Category Archives: Melbourne and suburbs

Enough is enough: Time for Tram Cams to stop dangerous motorists

The Public Transport Users Association (PTUA) has called for tram cams, and stronger enforcement of road rules to improve tram passenger safety.

Australian road rules state that motorists are required to stop when trams stop, to allow passengers to board and alight safely.[1]

“This is a rule often broken, with potentially fatal results”, said PTUA spokesperson Daniel Bowen. “There is an urgent need for firm action to protect passengers.

“In the long term, more accessible tram platform stops will help safety, but the progress on these is incredibly slow.”

In November a passenger was struck by a car in Parkville, ‘with witnesses claiming the driver failed to stop when passengers were getting off a tram’.[2]

A recent 3 day police operation saw 14 motorists issued with infringement notices for overtaking stopped trams, but Mr Bowen said it was the tip of the iceberg, with Yarra Trams figures recording hundreds of incidents every year.[3]

A 2016 study noted that tram drivers also have concerns about passenger safety when motorists overtake trams, with one commenting: “At road side stops, motorist(s) don’t stop. … At that moment as a tram driver you feel very useless and try to help people. You gong and they don’t listen.” [4]

Mr Bowen said that road safety cameras have long been used to catch motorists running red lights and speeding, and that they should also be used to protect tram passengers.

A trial in 2013 using external cameras fitted to E-class trams [5] ended without a rollout plan.

“There are now over 80 E-class trams in service with cameras fitted, as well as 35 C-class trams with cameras. It’s time to start using them, as well as getting more cameras fitted to the rest of the tram fleet.

“A combination of cameras fitted to trams, and fixed cameras at known hotspots such as Royal Parade, with fines issued for breaking the law, would send a strong message to motorists, and help improve safety.

“It’s not okay to recklessly try and beat the tram, and it’s not okay to overtake when it’s stopped.

“The consequences of breaking this rule can be fatal, and it’s time that authorities cracked down on this dangerous driving,” concluded Mr Bowen.


Youtube clips of motorists failing to give way to tram passengers:


[1] Road Safety Rules 2017 – Reg 163

[2] The Age 27/11/2019 – Tram passenger in critical condition after passing car ‘failed to stop’  

[3] Mirage News 29/11/2019 – Police call out poor driver behaviour near trams (Victoria Police media release)

[4] Monash University November 2016 – Exploring the key challenges in tram driving and crash risk factors on the Melbourne tram network: tram driver focus groups – Road safety issues at tram stops

[5] Herald Sun 23/11/2013: Drivers warned trams are watching them 


Coverage of this story:

Melbourne transport still shaped by 50 year old plan – time for a rethink

December 2019 marks the 50th anniversary of the 1969 Melbourne Transportation Plan [1]: a radical exercise that sought to reshape Melbourne at vast expense, from a ‘garden city’ with well-used public transport, to a car-dominated sprawling ‘doughnut city’ based on a Los Angeles-style grid of freeways.

PTUA spokesperson Daniel Bowen said that while other transport plans had been published by successive State Governments in the decades since, the 1969 plan continued to influence transport priorities and spending.

The plan proposed that 86% of funding be spent on roads, and just 14% on public transport, and planned a grid of freeways across the city – many of which have since been built. [2]

Mr Bowen said a rethink was needed to focus on transport modes that scaled up for a city of five million and growing.

“The 1969 plan was predicated on population projections of 3.7 million by 1985, and based on now long discredited thinking from US-based consultants that more motorways could solve traffic.

“This hasn’t worked. Not in Melbourne nor in any other big city in the world.

“Melbourne is now at 5 million and still growing. We are beyond the size when roads and motorways are a viable way to move large numbers of people.”

Since the 1969 plan was published, 320 kilometres of freeway or tollway had been built, with another 25 kilometres currently under construction.[3]

In contrast, the suburban rail network has been expanded by just 72 kilometres, with another 9 kilometres under construction. In addition to this, non-electrified outer urban lines to Healesville, Warburton and Mornington all closed.

Public transport patronage plummeted 28% between 1969 and 1979 as the plan was implemented, despite population growth.[4]

“The rapid growth of the road network is still following a 50 year old plan. Despite many billions spent continually extending and adding lanes to freeways and tollways, this has seen traffic speeds getting progressively slower [5].

“Building roads generates more traffic – and the road network gets less efficient the more people use it.

