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Media Release


Freeways Dominating Transport Planning, says Expert

The Bracks government needs to reduce expenditure on freeways and tackle the ascendancy of the road lobby, an expert in public administration said today. Professor Bill Russell, the former head of the Centre for Public Sector Management at Monash University, who headed the Bracks government's Audit Review of Government Contracts, made the comments to an audience of 150 at the "Ticket to Ride" transport conference held at RMIT. The conference was organised by the Council on the Ageing, Environment Victoria, the Public Transport Users Association, Victorian Council on Social Service and Victorian Local Governance Association.

Mr. Russell said that road planning was proceeding along the "domino effect" model, with individual road projects added, creating bottlenecks which are then used to justify new links, repeating the cycle. The original vision of a grid of freeways, dating from the 1969 Transport Plan prepared by American consultants, is rarely discussed openly. Mr. Russell said he was "gobsmacked" when Transport Minister Peter Batchelor announced support for the RACV's recent freeway plans the same day they were released.

After Mr. Russell's speech, the conference delegates adopted the attached Statement of Demand, which demands a change in State government transport planning priorities and processes.

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Statement of Demand

We call on the Government to honour their election commitments to deliver "an integrated, environmentally friendly and properly planned approach to transport policy" which features "a reduced dependence on excessive car use."

We believe that the current freeway building plans endorsed by the Minister for Transport, Mr Batchelor, will undermine that commitment and our international treaty obligations . It will also mean that funds will not be available to support much needed walking, cycling and public transport improvements and road maintenance in the city and regions.

We call for:
  • A new approach to urban and transport planning that is driven by objectives set by the community, not VicRoads, and supported by expertise in pedestrian, cycling and public transport planning.
  • A new approach to the, evaluation of transport projects which gives weight to social, health and environmental objectives as well as economic objectives.
  • A moratorium on all freeway construction and planning until an integrated urban and transport plan and energy security strategy for all of Melbourne and the regional centres has been completed

A fundamental change in transport policy is required if we are to protect the environment, and health of the population while creating wealth and improving social equity. In most areas of Victoria, public transport services, especially buses, are slow and infrequent when they run and on evenings and weekends disappear altogether. It is about time we had minimum service standards for public transport across the whole of Victoria so that car ownership and car use became a choice for people rather than a necessity.

Despite some worthwhile initiatives (such as the promised rural rail upgrades and increased expenditure on cycling) and the Government's election promises, all the Kennett Government's monumental road schemes are back on the agenda and road planning seems to be driven by the wishes of road planning organisations rather than by the proper planning the Government promised. We are not asking the Government to abandon road building, but we are asking that further freeway investment be put on hold until they have been properly, openly and fairly assessed. They must not be simply carried forward as if there had been no change of government.

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Last Modified: 29 October 2000