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Media Release


Road Bureaucracy Outdated and Unsustainable

The Public Transport Users Association (PTUA) has called for a bold reform package that would merge the Planning and Transport Ministries to ensure that transport planning and operations can meet modern challenges such as congestion, greenhouse and rising oil prices.

"There is a fundamental disconnect between the grand vision of Melbourne 2030 and the transport policy currently being implemented across Melbourne," PTUA spokesman Alex Makin said. "Not only is the transport portfolio completely separate from the planning portfolio but most of the practical decisions on transport are devolved to a semi-autonomous agency called VicRoads."

VicRoads is one of the few remaining government instrumentalities that once included the Board of Works and SEC. Many of these agencies has since been corporatised and/or privatised, however VicRoads retains significant power over public policy. In 2003-04, VicRoads with a total annual budget of $1 billion spent over $66 million on management and operating expenditure.

"This is money that the road engineers spend making plans for new roads we don't need and then lobbying government, business groups and the media to get them built," Mr Makin said. "In just one year there's been more spent on lobbying for roads than it would have cost to build the South Morang train extension."

"We see significant savings from axing VicRoads and bringing its responsibilities within a combined Planning and Infrastructure portfolio as seen in Western Australia", Mr Makin said. "Most importantly, merging planning and transport would ensure consistency across government programs and accountable to one Minister. The success in transforming Perth from a public transport backwater into a public transport orientated city occurred due to the merging of the transport and planning functions."

Numerous organisations such as the Committee for the Economic Development of Australia (CEDA), the Productivity Commission and the Premier's own hand-picked Infrastructure Planning Council (IPC) have recognised the importance of integrating economic, social and environmental objectives into transport planning.

"Transport planning is a subset of the overall broader plan and a coordinated and integrated approach to transport planning is required.... The current institutional arrangements especially the separate budget for road funding and the separation of VicRoads from the other transport functions within the Department of Infrastructure, have not encouraged such a holistic view." (Infrastructure Planning Council, Final Report, September 2002)

"Instead of the vastly improved public transport promised under Melbourne 2030, we are seeing absolutely no commitment towards extending the rail network to either growth suburbs such as South Morang or long-established suburbs such as Doncaster," Mr Makin said. "Meanwhile VicRoads is running amok ploughing money into new roads and failing to save trams and buses from worsening traffic congestion."

"These outcomes are clearly unacceptable given rising fuel costs, greenhouse emissions and congestion," Mr Makin warned. "Mr Bracks who expects applause for his approach to national reform and infrastructure must first prove his own credentials by eliminating this dysfunctional silo mentality and making transport part of the bigger picture."

PTUA Office 9650 7898

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Last Modified: 9 November 2005