Monday, March 03, 2008

Solving transport challenges rather than just building roads

I have been perplexed by successive Victorian governments fixation on building roads and freeways and not providing more rail transport. In this regard, the Brumby Labor government is no different from its predecessors.

It seems to me that that both the government and Vicroads have made incorrect assumptions that cars, trucks, roads and freeways will meet most of our transport needs now and for the future.

I wonder if they listen to the radio reports every morning of the congestion and delays on all freeways as increasing numbers of commuters try and get to work along "freeways" blocked with congestion by single occupant cars whose drivers obviously don't believe they have adequate public transport options available to them. 30-minute delays over the last 10 to 15 kilometres are common in the mornings, and very slow speed due to congestion are now chronic over similar distances in the afternoon and early evening.

The government must be aware of this very real problem, yet their answer seems to be "we need more freeways, tunnels and links" - as the Brumby governments terms of reference seem to suggest for the Eddington report - which seems to be focusing on reasons why building an east-west tunnel link between the Eastern and Tullamarine freeways should proceed.

I have just read recent reported comments by Transport Minister Lynn Kosky in this article, including:

"We are working to find ways to meet increasing demand for public transport services," Ms Kosky said.

The Government had just ordered 18 new six-carriage trains that would carry 14,500 more people during peak times — "equivalent to more than 12,000 cars and more than six freeway lanes of capacity".

So they do know that trains are much more efficient than cars for mass transit. They would also know that car transport produces around 8 times more carbon emissions (using dwindling oil reserves) compared with urban rail transport.

However, just buying more trains and trams will not solve the problem for those who don't have easy access to local rail tranport, as this map below illustrates.

Melbourne railways map

We don't have enough train lines. No new heavy rail lines to the suburbs have been built in Melbourne since the Glen Waverly line was completed in 1930, yet there has been massive population growth in south eastern, northern and western suburbs. Whole new suburbs and regions exist with no access to rail transport. No new significant rail lines are planned in Melbourne.

Those that have been planned, and even committed to in the past, such as the Doncaster and Rowville lines, are apparently on hold or shelved. Recent plans to extend the Epping Line to the new sustainable suburb of Aurora have not been delivered.

During this time, freeway constructions include:
  • Eastern freeway (and extension to Springvale Road, following by an extension through to Ringwood and Eastlink)
  • The South eastern freeway - since widened and connected to (and incorporated with) the Monash freeway
  • Monash freeway (and extensions/bypasses to the Princes Highway now past Pakenham)
  • The Western Ring Road
  • Eastlink (about to open) connecting Ringwood with Frankston
  • The Mornington Peninsula freeway (in two sections)
  • The Western freeway
  • The Calder freeway
  • The Tullamarine freeway
  • The Princes freeway to Geelong
  • Citylink connecting the Tullamarine, Monash and West Gate freeway via bridges and two tunnels.
Several interchanges have also been upgraded at great cost. This list is not comprehensive, but it does make clear that activity and funding for roads and freeways has greatly exceeded that for rail over the last seventy years.

Over recent times the government has chosen to spend money on large projects such as the Southern Cross station upgrade, on ticketing systems that don't work properly, and on employing ticket inspectors, none of which have actually provided better, more frequented integrated public transport. One has to question these priorities.

Here are my suggestions for getting urban transport solutions back on track:
  • Set up an new transport authority to evaluate, promote and implement the best transport solutions for sustainability and mass urban transit. This authority should include proper public consultation during their strategy development and planning processes.
  • Ensure funding for public transport is equivalent to or greater than that for roads.
  • Mandate provision of rail or light rail transport and cycle paths with all future freeway road constructions
  • Include carbon emission costing for all transport related infrastructure expenditure.
  • Keep public transport operation or management public. Public ownership and government accountability for service delivery are essential to ensure that public transport is integrated and efficient, rather than just run for "profit" under secret contracts with public subsidies.
  • Build a rail link to Melbourne airport. Thousands of taxies carry travellers to and from Melbourne every day.
  • Investigate options for an inner urban metro system
  • Resurrect and build stalled rail projects such as the Epping line extensions to South Morang and Aurora, the Rowville and Doncaster lines and the Alamein line extension to service Chadstone.
  • Integrate cycle paths with train networks by mandating construction of cycle paths along railway easements and provide for carriage of bicycles on trains.
  • Our politicians should use some of their travel allowance to visit Los Angeles to see how badly an extensive freeway system much bigger than Melbourne's cater to mass transit needs
Like most of the challenges that confront us in the 21st century, it seems the solutions are already available for moving towards sustainable living, but the political will to embrace them is lacking.