“While many of the roads proposed in the 1969 plan have eventuated, many of the rail projects have not – and nor have the proposed public transport service upgrades.”

Rail projects in the 1969 plan that were never built include links to Doncaster and Rowville, an underground line through Fitzroy, and the extension of suburban electric services to Deer Park West, Mornington, Hastings, and Coldstream.

While the 1969 plan was heavily skewed towards roads and infrastructure, it also called for frequent public transport services:

  • trains to run at least every 5 minutes on the busiest lines in peak
  • buses and trams to run at least every 10 minutes all day

Most of these service upgrades have not eventuated.

“Cutting waiting times for trains, trams and buses is essential to get people out of their cars and onto public transport,” said Mr Bowen.

“Ultimately, if we want people to be able to switch to public transport, government must provide reliable, high frequency train, tram and bus services.

“If instead we keep spending on roads, people will keep driving, congestion will keep getting worse, and just as the 1969 plan envisaged, Melbourne will become more and more like Los Angeles – dominated by its traffic.”


[1] The 1969 plan was released on 17th December 1969. Age article

[2] Costings, also covered in The Age

[3] Freeways and tollways (excluding those built before 1969):

  • CityLink – Monash Freeway – Princes Freeway – West Gate Freeway 88 km
  • Citylink – Tullamarine Freeway 12
  • Eastern Freeway – EastLink – Frankston Freeway 62
  • Mornington Peninsula Freeway 26
  • Pensinula Link 25
  • Metropolitan Ring Road – Western Ring Road 38
  • South Gippsland Freeway – Western Port Highway 5
  • Western Port Highway 11
  • Hume Freeway (Craigieburn Bypass) 17
  • Western Freeway (Deer Park Bypass) 9
  • Calder Freeway 27

Total built since 1969: 320 km 

Under construction:

  • North East Link 11
  • West Gate Tunnel 5
  • Mordialloc Freeway 9

Heavy rail lines built or electrified since 1969:

  • City Loop 4.7 km
  • Newport to Werribee 19
  • Altona to Laverton 4.1
  • Dandenong to Cranbourne 12.6
  • Broadmeadows to Craigieburn electrification 9.4
  • Epping to South Morang 3.1
  • St Albans to Sunbury electrification 20.5
  • South Morang to Mernda 7.1

Closed: St Kilda line (4.5km) and Port Melbourne line (4km).

Net increase since 1969: 72km

Under construction:

  • Metro tunnel 9
  • (Suburban Rail Loop has not received full funding/started construction yet)

[4] Public transport patronage dropped by 28% in the ten years following the 1969 transport plan, despite population growth

Melbourne trains, trams and buses - millions of passenger trips per year

Source: PTV – Melbourne public transport patronage long run series

[5] Road speeds have steadily dropped in recent years, despite freeway/tollway expansion

Change in average traffic speed

Source: Vicroads Traffic Monitor


Coverage of this story:

The Age 23/12/2019: Half-century-old plan behind major transport projects, advocates warn

7 News 23/12/2019:

Eastern Freeway rail corridor is what merits protection

Protect Hamer legacy of provision for rail in freeway median: PTUA

According to the Public Transport Users Association there is only one aspect of the Eastern Freeway that merits heritage protection, and that is the unique design features included by the Hamer Government to ensure a train line could be easily installed in the corridor.

The statements come in response to a proposal by the Victorian Department of Transport to seek heritage protection for the section of the freeway between Hoddle Street and Bulleen Road. This part of the road was built in the 1970s and made provision for a planned train line to Doncaster and Templestowe. [1]

Responding to the largely cynical reaction to the proposal, PTUA President Dr Tony Morton noted there was some substance to the Department’s claims. “This section of road certainly has some unique features to its construction. The median reserve is particularly wide by comparison with others, including more recent sections of the Eastern Freeway, and all the overpasses are built as long single spans. But all these features were included so as to protect a reservation for rail.”

The ability to provide for rail was essential to any heritage claim for the road, Dr Morton said.

“That does make the latest proposal rather bizarre in the context of the North East Link. Not because it forecloses anything in the future, but because the Department is seeking to protect exactly what it’s about to destroy.”

