Transport Statement Botched by Batchelor

The Public Transport Users Association has condemned the Transport and Liveability Statement “Meeting Our Transport Challenges” and has demanded the immediate resignation of Transport Minister Peter Batchelor, citing no confidence in his ability to deliver overdue public transport improvements and crucial management reforms to ensure timely and efficient delivery of services.

“The Bracks government has had seven years to resolve Melbourne’s transport woes and yet we are provided with a plan that will do nothing to provide Melbournians with a comprehensive and dependable public transport choice”, PTUA President Daniel Bowen said. “This statement is just the latest of an ongoing saga of plans that have simply been regurgitated to provide endless re-announcements with very few tangible improvements. Nothing leads us to believe the promises here won’t turn out like all the others, either vanished in two years like South Morang, or delivering half the benefit for triple the cost like Craigieburn or Regional Fast Rail.”

The Transport and Liveability Statement was seen as a crucial test of the government’s commitment for public transport and the goal of increasing modal share to 20% by the year 2020. Last December, a report by Professor Peter Newman found that although Melbourne has more roads per person than any of the world’s other most liveable cities, people have more trouble getting around and are paying more to do so.

“While it may appear that the Statement does more for public transport than for roads, in reality this does very little to address the fact that new road spending in the last decade has exceeded rail network expansion by 3000 per cent“, Mr Bowen said. “In reality, Batchelor has blown his budget on unnecessary third tracks on existing lines while two thirds of Melbourne lack access to any rail services. Considering that the Bracks Government has been in power for seven years it should realise that with rising petrol prices more road building is unsustainable, uneconomical and unable to alleviate worsening traffic congestion.”

After a damning report from four Melbourne academics on the failure of public transport privatisation, and calls for significant institutional reform from the government’s own congestion inquiry, the statement has also failed to deliver an efficient and accountable public transport agency modelled on those in the world’s most liveable cities such as Vancouver and Zurich. Instead the statement simply adds to the existing structure a new position of Coordinator-General with a role yet to be defined.

“The failure of this statement to radically boost the frequency of bus services and to immediately implement much needed rail extensions goes hand in hand with the refusal to create an efficient planning and public transport authority,” Mr Bowen said. “The Government’s own research has demonstrated that a minimum of a seven day a week, 15 minute service frequency is required to shift outer suburban residents from cars and into buses and yet this statement fails to provide this.”

“After almost seven years of empty promises, the people of Melbourne have been let down once again,” Mr Bowen said. “Blame rests with the Minister for Transport, Peter Batchelor for leaving Melbourne 2030 in tatters and allowing powerful vested interests to undermine Melbourne’s liveability. We now have an inefficient, overpriced transport system that’s more about expanding freeways and removing tram stops than about sustainable ways to get people from A to B.”

“The government clearly has no intention of meeting its 20/2020 target if this is the best it can do. The release of this statement will do nothing to save Melbourne from rising traffic congestion, car dependence and increasing petrol prices.”

“This statement was the last opportunity to give credibility to Peter Batchelor and the Bracks Government. Peter Batchelor has botched his portfolio and must now resign so the government can start afresh,” Mr Bowen concluded.