There’s been some speculation about who is running the SpringStSource Twitter account and web site. The web domain name is registered through WhoIsGuard, a Panama-based service specifically for hiding details of people who want to remain anonymous.
It’s not hard to see whoever is behind it is well and truly on the side of the Coalition state government. As Crikey noted:
Spring St abuzz with Twitter mole. Who’s the Spring Street source? That’s the buzz in the halls of Parliament House in Melbourne, where a certain twit is dishing dirt, spitting at the Labor Party and attracting legal threats and plenty of attention. The anonymous @SpringStSource popped up around the time Denis Napthine took the premiership. It seems mostly designed to smear Labor, but has dropped some interesting tid-bits and there’s talk lawyers have looked over it on behalf of some victims.
Sunday’s announcement of $100 odd million of PT upgrades as part of the East West Link project made me think it was worthy of a graph comparing the investment.
— Daniel Bowen (@danielbowen) February 9, 2014
This didn’t sit well with Defender Of The Crown SpringStSource.
— #SpringSt Source (@SpringStSource) February 9, 2014
I think he/she has missed my point.
It’s not about where the money comes from; it’s about how much there is.
As I wrote last year: if we want more people to drive, building more roads is the way to do it. If we want more people to use public transport, provide more of that instead.
Where the money comes from is also important, mind you. $1.8 billion will come from the State; another $1.5 billion will come from the Feds. The rest is likely to come from private enterprise, but will still don’t know how much taxpayers and road users will end up paying over the life of the contract…
But for all that, I’m really interested in the amount invested in the infrastructure, not what people might end up paying in tolls as the private operator tries to make its money back.
Following a bit more argy-bargy on Twitter, Mr/Ms Spring St Source responded on their blog, with a post that catalogues all the public transport spending they could find from the last few years: Bowen get real
I especially like the way this person who posts anonymously, and covers their tracks to stop their identity being revealed, and consistently takes a pro-Coalition line, concludes by talking about trust.
My response: comparing investment on transport network expansion
Much of the spending listed by SpringStSource is well outside Melbourne, or has no real effect on key issues such as network capacity. And s/he doesn’t count the numerous basic road widenings and renewals done constantly by VicRoads and councils, but does include equivalent things such as station upgrades.
Comparing apples and oranges is difficult, of course. For example a freeway is almost all capital expenditure; you can’t treat a railway like that — nobody will use it unless a fleet is provided and services are run.
What I’m trying to measure is how much the government is increasing large-scale capacity in the transport system, and whether they are prioritising roads or PT. So to keep it simple, I’ve cut my comparison down to just this:
Freeway/motorway projects (eg those that markedly increase road capacity, enabling mass movement by motor vehicle)
rail projects (eg those that enable or increase mass movement of people by public transport).
In other words, for the purposes of this exercise, ignore stuff like minor roads, re-surfacing of existing roads, and major renewal works which don’t increase capacity (such as the $32m for maintenance on the Westgate bridge in the last budget). Also ignore new bus routes, trams, and railway line renewal/maintenance.
Do include the big stuff: motorway widening and extensions, new motorways, new railways and stations, rail duplications and signal upgrades which may increase capacity, station upgrades that increase the number of platforms, as well as packages which include elements that increase capacity — for instance the $100m Bayside Rail Improvements package — even though so far the only visible signs from this are repainting of stations from one shade of grey to another.
Some other points/caveats:
- I’ve decided to try and catalogue projects funded from 2005 onwards (so some projects funded earlier but completed later are excluded). 2005-2010 is Labor; 2011-2013 is Coalition. To directly compare them, halve the Labor totals.
- In a couple of cases, Regional Rail Link and the M80 ring road widening, some funding came through in the Labor years, some under the Coalition. In cases like that, both (state) sides get credit for getting the money through, for facilitating it, even if it came from the Federal government.
- They’ve been left out, but trams and buses can under some circumstances come close to heavy rail (or indeed freeway)-like capacity. Same with high-capacity “bus rapid transit” of the type seen in cities like Curitaba, and closer to home, Brisbane, or indeed the Monash University 601.
