Please note that as always, the views expressed on my blog are my own, and are not necessarily a PTUA position.
The state election’s about six weeks away.
The Opposition has been criticised for not having a transport policy, but it’s important to note that Labor hasn’t said much about what they’d do, either.
Sure, they’re launching lots of things like new train timetables this week, new Smartbuses last week, and new tram timetables next week. Lots of colour and movement to keep us all distracted.
But I’m generally of the view that judging past performance is of limited use, particularly as the whole debate in PT has moved on from the cost-cutting of the early 90s to the mid 2000s, when both sides sought to minimise investment. (And it should be noted that Kennett in 1999 introduced one of the biggest positive changes — the upgrade of most Sunday tram and train services to Saturday levels).
Yes, Labor has the Victorian Transport Plan, which is a blueprint for further developments. But that doesn’t really count unless the items in it are funded. Until something is funded, it may never happen (eg the Blue Orbital Smartbus in the previous MOTC plan from 2006).
The important thing for voters to know is what would the parties do differently from one another.
There are lots of VTP projects already funded, already underway. Unless we are told different, we must assume that these would happen no matter who gets power: Regional Rail Link, Sunbury electrification, completion of Myki, South Morang rail, 50 new trams and an upgraded tram depot, Bumblebee trams kept, various new outer-suburban stations.
What’s different between the big two parties? Here’s what they’ve announced so far which is not already funded and underway:
The Opposition: Rowville/Monash rail feasibility study; Eltham North station feasibility; armed Protective Service Officers on Metro stations after 6pm; increase transit police numbers; $1 million competition for a plan to renovate Flinders Street (not really a public transport issue per se, as long as whatever’s built doesn’t adversely affect station operation — really a heritage and planning issue)
Labor: Balaclava Station upgrade; increase transit police and Authorised Officer numbers.
(The Greens have a lot more in their policy, but I’m just looking at the big two for now. Let me know if I’ve missed anything.)
So in fact, while the Opposition gets the flak, in fact Labor are also keeping their cards close for now. They’re both pretty light-on for detail in such a key issue, no doubt wanting to avoid being trumped by the other side.
Who’s going to pledge not just South Morang, but Mernda? Who’s going to build Southland Station? Who’s going to duplicate and electrify to Melton? How about 7 day 10 minute trains/trams/Smartbuses? Half-hourly V/Line services? And the next lot of Smartbus routes, for that matter?
Only once we know these answers (and provided one has some confidence in their promises) will people know which side is going to do more in public transport.