Category Archives: Media releases

PTUA welcomes study into high speed rail for Geelong

The Public Transport Users Association (PTUA) has welcomed the state government’s announcement of a study into faster rail services for Geelong.

A $50 million study will investigate the possibility of trains running at between 250 and 300km/h between Melbourne and Geelong.

PTUA Geelong Branch Convener and Regional Spokesperson, Paul Westcott, said faster trains would provide great benefits to the people of Geelong.

“It would be fantastic to see higher speeds on the Geelong line, which would mean shorter journey times for commuters, allowing them to spend more time with their families. It’s encouraging to see the government planning for the higher speed trains we will need in the future – first on the Geelong line, and then on other regional lines,” he said.

However, Mr Westcott noted that the overwhelming concern for Geelong line passengers right now is overcrowding at the Melbourne end of the line, and the unreliability of services.

“It’s vital to fix those problems now, as well as planning for the future,” Mr Westcott said. “Geelong trains should not be serving suburban passengers from Tarneit, Wyndham Vale and Deer Park.

“The line to Wyndham Vale must be electrified so Metro trains can do that job, and the two planned separate tracks must be built so Geelong trains don’t have to stop at suburban stations.”

The PTUA has also welcomed the state government’s announcement that the Melbourne Metro Rail Authority (MMRA) will be re-established as Rail Projects Victoria.

“Rather than having separate agencies running each new project, it is sensible to have a single agency responsible for all rail projects,” Mr Westcott said. “It will help retain talent and skills in rail projects, and provide a pipeline of works for the people involved.”

Mr Westcott noted that the new authority should be able to coordinate and combine related projects together. For example, the Melbourne Metro Rail Authority (MMRA) is planning to build a new station at Toolern on the Melton line, right next to Ferris Road, but the opportunity to grade separate Ferris Road at the same time is apparently not being taken.

“Based on what the government has said, Rail Projects Victoria will start out with the same remit as the current MMRA, but we hope that more projects will be added to it over time,” Mr Westcott said.

North East Link plans to kill off Doncaster rail forever

The Public Transport Users Association says that detailed design plans for the North East Link and its accompanying busway include taking over the median reserve for additional car lanes. This will ‘kill stone dead’ any long term plan for trains to run to Doncaster, according to the PTUA.

“What’s being proposed is a radical reorganisation of the road corridor between Clifton Hill and Bulleen,” said PTUA President Dr Tony Morton. “The wide median which has been set aside for a train line since the 1970s will be deleted and used for car lanes. This provides space for the bus lanes they want to put on the outside of the road – but the outside will never be suitable for rail due to conflict with entrance and exit ramps.”

The plan to remove the median appears in the map book accompanying the North East Link Detail Design. It adds to previously announced plans for a 16-lane road monster between Bulleen and Doncaster, resembling the superhighways seen in some US cities like Los Angeles or Houston.

Dr Morton said the plan to kill Doncaster rail not only ran contrary to the public’s clearly expressed preference – it also promised nightmarish consequences for the Doncaster region in the long term. “Rail is ultimately the only game in town when it comes to moving large numbers of people around a big city effectively,” he said. “Even the proposed buses won’t be future-proof, and will in time become slow and crowded just like the busway services in Brisbane today. Premier Andrews and his Roads Minister are essentially foreclosing the most space-efficient mode of transport for the least space-efficient. That’s not merely short-sighted, it’s bordering on spite for the people of Manningham who spent years campaigning for a train.”

The PTUA hears daily from bus users in the north east who suffer overcrowded, late, cancelled and defective services, Dr Morton said. “The Department of Transport signed a supposedly ‘innovative’ contract with private operator Transdev, which it appears leaves it powerless to enforce basic service standards on behalf of passengers. I can confidently say no-one who uses these buses today has any confidence in government assurances that buses can do the work of trains in 30 years’ time when Melbourne is the size of London or Paris.”

