Tuesday, April 30, 2013

QR CityTrain and Brisbane Transport to be privatised?

QR - To be privatised?
The long awaited Queensland "Independent commission of audit" was finally released today. This not particularly independent audit of the states finances by LNP ex-federal treasurer and non-accountant Peter Costello has cast a gloomy look on the states finances. This has given Campbell Newman the chance to achieve the liberal dream of privatising as much as possible under the guise of "contestability".

Interestingly, this news is on the same day that it has been reported in Brisbanes mX newspaper that train patronage has nosedived yet again, due to high un-affordability of Brisbane's inefficient public transport system.

So what does this mean for public transport in SE Queensland? It has been quoted in the Courier Mail that "The government has accepted recommendations to open up city passenger rail services, long distance tourist rail services and bus service contracts to competitive tendering. In relation to the CityTrain network, the government has agreed to allow different providers including private providers to bid to operate services and maintain below-rail assets under franchise and lease arrangements". In other words bus and train services will be open to contestability (i.e. can the same service be provided by a private operator for less).

BrizCommuter generally sees this as good news. As mentioned in this recent blog article Queensland Rail (QR) is grossly inefficient, and possibly one of the world's least efficient train operators in terms of cost/km. For just 10% of QRs current operating budget, almost the entire inner-suburban network could receive a 15 minute 7 day/week off-peak service. Whilst privatisation in some cases such as the UK has not decreased costs (or performed more for the same cost), this was due to the rail operators being efficient in the first place (unlike QR). Safety is however a concern, with QR having a very good safety record compared to many other rail operators (public and private). BrizCommuter is sure the unions will have a word or two to say!

The mention of buses is also intriguing. The innefficiency of Brisbane Transport's network has also been mentioned a lot recently in this blog, including this previous post. However, Brisbane Transport is a Brisbane City Council asset, not a state asset. So is Brisbane Transport to be opened to contestability? BrizCommuter hopes so, with the added benefit that network design can be returned to TransLink. This in turn will allow for the introduction of TransLink's revolutionary and much needed bus network changes, with a few modifications to solve the "unpopular" issues with the canned review.

Laughable politician quote of the day comes for Shadow Transport Minister Jackie Trad, who is quoted as saying “And what that means is the tens of thousands of commuters who use the city network each day can no longer be assured they will be getting the very best.” Just a second Ms Trad, we are not getting anywhere near the best at the moment! Brisbanites pay the world's 3rd highest fares for 20+ minute peak service gaps, 30 minute off-peak service gaps, and hourly service gaps late at night. Not exactly a great train network is it?

Courier Mail story:


  1. A photo would be nice. Looks better on facebook pages when sharing and more likely to be shared as well.

  2. God help us all if public transport in Brisbane is privatised. I can't afford the fares as it is now.

  3. Brisbane Transport should jolly well be privatised. But the question remains how to do it as it is a BCC asset and it is council funded and controlled. How do you do something like that?

  4. rennmaxbeta - Privatisation should not result in fares increasing. The private operators will still be subsidised as occurs with the public operators. However, a private operator may be able to provide more services for the same subsidy, or the same service as less subsidy. Only if the amount of subsidy is increased (for example to fund significant service improvements that cannot be funded through efficiencies alone) will fares need to increase.

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