Transport users, the environment and business would all win from a refocussing of federal transport policy, the Public Transport Users Association (PTUA) said today.
“High oil prices have bitten household budgets and retail spending, and inadequate transport alternatives have fuelled increasing congestion and greenhouse emissions,” said PTUA President Daniel Bowen. “Federal funding for public transport would help more families to escape high petrol prices, and reduce transport emissions and congestion in the process.”
Mr Bowen said that the Cranbourne rail line, opened to suburban trains in 1995, had been funded by the Federal government under Paul Keating, and that it had made a significant impact in improving transport options in Melbourne’s outer-southeast.
While substantial federal funding is already provided to roads and freeways (such as Melbourne’s Deer Park Bypass), the Howard Government has specifically excluded funding for public transport infrastructure. Newly elected Opposition Leader, Kevin Rudd, has unveiled a plan to inject federal funding into urban public transport projects if Labor is elected at the next federal election. Mr Rudd has criticised the federal government for contributing to infrastructure pressures through its immigration program but failing to deal with the consequences of that inflow. According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS), outer Melbourne regions are among the fastest growing in Australia .
“Melbourne’s rail network has scarcely been added to since 1930. Some of the fastest growing parts of the country, like Melbourne’s outer suburbs, are now seriously lacking in public transport infrastructure,” said Mr Bowen. “Federal funding could accelerate urgently needed rail extensions to Rowville, South Morang and Cranbourne East and remove single track bottlenecks on numerous other lines.”
Mr Bowen also called on the current federal government to match Mr Rudd’s commitment to public transport. “The Howard Government is under significant pressure over its response to climate change and high petrol prices. It can strike a blow against both of these problems simultaneously by funding public transport. I invite Mr Howard to get behind this sustainable alternative,” concluded Mr Bowen.
 ‘Outer Melbourne Regions Amongst Fastest Growing In Australia’, ABS, 16 January 2004