Category Archives: Federal funding

PTUA congratulates King on new portfolio, calls for state-federal cooperation on infrastructure

The Public Transport Users Association (PTUA) has congratulated Catherine King on her re-election as the member for Ballarat, and on being appointed Shadow Minister for Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Development.

PTUA Ballarat Branch Convener Ben Lever said that this portfolio was crucial to the future of Ballarat and western Victoria. “One of the keys to developing both rural towns and regional centres is strong transport links – both to Melbourne and to each other. We need to have all levels of government working together to improve these links, so that regional Victorians can access jobs, education, healthcare and culture, as well as visit friends and family.”

In the medium term, the PTUA is calling for a number of transport infrastructure projects for western Victoria, including:

  • electrification and quadruplication of the Melton line
  • full duplication of the Ballarat line
  • the return of passenger trains to Horsham, Hamilton and Mildura
  • the return of direct passenger trains between Ballarat and Geelong

Mr Lever emphasised the need for the state and federal governments to work together on the key transport infrastructure projects that the western region needs. “It’s been great to see the state government taking the lead on improving the Ballarat line corridor. But there is a long backlog of work that needs to be done, and it will be important for the federal government to contribute funding to these kinds of vital infrastructure projects. We hope that Ms King can be a strong advocate for the Ballarat region to not only get our fair share of tax dollars, but to ensure the right projects get built. Commonwealth funding should not just go to road projects – a much greater portion should go to rail projects than we’ve seen in recent years.”

Mr Lever also welcomed the returned Coalition government’s commitment of $2b towards faster rail in the Melbourne-Geelong corridor, saying that the fortunes of the Ballarat and Geelong lines were linked. “The highest priority for speeding up trains to Geelong – and for addressing the serious problems with overcrowding and reliability – is the city to Wyndham Vale section. Giving Wyndham Vale a proper Metro service, and giving the Geelong line dedicated express tracks through suburban Melbourne, will be crucial to improving these things – and the Ballarat line shares a corridor with the Geelong line from the city to Deer Park. Any project that affects this corridor will affect both lines.”

“Statements from the Coalition before the federal election indicate that they see their $2b contribution going towards untangling this suburban section. [1] While the state government’s Western Rail Plan is designed to determine the best way forward for this corridor, we hope that whichever model they ultimately decide on, the federal funding can go towards building it – and delivering benefits to both the Ballarat and Geelong lines, sooner rather than later.”

[1] Geelong Advertiser 8/5/2019: Coalition calls on State Labor to match $2b commitment for fast train link between Geelong and Melbourne

Value for money must inform State budget reset, says PTUA

The Andrews Government should be putting gigantic new transport projects on hold while it properly assesses their value and takes stock of the state’s fiscal capacity, according to the Public Transport Users Association.

In the wake of the weekend’s Federal election result there is ample scope for Victoria and Canberra to work together on what all can agree are valuable initiatives, such as Airport and Geelong rail, while continuing to pluck the low-hanging fruit of everyday service improvements, the PTUA says.

But the result is a “reality check” for promises of vast sums on other projects whose merit hasn’t been adequately demonstrated.

“Last week the government could be forgiven for thinking it had its hands on the Holy Grail – a Commonwealth-State unity ticket on massive infrastructure for Victoria,” said PTUA President Dr Tony Morton. “But now that sugar rush of cash for huge projects is no longer on the table. So the Premier, Treasurer and Ministers need to refocus on what they can do with their own resources, as well as their substantial points of agreement with the Federal Coalition.”

The Morrison Federal Coalition Government and Andrews State Labor Government have bipartisan agreement on a train line to Melbourne Airport, a project Dr Morton described as “obvious and well overdue”. There is also agreement on improving train service to Geelong, although the Coalition prefers to see this as a ‘high speed rail’ project while Labor prefers to focus on improvements to reliability and capacity. “We’ve called on both parties to focus on what passengers are asking for, and for a long time that’s been not so much how fast the train is but how often it runs and whether you can get a seat. We’re hopeful the parties will find common ground soon enough.”

But Dr Morton said it was clear the state would rely on its own resources for any project beyond that, and those resources are becoming ever more constrained. “Real estate isn’t guaranteeing that stamp duty bonanza for big infrastructure spending any more,” he said. “This is not just about transport but also essential funding for schools and hospitals and police. The government would be well advised to put further big projects on hold for now, and concentrate on building a proper triple-bottom-line case for future capital works.”

