The Public Transport Users Association (PTUA) has welcomed the government’s commitment to expand the train fleet, to help deal with unprecedented crowding on suburban rail services, but noted more needed to be done across the public transport network.
PTUA president Daniel Bowen said that the organisation had lobbied the government to bring forward the new trains (originally scheduled for 2011 under the government’s Meeting Our Transport Challenges plan), because the premature scrapping of most of the Hitachi train fleet failed to take into account patronage growth anticipated under the government’s 2020 target. Recent figures show train usage of around 170 million trips per year, the highest since the 1960s.
“It’s clear that Melbourne needs more trains”, said Mr Bowen. “Overcrowding is now endemic, with people regularly left behind at some stations, so we are pleased that the government has accepted our advice to purchase new trains. They can’t come soon enough, and in the mean time the government should be immediately boosting shoulder-peak services to provide travel choice during these times.”
The regional rail buy-back from Pacific National, the new, albeit expensive, station at Coolaroo, duplication of track at Clifton Hill and station upgrades were also welcomed by the PTUA, as were much needed regional bus improvements.
But Mr Bowen noted there was more to be done to give more Victorians an effective alternative to driving, to better cut traffic congestion and reduce smog and greenhouse gas emissions. He expressed disappointment with the long lead times on many of the projects and the slow rate of service upgrades.
The PTUA noted there was little for bus users, and no new spending on the tram network. “In fact, there is almost no new spending over and above the government’s existing Meeting Our Transport Challenges plan and last year’s election promises.
“The new trains are a good start, and will ease crowding. But we need further commitments to boosting service levels for trains, trams and buses.”