Instead, Dr Morton said, residents of Manningham and other suburbs were being sentenced to a congested Los Angeles future. “So the state spends $16 billion to build this 16 lane monster, and it fills up with 16 lanes of single-occupant car traffic. What do our amazing planners do then? The Americans have freeways 24 lanes wide and they’re still clogged. Freight can’t go anywhere because it’s stuck with all the cars. You don’t solve anyone’s transport problems – passengers or freight – until you give people real choices. And ultimately, in a city the size of Melbourne, that means rail.”

The PTUA has called on the government to publish the multimodal transport plan for Victoria required by its own legislation. “Let’s have it out in the open whether our government is softening us up to turn Melbourne into LA, when the long-expressed community view is we should be more like Vancouver or Vienna, with a strong role for public and active transport, especially rail, even though a lot of people will still drive cars.”

Eastern Freeway now vs planned

See also: The Age: Toll road to kill off future Doncaster rail: public transport group

PTUA welcomes Coalition commitments to regional rail in western Victoria

The Public Transport Users Association (PTUA) has today welcomed the state Coalition’s commitments to improve regional rail in western Victoria if elected in November.

A study commissioned by a group of councils in western Victoria in 2017 called for a swathe of improvements to public transport in their regions, including returning passenger trains to Horsham and Hamilton, and improving a number of coach connections. The Coalition have announced their intention to fund a formal business case for these proposals.

PTUA Ballarat Branch Convener, Ben Lever, welcomed the announcement as the first step towards returning passenger trains beyond Ararat.

“Returning passenger trains to these communities is really vital for connecting them to each other, and to Ballarat and Melbourne. We hope this business case can do the detailed planning necessary to allow construction to start as soon as possible,” he said.

“Passenger trains along these routes would act as the spine of the region. When fast, high-capacity passenger trains are running on these routes, they can be complemented by connecting coaches to places that aren’t on the rail line, and thereby improve public transport across the whole region.”

The Coalition also propose extending the Maryborough line to Donald, reactivating stations at Dunolly and St Arnaud along the way. These extensions are also seen as a first step towards returning passenger services all the way to Mildura in the future.

“Returning passenger trains to these communities would be a real boon. Whether they’re taking shorter trips to Maryborough or Ballarat, or going all the way to Melbourne, a fast and well-timed train could be extremely useful for the people living in these towns.” Mr Lever said.

Mr Lever did note that there were some technical obstacles to returning trains to returning passenger trains beyond Maryborough that would need to be addressed.

“In that part of Victoria there is a mixture of Broad Gauge track, which is primarily used for passenger services, and Standard Gauge track, which is primarily used for freight services. Because a given train can only run on one type of track, passengers travelling all the way from Donald to Melbourne would need to change from a Standard Gauge train to a Broad Gauge train at some point in their journey – the decision will need to be made about where that change should happen. We look forward to the Coalition providing these kinds of finer details about their policy in the coming months.”

While Mr Lever welcomed the proposed reopening of these stations, he warned against a “set and forget” approach.

“Governments need to bear in mind that it’s not just about providing the infrastructure or providing “a train” – it’s about backing that up with services that are frequent enough and timed well enough to really be useful to passengers,” he said.

“When the Maryborough line was reopened in 2010, it initially only had one train running in each direction per weekday, and no trains on weekends. After years of local campaigning, the line finally has two trains per weekday. and one train per weekend day – which still leaves a lot to be desired. It’s still not possible to live along the Maryborough line and commute to Melbourne by 9am, or return from Melbourne after 5pm – or for tourists to take a train to Maryborough on a weekend morning. If services are returned to these other towns, they will need to avoid these kinds of issues by providing a good level of service from day one.”

Under another Coalition proposal, Ararat would also get an extra counter-peak service on weekday mornings, allowing people to get to Ararat by 9.00am. Currently, the earliest train to Ararat arrives at 10.39am, which is too late for most workers.