Projects the government is advised to ‘go slow’ on include the $16 billion North East Link and the $50 billion Suburban Rail Loop. This would provide a pause to reassess other projects with the potential for greater benefit, such as the Melbourne Metro 2 rail tunnel from Newport to Clifton Hill, and a more thorough rollout of high-capacity signalling and rail freight initiatives.

“If we don’t shift our emphasis from big roads to a bigger better rail network, Melbourne itself will be irreparably damaged and will have to keep spending hand-over-fist to further entrench LA-style three-hour commutes,” Dr Morton said. “And when it comes to rail there’s more work to do yet to build up the west side to match the east. The western suburbs are now one of our biggest growth areas yet still a public transport desert.”

Meanwhile, much more attention was needed on local suburban buses, walking and cycling, Dr Morton said. “Half of all journeys in Melbourne are over short distances across one or two suburbs. In the inner city it’s easy to jump on a tram, but nowhere in Melbourne do buses provide anywhere near that quality of service, the way they do in lots of European and Canadian cities. In fact our buses have deteriorated in recent years, becoming slower and less reliable. Meanwhile, provision for on-road cycling is a joke.”

“We’d welcome a new effort at providing local buses that are fit-for-purpose and giving them more priority amid the single-occupant car traffic. And alongside that, funding for better footpaths and for separated bike lanes. These needs are too often lost amid the talk of big shiny things.”

Dr Morton kept the last word for a small band of Coalition MPs and their ‘desperate spruiking’ for the East West Link tollway. “Honestly, every time the Coalition has tried to sell that destructive boondoggle to the electorate they’ve had a swing against them – most recently on Saturday while the rest of the country had swings toward the Coalition,” he said.

“If the Coalition wants a big transport project they can own, why not promise that $4 billion for Doncaster Rail? After all, that was the headline project the last time the Coalition won an election in Victoria. We can even help them make sure it stacks up with benefits worth a lot more than 45 cents in the dollar. Sometimes you can actually give the people what they want without wasting money.”

Rail cash welcome, but for Melbourne’s sake we need a plan

The $10 billion pledge by Federal Labor toward Melbourne’s Suburban Rail Loop is a massive vote of confidence in restoring Melbourne’s reputation as a liveable city and responding to the climate emergency, but the size of spending underscores the urgent need for a coherent, community-led transport plan, according to the Public Transport Users Association.

The PTUA was “dumbfounded” at the Coalition’s determination to back the East West Link, a project that had already lost their State colleagues two elections, and that “even transport models originally designed for the express purpose of justifying big new roads” found would only return 50c of economic benefit for every dollar spent. The Coalition could better demonstrate its traditional economic credentials by throwing its weight behind suburban rail and bus projects, the PTUA said.

“Our public transport system needs to be ready to accept millions of additional passengers just in the next decade as the city grows and becomes less car-dependent,” said PTUA President Dr Tony Morton. “That demands action at all scales, from big city-shaping infrastructure to reform of local bus networks.”

At the same time it’s vital to ensure a robust economic, social and environmental case for proceeding with major initiatives, Dr Morton said. “Infrastructure investment is both necessary and popular. But because of that, politicians are motivated to assume any amount of spending on capital works is a good thing, and blow vast sums of money on the wrong projects.”

Dr Morton noted the Victorian Government originated the Suburban Rail Loop concept, but also wants to spend $16 billion on the North East Link tollway and a massively expanded Eastern Freeway. “The government’s boosting public transport, yet planning for people not to use it,” he said.

Governments are fatally conflicted, said Dr Morton, because of an over-reliance on ‘modelling’ not only to attempt to quantify benefits, but also to make implicit value-judgements about the kind of transport system a city like Melbourne ought to have.

“Transport models were created in the 1950s for the purpose of justifying freeway projects in US cities,” said Dr Morton. “It’s unlikely a single one ever lived up to what the model claimed, but it’s been rare for anyone to follow up claims versus reality after one is built So while we’ve learned that every big new road project generates new traffic and there are no long-term ‘congestion busting’ benefits, the models still fail to properly account for this.”

“Rather than have infrastructure fed to them by an algorithm, governments should have a plan – one based on an explicit choice. Do we want more people driving or more using public transport? Do we want to be like Los Angeles and Houston, or do we want to be more like Paris and Vienna? Do we accept the permanent and irreversible environmental damage big roads cause, or do we embrace life in a city that takes environmentally friendly alternatives seriously?”

