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Confusion on Adelaide's buses

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It’s a dog’s breakfast, Deputy Premier John Rau agreed today when summing up commuter confusion about free bus rides.

“There is confusion,” he admitted as mixed messages left bus passengers confused during the first day of industrial action by Tansport Workers Union members.

The confusion started last night when some news services reported that Adelaide bus drivers will offer passengers free rides as part of the industrial action.

Enter Lino Di Lernia from the Transport Department. “It’s not free. The Passenger Transport Act puts a legal liability on people to pay and if they don’t pay they could have quite heavy fines,” he told ABC TV News.

“People are legally and morally obliged to pay. 85 per cent of our customers use a Metrocard so we’d expect those people to be validating.”

By Wednesday morning the message had been tempered.

Transport Services Minister Chloe Fox said “there will be an indulgence granted” if people are caught not paying their fare during the industrial action.

Industrial Relations Minister Rau explained that what Fox meant. “Her position is that given its an industrial dispute, you won’t be prosecuted. Technically, however, they (commuters) are breaching the law by taking a free ride.”

If that hadn’t confused passengers, then it became a little murkier when a caller told ABC Radio he’d just been given an on-the-spot fine for not buying a ticket.

“Not all services are involved in the dispute,” Rau pointed out.

Buses operated by SouthLink and Transfield Services are subject to the no-collect actions, while TWU members employed by Adelaide’s third bus operator, Torrens Transit, are not involved.

Whether the commuter knows which is which is debatable and when Rau was asked if the matter had developed into a dog’s breakfast he said: “It is … there is confusion.”

Over on the Noarlunga train line, meanwhile, would-be commuters spent part of yesterday afternoon wondering why trains were whizzing past and not picking up passengers.

The public address system gave no clue – it wasn’t working.

“We’re upgrading the loudspeakers,” Transport Minister Tom Koutsantonis explained to ABC Radio.

“Unfortunately people have been inconvenienced by that and I apologise.

“It shows that we’re investing in our transport system which has been neglected for the last 30 or 40 years.”

Back to the buses and commuters planning a day out on Sunday should be aware that many bus routes will not be operating.

The TWU will step up its campaign for a 5 per cent base rate wage rise by holding a four-hour strike on routes operated by Transfield Services and Southlink.

The action affects routes in the city’s north, north-east, south and the hills.

Opposition transport spokeswoman Vickie Chapman said the situation required direct government action.

“They’ve got to sit down and deal with this issue with the parties concerned, namely the contractors and the bus drivers,” she said.

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