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Media Release


Latham's $420 Million Promise Welcomed

Use Money to Fix Outer East Public Transport: Community Group

The Federal ALP's decision to use $420 million in freeway funding for other transport projects has been welcomed by the Public Transport Users Association. But public transport projects in Melbourne's outer east should have first call on the funds, they said.

Federal Opposition leader Mark Latham said this morning that the $420 million previously earmarked for the Scoresby Freeway would be spent on other 'Victorian road and transport projects' under a Latham Government, now that it is no longer required for the tollway.

The PTUA welcomed the announcement, but said that the funding should be kept within the eastern suburbs, and used for much-needed public transport improvements.

"Currently, the outer east has some of Australia's worst public transport, and the community out there wants it fixed," said PTUA Secretary Tony Morton. "In fact, the consultants for the Scoresby Corridor found that because public transport is so poor, a package of rail, tram and bus upgrades together with local road improvements would actually have a greater benefit than building the freeway would."

On Tuesday night, a packed meeting in Croydon called for Federal funding of public transport in the region. Attendees cheered when one local election candidate called for the $420 million to be used for public transport.

"Public transport is the big local issue in this part of Melbourne," Dr Morton said. "But it's something the politicians are in danger of misjudging, because of the loud voices coming from the road lobby. The Bracks Government in particular wants the $420 million used for some of their other pet freeways in other parts of Victoria. This is a danger spot for Latham - if he agrees to divert all the money to other roads, eastern suburbs voters will be furious."

Asked what specific projects could be funded from the $420 million, Dr Morton said a lot could be done right through the region. "There's the Rowville rail extension, now the subject of a Knox Council feasibility study. We've estimated the cost at around $120 million, similar to what the Government consultants found in 1997. Then there's the tram to Knox City shopping centre, duplicating the track to Lilydale, serious bus improvements, and removing the level crossings on Springvale Road. For this kind of money you could do all that and have some spare change for other important things."

"There is ample precedent for Federal governments funding public transport," Dr Morton concluded. "Given that the Commonwealth through AusLink is pouring money into roads that will soon enough fill up with cars, it's about time public transport got a look in."

PTUA Office 9650 7898

See also: The PTUA's short-term vision for Knox and the outer-east

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Last Modified: 2 September 2004