Geelong Branch Letters to the Editor- 2008


While there may be merit in Cr Stretch Kontelj’s call for visitors to the Geelong Hospital to be given parking vouchers so they don’t incur parking fines (GA 14/11), there will never be enough easily-available hospital parking if people have to depend on cars to get there.

With hundreds of employees, visitors and patients on the edge of the city centre, it should be easy to get to Geelong Hospital by public transport, but it isn’t.

To provide a viable alternative to driving, the two bus routes passing the Hospital on Ryrie Street must run more frequently and over longer hours – just like our trams used to do. The bus services that link with them also need to be upgraded, but that can’t happen until the Council agrees to a proper central bus interchange.

The Hospital can also play a role. It should follow the lead of the Britain’s National Health Service, which is developing sustainable travel plans for its hospitals. These will help the NHS meet its responsibilities to the environment and to public health by promoting the use of public transport, walking and cycling.

A sustainable travel plan might also prompt the Hospital to reconsider its curious decision to move the main entrance away from the convenient bus stops on Ryrie Street, forcing bus travellers to walk up the hill to the new Bellerine Street entrance.  That decision obviously wasn’t taken with public transport users in mind, let alone people with impaired mobility.

Long term solutions to Geelong Hospital’s transport problems need a coordinated response from State Government, the City and the Hospital. Let’s see the Council take the lead on this.

Paul Westcott
Geelong Branch, Public Transport Users Association


The State Government’s announcement of a new cheap family ticket for off-peak rail travellers is welcome (GA 10/11).  For the first time in years, taking a family by train to Melbourne will be competitive with the cost of driving.

The Government is also using the cheap off-peak rail fares to encourage tourists from Melbourne to visit Geelong and other regional centres. However, the scheme won’t live up to its potential to attract tourists who want to see more than just our city centre.

Families going to destinations beyond walking distance from the station will immediately run into a major barrier, our inadequate and often baffling local public transport system.

Although their rail ticket will include free travel on Geelong buses, Melbourne tourists could find themselves waiting up to an hour for a bus to take them anywhere outside the city centre.  That’s assuming they are able to work out where to catch the bus they need.  And then their return bus will frequently not drop them off anywhere near the station.

All these problems are of course a daily reality for Geelong residents.  To make public transport more usable for locals and for Melbourne visitors, our bus system has to be reformed.

The State Government must ensure that buses connect with every train, run more frequently and follow direct routes.  As well, if the Geelong council is serious about making Geelong a tourist-friendly city, it needs to show its support for easy-to-use public transport by ending its opposition to a bus interchange in the central city.

Paul Westcott
Geelong Branch, Public Transport Users Association


People in Geelong are watching with interest the controversy over the Mitchell Street bus interchange, and hope that Bendigo doesn’t repeat the mistake made here recently.

Geelong had a central bus interchange in our main street, Moorabool Street. A combination of some traders and councillors waged a campaign to remove it. We were told that buses took up car parking space, that they were incompatible with the streetscape and that intending bus passengers blocked footpaths.

This push, coupled with an extensive street reconstruction, resulted in Geelong’s central bus stops being scattered to ten separate locations around five city blocks, where they remain today.

The immediate result was that bus patronage in Geelong fell dramatically. People no longer knew where to catch buses, and the ability to transfer easily between bus routes was lost. In fact Geelong’s bus system has become basically invisible.

Moorabool Street certainly hasn’t benefited from the bus stops being axed. Once Geelong’s premier shopping location, it has gone into obvious decline. Looking past the newly-planted palm trees you see an increasing number of closed premises, two-dollar shops, pay-day loan providers and the like. And inevitably, there has also been a “parking crisis” in the central city.

In an age of and high petrol prices and concern about global warming, Bendigo must not follow failed, small-town traffic strategies of providing for ever-more car use. Cities with high rates of walking, cycling and public transport use also have flourishing city centres.

Paul Westcott
Geelong Branch, Public Transport Users Association


Leon Atkinson (GA 7/7) is right to be worried about the ability of Kardinia Park to accommodate ever more parked cars on football days. However minimising the number of cars doesn’t require the far-fetched idea of reconstructing the former tram system, or even providing shuttle buses from some remote location.