As part of plans for the North East Link, the government proposes taking the median reserve for extra car lanes, and providing dedicated bus lanes on the road’s edge at additional cost. “This makes a travesty of a half-century of planning,” said Dr Morton. “The idea of protecting the reserve is that the effort and cost for a public transport corridor has already been invested, to make future rail construction an easier decision. As far as Bulleen at any rate, everything has been done already except physically laying the tracks.”

“In a city of five million people and growing, we’ve got to be protecting all opportunities that exist to boost the most space-efficient and high-capacity mode of transport we have, which is suburban rail. Instead, we’re taking a corridor already provided and handing it over to the least space-efficient form of transport, for reasons that are entirely unclear – the inner city has no more capacity to absorb cars and trucks.”

“If the Andrews Government has any consistency they would rethink now and protect the rail corridor.”

Dr Morton also scoffed at the suggestion the heritage proposal was solely aimed at forestalling a future East West Link road. “The one thing that ought to stand firmly in the way of the East West Link is it doesn’t provide any economic benefit exceeding the huge cost of construction – even when assessed on traditional tools that experts criticise as exaggerating the benefits of new roads. A heritage order by itself would never stop a project that stands up on its merits.”

* * *

[1] The Doncaster rail line is still shown on Public Transport Victoria’s website as part of their Network Development Plan (PDF filename indicates it was updated in 2016)

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.

What year did your railway station open?

What year did your local station open? Before you were born? Probably before your grandparents were born! Our population is growing, and our public transport network needs to keep growing too.

Click here to view the map larger.

The rail network grew rapidly between 1854 and 1930… but since then almost nothing. Expansion of rail, tram and Smartbus services is far too slow for Melbourne’s huge population growth. No wonder the roads are congested!

Melbourne railway stations vs population growth

Join PTUA today to help the campaign for better public transport.

PTUA welcomes rail investment in Ballarat

The Public Transport Users Association has today welcomed the government’s announcement of the details of a $130m project to untangle freight and passenger services in Ballarat.

The project will largely separate freight and passenger trains west of Ballarat station, and upgrade the signalling system in the Ballarat area, to allow for more efficient movement of trains of all kinds.

PTUA Ballarat Branch Convener Ben Lever said it was important work that would complement other investments in freight and passenger rail.

“There are two big rail projects going on around Ballarat at the moment – the Ballarat Line Upgrade project for passenger trains, and the Murray Basin Rail Project for freight trains. These two projects intersect within urban Ballarat, so today’s announcement will help make sure there aren’t too many conflicts between freight and passenger movements.”

“It’s really essential that our passenger services can have a clear run so they’re not delayed by freight trains – but it’s also really important that freight doesn’t get overlooked. We need a strong rail freight industry that is competitive with the road freight industry, if we want to reduce the number of trucks on our roads, and get the safety and air quality benefits that come with it. This kind of infrastructure investment is a great step in the right direction.”

Mr Lever said the project will help allow for extra services to Ararat and Maryborough, and potentially for extension of trains to Dunolly.

“For the train to really be useful to people, it needs to run quite frequently. The Maryborough line in particular has always suffered from a lack of services, so we are definitely keen to see trains running more frequently on this line.”

Mr Lever also noted that the project may have benefits for the eventual return of direct passenger trains between Ballarat and Geelong.

“Although this seems to be flying under the radar of both the government and the opposition at the moment, in the medium term we will also need to see the return of direct passenger trains between Ballarat and Geelong, to connect Victoria’s second- and third-biggest cities to each other without the need for a lengthy diversion to Melbourne. This service would travel along the existing freight line that is part of the Murray Basin Rail Project, so any investment that helps sort out the path through urban Ballarat gets us one step closer to making it a reality.”

Magic numbers distort North East Link business case

Cost and benefit figures presented in the North East Link business case by the Victorian Government suggest a “massive shifting of the goalposts” in an effort to make the $16 billion project stack up, according to a preliminary analysis by the Public Transport Users Association.

“Comparing these new figures with those presented just 18 months ago by the government’s Infrastructure Victoria agency, you would hardly guess we’re talking about the same project,” said PTUA President Dr Tony Morton.

In late 2016, Infrastructure Victoria produced economic analysis for its 30 Year Strategy which assessed the “real capital cost” of the North East Link as $5 billion to $7 billion, including associated works on the Eastern Freeway and M80 Ring Road.

