Melbourne Metlink needs a TfL lesson
THE HARD WORD | Melbourne’s public transport provider should take a leaf out of Transport for London’s book and invest more money in improving their service, rather than employing bully-boys to roam the city’s trains and trams looking for a fight.
METLINK’S ticket inspectors latest alleged run-in with a Melbourne commuter (this time for allegedly biting a passenger), has reinforced the overwhelming need for the ailing public transport operator to start addressing the need for prevention rather than pointless attempts at a cure.
A report commissioned by Metlink and released last year stated: “It is clear the authorised officers are perceived poorly within the community, the role is not respected and perceptions are entrenched through negative personal experience.”
A Victorian Ombudsman’s report in 2010 was scathing in its assessment of rogue ticket inspectors, revealing numerous incidents of commuters being assaulted.
Anyone who has ever used the service will be familiar with incidents of a similar ilk.
And anyone who has ever used the service would struggle to argue these inspectors are not ‘perceived poorly’ within the wider community.
The privately owned Metlink estimated in 2008 that one in 10 travellers failed to pay and that fare evasion cost Victorians between $35 million and $40 million in lost revenue.
The Hard Word could not believe more vehemently in the premise that the punishment must fit the crime. Fare evasion is one of the many scourges of society. Too many hard working taxpayers are forever ripped off by, in Melbourne’s case, a majority of people who take it upon themselves to take the system for a ride.
But there needs to be a greater emphasis on stopping the problem before it arises, rather than employing cowboys to dish out thousands of $200 fines every year.
I relied on Melbourne’s public transport system for some five years so I consider myself authority enough on the subject to voice my immense displeasure at the way in which the whole system is operated, from the top down.
I was fined on a number of occasions for “failing to produce a valid ticket”. I bought monthly tickets each and every month and over the course of a few years occasionally forgot to buy a new ticket for the next month. I wasn’t after leniency, but to say I was treated unfairly would be selling the experience short.
Many of these men and women are bullies. They thrive on confrontation, enjoy the prospect of using force and believe they’re in possession of powers from a higher being. Many are rude, arrogant and at times volatile. Of course they are forced to deal with twats on a daily basis, but so are police, so are shopkeepers, so are publicans.
Commuters can be forgiven for not respecting a system that is average at best. Constant delays and cancellations are compounded by the fact that in a city of some four million people – trains, trams and buses are terribly infrequent. Ticket machines (when working) are rendered useless by their inability to accept debit cards, and a failure to hand over anything more than $10 dollars in change. Many of them still don’t accept notes altogether! Talk about reasons not to buy a ticket.
But there is light at the end of the tunnel, albeit on the other side of the world. Transport for London (TfL) is a public body controlled by a board, and organised in three main directorates – London Underground, London Rail, and surface transport, which is responsible for London buses, the city’s road network and the congestion charge among other things.
I’ve relied on this system every day for 12 months and (contrary to British public opinion) find it mostly reliable, clean and convenient. Yes it is expensive, but like anything in life, you get what you pay for.
To get onto a train you can only do so by swiping your Oyster card or travel card at ticket barriers to allow you access to platforms. These gates are manned throughout the day by TfL staff. To get onto a bus you can only do so by swiping in at the door next to the driver. The middle door is only used for passengers exiting the bus. Articulated buses are for this scribe a bit of a nonsense, and were introduced in London but then phased out last year, mainly because of fare evasion. Ticket inspectors in the English capital, are from my experience, polite and friendly. And ticket machines accept debit cards, notes and coins and don’t restrict change making the experience far more seamless.
It all sounds so incredibly simple, so why can’t these few basic steps be implemented across Melbourne’s transport network?
Quasi-police patrolling the city’s network merely accentuate the frustrations of disgruntled and disaffected commuters.
Have you had a run-in with Melbourne’s notorious ticket inspectors? Tell us below: