Far from being a threat, the cost blow-out and funding cut-back affecting the Regional Rail Link (GA 13/2) is an opportunity. It provides a welcome chance to critically examine the project.
The new state government’s review of the scheme should not be done by the people who have created the currently unsound plans. Independent experts are needed to properly evaluate all the options for improving the existing Geelong-Melbourne rail corridor.
The rapidly expanding outer western suburbs of Melbourne desperately need better public transport. However Geelong rail travellers shouldn’t have to contribute to that by being forced to make a lengthy detour via Tarneit, and losing their convenient connections to other public transport routes because of the by-passing of Werribee, Newport and North Melbourne stations.
The RRL scheme is based on a flawed concept so it isn’t surprising that its planning and design has proceeded in a disorganised fashion.
Various bits of the plans have been released in dribs and drabs, and some have been changed on the run. Even now, three years after the announcement of the project, we have no idea what train services will be provided on the Tarneit diversion.
Jason Dowling’s defence of the Regional Rail Link (Age Opinion, 22/2) essentially asserts that a project costing around $5 billion must be a good thing.
His lack of knowledge of the scheme is unfortunately not surprising. What began as a line on a map in the Eddington Report has evolved secretly and fitfully. We still have no idea how train services will be organised, but we do know that a significant number of passengers will actually be disadvantaged by the project as it is currently configured.
The basic problem is that it tries to be both a regional and a suburban project. New stations at Tarneit will be served by crowded Geelong trains making extra stops en route. Tarneit residents won’t get the same frequency of service as other metropolitan rail users.
The journey to Geelong will take longer, but we have no idea by how much. Hundreds of people a week using V/Line trains between Geelong and Werribee will have to take a 20-minute bus ride from Wyndham Vale instead.
Regional trains will also by-pass North Melbourne station, currently served by every regional train to Melbourne in the morning, and every one leaving Melbourne in the afternoon. Under this scheme, not one regional train will stop there!
The new government has sensibly decided to review the project and strip away the concealment and confusion that surrounds it. With better planning $5 billion can be used to ensure every passenger benefits.
It is very disappointing to see that some Geelong councillors are already talking about doing away with the newly-opened bus interchange in Moorabool Street.
A review of new interchange’s performance is welcome, but bus travellers reject any suggestion that the city’s main bus stops be put back into the limbo from which they’ve only just emerged.
Moving the stops to an unknown location would be ridiculously wasteful. A visible, central location is vital to the effective functioning of our public transport. The new stops mean that people are conscious once again that Geelong actually has a public bus system, something that wasn’t apparent when the city’s stops were scattered and hidden.
If nothing else, the current system is focussed on bringing people into the city. The council should be campaigning to improve bus frequency, so that public transport can play a central role in solving the perceived CBD parking crisis, as well as reducing car dependency and the region’s carbon footprint.
We call on the city council to demonstrate unequivocal support for an effective, usable public transport system for Geelong.
Unfortunately the headline on last week’s front page story (A Waste of Time), which quoted me, distorted the points I made in the article itself.
I certainly don’t think that using public transport is a waste of time. And I definitely don’t believe, as the sub-heading put it, that the current bus service is hurting the CBD – quite the opposite in fact.
I was pointing out that public transport can have a significant role to play in solving the perceived problems in central Geelong – traffic congestion, parking shortages and closed shops.
However, for that role to be fully effective, bus services have to be competitive with car travel. People who can drive will continue to use their cars if the alternative doesn’t attract them.
The best way to make our buses competitive with the car is to increase the frequency with which they run. If people can get to their destination by car in half the time it takes for the next bus to arrive at their local stop, most of them wont hang around waiting for it.
The recent re-establishment of the bus interchange in Moorabool Street has been a vital factor in improving the usability of our bus system. Any calls to remove it are completely unacceptable. We now have to build on the improvements made to the bus system over the last twelve months.
In a report on the state budget (GA 5/5) it was stated that the Regional Rail Link is “expected to slash commuting times between Geelong and Melbourne”. That is completely inaccurate. Far from slashing travel times, the diversion of Geelong trains via Tarneit will mean that the journey will take longer.
When tackled about the issue a couple of years ago, former Transport Minister Lynne Kosky had to concede that “a few seconds” would be added to travel times, but she was no doubt putting the best possible spin on the situation.
In an article headlined Extension for Submissions (GA 28/5) is was stated that the “public transport users group” has been critical of the move to put all the city’s bus stops at the one central location.
In fact the Public Transport Users Association strongly supports the recently re-introduced central bus interchange in Moorabool Street. It has already led to a much-needed revival in the city’s public transport system, and our members think the area should be expanded to improve its operation.
The Dimitrovski family’s frustration at being unable to find parking space for four cars in their Newtown street is understandable (GA 8/6). However their need to have four cars serves to highlight the fact that Newtown has the worst urban bus service in Victoria.