“In the current term of government, Ararat has gotten a new early-morning peak service that allows people to live in Ararat or Beaufort and commute to Melbourne by 9 am. If implemented, this new service would allow people to do the reverse-commute by train – travel from Ballarat to Ararat every morning, and take the existing coach service home in the evenings.” Mr Lever said.

“There are already many people who live in Ballarat and work in Ararat, but they currently have to drive – so there is a clear market who could take advantage of this service.”

Mr Lever also called on other political parties to match the Coalition’s pledges. “It’s fantastic to see the Coalition recognising how important public transport will be in spreading population and prosperity across Victoria. The current Labor government has made strong investments in regional public transport in this term, but they won’t be able to rest on their laurels – they will need to pledge to continue this investment next term, as will the Greens and other crossbenchers who may hold the balance of power.”

“Ballarat is ideally placed to become a hub for much of western Victoria, offering health services, education, employment, tourism and many other things. For that to happen we need really strong public transport connections – and that means improving the infrastructure and services we already have, as well as reopening old lines and reconnecting with towns that lost their services in past decades.”

Put our buses to work for everyone: PTUA responds to Infrastructure Victoria action plan

Melbourne’s buses need to be overhauled to follow the heavy-lifting example set by Melbourne’s trams, the Public Transport Users Association said on Friday.

The call comes in response to Infrastructure Victoria’s “Five Year Focus” strategy, which outlines short term actions to tackle Melbourne’s traffic congestion. The report calls on the State Government to make better use of existing infrastructure and bus fleets, restructuring bus networks to be more efficient and managing road space to improve priority for high-occupancy public and active transport.

“It’s fascinating to look back at the ‘five year plan’ the PTUA produced way back in 2005, and how many of the things we were asking for then are coming up in this 2018 strategy,” said PTUA President Dr Tony Morton. “Things like better bus and tram priority, network planning reform, SmartBus links to connect rail corridors and so on – these are perennial problems that really won’t cost that much to fix but have languished for want of political attention.”

But the PTUA has long identified other ‘low hanging fruit’ likely to have similar ‘bang for buck’ performance in the short term, Dr Morton said. “For example, Infrastructure Victoria talks in their report about network connectivity, but only mention new road links to encourage more car travel. We’ve repeatedly raised examples of tram lines that stop barely a kilometre short of railway stations, and where a valuable network connection could be made for want of a short extension, costing the same as a couple of kilometres of new road.”

Other inexpensive initiatives included extra stations on suburban lines where spare capacity exists, the PTUA says. The 2005 plan envisaged a station at Campbellfield on the Upfield line (connecting with the 902 SmartBus) and at Newport West on the Altona line. “The government wasted the opportunity to build a Campbellfield station as part of the recent grade separation completed at Camp Road,” Dr Morton said. “One thing missing from the report is how the government might learn from such examples to plan and maximise the benefits from such relatively small projects in future.”

But the most promising short-term initiatives came from opportunities to reform bus services, especially those Infrastructure Victoria identifies as ‘underperforming’, says the PTUA. “Unfortunately, we see the potential here for trendy knee-jerk ‘solutions’ that make things worse,” Dr Morton says. “For example, the report hints strongly at the idea of removing underperforming bus routes and replacing them with taxis. However much you ginger this up with buzzwords like ‘customer responsive service’ and ‘ride sharing’, all you’re doing is adding cars to the road. In cities around the world that have experimented with using Uber and similar services to replace public transport in their suburbs, congestion has got noticeably worse.”

A better model for improving the performance of suburban buses is hiding in plain sight, according to the PTUA. “Our tram system provides frequent all-day service to a range of often quite low-density suburbs, and does so with a very low operating subsidy per passenger,” Dr Morton said. “If you compare Balwyn or Preston with Tarneit, and ignore that the houses in Balwyn or Preston are older, there’s actually about equal potential to attract passengers who might not want to sit behind a steering wheel in traffic for two hours each day.”

