The new transport plan

I was a bit busy yesterday. Took a few hours off work to deal with the Transport Plan release — the presentation to stakeholders and skulking around at Treasury Place to talk to media.

In summary? Well although I’m at home today, I’m a bit rushed again, so maybe I’ll just paste in my two hundred words for The Age:

Two-and-a-half years ago, the government issued Meeting Our Transport Challenges, its long-term vision for Melbourne’s transport system.

That document is now in tatters, replaced by the new transport plan. While some communities will welcome new and improved train services, and CBD commuters will see a little relief from overcrowding, for most car-dependent Melburnians who live in bus-only suburbs and rarely travel into the CBD, this plan will make little difference.

Public transport is lacking in many areas but the plan includes funding and studies for more than 100 kilometres of new motorways in the misguided belief that these will relieve traffic congestion.

We had hopes that this plan would bring quality public transport to all of Melbourne, not just those lucky enough to live near tram, train and Smartbus routes. We had hopes that more Melburnians would finally get real transport choices, so they could leave their cars at home. On these points, this plan, like its predecessor, is a failure.

So is it half-baked? Well, yes, unfortunately I think you’d have to say it is. $38 billion to be spent, but for a lot of people in the middle and outer suburbs, it really will make very little difference.

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16 Replies to “The new transport plan”

  1. Whilst I agree with you there Daniel, I think MOTC was far worst; at least this one includes a Sunbury electrification and fast-tracking the South Morang extension: 27 years overdue and now it’s taking shape.

  2. Some interesting analysis at Transport Textbook (http://transporttextbook.com/?p=464) on why exactly South Morang should cost $650m, as well as a letter in The Age today (http://www.theage.com.au/opinion/letters/this-money-will-help-mr-abbott-20081208-6tzj.html).

    One wonders if they’re making the tracks out of gold, or bundling a whole lot of projects into the ‘extension’. Will have to wait for more detail.

    Still, it’s depressing the amount of road projects, especially “Kyoto/green” Rudd fast-tracking the Ring Road expansion.

  3. I still don’t understand how $650 million can be spent extending the Epping railway for 4 km when a new one can be built in Perth, covering over 70 km, for less than three times that price. If that project could be done for less money, and I’m sure it could, then extra could be directed to other lines.

    For example, I suspect that less than $100 million would renovate the line from Lilydale to Healesville, including repairing bridges and re-laying bits of track, and allow the use of diesel shuttle trains on it, drastically improving public transport in that area.

  4. Reuben, the problem with that is that they’re two very small projects – the sort of thing that should be announced in next year’s budget and finished the year after that – they’re not really cause for much fanfare. Besides, South Morang is just un-breaking a broken election promise from 1999, and the costings are ridiculous (South Morang is maybe $30 – 40 million, not $600m which is what they’re now quoting, and Sunbury is costing more to electrify than the new line in Perth cost to build from scratch!).

    There’s zillions being thrown away on projects that aren’t needed.

  5. Reuben, MOTC wasn’t without its merit. It initiated the “minimum” bus standards, without which we’d still have vast areas of Melbourne with no PT at all in the evenings or on Sundays. (That’s not to say they’re in anyway attractive to those with cars, but it’s invaluable for those who don’t.)

    The costing of South Morang (when in fact the line should go to the Urban Growth Boundary at Mernda) is utterly incredible. I hope to find out what carat gold they’re using on the tracks and platforms.

    Cameron, it’s technically a re-opening — the old Whittlesea line closed in 1959. It’s many decades since the last train ran, but that does mean much of the alignment already exists, which should have reduced the price.

    Sunbury electrification is at $270m for 15km (18m per km) — contrast to Sydenham electrification, which cost $44m for 5.4km (8m per km) just a few years ago, and included an extra station (I don’t think Sunbury includes this).

  6. Did I miss when the new housing land was released last week, the rail and bus plans to service them?

    Perhaps the view could be taken that if the PT is really good for inner areas, it will free up the roads for outer areas to commute. I don’t really believe that.

