Some interesting recent information on the realities of privatisation

Their eight-year contracts begin with none of the wild optimism voiced by Jeff Kennett in September 1999. Handing over the newly privatised system to five franchisees, the then premier said: ''Within the next five years, you are going to see the most wonderful change to the quality of public transport in this state that we have experienced in our lives.'' The model of competing franchises soon fell apart. Steve Bracks' government had to bail out private operators in 2002 and 2004.

…The axe fell on Connex and Yarra Trams, but the Government cannot disavow its responsibilities. It chose to stick with private operators and, after a decade in office, can no longer lazily blame its predecessor. In September, a Senate report into federal funding of public transport found Melbourne's network was badly managed in comparison with Perth's government-operated system. A key problem was lack of accountability: it was unclear who was in charge. The consequences of the lack of an overarching transit authority to oversee the whole system are clear.

The public sees public transport as a core state responsibility.

New operators of trains and trams in new livery will struggle to deliver acceptable service unless the Government makes good its past neglect of infrastructure.

For the past five months the consortium that operated Yarra Trams from April 2004, Metrolink, ran 82.4 per cent of its trams ''on time'' - within five minutes of their schedule.
Metrolink was dumped in June in favour of Keolis, which will be required to run only 82 per cent of trams ''on time''.

… one of the first changes commuters have noticed is the platform announcements.

MTM will not only inform travellers of the length of delay, it will announce what caused it.

"That's something that a lot of people have communicated - they want a better understanding of why their journey has been interrupted," Ms Waymark said.

"There are so many things that happen on the network every day, whether it's a tree falling on a track or a signal fault, it's important we show that we're on top of the issue."

Today also marks the first time Melbourne's train users have 'platform attendants' to help them get on and off trains.

"The platform attendants will be at stations specifically on the city loop from this afternoon," Ms Waymark said.

"Their role is to assist customers getting on and off trains safely to ensure they are better able to keep to timetables and leave the station at the scheduled time, particularly during peak hour.

… as it departs, let it be noted that in the past two financial years, Connex posted profits of almost $50 million. The company's management predicted that — had it not been dumped for Metro Trains in June — it would have reaped a further $35 million in profits over the next two years.

The time has come again for the Melboune's train system and those who work for it to be held again in high regard, for governments — including this one — to treat it with the attention, skill and funds it deserves. Because all too often it has seemed like no one is in charge of Melbourne's public transport system.

Privatisation Case Study

Delegates Steve Staines and Billy Long from Sydney Ferries along with MUA Officials Warren Smith & Paul Garrett and the Sydney Branch Delegation attended the Inland Boatmens Union Conference this week in Seattle, USA. At that conference, the delegation took time to meet with the representatives of the British Columbia Ferry & Marine Workers Union to discuss the bad experiences that Canadian ferry workers had when their Government privatised the ferry service some years ago and to further work through the comparisons with Sydney Ferries in our campaign to keep them in public hands. A report has been put on the MUA website and it can be accessed through the following link:

Washington State Ferry workers support Public Sydney Ferries

Workers on Washington State ferries have expressed solidarity with the workers at Sydney Ferries in the battle to maintain Sydney Ferries in public hands. View the full story here:

Our Community would suffer

Public Transport is an integral part of the fabric of our society and is a right, not a privilege. It sits alongside Health and Education as a basic building block of our community.

Sydney Ferries service 45 wharves between Parramatta and Manly providing a link with other modes of transport to provide a world class public transport system. Public Transport should remain firmly in Public Hands and not be “farmed out” to private enterprise to be bred for profit.

The Profit Motive

The Private Sector is concerned with making a profit with shareholders expecting a dividend from their investment. If the Ferries are privatised, this dividend will come from the NSW taxpayer who will effectively be subsidising private industry.

The results of profit hunger can be seen in the UK where, in March 2006, privately run British Gas raised the price of electricity and gas by 22%. At the same time British Gas increased its dividend to shareholders by the same amount at the expense of the taxpayer. The same could happen here if the Ferries are privatised.

Profits go offshore

If multinational companies are allowed to operate the Sydney Ferries service, profits will be sent overseas. Both companies tendering for Sydney Ferries, Veolia and Transdev, have their head offices in Europe. Once again it would be the NSW taxpayer who would suffer as a result of profits going offshore.

