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Author Topic: Article: Any chance of delivery on transport promises, Premier?  (Read 875 times)

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Article: Any chance of delivery on transport promises, Premier?
« on: December 01, 2008, 06:41:57 PM »
From the Melbourne Age click here!

Any chance of delivery on transport promises, Premier?

Quote
Any chance of delivery on transport promises, Premier?

    * December 1, 2008

Sick and tired of rubbish public transport? You're far from alone.

FOR too long public transport has been the poor cousin to what the Government considered were more pressing policy areas, and commuters have suffered.

This has occurred at a time when train patronage has grown by more than 30 per cent in the past three years. Indeed, on one morning last October at the Caulfield station, most trains between 8am and 8.30am carried more than 900 passengers, with the 8.23 squeezing in 1035. Similarly at Clifton Hill, the 8.13am and 8.20am services averaged more than 1000 passengers. And this when the Government considers any more than 798 passengers in a six-carriage train "a load breach".

Experts in transport and key government officials were given the opportunity to spend 60 seconds explaining how they see the upcoming Victorian transport plan.

Premier John Brumby will soon deliver Labor's umpteenth "transport plan". He needs to deliver major improvements in service. An Age/Nielsen poll published last week made this clear when almost two out three Victorians said spending on public transport was more important than expenditure on roads.

The same proportion are unhappy with the Government's performance on public transport. Too many people in inner Melbourne can no longer turn up at a station and expect to board a train and get to work on time. Nor can they expect to find room to even board their local train. Rather, they just watch dangerously overloaded trains pass by.

Meanwhile, too many people in Melbourne's growth areas rarely see public transport. A recent parliamentary study found just one in 100 outer suburban residents used public transport to get to work.

While Melbourne has gained an average of one new freeway every 10 years over the past four decades, since Sir Henry Bolte was premier, the last suburban link built was the Glen Waverley line in the 1930s. As train line building ceased, Melbourne's population grew from 1.5 million in 1954 to almost 4 million now - no wonder the trains are full.

The deficiencies in the public transport system are the result of successive governments finding other priorities for taxpayers' money.

For much of the 1990s premier Jeff Kennett was fixated with cutting costs, reducing debt and building up a large cash surplus. The newly elected Labor government in 1999 had to find hundreds of millions of dollars to deliver its promised regional fast rail project.

When private rail operator National Express decided to walk away from the train contract, the Bracks government had to step in with an additional $1 billion funding over five years. So while the present Victorian Government could argue that an extra $1 billion was spent by Bracks on public transport, none of it was spent on extra trains, trams or buses.

In recent years there have been ad hoc transport plans, most recently the Government's marketing extravaganza in 2006 known as "Meeting Our Transport Challenges", which boasted a "25-year vision" for Melbourne's transport needs.

Just two years later the Government conceded the plan massively underestimated public transport demand. Yet it continued to find other spending priorities.In July 2006 it committed almost $5 billion to new water projects. By the November 2006 state election, its focus had shifted to rebuilding every government school.

Now there are signs the Government may be dampening expectations for its latest public transport announcement as the financial crisis hits Government finances. Treasurer John Lenders has said Victoria was expecting at least $10 billion from Canberra and warned if the money was not forthcoming the Government's transport plan would have to be scaled back.

One option the Government may be considering is pushing projects back, with some to be delivered in decades to come.

What is clear is that hollow transport promises will not help one commuter. The new transport plan must include real projects with deliverable timelines. If state borrowing is the only way to fully fund the urgently needed upgrades, the Government should do it. There is no doubt people are prepared to pay more for reliable, accessible public transport.

On the day Mr Brumby was sworn in as Victoria's 45th premier, he listed "accelerating public transport improvements" as a priority. Now is the time to deliver. No more empty promises, public transport's time has come.

Jason Dowling is city editor.
Half baked projects, have long term consequences ...
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