Friday, 18 December 2009

It was only $350,000

to send a team of 14 overseas for two weeks. It was apparently "necessary" and "good value". It was something to do with mass transport so who am I, a supporter of public transport, to complain? After all I have never had a licence to drive. Put me behind the wheel of a car and I would not know where to put the key let alone how to start the engine. I should be pleased that the government was prepared to go to all this effort on my behalf.
But, 14 people? Why not 4 or 40? Did they really need to visit all those places? Will they really learn from the mistakes of other people?
Adelaide put in a ticketing system for public transport some years ago. It did away with a good many jobs. It turned buses and trains into single person operations. Drivers now have to assist passengers where necessary. Many drivers see no necessity. It delays and impedes progress when they have to get out the ramp for wheelchair users. If you have a pram or pusher or, like me, you have to take a tricycle on the train you get no help. Once a guard would have been there to help. It was his role to help. Now the transit officers, when they appear, are there only for security. "It's not our job to help passengers. We're just here to see people behave." They are rarely there anyway - and, it sometimes seems, never when they are most needed.
The ticketing system which brought about all of this was supposed to keep fare evasion at a minimum. In reality it allows a high level of fare evasion. Kids have the system sorted. Adults 'forget' to validate or, having placed their card next to a convenient magnet to wipe it, claim it does not work. It will get them at least one free trip.
The government has only itself to blame. The system is clumsy. There is no provision for 'return' tickets. There is a two hour time limit. There are peak and non-peak fares. They recently cut out fares for those over sixty - as long as you no longer work and have a Seniors Card - but only in the non-peak period between 9.01 am and 3pm. (Please note that 9.01 and not 9.00.) The timetables are also neatly designed so that connections cannot be made.
We must also acknowledge that the ticketing system we implemented was brought into being at great expense after a very expensive fact finding mission to find the 'best' ticketing system. After all, we had to avoid the mistakes made by the rest of the world. Just as we began to put it in place the French were ripping it out because it was losing them so many fares. Never mind, it was all going to be very different and work well here. Perhaps.
So, we will get the world's best mass transport system in the future. We will not make any mistakes because the fourteen people who went, including two government ministers, are going to be on hand for years to give us the benefit of all this expertise.
In the meantime I had a 'phone call, "I'm from X department. I've been told to get in touch with you because we urgently need someone who knows about...." Oh yes? And then it comes, "I'm terribly sorry we can't pay you but we really do need to see if we can help this family."
Now, did they really need to spend $350,000 on that grand tour or could they have used it to employ someone for a year to save them more than $350,000?
I know, government does not work like that.


Anonymous said...

Could have employed five people, including one to help that family.
Judy B

catdownunder said...

Yes, but one of the perks of being a government minister or a senior public servant is that other people pay for your trips overseas. How many people did our Beloved Leader take to Copenhagen??