May 14, 2014

Abbott scraps public transport investment

Tony Abbott has confirmed his complete contempt for public transport by axing more than $4 billion worth of investments in better urban rail services across the nation in last night’s Budget.

His short-sighted decision to instead spend exclusively on roads will deny the people of Brisbane, Melbourne, Perth, Adelaide and Hobart urban rail investments which were carefully designed to reduce traffic congestion, boost economic productivity and create jobs.

Projects funded by the previous Labor Government and dumped in the Budget included:

  • The Melbourne Metro ($3 billion)
  • Brisbane’s Cross-River Rail Project ($715 million)
  • Perth Airport rail line and light rail ($500 million)
  • Adelaide’s Tonsley Park public transport project ($31 million)
  • Hobart (200,000 study into light rail)

Mr Abbott does not like public transport, as he outlined in his 2009 book Battlelines, in which he argued:

“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.”

This absurd and out-of-touch generalisation ignores the fact that hundreds of thousands of Australians rely on public transport every day.

The Government is also oblivious to the widely accepted fact that any serious effort to reduce traffic congestion requires an integrated strategy to invest in roads and rail.

In refusing to invest in urban rail because of his bizarre aversion to public transport, Mr Abbott will worsen traffic congestion, thereby smashing productivity growth in our nation’s big cities.

In Parliament yesterday, Mr Abbott said his focus on roads would allow states to spend on urban rail.

But he knows they won’t. In its Budget last week the Victorian Government dumped the earlier proposed design of the Melbourne Metro in favour of a second-rate alternative because it knew it could not rely on support from Mr Abbott.

The new proposed Metro does not even go through the Melbourne CBD, proof that Mr Abbott’s decision to vacate the public transport field will deliver second-rate transport options across the nation.

The WA Budget last Friday abandoned public transport initiatives in anticipation of the $500 million cut in the Federal Budget.

While Mr Abbott has refused to invest in public transport, he is making the only alternative – private care use – more expensive by slugging motorists with a $2.2 billion petrol tax.

Not only is Mr Abbott denying Australians better urban rail services – he wants to slug them with higher fuel prices on the roads they will be forced to use instead.