Friday, November 25, 2011

Metro Trains Melbourne

My employer made news earlier in the year for all the wrong reasons. The headlines were damning, not only for Metro and its CEO Andrew Lezala, but also for the State Government because, try as it might, it can never divorce itself from Melbourne’s railways. More specifically, The Hon Terry Mulder will be committing political suicide if strategy resorts to merely accepting that Metro and train unions will sort things out. After all, the Transport Ministers job is well defined:

As Minister for Public Transport, Mr Mulder oversees the effective delivery and management of Victoria's public transport services.
Recall former Minister of Transport Lynne Kosky's greatest mistake was to think that Connex would sort its own, well, the rest is history.

When MTR successfully bid to run Melbourne's trains in 2009, it understandably used its overseas record of accomplishment as inspiration for rebuilding Melbourne’s system, but has it gone right yet?

Essentially, it is nothing new, Victorian political culture, old guard bureaucracy, and above all, the … (I dare not write it) have all but guaranteed that Metro will struggle to implement the change it seeks to improve our metropolitan train system.

I suspect that past events covered in the media about slow drivers may escalate further before resulting in a “band aid” fix of sorts; hence, the underlying or root cause of Metro’s problems will remain; hindrances that have little to do with infrastructure, timetable and train maintenance issues.

As I wrote here, and in relation to what is truly amiss with our train system, I point you to an insightful piece taken from The Age on January 22, Taken for a ride: how Metro 'inherited a dog.

This article revealed the core problems of our metropolitan train services. It would be a brave person, be it the CEO, a politician or uncommon bureaucrat that attempts to tackle such issues directly, nonetheless it can be done.

Given the Hong Kong-based consortium's successful overseas record, if MTR cannot provide Melbournians with a better metropolitan rail network, then it is accurate to suggest that there is something fundamentally wrong with our system but more concerning, is that it appears nobody is willing, or able to address it.

I hasten to add, why might I have linked this blog entry to the collectivism, individualism and more significantly the ___________ labels?


Is Metro trying to compromise passenger safety by relaxing safety rules pertaining to the running of trains? On the bases of another recent article in The Age, one would think so.

Take the poll question that accompanies the article: Would you feel safe travelling on trains if Metro changed the fault-reporting criteria? Now let’s be clear, this question is calculating and represents a form of classic cognitive favouritism known as response bias due to the wording of the question. That's why it is hardly extraordinary that a question which reads, “Would you feel safe travelling on trains if Metro changed the fault-reporting criteria?” would yield the response it has, as 59% answered no compared to 41% with a yes.

So is Metro trains Melbourne really attempting to relax safety standards in a manner that compromises passenger safety? The straightforward answer is no, more accurately, Metro is engaging in common sense risk management designed to raise the operating efficiency of our metropolitan rail network.

Should senior managers at Metro be made to feel culpable for seeking greater efficiency? The piece seems to suggest that they should and this is wrong. The 4 faults cited as examples, while not minor would hardly be tantamount to “critical” in terms of train running.

The articles author, Clay Lucas, would be advised to interview Metro and seek their logic for the proposed changes to existing fault reporting systems. Or otherwise, the latter should put out its own press release detailing their argument.

On present course, Metro is losing the PR battle and needless to add, its spokespeople need to up the ante.

Up the ante you ask? Yes, take for example an email I received not so long ago from Aliyah Stotyn, who is unknown to me but apparently claims to understand me. He wrote:

My name's Aliyah and I'm a Journalism student writing a feature article on Metro Trains Melbourne.

The focus of my article is basically an exposé on Andrew Lezala's false accusations on train drivers, so I'm trying to get information on other things MTM are doing like tracking drivers work phones whilst on sick leave, and anything else I can find.

I stumbled across your blog and I was wondering if it would be possible to meet up for a chat when you're free?

I understand that drivers are bound by Metro's contract not to speak to the media regarding Metro matters, so if you prefer you can remain totally anonymous.

My interest is only in having the drivers' voices heard so that the public aren't brainwashed by Metro's accusations.

Even if you prefer not to meet, an email interview would be fine too.

Let me know A.S.A.P.

Aliyah S.

You will agree that the email was not exactly partisan to the interests of senior Metro Trains Management. Needless to add, my being bound to my companies directions prevented me from replying to the email, even though I would have had much to say. The line, "My interest is only in having the drivers' voices heard so that the public aren't brainwashed by Metro's accusations" is telling, and indicates that the author has concluded that Metro is the enemy.

This is clearly representative of the challenge facing Metro's media liaison team.