“Currently, our governments still act as though only they, and not us, are entitled to answer that question.”

“Every opinion poll that put the options head-to-head has found a majority of Australians would prefer that public transport improvement have priority over new roads. Our politicians need to listen, stop spending billions on motorways, and start ensuring that every Melburnian has a genuine option of reliable, frequent, fast public transport in their suburb,” concluded Dr Morton.

Public transport users welcome Geelong rail duplication agreement

The Public Transport Users Association (PTUA) has welcomed the commitment by the federal government to fully fund its share of the planned duplication of the rail line from South Geelong to Waurn Ponds.

PTUA Geelong Branch convener, Paul Westcott, said that the project had been on the agenda ever since the opening of Marshall station in 2004. “It is very gratifying to see that a start can be made on the duplication, with both side of politics now committed to it”, he said.

“Not only will it enable more frequent rail services to be run to the growing southern suburbs of Geelong, it will also pave the way for more trains on the Warrnambool line.”

Mr Westcott singled out the federal member for Corangamite, Sarah Henderson, for credit. “In 2015, after consultation with the PTUA, she became the first politician to advocate for the duplication project, despite the fact that the then Abbott government was opposed to providing federal money to passenger rail.”

“Now here we are, four years later, with an important project which is supported by both sides of politics, federal and state, and is fully funded. It’s a great outcome,” Mr Westcott said.

How to vote for PT in the Federal Election

Only a few days until the Federal election – with the help of Cardboard Malcolm, we’ve launched our election scorecard! Here’s how the parties compare on transport issues.


We will update this page as more pledges are made.


  • The Greens $1b for Melbourne Airport rail is part of their $10b overall pledge to public transport projects. Some other Greens pledges also relate to nationwide funding.
  • While the Greens have not specifically named the Melbourne Metro rail tunnel for funding, they have consistently called for it to be Federally funded.

Will Malcolm Turnbull fund Victorian PT and not just snap selfies this election?

The Public Transport Not Traffic campaign and the Public Transport Users Association have created a unique way for public transport users to get a message to Malcolm Turnbull this election.

We will be travelling the transport network visiting train stations, tram stops and maybe even some buses to give regular users the chance to snap #Selfies4PT with our life size cardboard Malcolm Turnbull and ask him to fund public transport projects for Victorians this election.

The campaign is borne out of our disappointment that the Prime Minister is happy to take our cities’ trams and trains and regularly snaps selfies whilst on them, but is continuing the Tony Abbott’s war on public transport projects in Victoria. This has been confirmed with the recent announcement that less than 1% of the $1.5 billion infrastructure allocation for Victoria going to public transport projects. We are hoping to use the election to call on Mr Turnbull to give Victorian PT projects their fair share.

Recent analysis of Mr. Turnbull’s Twitter feed saw approximately 11% of photos in the past month feature a selfie of him on some form of public transport. Campaign organiser Eleisha Mullane said that “if Mr Turnbull increased the funding from less than 1% to 11% for PT projects in Victoria, that would be over 1000% improvement on what we are getting now.

“Whilst still not enough, it would be a move in the right direction” said Ms. Mullane.

Public Transport Users Association spokesperson Daniel Bowen said “we want to see Mr. Turnbull commit to releasing the funds allocated to the East West link to the Melbourne Metro rail tunnel, and other key projects for public transport in Victoria.”

“While the Daniel Andrews Labor government is committed to going it alone on these projects, this leaves less money to fund other key work needed to maintain an ailing transport system”, said Mr. Bowen.

To Launch our #Selfies4PT campaign, PTUA members will be at Flinders Street Station offering people the chance to pose for a selfie with a life size Malcolm Turnbull, and send a message via social media.

Launch details
Media conference and selfies with Malcolm — Monday 23rd May at 1pm at Flinders Station Clocks


— PT Not Traffic (@PTNotTraffic) May 23, 2016

Victoria's @ptua launches #selfieswithmalcolm #selfies4pt to campaign for public transport funding #ausvotes2016

— Andrew Lund (@andrew_lund) May 23, 2016

Having a tram ride with the PM #selfies4PT – how about some Federal funding of public transport?

— Daniel Bowen (@danielbowen) May 23, 2016

Mr Turnbull unlocks the box, but will public transport benefit?