A PTUA presentation last week to the Victorian Transport Infrastructure Conference highlighted that the cities with the best public transport in the world provide a range of options for local travel, led by excellent feeder bus networks.

“Infrastructure Victoria notes that we spend some $600 million a year running buses that are often empty of passengers – and that’s because we’re not actively trying to recruit them,” said Dr Morton. “Governments just need to get smarter about how they spend this money. Each $1 million of annual expenditure could, on industry figures, provide a bus service every 10 minutes, 7 days a week, for a population of around 8,000 people in most Melbourne suburbs. And every extra passenger you get is paying a fare to help meet the cost of the service.

“How much does it cost to provide parking for 8,000 cars? On current figures we’re hearing, anywhere between $100 and $350 million. Even for just a fifth of that population, it would cost more to finance a project like that than to just run a bus that can take people where they want to go all day long.

“Melbourne and Victoria are crying out for strategic, sustainable transport planning that works for everyone,” said Dr Morton. “Infrastructure Victoria is right to say we can’t just take a scatter-gun approach and throw money at every politically expedient project – but we also shouldn’t have such low expectations of our public transport services, when it’s decades of bad policy that has made us so dependent on cars. We need calm, careful consideration of our actual needs, for people and freight, for infrastructure and for decent services.”

Show us a plan, and don’t neglect local services, says PTUA

The Victorian Government needs to show the public an integrated plan for moving people and freight. But the government also needs to match its busy infrastructure programme with a commitment to frequent local public transport service, the Victorian Transport Infrastructure Conference heard on Thursday.

According to a presentation by Dr Tony Morton, President of the Public Transport Users Association, the government has put forward numerous multi-billion dollar transport projects, but has not explained what part they play in any strategic transport plan for the next half century.

“On the one hand, the government is building the Metro rail tunnel, which is equivalent to about three West Gate Bridges in carrying capacity and has massive potential to divert single occupant car travel from the existing West Gate Bridge,” Dr Morton said. “Yet at the same time it’s sinking billions of dollars into the West Gate Tunnel, which has barely one-sixth the capacity but is likely to induce more car travel into the city, swamping any benefit the Metro tunnel provides.”

Winning the West

“Melbourne’s West faces enormous challenges in the near term dealing with urban growth and the state’s worst pollution from cars and trucks, not to mention the historical neglect of public transport infrastructure and services. We really cannot afford to be adding to the horrendous traffic problems that already exist. In fact we ought to be doubling down on rail infrastructure to bring the West closer to what the Eastern suburbs already enjoy. It’s time to start planning Melbourne Metro Two.”

‘Metro Two’ is the name given to a rail tunnel connecting Newport station underneath the Yarra with Fishermans Bend and the City. It then extends north via Parkville to connect with the South Morang line, providing added capacity to the Mernda growth area and simplifying planning for a Doncaster rail line. Versions of the line appeared in the 2012 Rail Network Development Plan and in plans considered by Infrastructure Victoria. it was also raised favourably in evidence by Victorian rail planner Ed Dotson to a 2010 Parliamentary inquiry into rail services.

Freight needs should have special consideration as part of an integrated plan, Dr Morton said. “At present, freight is in a zero-sum game with single-occupant car traffic, and the cars are winning. This will happen as long as we build so-called ‘freight roads’ that are just going to fill up with cars. We need to be getting more freight back on the rails, taking advantage of the latest international experience with multimodal logistics. Meanwhile, road freight solutions must be well-targeted, designed and sized so as not to induce more car travel.”

Dr Morton also welcomed Wednesday’s announcement by the Federal Government of $5 billion toward a Melbourne airport rail link. “Ultimately the State government will be responsible for planning this,” he said. “If it’s not going to suffer the problems of other projects, it’s critical that it’s properly integrated with the suburban rail network, with complementary bus networks and with the Myki fare system, so it can cater for the widest possible spectrum of airport travel.”

