Threat to jobs and safety on NSW trains

June 8, 2008

A report released on June 5 by the Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal (IPART) calls for massive job cuts and fair hikes to make Sydney train services more "efficient". The report recommends cuts amounting to $480 million a year, the June 6 Sydney Morning Herald reported.

IPART recommends axing all train guards — resulting in the loss of 1176 jobs — and replacing them with close-circuit TVs, supposedly guaranteeing passenger safety on platforms. It also proposes cutting staff at 204 of the 305 CityRail stations, replacing them with automated ticket machines, slashing a further 521 jobs. The report also called for the axing of 300 middle managers.

The IPART report attacks train crews, arguing that they spend only 35% of their time, on average, actually driving trains on service.

In an insult to commuters, who are increasingly forced to endure infrequent and overcrowded trains, the report also calls for a 20-30% increase in fares over four years, with particular emphasis on increasing long-distance ticket prices, which would particularly impact on commuters from the Central Coast and Sydney's far west.

"This report is an absolute insult to the travelling public of Sydney", John Coleman, a Central Station activist committee member of the Rail, Tram and Bus Union (RTBU), told Green Left Weekly. "There are already long queues at all times of the day at many stations. Slashing staff and replacing them with unreliable ticket machines will create absolute chaos.

"And as for the argument that passenger safety can be maintained with close circuit TV rather than guards on trains — that's just ridiculous", he said.

Nick Lewocki, RTBU state secretary, called on the NSW government to reject the report.

NSW transport minister John Watkins has not yet endorsed the report. "We have no plans to reduce the level of customer service to our passengers by reducing staff numbers in key customer service areas", AAP quoted him as saying on June 5.

The RTBU, which is in dispute with the NSW government over a pay claim, has won the right to ballot its members to consider protected industrial action after RailCorp challenged it in the NSW industrial commission. Thousands of rail workers have already endorsed the call for strike action at mass meetings.

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