Volume Eight 2012 focusing on Transport and Ports

Transport agencies cut contractors and show signs of better managing overtime

“It is pleasing that the number of contractors employed by transport agencies in 2011-12 fell just over 11 per cent compared to the previous year,” said the Auditor-General, Mr Peter Achterstraat. “This is a significant reduction and demonstrates that the transport agencies have responded to my 2011 recommendation to better monitor their contractor workforce,” he added.

At 30 June 2012, there were 1,248 contractors, down from 1,405 the previous year. However, more can be done.

“I am concerned that 74 contractors have each been employed for more than 6 years,” said Mr Achterstraat. “Extensive reliance on long term contractors, particularly in senior roles, generally results in higher employment costs and less ownership and commitment to organisational goals and objectives,” he added.

Roads and Maritime Services had the longest serving contractor who has been engaged for over ten years. Transport for NSW advises one contractor was paid $529,000 in 2011-12, one at RailCorp was paid $407,000 and another at RMS was paid $324,000.

Transport entities are making some progress in reducing overtime expenditure, with total overtime costs falling by 1.8 per cent in 2011-12. Overtime continues to represent a significant employment expense.

“Overtime in road, rail and bus agencies fell as a percentage of total salaries,” said Mr Achterstraat. “State Transit reduced overtime by $5.6 million, mainly through more efficient rostering, but continues to have the highest overtime percentage of base salaries at just over 12 per cent. This has fallen from 14.9 per cent in last year,” he added.

Management advises that State Transit has higher overtime than other transport operators because all work on Sunday is paid as overtime in accordance with its award.

Excessive annual leave balances

Over 2,500 transport staff, or 8.3 per cent of the workforce, have excessive annual leave balances. 

“I am concerned that the number of transport staff with excessive annual leave has increased for the past two years, representing a liability of over $45 million,” said Mr Achterstraat.

Some good and not so good trends in Sydney road travel speeds 

“Overall travel speeds on Sydney roads increased for the morning peak and decreased for afternoon peak times,” said the Auditor-General, Mr Peter Achterstraat. “Morning peak hour speeds have improved on last year but have remained largely unchanged since 2008 - afternoon peak speeds have been slowly declining since 2008,” he added.

Unregistered vehicles

There are potentially 124,000 unregistered vehicles in New South Wales, representing about two per cent of total vehicle registrations in the State.

“I am concerned that there are potentially over 100,000 unregistered vehicles in New South Wales that may not be roadworthy and pose a risk to the safety of drivers and the general public,” said Mr Achterstraat. “Not only are the owners of these vehicles not paying their fair share in registration charges the vehicle may also be uninsured and pose a financial risk to other motorists,” he added.

Complaints and Compliments

“Compliments to RailCorp have increased by 32 per cent, but there are still 10 complaints for very compliment,” said the Auditor-General, Mr Peter Achterstraat.

“Service remains the major area of complaints, representing 18 per cent of all complaints during 2011-12,” said Mr Achterstraat. “Service complaints relate to discomfort and inconvenience experienced by the customers,” he added.

“Cleanliness complaints had the highest increase - at 1,920 they were up by 27 per cent on the 1,515 complaints for 2010-11,” said Mr Achterstraat. “People who leave their rubbish behind make train travel less pleasant for others,” he added.

RailCorp is continuing initiatives to improve customer service as part of the Fixing The Trains reform program.

Taxi complaints

More people are complaining about taxis, with more than 11,000 complaints in 2011-12, up from just over 10,000 the previous year.

“It is disappointing that complaints about taxis are up more than 12 percent and compliments down more than 14 per cent,” said Mr Achterstraat.

At October 2012, there were 7,017 taxi licences issued in New South Wales, 5,663 in Sydney. Complaints against taxi drivers and operators can be made confidentially by the public in a number of ways, including the taxi complaints hotline, the transport info line or direct to Transport for NSW.

Tcard project still costing NSW taxpayers over $300,000 a month

The NSW taxpayer is continuing to incur over $300,000 a month in interest charges for the discontinued Tcard project according to the Auditor-General, Mr Peter Achterstraat. Transport for NSW and Treasury are still determining the most appropriate way to extinguish the Tcard liabilities.

“Transport for NSW and Treasury should urgently determine the most cost effective way to extinguish the borrowings for the discontinued Tcard project,” said Mr Achterstraat.

Most of the expenditure associated with the discontinued project and the litigation has been funded through borrowings. At 30 June 2012, total Tcard borrowings were over $110 million and these amounts remain outstanding at the date of this report.

The former Public Transport Ticketing Corporation advised that at 30 June 2012, over $115 million had been expended on Tcard and related interest payments. The litigation alone cost $19.9 million in legal fees and support costs.

In February 2012, the Corporation finalised the litigation with the private sector contractor involved in the discontinued Tcard project.

Opal Smart Card

“I am advised significant progress was made in the design and testing phase of a new electronic ticketing system known as the Opal smart card ‘ticket’,” said Mr Achterstraat. “If all goes well, commuters should be using the new Opal smart card ‘ticket’ on all modes of public transport by the end of 2014,” he added. 

The former Public Transport Ticketing Corporation was responsible for managing the design, delivery, implementation and operation of the new integrated electronic ticketing system. This project now forms part of Transport for NSW.

Public transport heavily reliant on government funding

RailCorp, State Transit, private bus operators and Sydney Ferries are heavily reliant on government funding.

“RailCorp fares only cover 20 per cent of operating costs, while fares on Sydney Buses cover just over 45 per cent,” said the Auditor-General, Mr Peter Achterstraat. “NSW Government subsidies to public transport operators were $4.4 billion in 2011-12,” he added.

The cost of providing services per passenger journey increased for all the three transport entities.

Vandalism and Graffiti

“The cost of vandalism and graffiti continued to decline. In 2011-12, RailCorp spent $26 million to repair and remove vandalism and graffiti, down from $40 million the previous year,” said Mr Achterstraat. “But every dollar that needs to be spent on cleaning up graffiti is a dollar less that could be spent on other services’” he added.

The three most affected routes by vandalism are the Western Line, the Blue Mountains line, and the North Shore line.

The reduction in total costs for graffiti and vandalism in 2011-12 was largely due to the successful roll-out of sacrificial window film across more of the fleet and more cost effective ‘patch painting’ of carriage interiors to combat graffiti.

Further information 

Emily Watson, on 02 9275 7408 or 0425 329 363 and email emily.watson@audit.nsw.gov.au