Tony Abbott is becoming increasingly isolated in claiming he can tackle traffic congestion in our cities without investing in public transport, with his position under heavy attack from the rail industry.
The criticism comes as new figures show Federal Government investment in rail will collapse by 80 per cent by 2017-18 – putting the lie to Mr Abbott’s self-proclaimed support for infrastructure investment.
Since taking office Mr Abbott has withdrawn billions of dollars of investment allocated by the former Labor Government to improve railway services in our cities, dumping important projects like the Melbourne Metro and Brisbane’s Cross River Rail project.
He is instead pouring that money into new toll roads including Melbourne’s East-West Link and Sydney’s Westconnex project, despite neither having been subject to proper cost-benefit analysis to determine whether they represent value for public money.
The folly of Mr Abbott’s approach has now been recognized by the Australasian Railways Association, which released a document yesterday noting that, compared to Labor’s 2013-14 investment in rail, Mr Abbott’s paltry $319 million investment in 2017-18 represents an 80 percent decline.
What is a greater indictment is that investment in urban passenger rail falls to zero in that and future years.
Just think about that.
The ARA document – Australia’s Rail Industry – also condemns Mr Abbott’s roads-only approach to infrastructure investment, noting other governments around the world invest in public transport.
Australia’s Federal Government has a key role to play in both setting polices and providing funding for public transport and rail infrastructure.
Relying on state governments to pick up the pieces will not stand the test of time.
If our nation wants an effective, properly integrated transport system that tackles traffic congestion and delivers productivity gains for our entire economy, the Commonwealth must invest in urban rail.
Under the Abbott government, investment in all types of rail is about to fall off a cliff.
As I outlined at today’s ARA Ausrail conference in Perth, Labor believes in investing in both roads and rail.
A shift in locations of jobs growth from outer suburbs of our cities in manufacturing and retailing to inner-suburban-based industries like financial services means many Australians now live in drive-in, drive-out suburbs where they live but where there are no jobs.
Tragically, many working parents spend more time commuting than they spend with their children.
You don’t need to be a Rhodes Scholar to work out that better public transport, funded together by the commonwealth and the states, is central to the solution to this serious problem.
But Mr Abbott has gone missing.
Despite all of his dodgy claims about infrastructure investment, Mr Abbott will go down in history as the anti-public transport prime minster.
Anyone who thinks he is delivering the infrastructure of the 21st century simply by building new toll roads is kidding himself.
Link to ARA report: http://bit.ly/1B4tRMS
Leader of the Australian Labor Party, MP for Grayndler, Rabbitohs Life Member. Authorised by Anthony Albanese, ALP, Canberra.