1999 No. 1 - February 1999 - ISSN 0155-8234


The new marginal electorate of Ryde will be contested on March 27 by the current Opposition's spokesman on transport, Michael Photios, and Labor's John Watkins. The candidates have been fighting a war of words, both promising the electorate better public transport. A recent letter to the editor of the local Northern District Times from an Eastwood commuter of 12 years complained of train service disruptions. The editor ruined everything by noting that the letter was written by Photios' campaign manager.


APT have told the Roads & Traffic Authority (RTA) safety think tank "Road Safety 2000" that we no longer wish to be associated with them. This is because they were using safety as a reason for building more roads whereas we think that safety is an argument for reducing over-reliance on the private car. The NSW government's Staysafe parliamentary road safety committee has released its report on child pedestrian safety. The report criticises the RTA for its failure to disseminate relevant research findings on children and road safety. It accuses the RTA of suppressing studies which showed the RTA safety education programme in a poor light, and exposes the RTA's attempts to change the publication date on various reports from 1996 to 1994.


State Transit has called tenders for up to 12 new 300-seat "Supercat" ferries to replace its "First Fleet" catamarans. Two prototypes will be similar to a RiverCat with the addition of an upper deck, and should enter service just prior to the Olympic Games. APT have initiated discussions on the number of gangways to be provided, weather protection and stair access for passengers on the upper deck, air conditioning, bicycle accommodation, and destination signs.


Readers will recall how proud the transport authorities were last year over the success of the Easter Show public transport arrangements. So much publicity was given to the shortage of parking that many people who might have driven used public transport (there were direct buses from many trainless suburbs). The few parking spaces available were underutilised. This year, more spaces have been constructed (9000, up from 5000) and the parking operators want them used. Daytime parking during the Show will cost a commendably-high $25 per vehicle. It will be interesting to see how the roads system copes with the heavy demand that may well be placed on it by Show patrons arriving in cars. And it will also be interesting to see how public transport revenue suffers.


Prior to the last State election in 1995, the Labor Party promised, among other things, reform of the Roads & Traffic Authority, including the creation of a Board of Directors and the stripping of its road planning powers, the end of the "Los Angeles style road expansion mentality", a review of the contract for the M2 motorway (North Ryde to Seven Hills), direct train services from Hurstville to Bankstown, a shift in emphasis from road transport to public transport, the minimisation of car travel, "much needed railway line expansion", provision of a transport system which would be environmentally sustainable, introduction of intermodal tickets during its first term, the restoration of late night trains, more "nipper" (small vehicle) bus services, timetables to be posted at all "Government" bus stops, resumption of construction work on the Maldon to Dombarton railway (a freight line connecting Campbelltown to Port Kembla directly), rail improvements to reduce trucks on the Pacific and Hume Highways . . . . . . . . . It hasn't happened. Like the Coalition government before it, the Carr Government's public transport improvements have been overshadowed by its tollway building, which has not only been ecologically unsustainable but financially and economically suspect. Premier Carr has knowingly betrayed his personal expertise (he used to be Minister for the Environment) by authorising the construction of the Airport Motorway. The public pressure for this tollway would not have arisen had not a previous Labor government proceeded with the Harbour Tunnel - a financial disaster for taxpayers which simply shifted a traffic jam from the harbour bridge approaches to the village-atmosphere streets of the inner eastern suburbs. Carr has further damaged his credibility by approving the M5-East motorway, and resurrecting the 10-year old plans for the totally unjustified east-west city road tunnel. The ONLY rail expansion projects commenced under the Carr administration have been the short Flemington freight bypass tunnel (cost-shared with the federal government) and the Lidcombe to Olympic Park shuttle. Of the seven PROPOSED rail projects announced in Labor's much-publicised "Action for Transport 2010" transport plan ( Herald, 24 & 28 November), two won't open till 2010, three won't even start construction till 2010, and one, Bondi Beach, has already been aborted, leaving one (Hornsby - Warnervale) to be operational by 2007. APT have called on the Opposition to match the Labor plan. A vote for one of the minor parties on March 27, with your preference directed to either major party, might send those major parties a strong message.


State Transit is planning bus changes in the area served by its Kingsgrove Depot but is deferring any detailed announcement until after the State election on 27th March. That can only mean the changes are for the worse.


