Want roadside assistance but don’t want to fund RACV’s lobbying? Plenty of alternatives – cheaper too
This has come up again since RACV are resisting the removal of a lane of traffic on Princes Bridge to give cyclists more than the part of a busy footpath and the mere sliver of roadspace they have now:
What alternatives are there to RACV road service? Because if you disagree with the RACV’s stance on transport issues, why help fund their lobbying?
With thanks to Brad McCluskey, combined with a previous list of mine, here are some contenders (quoting their basic plans, which I suspect is what many would want as a basic safety-net), and the annual fee:
For comparison, RACV roadside care costs from $92.
- Ultratune $69.50
- Budget Direct $69.95 — appears to resell Ultratune’s service
$79— see comments; it looks like this is $99 if you don’t hold an Allianz insurance policy
- 24/7 Road Services $55
- Australian Automobile Club $59 — note they do lobbying on some issues which you may not agree with
Also some companies offer breakdown assistance on a per-job basis, with no joining fee. It could be cheaper if you very rarely need to call, but it could be expensive if you use them regularly:
- Melbourne Roadside Assistance — no prices quoted
- Mobile Car Care — note “throughout the Melbourne metropolitan area 6 days a week” — at least $99 per call out
- Express Mobile Mechanics — at least $110 per call
- Ace Mobile Mechanics
Are there any others?
I’ve been signed up to 24/7 Road Services now for some years, but have never had to actually call them.
RACV being the biggest, probably have the most assistance vans, but also might be busier and slower at peak times to respond. I have seen a lot of Allianz vans around recently. Perhaps they just have a more eye-catching design than most. Have people tried some of these alternatives?
Always check the fine print of course. Some companies won’t sign you up to an annual plan if your car is too old. Some plans limit the number of callouts you can make and/or have different tiers of service plan. And some have limited or no coverage outside metropolitan Melbourne.
The Phase 2 Report from the High Speed Rail study was released last week — predicting that although HSR would cover its recurrent (running/maintenance) costs, it’d first take some $114 billion and 45 years to build it.
As I’ve said before, I think a 3-ish hour trip from Melbourne to Sydney would be time-competitive with flying.
$114 billion is obviously an incredible cost, and taking decades to build it is a totally unambitious timeframe. I’m sure if you outsourced it to those who have built such lines elsewhere, they could get it running much more quickly and cheaply. Or if they got tough on the airlines and proclaimed a forced heavy future reduction in emissions, and particularly if oil prices skyrocket and a second Sydney airport is put on hold, they could coax Qantas and Virgin into the railways business.
(It’s interesting that much of the debate since the report was released has ignored emissions issues, and focussed on the benefits to existing rail passengers, not those currently travelling by air.)
But even if you assume it could be built quicker and cheaper, the question is: should one heed the calls of the optimists and start building it now? Or follow the cynics who say it’s all too expensive, that we don’t have the population, and we should forget it?
I’m not sure. Fact is, across the country, there are probably a lot more important infrastructure projects that need building first. That money (even if you assumed it could be built for half that cost) could solve a lot of other problems.
And realistically, the political and economic climate means there’s no hope of it being built right now.
All that said, it seems prudent to plan and protect a corridor. It’s not overly expensive to work out a detailed alignment and preserve it from incompatible land development. This does little harm and ensures we can move forward if and when circumstances change and/or the time is right.
This is a must. Not doing so — even if actual construction work isn’t to start in the foreseeable future — could make it impossible for it to ever happen later.
- Insiders on High Speed Rail — a great watch
A lot of the unfortunate jellybean characters are depicted around CBD railway stations at the moment as part of Metro’s Dumb Ways To Die campaign. I was amused at the placement of this one:
…but this one is even better. (Only a short video — don’t bother with the sound; it adds nothing.)
Perhaps I’m easily amused, but that did make me laugh. Very clever.
It’s inevitable that the passing of Margaret Thatcher would provoke mixed responses. Such polarising figures often do.
She may have been a trailblazer for women in power in the western world, but I don’t remember her time as Prime Minister fondly. I was young and perhaps it was a naive viewpoint, but I remember the early-80s under her and Reagan as a time of real fear from nuclear war.
