The Transport Ticketing Authority (TTA) in Melbourne is planning to replace the Metcard ticketing system with the overly complex ‘myki’ system by the end of the year. Myki is loosely modelled on smart-card ticketing systems such as the British ‘Oyster’ card. $1.35 billion has been spent on its development, paid to a consortium of private companies. Compare this to the $350 million per year (adjusted for inflation) spent before privatisation to run Melbourne’s tram and train network.
For 20 years, fares have risen at almost double the rate of inflation, partly due to the influence of private operators. In 2002, these operators threatened to withdraw, successfully forcing an increase in subsidies paid to them by the government. Due to this kind of pressure, privatisation has cost almost $200 million a year more than public ownership.
By a public transport worker
While most people are concerned about the impact of car pollution on air quality and climate change, most Melburnians travel by car because public services are inadequate. And recent changes to CBD tram stops are set to reduce the integration of the tram network, while the existing train network is still not used to its potential capacity. Many stations are unstaffed, placing commuters in unsafe situations and without access to basic services, such as passenger information or station toilets. Public transport staff have no say in the running of the system. Thousands of transport jobs have been lost since privatisation, and Metro is seeking to make further cuts.
On top of this, myki shifts the burden of ticket management onto passengers. Rather than purchasing a fare for their travel zones in advance, passengers are required to ‘prove’ they haven’t travelled in both zones by touching off at the end of each journey. This causes particular problems on crowded buses. If a passenger has a monthly or weekly pass, they still need to touch on and off so that station barriers work correctly. Delays are created at train stations by barriers responding to myki cards in a non-intuitive way. Myki readers suffer inconsistent response times, and they often go offline to reboot, as the cheap software is unable to handle the job.
Improvements could be made, but only at further cost. With a free public transport system, none of this would be necessary in the first place. The cost of running public transport for free would be a small part of the transport budget, comparable to the funding given to major road projects in a year. Under public ownership, this money wouldn’t be wasted on profit. With democratic control, genuine improvements could be made to the system and to services. A free, integrated and fully staffed public transport network, under public ownership and control, would lead to massive improvements for Victorians.
Attend the Fightback! protest: Scrap myki – Make PT free!
For more information visit: www.fightback.org.au