State budget needs to rescue troubled public transport system

Long-suffering commuters expect a major boost to public transport in this year’s state budget, the Public Transport Users Association (PTUA) said today.

“After months of poor reliability and disruptions, public confidence in the system is at a tipping point,” said PTUA President Daniel Bowen. “Decisive action is needed to regain public trust. Failure would mean escalating congestion, pollution, greenhouse emissions and vulnerability to high oil prices as people abandon the system.”

In the lead up to the state budget, the PTUA has outlined an investment program that would enhance the coverage, speed, integration, reliability and safety of public transport. According to Mr Bowen, these are key factors driving the popularity of the system.

“The government has a policy of getting 20% of journeys onto public transport by 2020. This would make a huge contribution to Melbourne’s liveability, so we’re very keen to see them succeed, ” said Mr Bowen. “Many of the measures needed to achieve this are quite modest, like extending tram lines to nearby train stations and activity centres. Better coordination of services also requires little additional outlay, as long as the institutional and contractual arrangements with operators are conducive.”

Mr Bowen also pointed out that the government has until November to notify private operators Connex and Yarra Trams of its intentions regarding termination, renewal or extension of the franchise agreements. “We don’t actually mind who runs day-to-day operations provided the government has rigorously sought the best the public or private sectors can offer,” said Mr Bowen. “It’s more important to ensure an accountable public agency has the skills, resources and authority to plan and deliver an attractive transport system that puts users ahead of operators’ shareholders. The government needs to get the ball rolling on reform now and catch up to cities like Zurich and Vancouver.”

Other highlights of the PTUA budget submission include:

  • a review of rail infrastructure and operating practices to boost frequencies and reliability;
  • expansion of the train fleet to improve service levels, reliability and reduce crowding;
  • upgrading control and signal system to allow higher frequencies and improved reliability;
  • a range of rail extensions and new lines such as Sunbury, Mernda, Rowville, and Baxter to enhance coverage;
  • filling gaps in the tram network to better integrate trams with trains and buses;
  • accelerating rollout of the government’s orbital SmartBus program and Doncaster bus improvements;
  • accelerating measures to speed up buses and trams; and
  • boosting staffing to enhance safety, customer service, and assist people with mobility impairments to board and alight more quickly.

“Progress towards the government’s policy of 20% mode share for public transport has been disappointing,” said Mr Bowen. “We want to work with the public transport minister and her colleagues to identify solutions and maximise public transport’s contribution to a healthier, cleaner and more prosperous city.”

Contact the PTUA