The real situation probably wasn’t that fraught (people cleverer than me could theorise how tough-talking from the west helped bring down the iron curtain), but some have pointed out that Thatcher was against German reunification and did not support sanctions for South Africa against Apartheid.
In terms of lasting legacies, the one that sticks out for me was that her privatisation of numerous nationalised industries.
Thatcher always resisted rail privatisation and was said to have told Transport Secretary Nicholas Ridley “Railway privatisation will be the Waterloo of this government. Please never mention the railways to me again.” Shortly before her resignation, she accepted the arguments for privatising British Rail, which her successor John Major implemented in 1994. The Economist later considered the move to have been “a disaster”.
Disaster indeed. My mother recounted how, on a visit to Britain after it happened, at a railway station a staff member couldn’t (or wouldn’t) give her any information about a different train company that also happened to serve that station.
In transport and in other sectors, this mess was later replicated here in Victoria — perfectly illustrated by this on-board train map from the early Connex days. It not only excludes the half of the network that Connex didn’t run, it also excludes the underground Loop stations where Connex did run, because these stations were managed by the other operator.
Later reforms, both here and in the UK, fixed many of the issues around privatisation.
Some industries, including public transport, can’t rely on companies that only compete, and never co-operate. PT operators need to work together to form a network — because their real competitor is the private car.
Anyway, I’m rambling a bit off my original topic. But that’s blogging, right?
“We spoke to Infrastructure Australia and their advice was that the most pressing road priority in Melbourne was the east-west link,” Mr Abbott told reporters in Frankston on Thursday.
“Now the Commonwealth government has a long history of funding roads. We have no history of funding urban rail and I think it’s important that we stick to our knitting, and the Commonwealth’s knitting when it comes to funding infrastructure is roads.”
– The Age
Perhaps the Federal Coalition has no history of funding urban rail, but the Commonwealth most certainly does.
Several urban rail projects are currently being built with Commonwealth funding:
Moreton Bay rail link (Qld) — $742m from the Commonwealth, $300m plus land from the Queensland government, and $105m from the local council.
Regional Rail Link (Vic) — which despite its name, is entirely within Melbourne, and will serve two new suburban stations at Tarneit and Wyndham Vale. $3.225 billion from the Commonwealth government, and about a billion from the state.
Perth City Link — is a sinking of one rail line in inner-city Perth, with $236 million of Commonwealth funding for rail infrastructure.
Not heavy rail, but certainly urban: the Gold Coast light rail project includes Commonwealth funding.
In recent times, other projects have gained Commonwealth funding. In Victoria alone there’s been $95 million from the Feds for inner-Melbourne rail freight upgrades, $30 million for level crossing upgrades (some in regional areas, some metropolitan), and $40 million for planning work for the Metro rail tunnel… with rumours today that the tunnel will get more funding, presumably if Federal Labor is re-elected.
Going back a few years, Melbourne’s Cranbourne line was upgraded and electrified in the 90s with money from the Commonwealth’s Building Better Cities scheme.
Commonwealth funding was also used for the “4D” double-deck development train.
These are just the projects I found during a quick search around on Google last night. No doubt there are others.
Despite what Abbott thinks, the real distinction (which is more relevant to PT than to roads) is that the Commonwealth gives once-off funding. What they don’t generally do is recurrent funding — required to actually run public transport, but also required to maintain roads — in fact people often forget that the rough cost of roads maintenance is about 1% of the construction cost per year.
The Commonwealth can fund what they like
It might be convention for conservatives not to fund urban rail, but there’s no reason they can’t. It’s entirely up to them.
I think all but the most car-centric person would see that in modern growing cities, you can’t move everybody around by road — that rail, particularly in inner-city areas, is much more efficient.
Unfortunately unlike some of his Liberal colleagues (and unlike conservatives in such places as the UK), Tony Abbott does appear to be the most car-centric person.
It comes down to this: if you want more people on public transport, provide more public transport. If you want more people on the roads, build more roads. Abbott is clearly backing the latter.
In the 21st century, with car use waning and urban public transport booming, this is a regressive stance, and should make people think twice about voting for the Coalition in September.
Guess what? Another bug has been found in Myki.
(No, this is not an April Fool’s joke.)
You know how you can load a Pass (weekly, month, yearly etc) onto your Myki, and use it, and load a second Pass which won’t activate until the first one has finished?