The new Federal Transport Minister, John Anderson, now has some big decisions to make in the near future about Australia's transport. One is what to do about a second airport for Sydney. Another is what to do about Australia's crumbling railway infrastructure. As stated in the October issue of this newsletter, the Neville report revealed that Australia's railway infrastructure is in a critical condition and badly needs the injection of considerable funds which can only come from Canberra. Austrlia's railways have been rationalised over the last several years and rail freight services are much more efficient than they were a decade ago. But at the same time there have been a number of measures which have allowed road freight to keep ahead of rail freight. Ssignificant among these has been the widening of the areas in which road trains and particularly B-double semitrailers can operate. Ten years ago in New South Wales, B-doubles could operate only west of the Darling River, but now can operate on all the major highways. This has allowed road vehicles to take a lot more of the medium heavy freight from rail. There is a clear danger that the more environmentally- friendly rail freight services will be sacrificed in the interests of short-term economic rationalism. Let us hope that Anderson might take some notice of Paul Neville's report and improve at least some of the more critical rail corridors.


Sydney's Nightride buses, which replace trains from midnight to dawn, have been around for nearly ten years now. In that time, the routes and schedules have barely changed at all. Consequently many timetable displays on posts around the suburbs have suffered the effects of vandalism, weather and age and are now unreadable. APT requested the controlling body, the Department of Transport, to replace the signs. The department's response was that they will commence a replacement programme based upon information supplied by the Nightride service providers. Your correspondent can just imagine the contract driver on route N50 jumping off the bus at Stanmore station at 3 o'clock one winter's morning to check on the condition of the timetable on the post, and note it on his log!


The overwhelming issue which emerged from the 1998 Premier's Forum on Ageing at Bankstown on 29 September was access to public transport. Workshop outcomes called for greater regulation of, and subsidies for, privately owned bus services, the breaking of bus service monopolies in the Sydney metropolitan area, a regional approach to transport planning, government-supplied buses for community groups, improved physical access to public transport, and extension of the geographical range of the $1 pensioner ticket. This last item included an acceptance of a commensurate price increase to $2. The recent push for a common fare for senior citizens across the whole of Sydney seems to have overlooked the higher rents paid by seniors in the eastern and northern suburbs. These higher rents can be partly attributed to the higher quality government and other services available, including transport.


There has been a rash of closures of transport libraries over the last ten years, the latest considered for closure being the former State Rail library. The library has been transferred to Rail Services Australia, which is commercially oriented. This library has the best collection in NSW of current railway journals and directories, with a massive collection of books and back issues of journals. The intention seems to be to kill it by gradually destroying its functions, until its users all go away. Its closure would be a serious blow to local railway planning, and a permanent loss to all who are working on railways such as engineers and students.


Sydney Ferries know how to charge. A new service from Circular Quay to the Fish Market at Pyrmont runs at weekends via North Sydney and Balmain. Pensioner Excursion tickets, FerryTens and TravelPasses can not be used, and the adult single fare is an exorbitant $4.00. Are they trying to discourage people from using public transport?
Cartoon about ferry fares


APT made a submission to the Democrats' inquiry into the proposed Goods and Services Tax. Like several submissions which received more publicity, we concluded that the GST had been made-to-order for the trucking industry, and needed considerable adjustment in order to be fair to the public transport industry. Readers may be aware that the Fringe Benefits Tax treats the company car very favourably; FBT is effectively an unjustifiable subsidy to the company car. See, for example, The Australian of 23 Feb. The tax system should be used to produce revenue for public purposes and to implement desirable policies. We must not let it be captured by the roads lobby.


Given the choice, would you have a used-car salesman run your bus and train services? The Motor Traders' Association has a seat on the NSW Public Transport Authority board. The users do not.


Many readers will have seen the "free" Star City casino buses which collect gamblers from various suburbs and take them home afterwards. Passengers pay fares but most are "re-imbursed" with gambling chips of the same value as the fare paid. These services lost many patrons when casino management put up the fares. Services were then cut back.


Lack of time, not money, is what prevents voluntary transport lobbyists from achieving more of their goals. That's one of the preliminary findings of a survey of transport activists and lobby groups conducted by the School of Geography at the University of NSW in November. Sixteen transport, bicycle, and commuter groups were surveyed. The results suggest that further research and analysis might be of interest to public sector organisations which seek community participation in their activities.


CityRail's trial of station signage (October '98 newsletter) has been confined to three stations, Circular Quay, Wynyard and Redfern, instead of the original eight. The trial, including user surveys, will be complete by the end of March. Signage text will be in English only, but extensive use will be made of pictograms.


