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Author Topic: Article: Light fines for tardy Connex service no match for commuter pain ...  (Read 1087 times)

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Light fines for tardy Connex service no match for commuter pain, say critics

    * Reid Sexton
    * September 6, 2008

CONNEX is fined as little as $1200 and up to $5000 for a cancelled train in a typical week, new figures reveal.

The average penalty works out at only $5.25 for every passenger in peak periods ? just over half the cost of a daily zones 1 and 2 adult ticket.

The relatively low fines imposed on Connex have surprised some transport observers who say such light penalties do not reflect the inconvenience of having a service cancelled on a Sunday when waiting times stretch up to 80 minutes.

While Connex is routinely fined millions of dollars by the State Government for late and cancelled trains, this is the first time the company has revealed the value of individual fines.

The new figures account for the week beginning Sunday, March 9, on the Frankston line.

The eight cancelled services that week cost Connex $18,750 with fines ranging from $1186 for a city-bound 7.40pm service to $4947 for a city-bound service during the morning peak.

Three services cancelled on the Sunday cost the operator two fines of $1694 and one of $2598.

But Opposition transport spokesman Terry Mulder said the fines' value raised questions about how well they reflected the problems cancellations could cause.

"The Opposition does not have access to the detailed formula under which fines are calculated, but many commuters would be surprised at the marked difference in fines between Sunday services and some weekday ones," he said.

"The problem with peak weekday cancellations is it means people get wedged into every spare centimetre on six-carriage trains. But on Sundays the problem is the lengthy wait commuters face, particularly in the early morning. A cancellation then can be much more inconvenient than on other days."

The value of the fines imposed is based on a formula called passenger-weighted minutes, which uses anticipated patronage figures, the time period and direction of travel to calculate the penalty.

By comparing the fines with passenger numbers from the most recent patronage surveys, and taking into account recent patronage growth, it is possible to get a rough idea of how much per passenger Connex is charged in the peak.

Despite the staggering amounts the operator is forced to cough up, it turns a profit though subsidies and fare-box revenue, and has sent back $58 million in dividends to its French parent company in the past three years.

Public Transport Users Association president Daniel Bowen said whether the level of fines was fair or not was irrelevant because they were clearly not working.

"If they were effective the train operator would do more to prevent cancellations," he said.
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