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Auditor gives ACTION a failing mark

By johnboy - 28 August 2010 52

[First filed: Aug 26, 2010 @ 17:58]

ACTION bus in Civic

The ACT’s Auditor-General has delivered her report “Delivery of ACTION Bus Services” and it is not pretty.

From the media release:

    The audit concludes that TAMS has not coordinated and managed bus services delivered by
    ACTION in an effective manner.

    Governance and management

    • The delivery of bus services and associated infrastructure involves ACTION, other business units within TAMS (particularly Roads ACT and Transport Regulation and Planning) and other ACT Government agencies such as the ACT Planning and Land Authority (ACTPLA). The various activities were not well coordinated and lacked proper planning.
    • TAMS has not fully complied with key legislation including the ACT Road Transport (Public Passenger Services) Act 2001 and Regulations, the Minimum Service Standards for Bus Services, the ACT Discrimination Act 1991 and the Commonwealth Disability Discrimination Act 1992.
    • ACTION collected a significant amount of data but poor data management practices undermined the completeness and integrity of the data. This is likely to impede ACTION’s ability to improve services and provide the ACT Government with sound advice on meeting current and future needs for public bus services in the ACT.

    Timeliness and reliability of bus services:

    • There were no performance indicators or standards established for the reliability of bus services to guide ACTION’s operations and to increase its accountability.
    • ACTION has considerable fleet management knowledge, but this knowledge was not
    supported by approved policies and procedures. For example, there were no approved guidelines for relevant staff about which bus runs should be cancelled. This was addressed mostly through the corporate knowledge of the staff involved.
    • Each bus depot and interchange produced the daily Service Delivery Reports that identified which runs were dropped each day from bus routes. The data used for these reports was inaccurate and incomplete. As a result, the rate of bus failures reported to, or used by, ACTION management was likely to be under-estimated.
    • Of the 500 cancelled services reviewed by Audit, cancellations were due to either a shortage of drivers (83 percent), or of buses (16 percent). There was no evidence of ACTION having developed and implemented strategies to effectively address these on-going issues.

    Safety

    • ACTION did not report bus accidents to the Road Transport Authority as required by legislation. Bus accidents increased by 39 percent from 157 in 2008-09 to 219 in 2009-10. The rate of collision in bus depots (10 percent) and on roads in which liability was accepted by ACTION (23 percent) suggested that there was scope for improved safety through reducing preventable collisions.
    • The Road Transport (Public Passenger Service) Regulations 2002 requires pre-departure bus checks to be undertaken daily. ACTION was unable to supply documentation to confirm that such safety checks were conducted by bus drivers.
    • There were no formal processes or policies in place to provide scheduled refresher courses for ACTION’s drivers to update their knowledge and driving skills, or to refresh and develop their skills in other aspects of safety, security and customer services.
    • ACTION has not prepared procedures for operations of its CCTVs on buses, to ensure protection of the privacy of the individual and prevention of possible misuse of the CCTVs.
    • There were inadequate policies and procedures to address complaints about drivers with unsafe driving practices.

    Ticketing

    • Problems with ACTION’s current Automated Ticketing System have been documented for several years. Plans to introduce a replacement system have been frequently delayed. This has led to:
    – the collection of inadequate and unreliable data on types of passengers and their travel patterns;
    – a lack of reliable data to better plan, develop, fund and deliver services;
    – substantial losses of revenue; and
    – additional financial costs for maintaining outdated equipment.
    • The ACT Government has announced a new ticketing system to be trialled in 2010. This system should be capable of capturing a substantial amount of data, for example, passenger travel patterns and fare types. Until this system is fully operational, there will be continued loss of revenue and a lack of reliable data for ACTION and the ACT Government to better plan, develop, fund and deliver services.

    Bus infrastructure and services

    • Coordination between various business units within TAMS and other relevant ACT Government agencies for bus infrastructure and services was inadequate.
    For example:
    – there was no overall master plan to coordinate the planning and provision of bus infrastructure; and
    – there was no robust governance and accountability structure to clarify responsibilities for construction, maintenance, performance and reporting mechanisms for the management of bus infrastructure.
    • Much of the bus infrastructure did not meet standards prescribed under the Commonwealth Disability Discrimination Act 1992 and the ACT Discrimination Act 1991.

    Customer service

    • ACTION provided a good front portal through Canberra Connect for receiving complaints and feedback
    • ACTION responded to the majority of complaints on a timely basis. However, responses to complaints and feedback were not always accurate and appropriate actions were not followed.
    • ACTION did not have a customer service charter that outlined the nature and standard of services, rights, and responsibilities of ACTION and passengers.

Audit report cover

What’s Your opinion?


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52 Responses to
Auditor gives ACTION a failing mark
housebound 12:59 pm 27 Aug 10

Buses are fine until you want to use them outside of commuting hours (assuming they turn up when they’re meant to). If you live in the outer suburbs, then you can’t rely on there being a bus to get you home at night, or even to get you to work if you have an early start. You can’t rely on the non-existent bus to get you anywhere early on a Sunday morning.

So you buy a car, and then you’re lost to public transport forever.

Step one should be to force all MLAs to rely on buses and bikes, and ban them from anything else (yes, it would make OS travel difficult, but we all have to make sacrifices). It would also help set a good example with greenhouse gas emissions reductions.

