MEDIA RELEASE / NEWSLETTER NO. 1 / May '88 / ISSN 0155-8234


Transport policy was a clear example of the decline of the N.S.W. Labor government The lack of any overall transport plan or even any principles on which to base one, made disasters like the monorail and harbour tunnel almost inevitable. In this planning vacuum, an institutional imbalance has led to a twisted allocation of resources between public and private transport The public transport bureaucracy has problems operating its present services, let alone thinking of operating new ones. With a change in government, can we expect anything better?

In the balance the answer is probably "NO".

In the election campaign, the Coalition made some promises which held hope for improvement. The feasibility of rerouting the monorail, suspending work on the tunnel and sending containers from Port Botany by rail rather than road were to be investigated, and a definite commitment given to preserve the Wolli Creek bushland from freeway construction. The Coalition's transport policy, released last year, put emphasis on improving public transport's financial position through competitive tendering (eg. for cleaning and catering) and more aggressive marketing, rather than any significant extension of services. Essentially the Coalition appealed to constituents who were annoyed at traffic congestion, by promising them more roads rather than any viable public transport alternative.

We have now seen only the beginnings of action by a Liberal-National government. but the prospects do not look good. Consider:

Monorail: rerouting is still under investigation (at a price of course) away from the city centre, which would perhaps make it less of an appendage to giant Darling Harbour parking stations. However, the Greiner government should not think of this as a bribe to environmentalists which would clear them on everything else with which they press ahead.

Harbour Tunnel: It has been announced that work on the Tunnel will continue. The new government's promise to "investigate" the case for cancellation of the contract has, we are told, been honoured. The roads lobby will have their tunnel, while any unsavoury aspects can be blamed on the last government.

There goes Greiner's first lost opportunity in transport planning! The facts are that, firstly, the state government could terminate the contract made by the Unsworth government - it is merely a question of agreeing on a price and that secondly, even a heavy price in compensation would be worth it as independent investigation of the tunnel's cost~benefit ratio has shown that we will be $78 million a year worse off than by spending an equivalent sum on public transport improvements. If it is true that the Tunnel really cannot be stopped, it could alternatively be utilised for the Transit North light rail scheme or two lanes over the Bridge {the former tram lanes) freed for the same purpose.

Opposition is continuing from lower North Shore councils (recently joined by Kuring-gai) who do not wish to see their suburbs (and many businesses) ruined by the traffic induced by the tunnel and would prefer construction of Transit North. They have in fact jointly printed a brochure to advise residents of the issues. Meanwhile, the old claim that the Tunnel will be built "at no cost to the taxpayer" has been proven wrong. The state government has repeatedly had to add to the toll collections to meet the monthly payments to Transfield-Kumagai and the total shortfall has now reached $300,000. One little-noticed effect will be to give the Greiner government a real disincentive to make any improvements to public transport which would jeopardise toll collections on the bridge and tunnel.

Other Freeways: It is not yet clear how much is likely to be built, but watch out for the "domino effect" as each new length of road induces that much more traffic and congestion, leading to demands for more to be built and putting us deeper in debt to the internal-combustion engine and imported fuel.

On the general issue of transport planning, the Coalition's thinking does not seem to show any advance over the Unsworth or even the Askin years. Much has been made of the SRA's "loss" and little of the costs of road damage by heavy trucks. We are not denying the possibility of great improvements in the efficiency of public transport services (the possibilities would fill several newsletters themselves!), but the present road and rail losses and the biased way in which these are accounted and reported, should not be taken as a guide to the best allocation of investment between them. There was a promise to set up an overall transport planning unit, an alternative to the present situation in which the DMR plans for its own advancement while SRA and UTA don't plan for theirs. If this is achieved and it is a genuinely independent and impartial body, the government may have to revise its thinking.