Draft amendment No 9 to the Central Sydney Local Environment Plan 1996 proposes to limit opportunities for growth in public car parking, establish criteria for the assessment of such car parking, reduce the amount of commuter parking, and restrict the leasing of tenant-related car spaces to non-tenants. The plans were on display at City Council's One Stop Shop at Town Hall House. Enquiries - David Snoswell, 9265-9679. Car parking spaces in the CBD have recently been selling for $80,000 to $90,000 each. Meanwhile, one of Sydney's first multi-storey car parks, the Kent St parking station, is to be demolished . . . to build a car park. The existing building has 1010 car spaces; the proposed one will have 1276. The proposal includes residential towers. It is also planned to widen yet another expressway, the Western Distributor (which passes overhead), from 6 to 7 lanes. Where will it all end? Well, in a watershed advertisement for a large function at the Homebush Bay Olympic site on 21 February, the RTA said "This Sunday, there will be no car parking at Homebush Bay".


Our planned metropolitan election campaign ground to a halt in November when we found we were unable to enthuse other lobby groups (October newsletter). Those groups who did participate were unable to agree on strategies and so the impetus was lost. Better results were enjoyed in regional NSW, particularly in the Blue Mountains-Central West. For the record, the three issues most wanted by respondents to our mid-'98 survey were: First - Reform of the Roads & Traffic Authority - principally the withdrawal of its stranglehold on transport planning and funding. (We note that the RTA is to provide most of the funds for the Liverpool to Parramatta Transitway.) Equal second - Opposition to metropolitan toll roads, a preference for freight to be moved on rail instead of road, and an improved public transport telephone information service, to include the provision of information on privately-owned bus services. Equal third - Integrated (multi-modal) public transport tickets, and lower speed limits on roads. The Department of Transport has recently called tenders for the provision of an Integrated Transport Information Service (ITIS), which will include the privately-owned bus services, and is to be operational by November 1999. Incidentally, the current "Infoline" information service (131500) gets 20,000 complaints annually about bus and train services, about equally divided.


During December last, the Department of Transport's new Sydney Public Transport Directory was distributed, or supposed to have been distributed, free to every household in Sydney, all 1.3 million of them. Another 500,000 copies are available for sale at tourist offices, all RTA offices and "selected councils". Only twelve Sydney councils accepted the Department's invitation to sell the directories. They are Bankstown, Blacktown, Burwood, Campbelltown, Hawkesbury, Hunters Hill, Ku-ring-gai, Mosman, Leichhardt, Manly, Ryde and Woollahra. It is irresponsible of the other 30-odd councils that they could not see fit to participate in this attempt to increase public transport usage. If you live in one of those areas, why not ring or write to your council and ask them why they don't sell the directory at their offices and libraries.


At the first 1999 meeting of the Transport Panel of the Institution of Engineers, speakers from the Department of Transport and the Roads & Traffic Authority described NSW's freight transport strategy. They showed why the strategy is so important to Sydney. Limiting growth in road freight is an important objective of the strategy. However, the Government shows no sign of giving the strategy any priority over granting political favours to its mates in the roads and trucking industries. Until it does, the talents of such experts are wasted.
Cartoon about planning


In a bid to ease highway congestion and improve bus and train services, the U.K. Deputy Prime Minister, John Prescott, has released a discussion paper advocating charges on motorists for access to highways and town centres. Initially, the funds raised would be put into public transport improvements (IRJ 1.99).


The Department of Transport has engaged Kinhill and ERM Mitchell McCotter to prepare the Environmental Impact Statement for this proposed railway. Kinhill was roundly criticised for its EIS on Sydney Airport's third runway. ERM was responsible for a glowing, but inadequate, Statement of Environmental Effects for a proposed 10-metre-wide public TV screen outside Sydney Town Hall. The SEE did not properly address the psychological effects on pedestrians and workers who might have been irritated by the accompanying sound broadcast. City Council rejected the screen proposal.


The State Rail Authority has told the cycling group Bicycle NSW that it has taken the needs of the mobility- and visually-impaired, the elderly and frail, parents with strollers, and cyclists into account in the design of its new "fourth-generation" train which will enter service in late 2000. A mock-up of the interior of the train will be publicly displayed in May 1999.


The "Cockatoo Run" tourist train, whose demise we reported in our October newsletter, re-commences on 15 March. It will operate a modified once-daily return service Thursdays to Sundays between Unanderra and Robertson, laying over at Robertson from 1 p.m. until 3 p.m. Enquiries: 1800-64-3801.