The Public Transport Users Association today congratulates Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull for opening the “locked box” reserved by former PM Tony Abbott for the wasteful and ideologically motivated East West Link project. At the same time, the Association urges the State and Federal Governments to use the opportunity to fund urgently needed public transport upgrades, rather than to reflexively throw money at roads.

Mr Turnbull this morning announced that $1.5 billion of Federal funds handed to Victoria by the Abbott Government for the East West Link project was now available to fund other infrastructure.

“We are glad Mr Turnbull has taken the responsible course,” said PTUA President Tony Morton. “It was the height of fiscal vandalism to insist a massive sum of public money could be used only on a project Victoria doesn’t want to build and would yield just 45 cents’ worth of public benefit for each dollar of expenditure. How could any sensible government demand we waste money when there are so many urgent priorities for public investment?”

But Dr Morton urged that the funds be used to address urgent priorities for Victoria’s public transport, ahead of the proposed Western Distributor road project. “The Western Distributor is being put forward as yet another pipe to funnel more car traffic into the inner city, which has no capacity to absorb more cars. It’s unlikely even to achieve its stated purpose of taking big trucks off residential streets in the western suburbs.”

“Alternative projects – including rail freight improvements – need to be considered to get the trucks off our streets without destroying scarce parkland, and provide alternatives for people fighting traffic congestion all over Melbourne’s west.”

The PTUA has nominated the following as urgent priorities for Federal transport funding:

– The proposed port rail shuttle, providing direct rail access from the Port of Melbourne to inland freight hubs near Laverton North and Somerton, filling a serious gap in the Victorian rail freight network and reducing truck traffic in the inner west. Seed funding has been provided but an additional funds boost would get it moving faster.

– An accelerated trial of high-capacity signalling according to best practice in Europe, which can boost the maximum number of trains per hour by between 50 and 100 per cent on existing suburban rail lines.

– Early works on the Melbourne Metro rail tunnel, which provides new capacity equivalent to three additional West Gate Bridges from Melbourne’s west to the inner city and eastern suburbs. This could include the additional funding necessary to provide interchange at South Yarra station.

– Repair of dilapidated roads and bridges in regional Victoria, which are essential to the movement of people and goods to support the regional economy (and which has figured as a key issue in the current Polwarth and South West Coast by-elections).

– Duplication of the Cranbourne rail line and extension to the urban growth boundary at Clyde.

– Full or partial duplication of the Altona loop to allow higher train frequencies.

– Track duplication between Deer Park and Melton.

– Suburban rail extensions to Doncaster, Rowville and Melbourne Airport, commencing with revised planning investigations guided by international expertise, to take into account the full capacity benefits of initiatives such as high-capacity signalling.

“Mr Turnbull has said infrastructure should be assessed objectively and rationally on its merits,” said Dr Morton*. “Any one of these projects has a stronger case for public funding than further entrenching car dependence in our western suburbs so that a private tollroad operator can profit from increased traffic volumes and congestion. Our cities have needed a serious public transport upgrade for decades, yet we persist in chasing outdated 1950s road-building solutions that simply don’t work.”

– – –

* Mr Turnbull’s call for infrastructure to be “assessed objectively and rationally on its merits” was part of a 20 September interview, transcript available here.

PTUA welcomes new PM

The Public Transport Users Association (PTUA) has welcomed new Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull to the position, and expressed the hope that his ascension will herald a new era of Federal funding for both urban and regional public transport.

“Mr Turnbull is to be congratulated”, said PTUA President Tony Morton.

“While we may not see him on public transport as frequently as in the past, we hope in his new position he will reverse the outgoing prime minister’s ridiculous position to fund only roads. We look forward to a new era of constructive Federal engagement with State Governments, including with Premier Daniel Andrews in Victoria, to fund and deliver vitally needed public transport improvements.”

V/Line trains

Mr Turnbull has been often seen travelling by train, tram, bus and ferry around Australia, including in Victoria.

“Public transport is the key to the ongoing success of Australian cities. Mr Abbott never did seem to grasp that building more roads doesn’t solve traffic congestion, and doesn’t help build the modern ‘knowledge’ economies that are now driving Australia’s prosperity”, said Dr Morton.

“Infrastructure decision making must respect independent expert advice and not be beholden to vested interests. We look forward to Mr Turnbull becoming a genuine ‘infrastructure Prime Minister’ and ensuring that Federal funding for urban and regional transport projects is based on merit and evidence, not ideological fantasies.”

Sign the Public Transport Not Traffic petition calling on Prime Minister Turnbull to fund public transport