Increased Fares

If a private operator becomes involved with the running of Sydney Ferries, they will be seeking profit in order to pay a dividend to investors. One way they could do this is by raising fares. Our community would be supporting foreign investors.

In the UK the price of standard rail tickets increased by up to three times the rate of inflation following the privatisation of rail services. The same could happen here to the Ferry Service.

Service Reduction

As a way of reducing costs a private operator could cut or combine Ferry services. Again profit would come before the needs of our community and it would be the NSW community that would suffer. Public transport would become a privilege rather than right.

Job losses

In the quest for profit, staffing levels and training could be cut in the name of efficiency, compromising the safety of the travelling public. At a time of economic recession, when keeping jobs alive is an international concern, losing jobs through privatisation is not acceptable.

If the NSW Government is going to “Buy Australian” it should leave Sydney Ferries safe in public hands.


If passengers are driven from the Ferries as a result of reduced services or increased fares they could be forced back into their cars and onto the already congested road system with a resultant increase in pollution.


Ferry users are seen as health concious users of public transport. They tend to walk and cycle, care about environmental issues and are committed to a sustainable future. They arrive at their destination without the stress of congested roadways, pollution and road rage. Ferry users are anecdotally stress free!


Public transport systems cannot operate without significant funding contributions from governments. The NSW Government could not allow essential services like the Ferries to collapse.

If the Ferries are privatised and the operator runs into financial difficulties the Government (that is, the NSW Taxpayer!!) will have to subsidise the private operator.

It’s been tried before with transport company Brambles returning the Ferries to the government in 1974 after an unsuccessful attempt at privatisation. Who suffers? The NSW Community. Remember the Cross City Tunnel? Remember the Lane Cove Tunnel?


The current Public Transport System in Sydney is integrated, with timetables allowing buses to meet ferries and trains. If the Ferries were privatised the idea of a “Transport Network” would be threatened in the quest for profit.

If services are axed or combined, links with Trains and Buses would not be a priority for a private operator who would be constantly seeking profit.


A private ferry service might find it difficult to adapt to future changes in rail and bus networks and timetables which would further inconvenience the travelling public. Waiting times could be longer or a service might simply disappear.


Almost half of Sydney Ferry passengers are tourists, both Australian and international. A ride on a Sydney Ferry is on most people’s ‘must do’ list. Increased fares and reduced services could see a fall in tourist patronage and a reduction in visitation to destinations like Manly and Darling Harbour. Ferries are a Sydney icon and should stay safe in public hands.

Who is saying what on Privatisation?

Sydney Chamber of Commerce stance on the Privatisation of Sydney Ferries
Sydney Chamber of Commerce, Sydney First Members

Our members include global organisations, major Australian corporations and Sydney-specific public and private organisations. Sydney First Members will set the public policy agenda for the Sydney Chamber and will drive debate on what Sydney should be.

Sydney Chamber of Commerce Media Release Thursday, 21 May 2009

Sydney Ferries privatisation must stay on agenda

Reports that the NSW Government intends to backdown on its commitment to contract out Sydney Ferries would come at the cost of improved service standards, commuter satisfaction and the budget bottom-line.

“If the government walks away from privatisation, it would really beg the question of who actually runs this state – the government or the unions?,” said Patricia Forsythe, Executive Director of the Sydney Chamber of Commerce.

Mrs Forsythe urged the Premier to stand firm in the face of opposition from public sector unions.

“Industrial threats from the Maritime Union of Australia are generally a good indication that you’re heading in the right direction. We’re urging the Premier to stay committed to the reform agenda.

Mrs Forsythe said that the government should be buoyed by the success of the privately-operated Manly Fast Ferry, which has experienced patronage growth and enthusiastic community support.

“We believe that there are strong levels of interest in Sydney Ferries among private operators. Only the private sector can deliver the cultural change required to address service standards.

“Having raised expectations in the private sector, it would be a major disappointment if the government backed down on its commitment to reform.

“This is a mixed signal to the business community, which simply undermines investor confidence in this state,” Mrs Forsythe concluded.”

It’s perhaps interesting that the two foreign owned firms currently tendering to operate Sydney Ferries, Veolia and Transdev in partnership with Transfield, are both Sydney Chamber of Commerce Sydney First members.

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