State budget burdening suburbs

Transport Minister not supporting key ‘20% by 2020’ public transport policy

The Public Transport Users Association (PTUA) has reignited calls for the resignation of the current Transport Minister, Peter Batchelor, amid a Budget that has failed to prevent excessive car dependence, with the goal of increasing public transport modal share sliding backwards.

“After all the fanfare, the government’s transport statement and budget have failed to deliver for current and potential transport users,” said PTUA spokesman Alex Makin. “Commuters will have to wait several years before most of the upgrades are implemented, and meanwhile must endure ongoing delays, cancellations and crowding.”

“The current arrangements are clearly dysfunctional since despite continued poor performance on the Pakenham and Cranbourne rail lines, the subsidy to Connex will be increased by 10%,” said Mr Makin. “It is time the system was put under the control of an efficient public agency like in Zurich or Vancouver where service levels and patronage are improving.”

“Despite major social, economic and environmental benefits from encouraging greater use of public transport, the government is not even trying to reach its target of 20% of trips on public transport by 2020,” said Mr Makin. “The budget has provided about a billion dollars upfront to encourage more car traffic on the Monash Freeway and other arterial roads across the city, while much of the extra money for public transport will only be drip-fed after the next state election. It’s no wonder Melbourne is starting to grind to a halt.”

Last year a Griffith University study found that a larger proportion of households in Melbourne are vulnerable to rising petrol prices than in either Sydney or Brisbane due to inadequate public transport”, warned Mr Makin. “Despite this the government lacks the ability to deliver services that encourage public usage. The Minister has literally cherry picked a very limited number of bus routes mostly in marginal seats for service upgrades while neglecting the rest of Melbourne. If Peter Batchelor thinks that an hourly bus service will get anyone out of their car he needs to have his head examined”.

“Peter Batchelor must go — the failure to take public transport seriously is leaving families at the mercy of rising petrol prices and congestion. The government’s own figures show public transport is losing its share of the travel market, despite record petrol prices, because most people have no choice but to drive their cars. The government has failed to make progress towards the key policy goal of increasing public transport modal share to 20% by the year 2020 and after six years, the public deserve better and a new Minister for Transport”, concluded Mr. Makin.

Media coverage of this story: The Age, 1st June 2006: 20% target on trips ‘ambitious’