Brumby’s foot to the floor on freeways as public transport stagnates

Premier John Brumby’s new Transport Plan is a plan to get Victorians out of public transport and into cars, the Public Transport Users Association (PTUA) said today.

“Sure, it’s nice to see the government un-break some of its broken promises and finally commit to some of the public transport projects it should have built five years ago,” said PTUA President Daniel Bowen. “But the sustainable transport elements of the plan are completely undermined by a massive programme of freeway building.

“It resurrects freeways that even Kennett thought were too outlandish. Meanwhile, the vast majority of Melburnians, unless they are lucky enough to live near a train, tram or Smartbus route, will continue to be car-dependent.

“The whole exercise is like an episode of The Hollowmen,” Mr Bowen said, referencing the ABC’s recent comedy series. “The government bamboozles the voters with talk of sustainability and then goes and does the opposite. 122km of new motorways and 36km of new railways[1] doesn’t even fit their own spin-doctors’ version of ‘balance’.

“The government is acting as though climate change doesn’t exist and the security of world oil supplies is 100% guaranteed.”

As well as some half-dozen new freeways, the government has committed to a $4.9 billion rail tunnel from Footscray to The Domain. “This is an extraordinarily expensive way to boost rail capacity,” Mr Bowen said. “The City Loop was supposed to unclog the tracks in the city centre, and now we’re told it didn’t work and we have to do it all over again from scratch. Using the existing City Loop properly would get more trains onto the tracks for a fraction of the cost.”

Mr Bowen also noted that the ring road through the Yarra Valley green wedge is back on the agenda. “This proves that you can never trust a government when it says these things have been ruled out.[2] Ivanhoe MP Craig Langdon told his electorate in 2002 that he would resign if the Heidelberg freeway went ahead. Well Mr Langdon, we’re waiting for the by-election.

“Mr Brumby calls this plan ‘transformational’ and he may be right,” said Mr Bowen. “It will transform Melbourne into an even more smog-bound, traffic-choked city, just like Detroit or Los Angeles. It’s a 1950s approach to a 21st-century problem. The majority of Victorians want priority given to public transport[3], but this government isn’t listening.

“John Brumby wants to be known as the ‘Public Transport Premier’ – in reality he looks like the Roads, Roads, Roads and More Roads Premier,” Mr Bowen concluded.


[1] Approximate lengths of new motorway and railway projects funded to be built or planned in the Victorian Transport Plan (eg excludes upgrades to existing capacity):

South Morang rail: 4km
Tarneit section of Regional Rail Link: 21km
Footscray to Domain rail tunnel: 9km
Cranbourne East rail: 2km
Total new railways: 36km approx (subject to finalisation of alignments)

West Gate Bridge Alternative: 11km
North East Link: 9km
Hoddle Street Link: 4km
Outer Ring Road: 70km
Peninsula Link (Frankston Bypass): 25km
Dingley Arterial: 3km
Total new motorways: 122km approx (subject to finalisation of alignments)

[2] In 2001, former Transport Minister Peter Batchelor flatly denied that government support for the Scoresby Freeway (now Eastlink) would lead to consideration of a ring freeway through Heidelberg, alleging this was no more than a conspiracy theory. Quote: “It is not on our radar. It is a proposal in the minds of people like the federal member for Menzies and the president of the Public Transport Users Association (PTUA).” (Victorian Hansard, Legislative Assembly, 9 October 2001, page 875)

[3] According to a Neilsen poll of 1009 Victorians conducted in November 2008, 62% want the Government to give public transport funding priority over roads, compared to 24% who want roads to have priority. In Melbourne the preference is even stronger, with 68% wanting public transport funded instead of roads and 19% wanting roads to have priority. (The Age, 25 November 2008)