As oil reserves diminish our very expensive freeway system could at least end up providing fast and efficient bicycle transport!


Previous posts on transport


Danny Yee said...

Sydney has pretty much the same problems as Melbourne here. Maybe it's time for the Federal government to step in - they fund some of the national highways, after all, and I consider Sydney and Melbourne's public transport problems to be national issues.

Anonymous said...

Yes, it seems many of the transport issues are common to our big cities. Perth has built two new train lines in the last 10 years, and Sydney and Brisbane at least have a train to the ir airports. Several $b of Federal money is given to the States for roads, while none is given for public transport. They should at least be equally funded. Then there is the issue of excessive road and air traffic between Melbourne and Sydney. A very fast train linking Melboure, Canberra and Sydney should be back on the agenda.

Anonymous said...

Danny Yee, we're the only developed nation in the world that deliberately DOES NOT fund public transport at a federal level.

Peter Campbell, it's been a while since I visited your blog - but you should check out my sir Rod Eddington analysis too. I'm glad to see that your blog maintains its high standard of quality and I shall contribute more regularly where possible.

Peter Campbell said...

Thanks, your blog posting on the Connex report is a good one too.

The lack of Federal funding for public transport in Australia really is a disgrace.

I will be posting more analysis on the Eddington Report soon.

Peter Campbell said...

This is the response I received from the Transport Minister's office on 27 June 2008.

Note that none of my suggestions have been addressed directly and that the official line is that the Government's plans for public transport are "on track" and appropriate.

I disagree. No new train lines are planned in the foreseeable future, apart from the Eddington Report train tunnel, which although is a step in the right direction, may not be the most urgent train project priority. Separate posting on the Eddington Report to follow.

-------- Original Message --------
Subject: Public Transport Funding
Date: Fri, 27 Jun 2008 13:52:44 +1000
to: Peter Campbell

Ref: DOI073000

Dear Mr Campbell

Public Transport Funding

Thank you for your email of 3 March 2008 to the Minister for Public Transport regarding public transport funding. I am replying on the Minister’s behalf. I apologise for the delay in responding.

The Government is committed to expanding the role of public transport in Victoria. Public transport is critical to Melbourne being a liveable city and to meeting the future challenges posed by climate change and rising petrol prices.

In May 2006 the Government released Meeting Our Transport Challenges, which outlines a strategy for shaping Victoria’s transport system into the future. The strategy is supported by a $10.5 billion funding package, the largest single transport investment program in Victoria’s history. Two-thirds of the funding is directed towards public transport initiatives aimed at delivering more services, better safety and improved reliability.

At this stage priority is being given to addressing bottlenecks in the existing rail system before considering further extensions to it. The existing system needs significant investment to provide capacity and operational improvements to cater for continuing strong patronage growth.
Meeting Our Transport Challenges concentrates, therefore, on the removal of capacity constraints that exist on the inner parts of the rail network.

Meeting Our Transport Challenges includes a $70 million commitment to extend and improve cycling and walking options. This will enable the Government to continue to develop the Principal Bicycle Network in metropolitan Melbourne and make improvements to cycling routes in regional Victoria.

The East West Link Needs Assessment (EWLNA) conducted by sir Rod Eddington contains several recommendations including an East West rail tunnel and a new road corridor that provides an alternative to the West Gate Bridge.

The report also recommends a major boost to bus services to the Doncaster area. The Government will make its response to the Eddington report later in the year.

Further information is available on the Department of Transport (DOT) website at, under ‘Strategies & Plans’.

If you require further information, please contact Jeff Moran of DOT on telephone (03) 9655 6178.

Yours sincerely


Ray Kinnear
Deputy Director of Public Transport
Business Strategy

27 / 06 / 2008