Over 90,000 new households will be locked into crippling car dependence unless state and federal governments urgently expand Melbourne’s rail network, the Public Transport Users Association (PTUA) warned today.
“Families on Melbourne’s urban fringe have few transport options and are locked into owning and running at least one car per adult,” said PTUA President Daniel Bowen. “This puts major strain on household finances and can quickly gobble up any savings from cheaper housing.”
Premier John Brumby today announced plans to fast-track the development of over 90,000 new homes on farmland around Melbourne as demographers pointed to projections of Melbourne overtaking Sydney as Australia’s largest city within two decades.
“The areas included in the new Urban Growth Zone (UGZ) are the same areas that have been identified as the most vulnerable to rising petrol prices ,” said Mr Bowen. “That vulnerability will worsen unless rail services are extended into those growth areas. That means electrification and new stations on the Melton line, bringing forward the long-overdue extension to South Morang and Mernda, and new stations on both the Cranbourne and Pakenham lines.” Mr Bowen also pointed to electrification to Sunbury and extending the Upfield line to meet the Craigieburn line as priority investments for Melbourne’s north.
Mr Bowen also said it was vital for the federal government to fulfil its responsibility to urban public transport. “The Rudd Government has claimed it wants to improve Australia’s major cities and to address congestion and climate change,” said Mr Bowen. “Federal investment in expanding urban rail networks would cut congestion, cut emissions and cut families’ petrol bills.” Mr Bowen said the urgency was reinforced by recent research demonstrating that Australia will fail to meet its climate obligations unless car use is drastically reduced .
Mr Bowen also highlighted the need to significantly upgrade bus services. “Around two thirds of Melbourne currently lacks convenient access to the rail network. Vastly improved bus services with traffic priority are needed to relieve pressure on outer suburban roads and station car parks,” concluded Mr Bowen.