The Public Transport Users Association (PTUA) has welcomed Prime Minister Kevin Rudd’s call for national investment in public transport to provide relief from high petrol prices.
Mr Rudd was reported as saying “hasn’t the time come for some decent, decent public transport systems, invested in by the national government across our major cities so people don’t burn their petrol prices on the way to work.”
PTUA President Daniel Bowen said it was heartening to see the Prime Minister begin to recognise that a long-term solution to petrol prices was needed, and that this meant shifting travel from cars to public transport.
Mr Bowen said a well-planned network of frequent bus, tram and train services could provide convenient alternatives to car travel across Australia’s major cities and regional centres.
He said the Federal Government should fund its share of the large public transport projects, such as new urban rail lines, that would form the backbone of that network.
“The states can’t do this alone. Perth, Adelaide, Sydney and Brisbane are pushing ahead with new lines, but Federal assistance is essential to help provide lasting relief from petrol prices”, Mr Bowen said.
However he warned that any national investment would have to be carefully targeted to provide petrol price relief to the suburbs. “Investments should expand public transport systems to cover poorly-served suburbs where public transport use is lowest, rather than paying for expensive inner-city rail tunnels, where public transport use is already high.”
In Melbourne, new rail lines to South Morang and Mernda, Rowville, Doncaster, Cranbourne East, and electrification to Sunbury and Melton were needed to provide services into car-dependent suburbs, Mr Bowen said. Neglected lines in country Victoria also required upgrading and in some places, duplication, to run frequent services at acceptable speeds.
Mr Bowen said Mr Rudd’s announcement could indicate a welcome change from the emphasis of pre-election transport policies.
“Expensive projects to expand the capacity of major roads and freeways are madness in the face of rising petrol prices and efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. To provide relief from petrol pain, cut emissions and fight congestion, more Australians need a public transport alternative to driving their cars”, Mr Bowen concluded.
 AAP report: Rudd calls for better public transport http://news.theage.com.au/national/20080606-2mgo.html