Newtown buses run on an inconvenient and indirect circular route which no car would ever take. On top of that, Newtown bus services were slashed in half last October. Now only one bus runs every 80 minutes clockwise around the circle, with another running anti-clockwise every 80 minutes. In that time many people could walk into Geelong from Newtown and back again.
That drastic cut made a mockery of the previous government’s boast that the October changes to Geelong’s bus system meant “more buses, more often”, and it must be reversed.
Cuts to bus services like the one inflicted on Newtown do nothing to lessen Geelong’s current car dependence. Buses must run at least every 20 minutes, and on direct routes, before people will be attracted out of their cars in significant numbers.
It’s not surprising that the recently-expanded car park at Marshall station is already full to capacity (Geelong Advertiser, 1/7). That’s because it is impossible to provide enough car parking to get every potential passenger to a station by car.
Station car parks are also very space-intensive, locking-up large areas of valuable real estate near stations. Relying on cars to get people to stations means that public transport users need to own just as many cars as if public transport didn’t exist.
On top of that, car parks are extremely expensive to build and maintain. It costs over $16,000 to provide just one sealed, kerbed and channelled space at a station car park – an astounding sum of money to spend on getting one person on a train five days a week.
In well-managed rail systems around the world, many passengers arrive at stations by public transport. Those people don’t require any parking spaces at all.
Unfortunately, current bus services to Marshall station are not able to attract rail passengers out of their cars. That’s because these services aren’t yet frequent or comprehensive enough, and no attempt is made to co-ordinate train and bus timetables.
The announcement by Andrew Katos (Buses Come Later, Geelong Advertiser, 4/8) confirmed what we have long suspected – that Armstrong Creek residents wont have any public transport services when they move in.
Armstrong Creek has been promoted from the start as a model of sustainable development, but now an essential sustainable transport mode is going to be non-existent. So, despite the promises, this brave new suburban world is going to be largely the same as the old one.
We are told that bus services might eventually be made available “when needed”. In fact they are needed right from the start, otherwise families in this isolated community will become firmly car dependent, needing two, three of four cars, which will add considerably to their living costs, and to traffic congestion and parking problems in our region.
The decision of the Department of Transport to stop subsidising the city council’s free summer city bus and its two park-and-ride services is based on a completely mistaken assertion.
The Department claims that other bus services are adequate, but if that was the case there would have been no need for the services now being scrapped. Despite some improvements in the last couple of years, almost all our buses still run too infrequently, and on indirect and time-consuming routes.
For example, the bus which passes Eastern Park doesn’t go near the Botanic Gardens and only runs every half hour, whereas the summer bus ran to the Gardens and had a usable ten minute frequency.
However, rather than putting money piecemeal into stop-gap services such as the ones mentioned, the state government must commit to providing a public transport system in Geelong that is more than just a take it or leave it service for those who can’t drive a car.
In your story about the public transport fare increase (V/Line fares to rise on Ballarat line by 8.6%, Ballarat Courier 7/12), I was correctly quoted as saying that there is a lot of money washing around for public transport at the moment.
I must explain that I was referring specifically to the Regional Rail Link (RRL) project. Although many parts of our public transport system are crying out for greater investment, the RRL has attracted unprecedented funding of over $4billion.
Yet many Ballarat rail passengers are going to be worse off after the spending of this fantastic amount of money, because no platforms will be provided at North Melbourne station for any of the trains using the new line. That is inexcusable.
North Melbourne station is currently a vital interchange point for travellers on the Ballarat line, providing connections to City Loop services and other suburban rail lines, as well as the recently-introduced 401 shuttle bus from North Melbourne to the university and hospital precincts in Parkville. The 401 was established in part to assist Ballarat and other regional passengers.
What has been lacking in Victoria in the last fifty years has been coherent long-term planning for public transport. Projects like the RRL have suddenly appeared from nowhere, and don’t form part of any coherent overall strategy.
We need a properly planned and managed system, including community input into planning decisions, and peer reviews of expensive projects, so that they are not based on political whims.
Barefaced spin is obvious in the attempt by the Regional Rail Link Authority to justify the fact that no regional trains will stop at North Melbourne station once the mega-project is opened (“V/Line to give North Melbourne a miss”, The Age, 22/12).
It is absurd to claim that that allowing V/Line passengers to continue using North Melbourne would add to congestion there. North Melbourne is a vital and convenient interchange point for hundreds of regional passengers every day, and $30 million was recently spent enhancing that role.
The only reason Regional Rail Link (RRL) trains wont stop at North Melbourne is that the track layout being provided means many (but not all) RRL trains will be physically unable to stop there.
The Authority’s claim that Footscray is an equivalent alternative interchange point is demonstrably false. Unlike North Melbourne, only Sydenham line trains run from Footscray through the loop, and those trains are the most crowded on the Metro network.
We know Terry Mulder was concerned about the proposed by-passing of North Melbourne station by the RRL when he was in opposition. He is now in a position to ensure that RRL platforms are provided there.