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August 2004 Newsletter

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Metro transport plan gutted

After years of waiting, the Metropolitan Transport Plan was finally launched on November 25th, a day after it had been leaked to the media by the State Opposition.

Drafts of the plan showed a lot of promise. Of particular interest was early material proposing the kind of re-organisation and upgrade to the bus network that would have made services genuinely useful to people all over Melbourne. (See PTUA News, May 2003)

All this material is gone, cut from the document during two years of slashing and burning by the Department of Infrastructure. What we are left with is a generally vague and ultimately profoundly disappointing document.

All we are left with is a short list of (unfunded) "priorities" (many already announced):

  • a handful of SmartBus services, mostly consisting of lengthy orbital bus routes
  • a few station upgrades, including North Melbourne (and others previously announced as part of the Mitcham to Frankston tollway)
  • a third track from Caulfield to Dandenong (but no commitment to increase train fleet, holding capacity or driver numbers to allow more services)
  • yet more investigation and feasibility study into rail extensions to South Morang and Epping
  • upgrades to track and signalling to ease bottlenecks such as those around Clifton Hill

While some of these are worthwhile, it must be emphasised that the government has given no commitment whatsoever to fund them.

And they fall well short of being the kinds of initiatives to boost patronage around Melbourne and give people (particularly in the outlying suburbs) a genuine alternative to driving their car.

There is no mention of Rowville or Doncaster Rail (instead more investigation into trams to Doncaster - which would provide inadequate capacity to ease congestion on the Eastern Freeway). No extensions to tram routes that currently fail to connect with the rail system (eg Glen Iris, East Malvern). And while more SmartBus routes are welcome (and in particular the improvements to operating hours and frequency), there is no proposal to give Melbourne a usable, comprehensive bus network.

Transport Minister Peter Batchelor was keen to emphasise that it wasn't a "shopping list" of projects. To us it looks like an extremely short shopping list.

But more significantly, it lacks any vision. The government may claim to be aiming to achieve 20% of motorised trips in Melbourne on public transport by 2020, but they clearly have no idea how to achieve it. It simply won't happen while so many suburbs continue to have no usable public transport.

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Last Modified: 13 January 2005