PTUA joins YCAT to score City of Yarra candidates

Yarra Campaign against the Tunnel (YCAT) and the Public Transport Users Association (PTUA) have joined forces to score candidates in the forthcoming elections for the City of Yarra.

Candidates were asked to respond to survey questions on the Eddington Report and the proposed Victorian Transport Plan – which though not yet released will almost certainly preference roads over sustainable public transport and rail freight transport.

“Collectively, we were interested in how the candidates/parties would act if elected on the key sustainable transport issues in Yarra, including the proposed East-West Tunnel, other road tunnels, tram priority, clearways and public transport governance,” said PTUA Secretary Tony Morton.

YCAT Secretary Freda Watkin said that though all candidates, with a single exception, were saying “no tunnel” in their campaign literature, there are in fact significant differences and a range of opinions on what constitutes sustainable transport.

“Just as the construction of the road tunnel will make the construction of an elevated freeway in the west inevitable, so too will construction of an elevated freeway in the west make the road tunnel inevitable,” Ms Watkin said. “Such decisions threaten the viability and liveability of inner north, north east and western Melbourne.”

Liveability in Yarra is also threatened by the recommendations of a recent road transport forum, which included the use of B-double or even B-triple road trains in urban areas, designating Hoddle Street as a major transport route, and proposing night access for large trucks to inner city roads and shopping centres.

“We believe voters need to take care when choosing their Council for the next four years as planning and infrastructure is still a major local government responsibility, and we have no doubt that councils will be pressured by the State Government to change local by-laws to enable the implementation of the Victorian Transport Plan,” Ms Watkin said.

“We need to know we have a council which will stand up for residents and hold their ground – we do not need a council which will seek merely to facilitate the process to minimise resident pain and disruption.”

Organisers were largely disappointed by the response to the survey. “We have all types, from those who responded positively on all our issues, to those who – astoundingly – took us to task for even wanting them to state a position,” Ms Watkin said.

Top marks went to the Socialist Party, represented on the current council by Councillor Steve Jolly, whose commitment, involvement and preparedness to advocate for the residents and sustainable transport was unambiguous.

By contrast, independent candidate Tom McFeely scored an F for supporting the road tunnel and denying that transport is in any way an issue for local government.

“Traditionally, Victoria’s local governments have been the strongest lobbyists both for and against State Government policies on roads and on public transport,” said PTUA Secretary Tony Morton. “We’re not so naive as to think it doesn’t matter who we elect to our local councils, if we want action on sustainable transport and to change the road-obsessed policy of the State Government.”

The Greens also scored well on the survey by providing an informed response, a clear commitment to sustainable transport and a commitment to stop the tunnel and oppose the state government’s road expansion plans. For their stance they were awarded a B-plus by organisers.

Labor candidates declined to respond to the survey questions but via email reiterated their opposition to road tunnels while supporting rail tunnels and the construction of new roads in western Melbourne. “Unfortunately, we have learned from experience that ALP councillors will not stand up for their electors against their State counterparts, if the latter want a road built,” said Mr Morton. Overall, the ALP candidates were given a C-minus rating.

“No council candidate is perfect,” said Ms Watkin, “but we can see that some are a good deal better than others when it comes to sustainable public and rail freight transport issues that will be so important in the coming months and years.”