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Monday, December 23, 2002
Crisis for Melbourne’s transport

Melbourne’s integrated transport system, about which I have been so enthusiastic, is in trouble. Privatised in 1999 under the previous Liberal (i.e. Conservative – or should it be Braille?) State government, the system needs more money.

When the system was privatised, to Yarra Trams, National Express, and Connex (remember any of them?), it was done with big subsidies (of course) and the expectation of a big increase in usage. Alas, the big increase has not occurred. It appears that the State government, now Labore, has declined to come up with any more money (surprise, surprise).

If such a superb system goes bust, what are we likely to infer? The local informed view is that, so far, there has never been a successful privatisation of a public transport system, anywhere in the World. The Aussies frequently look to Britain for examples. Could they have found a more botched privatisation than British Rail?

National Express and Connex intend to withdraw from the arrangement, having suffered losses. Yarra Trams want to take over the whole system, including the suburban railway. Interestingly, the original architect of the privatisation still sticks to his view that privatisation works. Whether or not Yarra Trams will take over and make a success of the system, it appears that further large subsidies will be necessary.

From road tolls, perhaps? (See last posting, immediately below.)

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