The Geelong Branch of the Public Transport Users Association is disappointed that the state government has given the go-ahead to the Regional Rail Link (RRL) without any real changes.
“When he was in opposition, Public Transport Minister Terry Mulder made a number of pointed criticisms of the scheme, yet now he has rushed into announcing that it will continue it as it is, even in the face of a huge cost increase,” Branch convenor Paul Westcott said.
The cost blow-out that Mr Mulder revealed after the Coalition came to power, coupled with the federal government delaying its funding commitment in order to deal with recent natural disasters, provided a perfect opportunity to have the project properly re-assessed, and for alternatives to be fully explored.
“However it’s clear that the only review has been done by the same people in the Department of Transport who have been involved in designing the project already, so it can’t be seen as objective,” Mr Westcott said.
“The RRL project should be critically analysed in public, by independent experts, but that chance has been lost in an unnecessary rush to make a decision.”
Mr Westcott said the fundamental problems with the RRL which still remain include:
- No definition of the final shape of the project – it is still being designed “on the run”;
- No service plan or timetables for the new link;
- No clear idea what the diversion of Geelong trains via Tarneit will do to travel times;
- No idea how trains will serve the two new suburban stations in Tarneit;
- No platforms at the crucial interchange point of North Melbourne station;
- A 20-minute bus ride for Geelong passengers to and from Wyndham Vale, instead of the present direct connection at Werribee station itself.
He noted that the new government has sensibly committed to setting up a single public transport authority to plan and manage Victoria’s public transport system.
“But what is the point of creating a public transport authority later this year if it isn’t going to be able to review such a massively expensive and far-reaching rail project?” Mr Westcott said.
“The authority is going to start its life being hobbled by some flawed planning decisions.”