It would be easier and better to use Geelong’s existing bus system to do the job. However buses from all over the Geelong area would have to run more frequently and, if necessary, they could be added to by additional special services running to the ground from central city bus stops. This is exactly how trams successfully serve football crowds in Melbourne. And more frequent bus services would benefit everyone, not just football followers.

Paul Westcott
Geelong Branch, Public Transport Users Association


The idea of using hovercraft carrying barely 100 passengers as a commuter service to Melbourne (GA 9/4) is seriously misguided. Why spend millions to set up a new mode of transport, when it’s far cheaper and more effective to build on our existing public transport services?

Merely attaching another carriage to existing trains would add about the same capacity as each of the touted hovercraft. The only additional cost would be that of the carriage. No new infrastructure or staff would be required.

A ferry would also run in parallel with the train, competing for passengers and making it harder to run more frequent rail services.

Boosting our present bus services to better connect with trains would also be cheaper and more effective than setting up entirely new ferry infrastructure isolated from existing public transport routes.

And recent history shows that viability of the proposed hovercraft service is very questionable. A hovercraft service from Frankston to Melbourne in the early 1980s only lasted a few months. The bay may be relatively shallow but that doesn’t stop it being rough.

Rather than chasing different transport technologies, Geelong needs to focus on getting its existing public transport services working properly.

Paul Westcott
Geelong Branch, Public Transport Users Association


In his letter (News 26/3) Ken Stoddard expresses frustration at the traffic “shambles” in central Geelong and suggests that synchronising traffic lights will be a solution.  However the basic reason for traffic problems in Geelong is the sheer number of cars.

Tweaking the sequencing of traffic lights will not change that reality.  In fact it is impossible to sequence lights so that cars can move freely through every, or even most, central city intersections. Sequences which favour traffic in one direction will disadvantage cars heading the other way.  As well, sequences favouring cars usually disadvantage pedestrians.

We can reduce the number of vehicles clogging our city streets by actively promoting alternatives to our present dependence on cars.  Increasing the use of public transport, cycling and walking will provide a safer and more pleasant city environment.

Paul Westcott
Geelong Branch, Public Transport Users Association


When discussing the problem of transport congestion, the Geelong Advertiser editorial (6/3) correctly notes that “more roads simply attract more cars”.  Experience clearly shows us that expensive road-building projects are self-defeating.  What makes it worse is that they are not an environmentally sustainable answer to the problem either.  It is disappointing that most of our politicians and planners don’t seem to have got this message.

In the light of global warming, record oil prices and dwindling oil reserves, it is simply not good enough to continue to promote road schemes which reinforce our dependence on the motor car.

However your editorial is incorrect in saying that rail services between Geelong and Melbourne have “barely been improved”.  While there is plenty to criticise in the way the Regional Fast Rail project was carried out, there have been some real improvements to the rail service. These include increased weekend services, the opening of Marshall station, the running of almost all trains to South Geelong, and a twenty percent fare reduction.

In fact one reason for the overcrowding on Geelong rail services is the increased patronage generated by these improvements.  Unfortunately though, the state government didn’t seem to believe its own rhetoric about the effect of better services and had no plan to cater for the increased number of passengers.

Clearly more people will use public transport if genuine improvements are made.  So it is imperative that the state government and Geelong council get serious about making our local bus services better.  An effective central Geelong bus interchange and more frequent services are fundamental to ensuring that our buses can attract people from their cars.

Paul Westcott
Geelong Branch, Public Transport Users Association


In his article “More people, more traffic” (GA 11/2) the Mayor said that the opening of the Geelong By-pass “is expected to take some 10,000 vehicles away from Latrobe Terrace”. Unfortunately this isn’t going to happen.

In 2005 VicRoads said their traffic modelling showed, in relation to Latrobe Terrace, that “natural growth of traffic (approx 2% per year), as well as a redistribution of traffic from other north/south routes, is expected to result in traffic volumes … returning to their pre-Bypass volumes in a relatively short period of time”.

It’s time we realised that building more freeways has never “solved” the problem of traffic congestion. To help make our city more liveable, the City Council has to make a real effort to put high-quality public transport for Geelong on the State Government’s agenda.

Paul Westcott
Geelong Branch, Public Transport Users Association