Don't forget the shareholders... they have their snouts in the trough just as much as the CEO's.
Any private company exists to make a profit, and for public transport that profit comes from either higher fares and/or higher taxpayer subsidies. I suspect that many in the electorate will not be prepared to accept handing over huge amounts of money to foreign companies at the same time that we are expected to accept well over inflation fare rises.
I agree with you about the "bloated public service". Sadly cost control isn't part of their culture and more departments and agencies seem to appear from every costly review, rather than the efficiencies that most of us would like to see.
Privatisation wasn't the answer here. What the the government should have done was hire competent management to fix the bureaucracy, not hand the public transport system over to a bunch of money grubbers. The Kennett government tried to take the easy way out by passing the buck to someone else (the franchisees), instead of doing the head work of fixing the actual problems in the system. There is no reason why a government run system cannot manage the system as well as (or better than) a privately run one, if they chose the right people to manage it. Instead we got saddled with funding the profits of the operators, for no benefit that we could not have achieved without them.
Before being too strong on the Government run is best line look at the shambles that is VLP today, a real Nanny State operation , costing the tax payer near $ 20 subsidy per pax journey carried .
I doubt anyone think that V/Line's management is doing a good job. This just serves to reinforce the point about better management being needed, regardless of government vs private operation.
My understanding from chatting to someone in the system some years ago is that having a proto-privatised system (as they do) is the government's preferred model because they don't have to get involved with everyday things like stoushes with the unions, hiring and firing etc. but at the same time no private operator in their right mind would want to be wholly-responsible for Melbourne's creaking ancient suburban train infrastructure so that's why the contracts operate in this way.
Even under a private model, the government is still ultimately responsible for providing the service, and if they won't do it themselves, and can't or won't make their hired help do it then they will ultimately pay the price for their failure.
The value of the private operator as a scapegoat for the government is decreasing... These days when there are failures/industrial action etc, the government of the day still seems to cop a large share of the blame (as they should). If there is one thing you can rely on whoever is in opposition to do, it is make sure that as much of the blame for any failures is pinned squarely on the government. In 1999 privatisation was still something of an unknown, and many Victorians were prepared to give this model a chance to deliver. By 2010 and 2014 many in the electorate was all to ready to vote against a state government due to failure to deliver improvement to, or even maintain public transport.
Victoria has now had 17 years of privatised public transport. If privatisation was able to deliverer the improved reliability and cost savings we were all promised, it would have done so long ago. That the privatised system has failed to do either after all this time is proof that privatisation has failed.
Apologies for the long rant.