“That figure’s now fantastically out of date,” Dr Morton said. “Using the actual cost estimate of $15.8 billion and the benefit figure from Infrastructure Victoria, the benefit-cost ratio is barely 60 cents in the dollar.”

Yet the latest business case puts the ratio as $1.30 to $1.40 in the dollar, having arrived at this figure through what Dr Morton calls ‘creative’ methods.

“First, they’ve said only about $12.5 billion of the cost is for construction, the rest is for operating cost,” Dr Morton said. “Then they’ve claimed the whole cost can be reduced to around $8 billion through the device of ‘discounting’ future spending at 7% per year. It’s only by using this discounted value that they can get a BCR above 1.”

Discounting is a standard method to account for the fact that spending deferred to the future, or income received in the future, has a lower value in present-day terms. “If I have to spend $1000 but not for 12 months’ time, I can invest a smaller amount now, say $955 with a 5% return, to have the full $1000 when needed,” Dr Morton said.

“But you have to push spending a long way into the future to get this claimed reduction of nearly 50 per cent. It appears to us the government is using some financial magic to avoid booking a big part of the road’s cost until after it’s supposed to be open and operating – and paying no interest in the meantime.”

“The business case includes a cash flow profile for capital and operating expenditure, yet adding up the latter it comes to less than half the reported real operating cost. What accounts for the remainder – is it additional operating cost, or is it construction cost that’s being pushed out to the long term somehow?”

NEL Business case: Redacted information

“Too many details are redacted to be sure, but it looks suspiciously like the equivalent of buying a $600,000 house and pretending it only costs you $400,000 because the mortgage payments come later. This is dangerous logic for homebuyers, and at the very least we’re owed a better explanation when it’s all Victorians on the hook as taxpayers.”

“And as a method for reducing the economic cost of a public infrastructure project for evaluation purposes, it doesn’t pass the sniff test. The Metro Tunnel project has a longer construction timeline than the North East Link, and in its business case the reduction from discounting is a more realistic 24 per cent.”

Phantom benefits

The benefits claimed for the road come mainly from projected travel time savings, and are said to be worth nearly $11 billion in present-value terms. Yet evidence from half a century of road building indicates that any travel time benefits are short-lived and soon give way to worse congestion than before.

“This looks like the same fantasy-land thinking we’ve seen on every other road project,” said Dr Morton. “In that regard the East West Link assessment may have been more honest – at least that conceded the congestion benefits would be gone within a decade. This one seems to be claiming time savings will still be achieved 50 years into the future, something never seen before on planet Earth.”

Past road projects in Victoria have been unable to demonstrate the time-saving and other benefits claimed for them, according to reports by the Victorian Auditor-General and by academic researchers. A 2009 study of the Melbourne CityLink project by RMIT’s John Odgers found that contrary to the time savings forecast, the total time spent in Melbourne traffic in 2005, five years after CityLink opened, was already exceeding by 1.8% the figure projected for 2011 in the ‘do nothing’ scenario. The approach used to forecast the travel time benefits for projects including the North East Link has been criticised by modelling expert William McDougall in evidence to a 2017 Senate inquiry into tollroads.

“And yet, contrary to all we know from the past half century about new roads not reducing congestion, we’ve still got official documents like this one making all sorts of claims about time savings, congestion relief and faster travel, as though it’s forever 1970 and no-one knows any better,” Dr Morton said. “Almost nowhere else is there such a boneheaded insistence on doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.”

Choices for the future

The PTUA is supporting a community campaign for further investment in rail infrastructure and frequent bus networks, to give people choices to avoid traffic congestion. “The government’s trying to greenwash this road with a new busway along the Eastern Freeway, to save all of two minutes between Bulleen and Clifton Hill. The business case calls it a 30% saving, which is misleading because it’s a percentage of the 6 to 7 minute travel time on the freeway, a very small part of the whole. Virtually all the serious delay to buses is between Clifton Hill and the city, and further out on suburban arterial roads,” Dr Morton said.

“We’d actually rather see the freeway median preserved for future rail services, and instead invest some serious money into priority for buses where they run slowest, and put some fair dinkum planning effort into a Doncaster rail line. That’s a recipe for real time savings with more ironclad evidence than any traffic model.”

“Meanwhile, every billion dollars the government spends on big roads just makes Melbourne look more like Los Angeles, and gets us closer to having Los Angeles style traffic. Should we really be spending $16 billion for this?”

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

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.”