Observations & musings

Open letter: A simple man’s thoughts on public transport

This email was sent to Terry Mulder (Minister for Public Transport & Roads), Neil Mitchell (3AW Broadcaster), Daniel Bowen (President of the Public Transport Users Association) & several others, including myself. Permission from the author has been given to re-publish.


To: <terence.mulder@parliament.vic.gov.au>

Subject: A simple man’s thoughts on public transport

Dear Mr Mulder,

I’m normally the type of person who tries not to complain, tries to cop life’s misfortunes on the chin and just worries about the things I can control – and lives with those things I can’t. However, after hearing your comments regarding the latest report advocating additional funding for Melbourne’s public transport system, I just can’t sit silently any longer.

Mr Mulder, contrary to what you may think or what the latest satisfaction survey says, our system is a shambles. Now I know you can wheel out a whole book of stats that says otherwise, but let’s face facts….stats are easily manipulated, can be skewed to support any argument and generally only tell half the picture.

The whole picture is this:

I live near Altona station. You know the one, the station on the “tourist loop” that you and the good folk at Metro decided to reduce direct services to Flinders Street last year. I copped that, as I usually only catch the train during peak hour – when direct services are the norm. However now it appears that even the direct services are failing us. Case in point is tonight, as I boarded a 5.58 Laverton train from Flinders Street. After taking twice as usual to get to Newport Station (due to a signal fault, according to the driver), we were then stopped in between Newport and Seaholme when the driver announced over the PA that, due to a delay in communication from Metro, we were now going to travel direct to Laverton and wait for another train to take us back through the tourist loop. In brief, my usual 30 min trip took me an hour and a half!!!

That is just the latest in a long string of cancellations, delays, postponements and general neglect that I have had to endure as a commuter on your public transport network. Yes Mr Mulder, the network is your responsibility. Now you will probably absolve yourself of any responsibility and advise me that this is Metro’s responsibility but, as Metro pays fines to YOUR government and is accountable to YOUR government, it is YOUR responsibility. However, instead of accepting responsibility and showing me that you and your government are trying to do something about it, you give me the following:

  1. It’s Labor’s fault. C’mon Terry, you’ve been in government for 16 months now. The expiry date for blaming the previous government is usually 12 months after taking office….but now you’re trying to extend that. You can’t. You can’t keep blaming all public transport woes on Labor. Yes, they were hopeless, but at least they had some sort of plan. Where’s yours? You don’t have one. That’s a big issue Terry. The reality is that you, Ted and the happy other Liberals (and Nationals) really didn’t expect to win in November 2010 and, when you did, realised that you would be held to all of your outrageous campaign promises…which you have now tried to abscond yourselves from at every opportunity. You thought you could promise the moon and, when you lost the election, then sit back and remind voters that they could have had everything but voted Labor instead. Well, they didn’t vote Labor, they voted for you….which put you between a rock and a hard place. Tough spot Terry, but tough men can deal with tough spots. In light of your situation Terry, I have to question your toughness.
  2. You’re working on it. Oh Terry, where? Services continue to slide and more and more people now drive because “you’re working on it”. Working on what? My dear neighbours who attempt to use your confusing and non existent bus service have it even tougher than I do. So, where’s the work?
  3. You need federal funding. Oh here we go again. Time for more political point scoring. Terry, we’re talking about the VICTORIAN public transport system, not the national transport system. Your government is so obsessed with balancing the budget, you will sacrifice every promise made to get it done. And for what? What does a balanced budget mean for me? It won’t get me to work on time. It won’t get me to a job interview on time. It won’t get me to the doctor on time. And it sure as hell didn’t get me to a death in the family on time. Stop blaming others Terry, and at least you might earn a little respect. Right now, you don’t have any.

Shall I go on? Absolutely.

I realise being the member from Colac, you can feel safe in your electorate, as most in your electorate don’t deal with Metro on a daily basis. Unfortunately for you Terry, you are the VICTORIAN minister for public transport (and roads too….but I’ll spare you the complaints about things such as the West Gate Bridge and your lack of forethought on developing another route to the city from the West). Sorry, I digress. Terry, you are the VICTORIAN minister for public transport…not the COLAC minister for public transport. You may not have to worry about it, but your parliamentary colleagues certainly do. Remember Terry, you have a very slim hold on government. Keep blowing people off and you’ll be in opposition again in no time.

Terry, I’m certain you get these emails everyday, and I’m even more certain you do not read a single one. One of your spin doctors or ingratiating lackeys probably do all the reading…..and then tell you what a great a job you’re doing…but to get your attention, I want to dangle a carrot in front of you….

Terry, I would dearly love to discuss Victoria’s public transport system with you. Any place, any where, any date, anytime. I’ll even take annual leave for such a grand occasion. You name it, and I’ll be there. Terry, it would be too easy for you. You’re a polished media performer, a man who spends plenty of time in the spotlight, who’s used to lively dialogue on a daily basis. Me? Well, I’m not Daniel Bowen. I’m not Paul Rees. I’m not a member of the Labor Party (believe me Terry, I am no fan of the ALP). I’m just a 9 to 5 joe, who works in a dead end job for a large business who cares as much about me as you do.

However, what I do have is passion…and a first hand knowledge of what a mess our public transport system is…and plenty of arguments that say you and your government don’t have a handle on it. Just name a place, just name a date, just name a time.

Yours Sincerely,
(name and contact number withheld)

PS. On the slim no chance that Terry Mulder wishes to accept the challenge in the letter above, then his people can get in touch via this website.

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