Well there’s a bug which sometimes causes the second one to activate before the first has finished.
I know this, because my new Yearly activated 13 days before the old one had finished, leaving me with two active Yearly Passes.
So far PTV is saying three people have contacted them about it. I did… at least one person reported it on Whirlpool, and possibly even a second — surely that couldn’t be the only three people it has affected?
Or are there more people who haven’t yet noticed? It’s unclear if this happens to everyone who (quite legitimately) loads two Passes onto one card.
What is particularly surprising is that this is a part of Myki that has worked flawlessly since I’ve been using Passes on it in 2010. For something so fundamental to go wrong smacks of a new software version being rolled-out without having been fully tested.
If you use Myki Pass, now would be a good time to check your transaction records and the card status and make sure it’s doing what it should be doing.
We are writing to provide you with some important information about a matter that has affected some of your Commuter Club customers.
As you are aware, when a Commuter Club customer renews their annual myki pass for another year, we add that second pass to a myki a few weeks before the current pass expires, so it is ready to use straight away.
For a small number of customers, the second myki pass loaded to their myki, started before the first had expired.
We are contacting those affected customers to make them aware of the situation and advise that a reimbursement for the number of days the pass activated before it should have is being refunded to them via cheque.
Please be advised this matter has been corrected.
Update 13/4/2013: Yesterday they finally came back to me by email and said a refund is being issued for the lost 13 days:
Our records indicate that the second pass loaded to your myki card [removed] started before the first had expired.
Our investigations confirm that your second myki pass activated while you had 13 days remaining on your first pass and as such a cheque reimbursement of $70.00 will be mailed to you within the next 10 business days.
$70 is enough to buy 2 x 7 day Zone 1 Passes ($35 each), making up the 13 days lost plus one. However, given the current Yearly Pass I’m on expires next year, after next January’s price rise, it may not cover those 13 days.
At least some others affected are getting their refund as Myki Money loaded onto the card instead of a cheque.
It’s still unclear how many people have been affected, and whether they have proactively sought them out, rather than just waiting for complaints to come in.
Update 18/4/2013: The last communication to me said they’d refund me $70, which sounded about right. But today I got an email saying:
After considering the details of your special consideration claim, a reimbursement has been granted and an amount of $ 35.00 will be posted to you as a cheque within the next 10 days.
Ummmm.. Hmm. Better get in contact, I suspect.
Update 29/4/2013: A follow up email acknowledged that the one quoting $35 was wrong, and said I’d get a cheque for the full amount (eg $70).
Then a cheque arrived for $35. It was mailed before the last email though.
Better contact them again.
Update 2/5/2013: They’ve acknowledged the error and are sending out a second cheque for $35, making a total of $70.
Mr Lezala also took a swipe at the State Government for failing to invest properly in signalling.
“We have new signalling systems here … with no redundancy in them so when we get a thunderstorm it fails – brand new systems – because we didn’t have enough money to build redundancy in,” he told a Metro breakfast.
“I think Treasury need to take that one, actually, because you get what you pay for.”
This might help explain why the trend for cancellations (or to be precise, percentage of the timetable not delivered) is up, not down.
For all the noise the government has made about investing in upgraded rail infrastructure, it’s still common to see disruptions due to signal, track, points failures. If Lezala is right, we’re getting a lot of new equipment which isn’t being installed with the required redundancy to ensure it’s really reliable.
I had been writing a blog post about proposed rail lines, and even went to the trouble of drawing a map of what was known about the various proposals floating around. Yesterday a very detailed PTV Network Development Plan for the rail network was released with lots of much prettier and more comprehensive maps.
The portents of its release have been there. In the past few weeks, several studies into proposed rail lines have been released: Doncaster, Rowville, and the Airport. The PTV document incorporates these, and lays out how they would build them, and a few more besides.
What some people hadn’t registered until now is that the wish list now includes not one rail tunnel, but two.
The “metro” (north-south) rail tunnel has been proposed for a few years now — that’s the one leading from the Sunbury line at South Kensington via Parkville, the city to Domain, then to South Yarra to connect with the Dandenong line. The Rowville and Airport studies both conclude that their new lines rely on this for capacity through the CBD.
