Volume Seven 2014 Focusing on Transport

Today the Auditor-General of New South Wales, Grant Hehir, released his Volume Seven 2014 Report to Parliament focusing on the agencies in the transport cluster.

Improved financial reporting

All agencies in transport cluster received unqualified audit opinions for the year ended 30 June 2014.

The quality of financial reporting continues to improve with the number of misstatements identified during audits falling for the fifth year in a row.

Cost recovery from users

The overall cost recovery from users of public transport in 2013-14 was 20.7 per cent, largely unchanged from last year’s 20.1 per cent.

Over a five-year period, cost recovery for rail services has decreased from 21.5 per cent in 2009-10 to 20.1 per cent in 2013-14. Bus services also experienced a decline from 25.4 per cent in 2009-10 to 21.2 per cent in 2013-14, while ferry services remained largely unchanged at 32.7 per cent.

On-time running targets need to be consistent

The way on-time running is measured makes it difficult to compare the performance of rail, bus and ferry services. Suburban, intercity and regional rail on-time running measures are based on when a service arrives at a destination, while bus and ferry measures are based on when a service leaves. Light rail’s target is based on the deviation from the planned journey.

Rail on-time running is measured for both the morning and afternoon peak, buses only measure morning peak while ferries measure across the whole timetable.

“On-time running measures and peak hour windows need to be consistent when comparing the performance of different modes of public transport,” said the Auditor-General.

Sydney Train services overall exceeded their on-time running target, however six out of 16 suburban and intercity lines did not achieve the target in 2013-14. It has been 11 years since the regional passenger TrainLink service (former CountryLink) achieved its on-time running target of 78 per cent.

Five of the 14 metropolitan bus regions, including all four public operated regions were below the target.

“On-time running results should be published for outer metropolitan bus regions,” said the Auditor-General.

Ferry services continued to achieve the highest on-time running performance and all service areas exceeded their target.

On a key efficiency measure, train drivers continue to spend less than 30 per cent of their working time driving trains. This benchmark compares poorly to the North American average of 55 per cent and European average of 50 per cent.

Average travel speeds on Sydney roads have continued to decrease from 2012-13.

Container freight movement

NSW 2021 has a target to double container movement by rail. The proportion of containers moved by rail through Port Botany in 2013-14 remains at 14 per cent, unchanged since 2010-11.

Better capital structure required

Rail Corporation NSW, Sydney Trains, and NSW Trains have been established with capital structures that do not allow them to be readily held to account for their performance.

“The capital structure of Rail Corporation NSW, Sydney Trains, and NSW Trains needs to be finalised as soon as possible,” said the Auditor-General.

“This will assist to stabilise the financial position of these agencies and enable their financial performance to be properly assessed’” he added.

The operating costs for rail services are split across the three agencies and accurate assessments of total costs are difficult to determine from the financial statements.

Transport agencies need to reduce excess annual leave

Managing excess annual leave continues to be a challenge for many transport agencies with over 3,000 employees accruing more than 35 days annual leave at 30 June 2014.

Staff that do not regularly take adequate annual leave can adversely affect their health and welfare. There is also an increased risk of fraud where employees in key control functions work for extended periods without being relieved.

“All transport agencies should do more to reduce excessive annual leave balances,” said the Auditor-General.

Further information

Please contact Barry Underwood on 9275 7220 or 0403 073 664; email barry.underwood@audit.nsw.gov.au