Category Archives: Melbourne west

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.”

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.”

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

Community Forum: The 2013 Federal Election and Public Transport in Melbourne’s West

The PTUA is hosting a community forum looking at public transport issues in Melbourne’s Western Suburbs. With a federal election imminent, residents are concerned about how transport policy will impact on access to jobs, education and services, as well as local neighbourhood amenity.

This community forum is an opportunity to hear from transport planning experts, local Members of Parliament, Councillors and federal candidates. Come along and ask your questions and learn how they plan to solve public transport in Melbourne.

Where and when:
Newport Bowls Club, 4 Market St Newport (close to Newport railway station)
Thursday 8th August 6.30pm
Doors open 6pm, food and drinks available from the bar

View details and RSVP on Facebook

Regional Rail Link must be reviewed, users say

The Public Transport Users Association has criticised the state government for giving the go-ahead to the Regional Rail Link (RRL), without an independent review to fix the project’s problems and explore alternative plans.

PTUA secretary Tony Morton said the government’s approval made a mockery of its commitment to set up an independent Public Transport Development Authority to guide the improvement of Victoria’s public transport system.

“We strongly support the government’s initiative for an independent, expert body to guide the development of public transport services and infrastructure. We understand the government is in the process of selecting the key personnel. So why wouldn’t these, the experts we’re counting on to guide the system over the coming years, start by reviewing the largest and most expensive Victorian rail project in living memory?” Dr Morton said.
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Regional Rail Link: Many better ways to spend $5bn

JASON Dowling’s defence of the Regional Rail Link (Comment, 22/2) essentially asserts that a project costing about $5 billion must be a good thing.

What began as a line on a map in the Eddington report has evolved secretly and fitfully. We still have no idea how train services will be organised, but we do know that many passengers will actually be disadvantaged by the project as it is configured.

The basic problem is that it tries to be both a regional and a suburban project. New stations at Tarneit will be served by crowded Geelong trains making extra stops. Tarneit residents won’t get the same frequency of service as other metropolitan rail users.
Continue reading Regional Rail Link: Many better ways to spend $5bn

Billion dollar rail blowout a blessing in disguise

Southern Cross StationThe billion dollar blowout in the construction costs of the Regional Rail Link, reported in the Australian Financial Review today (3 February 2011), could provide the opportunity to revise the project and fix its worst problems, the Public Transport Users Association has said.

Secretary Tony Morton said that well-chosen experts for the proposed new Public Transport Authority could now be appointed to “do the homework” on the Link that had been neglected by the Department of Transport.

The PTUA has previously raised concerns that existing plans would make Geelong trains slower and cut connections to the City loop, the University precinct bus shuttle, and the Upfield, Craigieburn and Werribee suburban train lines. Passengers may have also overloaded the trains serving the proposed new stations.
Continue reading Billion dollar rail blowout a blessing in disguise

Call for more V/Line services to cut waiting times

Southern Cross StationAs the state election approaches, the Public Transport Users Association (PTUA) has called for upgrades to V/Line short distance services[1] to run at least every 30 minutes, seven days-a-week.

PTUA regional spokesman Paul Westcott said that with strong patronage growth, V/Line train services are increasingly overcrowded not just in peak times, but also at off-peak times, including weekends, and that waiting times are excessive.

“You will wait an hour between trains from Geelong to Melbourne, for  example. You could drive the distance in that time.

“And our members report passengers forced to stand for long distances on some off-peak V/Line trains.”
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State election public transport forums in your area

Community Forums
The Metropolitan Transport Forum (MTF), of which the PTUA is an associate member, is holding public transport forums in various areas around Melbourne in the lead-up to November’s state election.

The forums will feature speakers from all the major parties and questions from the community.

Six forums are planned so far:
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It’s a new era of Federal funding, but are these the right projects?

Sprinters at Southern CrossThe Federal Government are to be congratulated for finally putting money into urban public transport, which will cut congestion by getting cars off the road, cut emissions, and give people more sustainable transport choices. But brickbats are due to the Brumby State Government for advancing flawed projects, says the Public Transport Users Association (PTUA).

Despite the name, the Regional Rail Express project funded by the Federal government will help metropolitan train users, by separating out fast and stopping trains, allowing many more trains and better reliability. The lengthening of platforms at stations is also good news for regional and outer-urban passengers.
Continue reading It’s a new era of Federal funding, but are these the right projects?