Service Planning is Vital

Dr Morton explained that even the best big infrastructure would be of little benefit without a proper plan for frequent public transport down to the local level. “Having the rail network required to meet major transport needs also means looking at how people get to the stations,” Dr Morton said. “We seem far too focussed at present on making public transport something you drive a car to, which means every additional passenger costs between $15,000 and $50,000 for a car parking space even before you pay for the train.”

The cities with the best public transport in the world provide a range of options for local travel, led by excellent feeder bus networks, said Dr Morton.

“Governments unfortunately get spooked by the cost of running buses, yet we already spend some $600 million a year running buses that are often empty of passengers because we’re not actively trying to recruit them. Each $1 million of annual expenditure could, on official figures, provide a bus service every 10 minutes, 7 days a week, for a population of around 8,000 people in most Melbourne suburbs. And every extra passenger you get is paying a fare to help meet the cost of the service.”

“How much does it cost to provide parking for 8,000 cars? On current figures we’re hearing, anywhere between $200 and $350 million. Even for just a fifth of that population, it would cost more to finance a project like that than to just run a bus that can take people where they want to go all day long.”

“Melbourne and Victoria are crying out for strategic, sustainable transport planning that works for everyone,” said Dr Morton. “We can’t just take a scatter-gun approach and throw money at every politically expedient project. We need calm, careful consideration of our actual needs, for people and freight, for infrastructure and for decent services.”

Care urged on Rowville tram proposal: avoid rushing into half measures, says PTUA

The Public Transport Users Association has cautiously welcomed a proposal to develop a new tram line connecting Rowville to Caulfield railway station via Chadstone Shopping Centre. But the PTUA is concerned the project could leave the community worse off in the longer term by precluding a conventional train line along Wellington Road.

“The previous government’s network plan envisaged a regular rail link between Huntingdale and Rowville as the appropriate long term option for this corridor,” PTUA President Dr Tony Morton said on Tuesday.

“There was also a strong view on Infrastructure Victoria’s citizen jury in 2016 that this would be imperative in the next 15 years,” he said.

“We similarly believe conventional heavy rail is the only option in the longer term if we’re to see any significant mode shift to public transport to deal with our traffic problems. It’s difficult to see any other option providing a competitive travel time for longer journeys.”

The proposed line will run parallel to the Dandenong train line between Caulfield and Oakleigh before heading east. It will not include the existing interchange at Huntingdale station.

“There are some advantages to this proposal, especially for local travel,” Dr Morton said. “With a tram, you can have stops both at the University and at the Synchrotron up the road, but you probably wouldn’t get a train to stop at both. And it certainly delivers on the need for an improved public transport connection to Chadstone.”

“At the same time, the key risks for the project are speed and interchange capacity. Without serious attention to traffic priority, it’s not going to hold a candle to train travel as soon as you’re going more than a few stops. And the interchange at Caulfield needs to cater for potentially hundreds of people at a time without getting stuck in queues – our system’s historically been quite bad at this kind of thing.”

At present, a journey from Monash University bus interchange to Flinders Street Station can be done in 40 minutes (10 on the 601 bus and 25 on the train, assuming an average 5 minute connection). “For a tram connecting at Caulfield to match what the bus and train can do currently, it would need to achieve a 30kph average speed – which means it has to be faster than the existing 75 tram along Burwood Highway, and even faster than the Gold Coast Light Rail which is probably best-in-class in Australia for traffic priority right now.”

“Meanwhile of course, if we ever got the train the community’s been asking for, the whole trip could be cut from 40 to 30 minutes,” Dr Morton said. “That is the longer term opportunity for the whole high-tech precinct we’d be worried about losing.”

Dr Morton said the PTUA would continue to press for an integrated long-term plan for transport in the south-east, which would need to be adequately ‘future proof’.

“We’ve seen all the reports this week that public transport is slowing down and becoming less reliable,” he said. “And that’s not only trains – trams and buses are as bad or worse. That’s a direct consequence of the State not future-proofing their transport plans – where they’ve had plans at all – and not building in adequate capacity ahead of the growth that everyone could see coming decades ago.”

