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PTUA News May 2003:
Buses - has the bureaucracy finally got it?

A leaked document has brought to light some remarkably good work being done by the government as part of its Melbourne 2030 strategy planning.

Regular readers will know that the PTUA has been campaigning for many years to have suburban bus services improved, to give all of Melbourne the quality of service enjoyed by the few who are lucky enough to live near a tram line.

This campaigning over the years now appears to be having some effect. No longer are bus improvements seen as a "zero sum game" where an improvement to one service means cuts to another. Genuine small improvements are being seen, such as 45-minute weekday services down the Mornington Peninsula, or combined 15-minute services between Oakleigh and Monash University.

Sadly even these improvements are less useful than they might be, thanks to fares anomalies: the Mornington Peninsula service is not covered by Met fares, and the Oakleigh - Monash service is in the "wrong" zone for its connecting train service making it more expensive than an alternative (and overcrowded) route. What is more, the improvements have so far been piecemeal, with no overarching strategic view.

This type of non-integrated thinking is what made the PTUA very suspicious when we heard that as part of Melbourne 2030 the government was planning separate Bus, Train and Tram plans. We feared a repeat of past plans: non-integrated and non-strategic, with no new breakthroughs.

Well it seems we were wrong. The PTUA has been given a preview of the Bus Plan component of the Melbourne 2030 transport strategy and it is very good. In fact, we would say it is the best transport strategy that we have seen from any government for many years. We agreed not to discuss the details of the plan until it was released, but the bus industry has made public many of the details.

Some of the key features of bus plan as reported by Australasian Bus and Coach include:

  • Premium services operating with basic 15 minute headway running 5 am until midnight, with genuine traffic priority and real-time passenger information systems
  • Local services operating at least 6 am until 10 pm, with "improved frequencies"
  • Four new orbital bus routes
  • "Small but significant" improvements such as running routes right into railway stations
  • Sunday bus services extended to the entire metropolitan area.
  • The economic benefit of bus plan was estimated at $3.7 billion over 20 years and passenger growth forecasted at up to 308%.

    The PTUA heartily endorses the main themes of Bus Plan. A network of frequent bus service connecting with each other and the train and tram systems is the only way that public transport in Melbourne can be made competitive with the car.

    There are a few minor details with Bus Plan that we might not entirely agree with at this stage, but we are sure these can be worked through to ensure a positive outcome. The PTUA looks forward to participating in this process.

    With the government now battening down the hatches over cost blowouts in its planned re-privatisation, the challenge now for public transport is to make sure that this excellent document is not allowed to gather dust in the bottom drawer. We trust it will not.

    Australasian Bus and Coach have a web site at www.busnews.com.au. The maps here are reproduced from their magazine.


    Last Modified: 15 July 2003