- You could include grade-separation, as it may enable extra trains… but this only really happens when all the level crossings in a section have been removed. And the biggest capacity benefit is to road users (including pedestrians, cyclists, bus and tram passengers mind you). I’ve left them out.
- Station upgrades (without extra platforms) may increase capacity a little. The North Melbourne upgrade was designed to improve interchange between trains, thus assisting in running Werribee trains direct to Flinders Street, increasing overall network capacity. But often (especially when done as part of grade separation) the effect on passenger or train throughput is minimal, so I’ve left them out unless they specifically provided extra platforms.
- One could argue that painting a station or deploying PSOs makes a difference to patronage. But there’s little specific evidence of this, so I’ll leave those out too.
- I am including the full cost of EW Link (stage 1) here, because it’s basically been announced, even though the contracts aren’t in place yet, so the money hasn’t yet started flowing. But the intent to push it through this year clearly been stated though.
- Public transport service provision makes a huge difference to network capacity, but is far too hard to track by dollars. Tracking by service kilometres is far easier.
- I’ve included rail studies where specifically budgeted, though I wonder if anything will ever come from them.
- Obviously the Coalition may announce other project funding in this year’s budget in May.
- Since I don’t have a team of party minions to help compile figures, and I’ve had a very busy week, I may have missed something. Leave a comment below.
So, motorway capacity/coverage vs heavy rail capacity/coverage funded 2005-2013 (all figures in millions of dollars):
|Labor funding 2005-2010|
|Clifton Hill-Westgarth duplication||2005||$53||Deer Park Bypass||2005||$331|
|Coolaroo Station||2007||$36||Pakenham bypass||2005||$242|
|Laverton Turnback||2008||$93||M1 upgrade||2006||$1,390|
|Westall upgrade||2008||$153||M80 ring road widening||2009||$1,725|
|Craigieburn stabling||2008||$30||Dingley Arterial||2009||$75|
|Williams Landing, Cardinia Road, Lynbrook (Caroline Springs)||2009||$189||Calder Fwy/Kings Road||2009||$25|
|Rail capacity measures||2009||$132||PeninsulaLink||2009||$759|
|South Morang extension (incl Hurstbridge)||2009||$562|
|38 new trains||2009||$651|
|Regional Rail Link||2010||$4,300|
|Coalition funding 2011-2013|
|Regional Rail Link||$500||Dingley Bypass||2011-12||$156|
|Extra 7 trains, stabling etc||2011||$222||M80 ring road widening||2013||$525|
|Doncaster, Rowville, Airport rail studies||2011||$15||Westgate managed motorway||$25|
|Metro rail tunnel planning||2011||$50||EastWest Link stage 1||$8,000|
|Extra 8 trains, stabling, etc||2013||$177|
|High capacity trial||2013||$5|
|Bayside Rail Improvements||2013||$100|
- Heavy rail: $7,700 million
- Motorways: $13,403 million
My conclusion from looking at the figures: From 2005 when they finally caught on that PT was important, Labor was relatively balanced in new spending on major capacity boosts to public transport and roads. The Coalition did the same in its first couple of years, both sides helped in no small part by the Regional Rail Link project, which is the biggest thing in Melbourne PT for many decades.
This balance has been blown out of the water by the East West Link. The Coalition government now seems obsessed with this one project, and it alone skews the money balance heavily in favour of road capacity.
Did I miss something?
Disagree with my methodology? Leave a comment.
If I’ve missed anything, or mis-attributed it? It’s possible. Leave a comment.
- Older comparisons: PTUA 2006, PTUA 2008
- Dollar for dollar, which is more efficient at moving people? Rail tunnel and road tunnel compared
- Incorrectly counted part of PeninsulaLink twice under Labor. Removed.
- Not unexpectedly, SpringStSource doesn’t agree with the methodology of including money from Federal or private sources, even where facilitated/sought by the state government
- 18/2/2014 — SpringStSource has published a follow up blog post: Bowen get your facts straight
- 6/3/2014 — The state government announced a big $2-2.5 billion investment in the Dandenong line, which more than double’s the Coalition’s heavy rail total, up to around $3,068 million