Private operator admits staff puts performance above safety

“You can outsource how you do something, but you can’t outsource the ultimate responsibility,” he said. “That monthly payment is millions of dollars, but what checks are done before the money is handed over?

“Transport NSW says safety is top priority, but is it treated that way? What are they actually doing to make sure it’s managed with the highest priority?”

A Transdev Sydney spokesperson said it was misleading and wrong to put together an employee newsletter commenting on the overall performance and condition of the network.

“Safety has always been our number one priority and Transdev Sydney continues to maintain a strong safety record,” they said.

“The internal employee newsletter was intended to draw attention to the importance of a safety culture within the light rail network.

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“The examples given were related to isolated practices and not to indications or decisions made by the company due to network or other pressures.”

Labor transport spokeswoman Jo Haylen said the document showed the latest shutdown was a symptom of long-standing mismanagement of public assets that now had to be shut down completely.

“This network has been shattered,” said Ms. Haylen.

“The government wealth management plan it already appeared that the trams of the inner west are only inspected once a year; now we know that passenger safety and network integrity have come second since 2014.”

Another staff note described a “noticeable increase” in trams passing through traffic lights. The note said such events “can be as serious as a matter of life or death” and that they occurred almost monthly six months after the opening of the line extension to Dulwich Hill in March 2014.

Meanwhile, Transdev Sydney encouraged drivers to “look ahead. Is it red?”.

A Transport for NSW spokesperson said safety was not negotiable with the government agency and that the tender process would have adopted this absolute requirement and then assessed other criteria as set out in the rating matrix.

They said there were a number of checks and balances in place on Transdev’s performance, including monthly contract reports and meetings where safety performance was on the agenda, and mandatory reporting of safety incidents to the Office of the National Rail Safety Regulator.

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