    Many people have suggested many ways that PT in Melbourne could be improved. Much of it would cost little. While I understand media can be hard to get access to if there is not a crisis, does the PTUA have a total transport plan for Melbourne, from the big picture to the fine detail?

    We need something like that to judge the government’s performance on public transport, that is an ideal standard.

  7. There was an ad on TV last night about the transport plan. I just wanted to scream at the bits about extending roads, adding lanes, yada yada yada. This government must have rocks in it’s head.

  8. There is a proposed station at Calder Park which should be included in the project.

    The Sydenham electrification was new two stations because the old station was replaced and partly demolished.

  9. Daniel, I too was alarmed by the cost. Funny that the IPA (who purport to be all cost-efficient and everything) aren’t out there beating walls down in outrage.

    And before I forget, what’s with the “historic reopening’ of the Marystone station (in the country)?

  10. Andrew, there may be planning for it in government circles, but this Plan doesn’t have very much detail at all of that, save for specifying the rail extensions/new stations.

    The PTUA’s most recent Melbourne-wide plan/campaign was Every 10 Minutes to Everywhere — basically trains, trams and main road buses all running every 10 minutes or better all day every day, with targetted investment in rail and tram extensions.

    Reuben, that’s Maryborough. Lost its trains in 1993 under Kennett. Good to see them coming back.

  11. I’m disappointed that the entire plan is about big flashy new rail projects, and all that has been given to buses is “more low floor vehicles” and “more routes in growth areas”. Pathetic.

    Tom, the Maryborough services will run as extensions of existing Ballarat Melb trains. It’ll just be one train a day in either direction – plan your life around it.

    BTW Daniel, the service to Maryborough that Kennett cut was just the old Vinelander to Mildura which stopped in the middle of the night in either direction. It hasn’t had a local service for a while.

  12. With all this talk about Maryborough trains, I’m deafened by the silence over this current government’s policy on Mildura and Leongatha. They come up with all sorts of excuses such as the Koo Wee Rup swamp bridges being too costly to repair, but then happily spent 1 billion + on the ‘slightly faster rail’ project, the highlights of which were singling Bendigo and pulling down the overhead to Warragul

    I hear Cranbourne to Nyora is to become a bike track (rail trail in politically correct talk) and I guess Mildura has been thrown in the too hard basket. The decision to close by the previous government was bad enough but the deception by the current government has been equally bad.

  13. I’m glad Leongatha isn’t being re-opened – what a waste of money that would have been. You could get a MUCH better bus service for the cost of the works just to fix the line, which has a poor alignment.

    And the Warragul de-electrification happened in 1998, during Kennett. It was pointless keeping it up.

  14. Tried the South Gippsland Highway around Korumburra – Leongatha?? also quite windy and not the best for heavy vehicles, including buses. The Strzelecki Ranges do have their limitations. The line alignment argument is also used to aviod the reopening of the Mornington line – another area in need of some rail service closed under Hamer, again about the time that the urban sprawl took off.

    When Kennett closed the line in 1993 there were insufficient buses to cater for passengers initially (loco hauled trains ran on the line), then patronage dropped off. If available, a half decent slot through the suburban network would be better than driving through in increasing urban sprawl that now extends past Cranbourne.

    Yes Warragul de electrification was in 1998 under Kennett but pulled down as as part of the so called ‘upgrade’ in 2004 (Bracks won in 1999 don’t forget) at about the same time people were moving out that way with the Pakenham bypass, etc since taking shape

    The point is the Government can’t just have a rail policy based on ‘Liberals closed lines, we repoen … some of them … eventually’ They did afterall promise to return them in opposition. Its a mandate for snail-paced action that seems to dominate much of the discussion raised on this site. Just look at the South Morang and Cranbourne East Lines extentions promised on a similar basis and now recycled into the current Transport Plan. Hundereds of millions of dollars quoted for short extensions on reservations they already own and in the end, nothing gets done.

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