Public transport users call for Westgate submarine

The Public Transport Users Association (PTUA) has called for the introduction of a passenger submarine linking the bayside western suburbs of Melbourne with the CBD instead of the controversial Westgate Tunnel.

“There’s clear demand for improved public transport in Melbourne’s west,” said PTUA’s maritime spokesperson Daniel Morton. “A passenger submarine can deliver this with minimal new infrastructure.”

Previous attempts to run passenger ferries have confronted problems such as rough waters causing cancellations and delays [1], and speed limits making for slow journeys along the Yarra River section of ferry routes [2].

“A submarine would overcome the problems facing surface vessels by travelling below the water’s surface, and leave valuable sea lanes open for freight transport,” said Mr Morton.

“A submarine would also be less affected by low clearances on some of the numerous river crossings [3] already in place from the west of Melbourne that everyone forgets about whenever they say we need a ‘second’ river crossing.”

Mr Morton also pointed out that the future reach of a submarine network would benefit from rising sea levels due to carbon emissions from transport. “To start with the submarines would only serve Port Phillip Bay and the Yarra River, but future routes could extend to Elwood, the Westgate Tunnel corridor and other low-lying parts of the city.”

Mr Morton said the PTUA was optimistic the submarine plan would float given the government’s reluctance to invest in proven transport options for the west. “With very low service levels for trains and buses in the west, and virtually no trams, an unproven distraction is just the thing to capture the public’s imagination. Meanwhile the government can continue generating more motor vehicle traffic with massive motorway projects instead of providing genuine alternatives.”

* * *

1. The Age 16/6/2014 – Ferries to Melbourne’s west ‘not a priority, not viable’

2. ABC 12/5/2016 – Commuter ferries for Melbourne’s west to sail next week

3. PTUA: Myth: There’s only one river crossing from Melbourne’s West

PTUA welcomes improvements to Shepparton line

The Public Transport Users Association (PTUA) has welcomed the government’s announcement that the introduction of a fifth daily train to Shepparton will be brought forward.

Enabling work, including a new crossing loop and more train stabling, was originally to be completed by 2020, but the state government announced on Wednesday that construction will begin sooner than expected. It will allow trains to run more frequently and reliably on the Shepparton line.

PTUA Regional Spokesperson, Paul Westcott, noted that Shepparton-Mooroopna is one of the fastest-growing regional areas centres in Victoria, and deserves a faster, more frequent and more reliable rail service to Melbourne.

“At the moment, train services to Shepparton/Mooroopna fall well short of those to regional centres such as Ballarat or Bendigo,” he said. “That has led to considerable dissatisfaction in the Goulburn Valley, and it has been an increasing problem as the population grows.”

“With more frequent trains, passengers will have more choice about when they travel, and not have to wait such a long time between trains, making trips to Melbourne more attractive and convenient,” Mr Westcott said.

“This investment in infrastructure and services on the Shepparton line is an important step towards a better-connected Goulburn Valley.”

Regional rail upgrades welcomed

The Public Transport Users Association (PTUA) has welcomed the agreement between the federal and Victorian governments which will see the release of $1.7 billion for improvements to the state’s regional rail network.

The PTUA’s Regional Spokesperson, Paul Westcott, said there was a need for significant improvement of the state’s longer-distance regional rail lines. The funding now available will be put towards upgrades on the Gippsland, Albury/Wodonga, Bendigo/Echuca, Ballarat and Geelong/Warrnambool lines.

“It’s good to see that the state and federal governments have finally sorted out this funding wrangle, so they can get on with delivering these vital projects, including the state government’s Regional Rail Revival project.”

“Inadequate service frequencies and poor timekeeping on our regional lines, coupled with too-frequent train breakdowns, have led to many complaints to the PTUA,” he said.

“There’s an obvious need to increase capacity on the system by track duplication and signalling upgrades, which will allow an increase in the number of services, not only on the regional commuter network, but also to places on the long-distance network, such as Echuca, Warrnambool and Shepparton.”

