customers. Consumers have often expressed frustration at the vast gulf between the excellent T.V. and "glossy" brochure advertising produced by the S.R.A. and the stodgy timetable leaflets hidden in railway ticket offices. APT is therefore pleased to note that a recent newspaper advertisement for XPT services provides detailed XPT fare and timetable information - let's hope we see more of-this type of ad.
Country and Interstate rail travellers who work in the southern part of Sydney's CBD will welcome the rail travel centre incorporated into the refurbished Town Hall station. A pleasing aspect of this new centre is the range of leaflets displayed in the window in full view of passers-by. Even the S.R.A's fares leaflet, often difficult to obtain, was displayed in the window during late November.
It perhaps is ironic that it takes an event like a Papal visit, which involves moving large numbers of people by public transport, to force the S.R.A. and U.T.A. to jointly place newspaper advertisements outlining the special services provided for the visit, The very positive consumer reaction to these ads. should encourage both Authorities to look hard at permanent weekly joint newspaper advertising to notify customers of new services, alterations to existing ones and to promote the many diverse features of public transport ranging from the Sydney Explorer bus to the availability of family rail tickets. Budgetary restraints may be a problem but APT believes that Sydney's public transport users deserve regular multi-modal advertising of service changes. Already the S.R.A'S weekly newspaper advertisements notifying rail customers timetable alterations caused by track works have made life a lot easier for weekend and night train travellers.
IMPROVED FERRY SERVICES WELCOMED
New inner harbour ferry timetables introduced on 7th December have been welcomed by public transport users. Previously, only Taronga Zoo, Mosman and Cremorne in the inner harbour had Sunday ferries. Now, Neutral Bay, Kirribilli and suburbs west of the Harbour Bridge also have a full-time service.
Apart from improved schedules for existing routes, new weekday peak hour services operate to Gladesville. ln a particularly welcome move, Sunday ferries have been restored to Hunters Hill.
Unfortunately, the local private bus company, North and Western Bus Lines, will not be providing a connecting service to the Hunters Hill ferries. ln a properly controlled and integrated transport system this would never be allowed to happen. A.P.T. hopes that the absence of buses will not jeopardise the viability of the Sunday ferries.
ln any event, full marks to the U.T.A. for the schedule revisions, which have been implemented with very little increase in operating costs and no capital outlay at all. A good example of how quick and effective improvements can be made without spending millions on hardware.
The new printed timetable is also worth a mention. It has 48 pages, (the old one had l0), the pages are larger and in three colours, and there are maps and timetables for connecting bus routes.
WHAT A.P.T. HAS BEEN DOING ......