By: Fabian Cotter

FOLLOWING 17 FEBRUARY'S FIXNSWTRANSPORT protest rally in the Sydney CBD, the next stage of related public displays against recent changes to the NSW toll roads, train and bus services are set for Saturday April 14 and Sunday May 6, according to organisers.

A lone rocker fist-pumps in defiance, urging on the assembled FixNSWTransport protest crowd last February in Sydney's Martin Place. (Photo: www.zebedeeparkes.com)

Actioned in response to perceived problematic and incorrect changes to key sections of the NSW public transport system, as well as an alleged misuse of public funds for projects like the multi-billion-dollar WestConnex, the protest events are seeing many union groups and angry residents affected by such Government moves uniting to illustrate their cause, spokespeople say.

Speaking exclusively to Australasian Bus & Coach (ABC) magazine, former independent candidate for the Inner West Council, Leichhardt Ward, and now current spokesperson for transport-activist organisation NoWPT, John Lozano says 'enough is enough' and that these protests will continue and grow in size until big changes are made to fix the State's transport system before billions more dollars are wasted on flawed ideas.

"The FIXNSWTRANSPORT rally was organised as a way for our community to voice their deep concerns over the aggressive privatisation agenda of the NSW government," Lozano explained.

"Whilst the Government sings its praises on community consultation and engagement, nothing could be further from the truth. That rally and, the more that will follow, is the only way left for the community to be heard. Our message is loud and unified: 'Not Happy, Gladys!' [in reference to NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian MP].

"In fact, we are outraged over what they have done to public transport in NSW. Our community are the losers. The privatisation in Newcastle [buses] leaves no doubt.

"We expect our government to provide 21st century solutions. Mass transit systems designed for commuters to move about our cities without having to resort to driving. Yes, sometimes driving is necessary, but it should never be the only feasible option or the one always favoured by a short-sighted Government. The huge imbalance, the massive overspend on private toll roads must be halted and spending on public transport increased to levels commensurate with the levels of current usage and to cater for future demand." he added.

According to Lozano, "ABS statistics show that western Sydney motorists are the least likely to drive to work in the CBD, with car usage as low as 8 per cent for these journeys."

"So why is it that our Government's prime solution for that region is a toll road? They will tell us that they are also investing in this and that, but the evidence is clear. There is a complete skewing of funding towards areas of transport that are simply not justified, to the detriment of all of us."

Newcastle Backdrop

Private-sector operator Keolis Downer began running Newcastle's buses in July 2017, but statistics for the first three months of operation, as illustrated by a performance graph issued by the company and reported on by The Newcastle Herald, showed while 95 per cent of all services were on time when journeys started, this dropped to 79 per cent by November. Calculations made mid-journey saw on-time running reduced from 87 per cent to 52 per cent, and end-journey on-time data fell from 90 per cent to 68 per cent in November.

According to information accompanying the graph, Keolis Downer states it did not meet its "key performance indicators" target, but it "recognised that factors such as Supercars, school formals and King Street congestion impacted on these results".

With a new network having started on January 14, adding an extra 1000 services a week, Keolis Downer expects this would improve the bus service’s on-time running performance in future.

Lozano says commuters in Newcastle are furious over the changes to their regular services following the privatisation of their transport network.

"Public transport was never designed to be profit generating; it was designed to provide a service to the community. Benefits and profits are realised indirectly elsewhere. Efficient public transport equals less cars on road, which equals savings in road maintenance," he said.

"Asking a pensioner or someone with a mobility impairment to walk four blocks to a new, relocated bus stop is unacceptable. Just as unacceptable as expecting them to have to chop and change to complete their journeys when getting into one bus was hard enough."

At the time of print, the Rage Against WestConnex rally was to be held at King George Park, Rozelle, in Sydney on April 14. The May Day Rally and Family Fun Day – a Public Service Association of NSW and Unions NSW event – was scheduled for 6 May at Hyde Park North, Sydney.




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