Vic budget: V/Line trains and level crossing eliminations good news, but what about trams and buses?

The Public Transport Users Association (PTUA) has welcomed state budget funding for more V/Line carriages and for three level crossing eliminations, but noted there was little new funding for bus and tram services, nor any funding to complete Southland station, as promised before the 2010 election.

“V/Line patronage is booming, and the extra carriages are desperately needed”, said PTUA President Daniel Bowen. “While a few carriages will become available once the Sunbury electrification project is finished, the government clearly needed to act on ordering more.

“Passengers unable to find a seat, forced to sit in the aisles or stand for long periods of time, have become a regular occurrence on V/Line services. Expansion of the fleet is very welcome, and needs to be matched by a commitment to more frequent services, including at off-peak times when V/Line services currently run only once an hour.

“Let’s hope they don’t prematurely scrap older V/Line carriages as the new ones come in – we don’t want a repeat of the Hitachi trains fiasco.”

Mr Bowen said grade separation projects at Springvale Road, Springvale, as well as Mitcham and Rooks Roads in Mitcham would improve safety, and reduce delays for bus passengers, cyclists and pedestrians, as well as motorists.

But new funding for buses is limited to one route[1], and there is no commitment to fulfil the election commitments to construct Southland station, and to expand by 10 the current order for new trams[2].

“The very successful Monash University express shuttle bus trial has received recurrent funding, which is good news, but there is nothing at all for the rest of the bus and tram networks, and very little for Metro trains.

“If you’re in Melbourne’s outer suburbs, waiting an hour between buses, or squashed in like a sardine on trams and buses, there’s nothing for you in this budget”, said Mr Bowen.

“Despite it being a key pledge, we’re still waiting for Southland station, and so far the railway lines to Rowville and Doncaster have not moved past the study stage.

“Meanwhile the government is pushing ahead with the east-west road tunnel, which will merely entrench car-dependency, and do nothing to solve traffic congestion — in fact it may well make it even worse by encouraging more traffic into Melbourne’s inner-north. This represents a clear change in priority from public transport towards roads, and is bad news for Melbourne’s future sustainability and liveability.”

Mr Bowen warned that the government needed to push ahead on bringing high quality, frequent public transport services to more of Melbourne.

“The last election swung on public transport issues. Melburnians are looking for solutions to their transport woes, and the best fix traffic congestion is providing more frequent train, tram and Smartbus services right across Melbourne.”

* * *

[1] Government press release

[2] 2011 Budget Paper 3, Chapter 1, “Election commitments to be funded in future years” – page 77. (Note: 2012 Budget Paper does not list individual unfunded commitments.)