Baillieu Report Card: ‘Go slow’ on public transport but foot to the floor on motorways

The Public Transport Users Association today released its report card on the Baillieu Government’s first two years, with the State Government earning a D for stalling on public transport upgrades whilst pushing expensive new roads.

President Tony Morton said the government had been engaged in ‘half-hearted box-ticking’ on some public transport election promises, starting feasibility studies on rail to Doncaster, Rowville and Melbourne Airport, but making it clear that its priorities had shifted to motorways like the East-West road tunnel.

Dr Morton said the Government’s most recent submission to Infrastructure Australia, which listed scores of road projects not flagged during the election campaign, underscored the policy back-flip. (*)

The Baillieu Government’s cursory, secret reviews of the previous government’s controversial Myki and Regional Rail Link projects were also disappointing. “These two very expensive projects will lock in ongoing inconvenience to passengers, by abolishing single-use tickets and regional rail stops at North Melbourne respectively”.

However, Dr Morton said one of the greatest disappointments was that Public Transport Victoria — the new planning authority supposed to fix ongoing rail problems and expand transport service coverage — had yet to reveal a clear agenda.

“It appears that PTV is just a re-branded version of the failed old bureaucracy, rather than a re-skilled agency with a clear mandate to fix and extend public transport.”

Initial high hopes for the authority were dashed by decisions to recruit ‘in-house’ rather than bringing in outside experts. It had since failed to demonstrate its independence from government, avoiding genuine, open community engagement on matters from timetable changes to new infrastructure. Auditing and public reporting on public transport assets and works programs had also not occurred.

“The Baillieu Government has also gone missing-in-action on buses, with one route removed altogether, but no systematic programs to upgrade bus frequency on major routes or extend network coverage.” Dr Morton added that the decision to continue with the removal of bus lanes on Stud Road was also a backward step.

Despite flaws in strategic direction, Dr Morton said the Baillieu Government had made worthy incremental improvements. “Funding for 7 additional metropolitan trains by 2014, new V/Line carriages, and ten new trams are welcome, as are a handful of station upgrades and a new station at Grovedale.” Users, however, were concerned at an apparent downgrading to a planning study of the commitment to build Southland station.

“Passengers have also begun to welcome the presence of Protective Service Officers at some of the major stations where higher-profile security was sorely needed,” Dr Morton said.

“Planning for level crossing removals is welcome, as are the first two funded projects at Mitcham and Springvale Roads. Given the benefits to traffic congestion, as well as to rail operations and safety, limited road funding would be far better directed into speeding up level crossing eliminations rather than striking out on new motorways,” Dr Morton concluded.

Scorecard (PDF, 161 Kb)

(*) These include the east west road tunnel, M80 Ring Road upgrade, Greensborough Green Wedge motorway (“North East Link”) and Tullamarine Freeway widening.