Mr Westcott noted the increasing number of large, heavy trucks on our highways, creating significant road maintenance and safety problems. “There’s general agreement that more freight must be carried by rail and this funding will also help achieve that,” he said.

Victoria’s transport planning crisis: Put the public first and end partisan brawling over big infrastructure, says PTUA

The Public Transport Users Association has called for a public interest ‘circuit breaker’ to end the crisis in major infrastructure planning.

The call comes amid the scuttling of Transurban’s controversial West Gate Tunnel project by the Legislative Council, which the PTUA says is merely the latest manifestation of a planning crisis in Victoria reaching back more than a decade.

“Historically, large infrastructure projects in Victoria have proceeded with essentially bipartisan support, in accordance with some kind of plan and with all the required statutory approvals,” said PTUA President Dr Tony Morton. “Governments could also generally claim to have an electoral mandate for these projects, as Jeff Kennett certainly claimed for CityLink in 1996.”

“The problem governments have faced more recently is that to gain this kind of support, a major project has to both stack up on triple-bottom-line criteria, and reflect the wishes of the community,” Dr Morton said. “Yet of late there’s been a deplorable tendency for governments to announce huge, multi-billion dollar projects with dubious benefit-cost analyses, then scramble to sign contracts and start construction with unforeseen haste, as though they fear not getting an election mandate and want to force it as a fait accompli instead. We saw exactly that with the East West Link, and now we see it with the West Gate Tunnel. It’s little wonder these projects turn into ugly partisan brawls, that alarm Victorians at the betrayal of public trust involved.”

Dr Morton pointed to a December 2017 public letter to the Premier from 28 urban transport and planning experts, documenting their own concerns with Victoria’s planning crisis and with the West Gate Tunnel project in particular. This followed a submission by transport modelling expert William McDougall to a Senate inquiry on tollroads in July 2017, citing serious concerns with the way major road projects are assessed.

The PTUA also points to a ‘striking disconnect’ between the approach taken to the West Gate Tunnel and the Metro rail tunnel. “The Metro tunnel has been studied almost to death over three election cycles,” Dr Morton said. “But while some details can be argued over, there’s really little doubt there’s a public mandate to get on with it and there’s huge benefit for Melbourne’s west in particular. This rail tunnel will move three times as many people as the West Gate Tunnel without breaking a sweat.”

PTUA also believes similar support would exist for the original West Gate Distributor project that Labor took to the 2014 election. “As we have said all along, this project was designed to solve a problem, which was to get trucks out of residential streets. It does it at a cost one-tenth that of the West Gate Tunnel, and without putting more trucks in other residential streets, or overwhelming central Melbourne with more car traffic contrary to 30 years of planning strategy. And the government can even claim a mandate for it!”

“Changing direction is never easy. We know the road lobby really wants to be in charge of transport planning again like they were last century. But the public has different ideas now: most Aussies don’t accept that the only way to get cities to work is by turning them into Los Angeles. So the road lobby, and those who make money whenever traffic gets worse, has fallen back on the ‘market-led initiative’ process, which is basically a licence to subvert proper planning.”

To get Victoria out of the present crisis, the PTUA has renewed its call for a planning ‘reset’ on explicit public-interest criteria. “We could start by tasking Transport for Victoria with the creation of the Transport Plan actually required by Victorian legislation,” Dr Morton said. “It ought to be publicly tested in accordance with the Act, on triple-bottom-line criteria, informed by a well-supported view on what kind of city we want to be. And it needs planning experts, community groups and local councils to be actively involved in its construction, and not subject to veto by faceless men in Collins Street who answer only to the road lobby.”

“In the meantime, Premier Andrews and Minister Donellan can get those good people back to work in Yarraville building the original West Gate Distributor project,” said Dr Morton. “It’s still there in the West Gate Tunnel plans, does the job the public needs and already has community support.”