Public transport grievance speech

16 May 2014

On Thursday 8 May 2014, I took the opportunity to highlight to the House of Assembly the impact of the electrification of the Seaford Line on residents in the Bright electorate. My speech highlighted how both commuters and people living near the railway line have been adversely affected by what should have been a great project for the area.  The text of my speech follows:

On Thursday 8 May 2014, I took the opportunity to highlight to the House of Assembly the impact of the electrification of the Seaford Line on residents in the Bright electorate. My speech highlighted how both commuters and people living near the railway line have been adversely affected by what should have been a great project for the area.  The text of my speech follows:

Mr SPEIRS (Bright) ( 15:12: ):  I rise today to speak on the public transport apocalypse that has befallen the Bright electorate over the last couple of years. When The Advertiser published a profile of the Bright electorate in the lead-up to the 2014 election, journalist Daniel Wills described me as a 'public servant, Marion councillor, train user and Scottish migrant'. I was intrigued by the fact that a train commuter should pique the media's interest.

I have been a regular train user since my days of studying at Adelaide University and continued using the train during my five years working in the city. I would get on board, open my laptop or get out a good book and ease myself into the working day. In fact, on the days I had to drive into Adelaide for whatever reason, I arrived at work feeling far less zen than otherwise might have been the case.

In 2010, I welcomed the government's announcement that they planned to electrify the Noarlunga line and extend it to Seaford, a plan supported by the Liberal opposition. I believe that the great cities of the world are characterised by excellent public transport systems and, as a vocal proponent of public transport, I looked forward to new electric trains arriving, yet the project has been plagued by problems.

If there was a single issue that contributed to my election to this house, it was the public transport apocalypse which enveloped the southern suburbs as a consequence of the Seaford line upgrade. There are eight stations in Bright—at Hallett Cove Beach, Hallett Cove, Marino Rocks, Marino, Seacliff, Brighton and Hove—and the commuters have been through the wringer over the last two years.

There were two substantial closures—firstly, a part closure from Noarlunga to Oaklands for the bulk of 2011, followed by a closure for all but a few days of 2013. When the train was reinstated, its presence was sporadic and communication with the public was woeful. A closure over the Easter period this year was announced with only a few hours' notice. With the major 2013 closure came the wonderful world of substitute buses. What a joy they were.

Buses brought in to being long before I was born were wheeled out into the sunlight for the first time in years. All these poor old beasts wanted to do was to turn off their engines and be laid to rest in that great bus park in the sky; but, no, Deputy Speaker, they were brought back into service. They spluttered and choked their way to and from Adelaide. Some made it, some did not, and all the way commuters hung on for dear life. On the hot days we sweltered and on the wet days the rain poured in on top of us.

Today, even with the trains back running—sort of—there are plenty of problems. You only need to look at the Noarlunga line commuters' Facebook group, which has grown into a healthy online community, to read the trials and tribulations of commuters on that line. Packed trains, trains running late, trains not turning up, constantly changing timetables—it is little wonder that patronage has collapsed on the line.

The government's public transport passenger numbers, provided in the 2012-13 budget papers, show a dramatic drop in patronage from 65.9 million passenger boardings in 2010-11 to 62.9 million in 2012-13. I hope that some of those numbers have picked up, but I fear confidence in the system has been so damaged that it will take many years for everyone to return to the trains, as they take more reliable modes, including, unfortunately, further clogging of Adelaide's roads. I know personally that if I have to be somewhere in the evening, I have to drive down to Glenelg to take the tram, as I cannot rely on the train to get me home, and looking through the tram, I am not the only one. You see those familiar faces from the train taking refuge now on the trams.

The difficulties do not stop with just the Seaford line commuters. We have had problems with over the top tree felling, and we have had a pedestrian crossing close unexpectedly at Young Street at Seacliff, cutting a community in half and restricting access to the beach. When the train came back online, after months of service, their warning bells at level crossings were much louder than they used to be, and residents throughout the area have been bothered by the increased noise of the train horn.

Yesterday, I was heartened when the new Minister for Transport indicated his desire to be the sort of member who has a willingness to put aside politics and work to deliver outcomes for the benefit of this state. I hope that this bipartisan spirit will extend to ironing out the many teething problems when myself, the member for Bragg and the member for Mitchell meet with his department tomorrow.

Extracted from Hansard