The Public Transport Users Association (PTUA) has welcomed the Federal Coalition’s commitment of funds to the Mernda rail extension in Melbourne’s north.
“This rail extension will help to cut greenhouse emissions and fuel expenses in the heart of the mortgage belt where transport costs put major pressure on household finances,” said PTUA President Daniel Bowen. “We believe this is recognition that alternatives to driving are sorely needed to ease the squeeze on family budgets as well as to reduce greenhouse emissions and oil imports.”
Treasurer Peter Costello committed $80 million to two overpasses associated with the rail extension while visiting the area today. The federal government has however declined to fund public transport infrastructure, leaving the state government to fund all of the track laying, signalling and stations as well as several other road crossings along the route.
“Of course the money is welcome, but the buck passing is not. It highlights the silly arbitrary demarcation where the federal government will put billions into state and local roads but nothing into public transport,” said Mr Bowen. “Australia is one of the most urbanised countries in the world but the Australian government is unique among Western nations in not investing in urban public transport. This embarrassment needs fixing urgently.”
A recent report for public transport groups around the country, ‘Moving Australians Sustainably’, found that the transport sector, especially cars and trucks, is one of the largest and fastest growing sources of carbon emissions. The report also found that improved public transport would contribute to a range of federal government policy objectives such as reduced greenhouse emissions, reducing the road toll and a healthier and more productive workforce.
“For many households, transport is the single largest source of carbon emissions. Many analysts also now agree that the age of cheap oil is over,” warned Mr Bowen. “The federal government, regardless of persuasion, needs to get serious about reducing car dependency by making walking, cycling and public transport a core part of transport policy and funding. Ad hoc funding of associated road works is not quite the commitment we need.”
Mr Bowen called on the other parties to match or better the Coalition’s announcement. “We’re now hoping for similiar or preferably better promises from the other parties. With ballooning oil imports and the threat of climate change, ignoring public transport would be the height of economic recklessness,” concluded Mr Bowen.
The full report, ‘Moving Australians Sustainably’, can be found at: www.ptua.org.au/federal