The Public Transport Users Association today condemned the State Government’s Transport and Liveability Statement and demanded that the Transport Minister resign, citing no confidence in his ability to deliver overdue public transport upgrades.
Geelong Branch Convenor Tim Petersen said the release of the long-awaited statement showed that the Government had no plans to roll out useable public transport throughout Melbourne or Geelong.
The Minister has also rejected recent calls for major institutional reform required to deliver improvements, from four Melbourne academics and the draft report of the Government’s own congestion inquiry.
“The Government talked up this Statement but it has failed to deliver. The re-announcements and minor improvements are little more than fig leaf. They don’t hide the fact that after seven years as Transport Minister, Peter Batchelor still doesn’t have a plan to bring useable public transport to all of Geelong.”
“We’ve got no confidence that any future money won’t be wasted on ill-conceived, badly executed projects like Fast Rail, or on excessive payments to private operators.”
“If this is the best the Minister can do, he should be looking for another job”.
Mr Petersen said the Government’s continued failure to provide an alternative to driving cars would condemn the suburbs of Geelong to transport poverty. “People are looking to the government for relief from increasing petrol prices, congestion and car dependence.”
“All they’re getting in return is spin”.
Mr Petersen said that beyond re-announcing the North Melbourne station upgrade and the refurbishment of old country trains, the only other commitments that might be of any advantage to Geelong users was some metropolitan signalling upgrades, more new trains to replace old ones and $90 million over ten years for country bus services. “These slim bus pickings are to be shared around the whole of country Victoria and they don’t even seem to have worked out where it will be spent. It’s worse than insulting.”
Mr Petersen said the government was misleading the public by presenting itself as giving priority to public transport over roads. “Since 1999 in Geelong alone, we’ve seen almost $700 million pledged to the Melbourne Road upgrade and the Geelong bypass. That’s seven times the money spent on Geelong’s public transport, even with fast rail.”
Mr Petersen said the Government had ignored the desperate need for significant upgrades to Geelong’s local public transport. “It needs more frequent services running until midnight, seven days a week, plus new routes and better connections. Only then will it function as a network and give people a real alternative to driving,” he concluded.