The Olympic transport organisation, O.R.T.A., has called tenders for concept designs for bus terminals at Olympic venues and bus/rail interchanges at railway stations. They will need to be better-designed than the new Moore Park bus station, which has all the ambience, colour and facilities of a temporary gaol.


In August 1994 we were concerned to find that there was no intention to provide waiting shelters at the CBD stops on Sydney's then proposed light rail line. Believing that such shelters were as essential a part of any modern, civilised, public transport system as the vehicles themselves, we decided to take up the cause on behalf of prospective passengers. We thought that, as the need for shelters was so obvious, we would soon get agreement from the various parties involved in approval and construction. Many letters, phone calls and meetings later, we came to realise the power of the city's aesthetes, who placed much more importance on the appearance of the city streetscape than on the basic needs of those people, whoever they were, who used public transport. We got lots of promises but no shelters. Imagine, then, our surprise when shelters appeared at the light rail stops in November 1998. We have no doubt that they're there principally for the advertising revenue they will generate - part of the controversial advertising-posing-as-street-furniture contract between City Council and a consortium associated with media magnate Kerry Packer and advertising personality John Singleton. (There will be 150 new bus or tram shelters in the CBD alone, with a similar number to be provided in other Local Government areas). Under the same contract, most of the CBD's old bus shelters and their accompanying timetable displays had been removed by mid-December. Most of the new shelters, already adorned with their advertising posters, appeared very promptly, but by late February, none of the timetable displays had been replaced and some stops still had no shelter. Despite promises from City Council, the timetables at the new shelters may not be readable at night. They will be fixed to the back wall of the shelter instead of to the roadside post, where previously they were at least occasionally illuminated by passing traffic. APT have identified a dozen design faults with the new shelters. Many of them might have been avoided had the prototype shelters been subjected to service trials as suggested by APT in July 1998. Ryde Council has also earned criticism for its shelters, supplied by a different manufacturer. Rain is blown onto the occupants through the gap between the walls and roof. Council has asked the supplier to modify the design.


A fast ferry, linking Circular Quay and Ettalong in 40 minutes, is planned to commence service in early 2000. Fast Ships Pty Ltd plans six return trips each day, charging a one-way fare of about $6. The rail journey between Woy Woy and Sydney Central currently takes 66 minutes.


Missed train/bus connections have been the bane of Sydney commuters for years. In Belgium, 50 bus/rail interchanges are to be equipped with a computerised display which discourages bus drivers from leaving the terminal before a late-running train has arrived. The computer calculates a revised departure time, using a previously-agreed bus waiting time, then generates a random number which the bus driver must write down. In any dispute over missed connections, the driver must be able to produce his departure number to prove he had permission to depart. ( IRJ 2.99)


We apologise to supporters for having produced only three newsletters during 1998. There was simply insufficient newsworthy material toward the end of the year. The following office bearers were elected at the Annual General Meeting on 13 November - Convenor, Malcolm Cluett; Secretary, Jim Donovan; Treasurer, Allan Miles; Management Committee, Graeme Taylor, Kirk Bendall, Graeme Hoskin, and Kevin Eadie. The commencement time for our weekly meetings has been changed to 5:30 pm, Fridays. The venue is the level 3 Concourse (lower ground floor), University of Technology, Broadway, between Harris and Jones streets.


World Sustainable Energy Day - March 4. Enquiries Kathy Fook 9299-0189. Transport policy - seminar, 11 a.m., March 13, Granville. Enquiries: Nature Conservation Council, 9279-2466. Train tour to Griffith March 13-14. Enquiries St James Rail Tours, 9436-2394 or 0412-611-343.


Greenprint for Sydney - policies book from Total Environment Centre. Includes chapters on transport. Priced $14 from T.E.C., level 2, 362 Kent St, phone 9299-5599. Carbusters quarterly. It must be saying something right - the Herald's resident car fanatic has dubbed it "totally evil". Climaxing Oil: How Will Transport Adapt? - paper by Brian Fleay delivered at Chartered Institute of Transport in Australia National Symposium, Launceston, 6-7 November. Jim Bosnjak - article in The Australian, 19 Oct. Shows how influential this well-known bus proprietor and his Bus and Coach Assoc. are in the affairs of western Sydney and its transport. First Abolish the Customer - 202 Arguments Against Economic Rationalism. Book by Bob Ellis cites many stupidities caused by blind pursuit of economic rationalism, including several from the public transport arena. ISBN 0-14-028123-1.