The Doncaster study had flagged the theory that second a tunnel — re-routing the South Morang line from Clifton Hill via Fitzroy and Parkville to Flagstaff — is necessary to provide enough capacity for the Doncaster line to run into the city via Jolimont. The PTV document says this should then extend to Southern Cross and eventually to the new suburb at Fishermens Bend.
Wishlist maps for the Melbourne rail network are a dime-a-dozen. Every gunzel has drawn one. But it’s rare to see something official, and PTV are to be congratulated for publicly putting out the Plan.
Forward planning is essential. Vicroads do it all the time, and put their proposed motorways into the Melway. It’s been lacking in public transport, leading to debacles like the Footscray pedestrian bridge being partly demolished only just after it had been built.
And there’s a lot to like in the document. It explains how each project will build on the overall capacity and reliability of the network. The overall strategy is a good one — to move towards self-contained lines, with a minimum of junctions and interactions with other lines that limit train throughput.
Even stage 1, the 2016 service plan (basically “how do we run the trains once Regional Rail Link is built”), includes some great outcomes for passengers, including seven day services every 10 minutes from the city to Newport, Dandenong, Ringwood, Glen Waverley, Sandringham, Sydenham and Craigieburn (joining Frankston, which already has it).
Governments might baulk at the cost of some of the later more expensive upgrades, but those initial service upgrades should be a priority for funding. They bring great benefits for little cost.
The Plan also includes things you don’t normally hear about, like modern in-cab signalling systems, which allow up to 50% more trains to operate on a line, for a relatively low outlay.
And while it only covers Rail (apparently the Bus and Tram plans will be out later), it does have a section talking about connections between modes, including timetable coordination.
There are heaps of good ideas in the Plan. If I have anything bad to say about it, it’s that the running theme with both it and the Doncaster/Rowville/Airport studies appears to be along the lines of: there won’t be enough central core capacity in future year X, therefore we can’t build any new rail lines until the metro and/or Fitzroy rail tunnel have been built first.
It’s a kind of innate conservatism in the planning: that new lines have to be built with all possible future growth catered for, and if we can’t do that, we shouldn’t build them at all.
This is quite unlike the road lobby, who will happily build virtually anything, knowing that if later growth blows the capacity, it will just provide the political impetus for the next big project (and in the mean time it will still provide some “benefit”).
For instance, the Eastern Freeway was built knowing full well it would terminate at Hoddle Street, creating a snarl there.
The risk of wanting the multi-billion dollar tunnel before anything else can happen is that if funding for that is delayed, everything else is delayed.
In reality, there is scope for building lines and extensions now. Extending South Morang to Mernda, for instance, should be a no-brainer. Dipping a toe in the water towards Doncaster, by building the first, easy bit to Bulleen, would get scores of buses and their passengers out of inner-city traffic. The line to the city would cope for a good few years yet, especially if high capacity signalling was included.
The Plan has the Altona Loop duplication waiting until stage 4. It could easily be done earlier. Even much of the signalling won’t get upgraded until after the metro rail tunnel is built — when the signalling would deliver similar benefits in terms of capacity, but years earlier and at a fraction of the cost.
The Road Lobby knows all about salami tactics. The Rail bureaucracy need to learn the same strategies.
The way forward
Criticisms aside, it’s great this plan is out. If the relatively cheap upgrades that are part of the 2016 stage haven’t yet been fully funded, the government should show it’s serious about the rail network, and fund them pronto. (Yes, Southland station is included in that.)
It’d be nice to see signalling upgrades across the most congested parts of the network in the short term. It’s cheaper than building tunnels, and although there’s some complexity in ensuring all trains on those sections have the right equipment, the capacity benefit of up to 50% is obviously beneficial.
Whatever the precise order of implementation, the government (and politicians on both sides) need to start pushing these projects. In particular, the current government would do well to remember that they were voted in on the back of public transport issues — not the proposed east-west road which was barely mentioned during the election but somehow has morphed into their top infrastructure priority.
As for plans for the rest of our multi-modal network, while the tram and bus Plans haven’t yet been released, let’s hope they’re not too far away… and that they’ve been prepared in tandem with the rail Plan!
- Alan Davies at Crikey: What’s the long term rail plan for Melbourne?
- The Age’s Adam Carey: A terrific, ambitious plan that just needs someone to fund it
- PTUA: Plan will sit on shelf unless priorities change