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Media Release


No sign of promised public transport upgrade

The Bracks Government has broken its election promises to residents of Melbourne's outer east by failing to commence a promised study to upgrade public transport services, the Public Transport Users Association claims.

In its transport policy for the 1999 State election, Labor promised:

Regional transport plans

Labor will develop a series of regional plans during its first term. These plans will be comprehensive…. They will be developed in an enhanced planning regime within the Department of Infrastructure and will include local transport companies, local councils, relevant community organisations and user representatives.

The first of these regional transport plans will be in the outer eastern suburbs. This will be the first regional transport plan to be developed and will act as a demonstration model for other outer suburban regions of Melbourne. The plan will improve quality of life now and into the future, through increased mobility, patronage and a reduced dependence on excessive car use… The recommendations from the plan will be specific and detailed to allow for a subsequent cost benefit analysis, Environmental [sic] Effects Statement and community consultation.
(Transport Policy, Rebuilding the Transport Network, pp. 10-11.)

The background to this promise was the Environment Effects Statement for the Scoresby Freeway prepared in 1998 by the Kennett government. That study found that a 2% increase in public transport patronage would deliver equivalent benefits to traffic to those caused by the Scoresby Freeway. But once this became apparent, road bureaucrats overseeing the study dropped the "public transport upgrade" option from the study to prevent it "winning".

Public transport in the outer eastern suburbs is of notoriously poor quality. For example, weekday services on the Belgrave and Lilydale lines (beyond Ringwood) only run half-hourly; meanwhile, there are no bus services at all on Sundays in the City of Greater Dandenong. By contrast, in well-off suburbs like Balwyn, trams run every 8 minutes off-peak and operate until midnight every day of the year.

PTUA President Dr. Paul Mees said that the lack of movement on public transport was particularly galling given the Government's backflip on the billion-dollar Scoresby Freeway.

"For a fraction of the cost of the Scoresby Freeway, the outer east could be provided with public transport just as good as Melbourne's inner suburbs. On the eve of the 1999 election Peter Batchelor promised a community-run process to do just this, and reduce excessive traffic levels in the outer east. Now, fifteen months down the track, not only has there been no movement on the promised action, but the plan does not feature in the list of proposed 2000/01 actions in this year's Department of Infrastructure Annual Report," said Dr. Mees. (See 1999-2000 DOI Annual Report, p. 42: 'Priorities for 2000-01'). Dr. Mees pointed out that the Department is, however, proposing to conduct a study of transport issues in the Fitzroy-Collingwood area, despite the promise that the outer east study would be the first.

"Instead of fulfilling his election promises, Mr Batchelor is making loud noises about the Scoresby Freeway, which was not part of its election platform. The reason for this inaction, of course, is that if the Government kept its promise, the resulting study would find that the Freeway is not needed."

Dr. Mees called on local councils to pressure the government to fulfil its election promises: "Too many councils have wasted too much time and money lobbying for the Scoresby Freeway. Public transport is being neglected by the State government and local government is partly to blame. Public transport receives pious rhetoric from councils, but little concerted lobbying; meanwhile, all the energy is going into supporting the Freeway. Naturally, State and Federal governments draw the conclusion that the councils don't really care about public transport."

"It's about time local government started holding the State to account for improved public transport," Dr. Mees said.

PTUA Office 9650 7898

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Last Modified: 14 February 2001