Nov 18, 2014

Abbott isolated on public transport

A new report by the Tourism and Transport Forum has highlighted the folly of Tony Abbott’s refusal to invest in public transport, warning it is costing the nation in lost economic productivity.

The report – Better Public Transport – Better Productivity – calls for all levels of government to invest in public transport if the nation is to make the best of its economic opportunities.

The report analyses Sydney’s Epping-Chatswood Rail Link and finds jobs and economic growth grew substantially because of the project.

This highlights the absurdity of the NSW Coalition Government’s refusal to fund the Parramatta-Epping Rail Link, which would have given the people of western Sydney greater access to high-value jobs as well as taking pressure off the main Western Line.

This was despite the fact that the Federal Labor Government had budgeted to provide 80 per cent of the funding for the project in agreement with the former Keneally NSW Labor Government.

Arguing that governments should invest in whatever infrastructure best meets the nation’s challenges, the TTF report says the growth in Australia’s services sector means its current challenges include the mobility of its people to and from work.

Improved public transport must be seen as an essential part of national efforts to boost economic productivity and should receive the same level of commitment from all levels of government, including the commonwealth, as other transport-related infrastructure projects.

Better Public Transport – Better Productivity

Since taking office, Mr Abbott has stubbornly refused to fund any infrastructure projects other than new toll roads.

He has scrapped commonwealth investment in urban rail projects including the Melbourne Metro and Brisbane’s Cross River Rail project, both of which had been the subject of robust cost-benefit analysis proving they would deliver value for money.

Mr Abbott diverted the public transport investment allocated by the former Labor Government to build new toll roads including Melbourne’s East-West Link and Sydney’s Westconnex project – neither of which have been the subject of proper cost-benefit analysis.

The TTF report, prepared by PwC Australia, calls for governments to be “modally neutral’’ in investment decisions, echoing Labor’s long-running call for Mr Abbott to abandon his archaic  prejudice against public transport.

In his book Battlelines, Mr Abbott wrote: “Mostly there just aren’t enough people wanting to go from a particular place to a particular destination at a particular time to justify any vehicle larger than a car and cars need roads’’.

The problem is not that Tony Abbott lives in the past, it’s that he wants the rest of Australia to go back there to keep him company.

He needs to get over this weird hang-up and join the TTF, Labor, the business sector and the rest of the country in recognising that public transport is central to any serious attack on traffic congestion.

This is particularly important in 2014 because jobs growth is shifting from its traditional outer suburban base to the inner suburbs of cities in the thriving services sector.

This means many Australians are now living in drive-in, drive-out suburbs where they can afford a home but where there are no jobs and face increasingly long journeys on congested roads.