Transport operation: Other planned or impending changes include:

Turning from public transport operation to the transport scene as a whole, it seems that the Greiner government is really a continuing "Greinsworth" one (to borrow a slogan from the Australian Democrats). There will be an attempt to revive Askin's freeway plans together with a lot of talk about efficiency and better management of public transport, but no serious examination of the roles each should play. The vested interests will remain the same. APT members (and all those concerned) will have to keep pressing for action on those issues where a commitment to "investigate" was given and to remind the new government to keep thinking about public transport as a positive; economic alternative to the mess we have today.

The fact that our views are widely shared is shown by the number of independents elected to the Lower House by voters who are tired of the lack of choice between Liberal and Labor parties on this and other issues. we are disappointed in the Upper House that independents with good transport policies (such as Milo Dunphy or Jack Mundey) were not elected. However, these peoples' preferences helped to elect an Australian Democrat to hold the balance of power. The Democrats' transport policy, incidentally, is very good, though with little chance in the face of the bipartisan attitudes mentioned above.


Not Just Two Free Rides for the Price of Ten? MetroTen tickets are now on sale as another part of the slow and painful process of streamlining UTA bus operations. Tickets provide ten trips for the normal price of eight and are cancelled by the passenger on those orange machines inside the bus entrance. Like Travelpasses they should cut down on time lost through drivers having to sell tickets, but MetroTen is intended for those who do not travel every day. A few drawbacks so far include

However, MetroTen is commendable as helping to speed up buses and giving potential for further integration of ticketing in future. It is gaining acceptance in Newcastle, where tickets have been on sale longer than in Sydney.

Speaking of Fares ...
About this time each year, the previous government used to announce a fare rise approximately equal to the increase in the C.P.I. Action for Public Transport has always approved of this idea and we look forward to a similar announcement soon from the new Minister.

The Urban Environment & Planning Coalition
which was formed to unite the efforts of a wide spectrum of urban and residents' groups (including APT), recently held its second conference in Sydney. Transport issues came high on the agenda with the call being made for a public inquiry into NSW transport planning. The inquiry would need to address matters such as the economics of road versus rail freight, and the alternatives to the harbour tunnel. The Coalition for Urban Transport Sanity (C.U.T.S.) has also called for an inquiry.

Bookshops by Bus
And now for a commercial. A new book, titled "Bookshops of Sydney", the contents self-evident, has been published by Primavera Press. It lists the bookshops in alphabetical order, and by suburb, and, for the specialist ones, by topic. However, the best part is that it also tells you how to get to each by public transport. There are also helpful hints about Metrotrips and the free city buses. As they say, "Public transport tickets are cheaper than parking tickets".

Would that more businesses inform their customers about public transport instead of mentioning only parking facilities!

Bus ... What Bus?
And now for a non-commercial. One reason why businesses have to tell you how to get to their door by bus is because the Urban Transit Authority is rather tardy in publishing its own information. The Sydney Public Transport map, showing all UTA and private routes, was first published in 1979 and revised in 1986. Despite promises to issue new editions regularly, the next one seems as far off as ever; and most of the Bicentenary visitors have been and gone.

So many bus routes, numbers, and destinations have changed since the last edition that people picking Lotto numbers and bus numbers have equal chances of getting them right.

Praise to the STA for:-

Late Night Buses
An interesting debate has arisen in Brisbane following complaints about the shortage of late night transport after Expo closes each night. The chairman of the Brisbane City Council Transport Department is floating the idea of a "permanent all-night system where buses would run every 90 minutes between midnight and 5 a.m. on 15 major routes". "Of course, there'd have to be special increased fares on this ... " If we in Sydney think of ourselves as sophisticated night-lifers (and subject to random breath testing} we should be thinking of such a service as well. The passengers gained might not only be those during the night hours, but from the same people going out earlier in the evening.

East Hills-Glenfield Railway
We await the start of a full train service on this line with a new suburban timetable coming into effect shortly. Journeys between Campbelltown and the city will be speeded up, but will the frequency of T all stops trains to East Hills be reduced?