Tuesday, December 01, 2009

We need funding and improved infrastructure for public transport

After several decades of neglect, Melbourne's public transport system is now running at capacity and old infrastructure is failing. Some examples of this are:
  • Wooden sleepers still abound - many over 60 years old
  • Trains fail when it is "too wet" and "too hot"
  • The old Hitachi trains are clapped out and have very high failure rates
  • No new suburban railway lines have been built since the Glen Waverley line in 1930
  • The signal system is ancient - and apparently so arcane hardly anyone knows how to maintain or replace it
  • No double decker trains are in use - despite one being trialled for a couple of years on the Belgrave line - apparently successfully. I caught it and it worked fine.
  • Trains don't have enough route information in them. The tiny maps are hard to locate, difficult to read, and only coloured according to zones (not lines).
  • The maps of tram routes are almost impossible to decipher. They are all in yellow and the numbers that designate routes are very small and hard to find.
So what have successive governments done?

Both Labor and Liberal governments have taken a "spend as little as possible" approach, regarding public transport as a burden to provide and adminster.

Jeff Kennett privatised it, with glowing promises of improvements and greater efficiency. None resulted, and the various operators morphed into single operators for train, tram and bus.

The Bracks (then Brumby) government did not reverse the privatisation, despite its obvious failure to deliver benefits. The Brumby government renewed the licences of operators, then this year change the companies that "operate" both the tram and train networks.

This is just changing the lipstick on the pig. Now millions will be spent on rebranding and new uniforms. This money would be better spent in improving and renewing infrastructure.

The train operator is even called "Metro", so now apparently we have a "metro" in name only - when the city really needs a decent new metro and more outer suburban lines.

We have a new behemoth Southern Cross Station, which also does nothing to improve train services.

The 8 billion dollar tunnel project to connect Footscray with Caulfield has gone very quiet; presumably it will have a slow and quiet death. Its benefits are dubious in any case, and it is not a metro project, despite government spin suggesting that it is. Heavy underground rail is not a metro.

The Liberal opposition criticises the Brumby government but refuses to commit to any increased expenditure as well. If the Brumby government gets turfed out - as they may - the Liberals would continue on in the same vein.

Please consider writing to your local MP on this issue. It seems they really don't care. It is up to us to make them care, and the city of Melbourne and its inhabitants (including car drivers) will all benefit if they do improve public transport.

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