Watch ACTION suddenly improve then.

astrojax 12:44 pm 27 Aug 10

i heard a chap from action on 666 this morning blaming the cancellation of services on absenteeism – “chucking a sickie, if you like” were his words. there were, for example, three yesterday, he opined…

now, surely any and every large organisation has a set sort of rate at which they expect illness and other circumstances will affect their capacity to have 100% staff present for work. so wouldn’t it be pretty straightforward and school work experience sort of thinking to suppose employing say four or five drivers to be available at the depot to drive at short notice when driver (a) phones in ’cause s/he just woke up with a raging fever or something that was not able to be forecast specifically?

sheesh, this isn’t rocket science – but to ‘blame sickies’ was, i thought, pretty low. action mandarins, it is time to step into the room of mirrors for long hard look.

sepi 12:33 pm 27 Aug 10

In the 80s ACTION had an after hours ‘area bus’ system, whereby 2 bus routes were combined, and those hopping on the bus told the bus driver where they lived. The bus drove to those stops only to drop everyone off. Many bus drivers drove a bit closer to people’s homes if time allowed. It was a great system. (NB I also lived in Torrens – maybe it only worked there…)

It is not true that people will never catch a bus. Last time the govt increased parking fees heaps more people caught the bus – or tried to – til it became clear that the buses were in fact unable to meet demand. many peak hour buses are so full that they drive straight past people waiting at stops. It is unfeasible for most of us to stand around in the icy cold waiting for a bus that may or may not take us to work.

the govt needs to make sure ACTION can actually service the customers it already has, before seeking more.

Erg0 12:13 pm 27 Aug 10

essfer said :

“I would catch a bus if they weren’t so useless” is a pretty common sentiment in Canberra. My concern is that this is bullshit – I bet that even if the service was effective most of us would continue to drive our cars and then keep complaining about Action, parking, fuel prices, idiots on the road, traffic congestion and so on.

Probably true. I caught the bus almost every day from age 13 to 30, but once I got fed up with the service here and finally bought a car I was lost to public transport forever. About the only thing that would get me back on the buses now is a move to another city.

essfer 11:48 am 27 Aug 10

Krazee said :

Having lived in Canberra off and on since 1981, I have found that the quality of the Bus service is very low compared to the 1980s.

I remember a time when my wife was dropped off by the Night Bus Service right outside our house, this involved traversing the tight curving roads of inner Torrens by a full sized bus – last time a looked there wasn’t even an equivalent bus service.

Krazee, I am pretty sure that the buses aren’t now, nor were they ever, supposed to travel on small suburban streets. If this occured in the 80s I dare say that the driver was simply a gentleman, or failing that he was looking for some action. I assume your wife is a bit of alright?

Loaded questions aside, Action can’t run an effective service if no one travels with them; but no one will travel with them until they do.

“I would catch a bus if they weren’t so useless” is a pretty common sentiment in Canberra. My concern is that this is bullshit – I bet that even if the service was effective most of us would continue to drive our cars and then keep complaining about Action, parking, fuel prices, idiots on the road, traffic congestion and so on.

Gungahlin Al 10:43 am 27 Aug 10

I think it is a big step forward to have Jon Stanhope accepting the AG’s report this time, and recognising it as a wake-up call for Action management and TaMS.

In the past it has always seemed to be a ‘shoot the messenger’ reaction.

Yet Tu Pham has stoically continued in her ‘no fear’ approach. She’d get my vote.

Krazee 9:18 am 27 Aug 10

Having lived in Canberra off and on since 1981, I have found that the quality of the Bus service is very low compared to the 1980s.

I remember a time when my wife was dropped off by the Night Bus Service right outside our house, this involved traversing the tight curving roads of inner Torrens by a full sized bus – last time a looked there wasn’t even an equivalent bus service.

Fiona 7:24 am 27 Aug 10

Reliability would also include having accessible buses at all times on the routes that are indicated as being such, and then expanding that range of routes. It’s all well and good to have wheelchair accessible buses between interchanges, but people have to get to them somehow. (Don’t say the taxis, that’s another issue!)

grass 6:14 am 27 Aug 10

I Note part of managements response tries to blame the Unions:

“Management prerogative has also been compromised by the industrial relations
environment and the current enterprise agreement negotiations represent a
significant first step in the reform of and continued improvement of
ACTION. Through this process it will be imperative that ACTION reclaims
Report its management prerogative to make the business decisions that it will
ultimately be held accountable for.”

Every recommendation and failing in the report was a management issue not that of the employees.

damien haas 11:29 pm 26 Aug 10

With the soon to go live myWay and bus linked GPS data being transmitted live to ACTION IT HQ, there is no technical impediment to placing live data on all services online 24×7. This would enable all passengers to determine where their bus is (hopefully on-time) and will provide motivation for ACTION to run services to schedule.

MyWay should help speed up boarding times (and hopefully not slow exit times too much). Anything which improves the efficiency of a network makes it run closer to schedule, which makes it reliable (even if services are less frequent than ideal).

To attract more passengers, a public transport service needs to be frequent, reliable and attractive. ACTION can at least aim for the first two of the trifecta.

thy_dungeonman 9:57 pm 26 Aug 10

“Until this system is fully operational”

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wxMd93aCvd0

milkman 9:40 pm 26 Aug 10

54-11 said :

Onya, Tu Pham. Yet another useful, timely and accurate audit report.

I note that the ACT government has accepted all your recommnedations. That’s a great step forward from usual, where Simple Simon generally screams like a stuck pig, or spoilt child (take your pick of analogy).

Well done, Auditor-General.

+1. Well researched and good findings. There’s nothing wrong with holding our public services to a high standard.

bigred 9:32 pm 26 Aug 10

So when is the Auditor General paying the AFP a visit?

54-11 8:29 pm 26 Aug 10

Onya, Tu Pham. Yet another useful, timely and accurate audit report.

I note that the ACT government has accepted all your recommnedations. That’s a great step forward from usual, where Simple Simon generally screams like a stuck pig, or spoilt child (take your pick of analogy).

Well done, Auditor-General.

Skidbladnir 6:16 pm 26 Aug 10

?_?
*waits for the srtike notification*

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