Jan 8, 2014

Abbott wrong on urban public transport

The Commonwealth’s independent expert adviser on infrastructure has rejected Tony Abbott’s hands-off approach to urban public transport, calling for greater integration of road and passenger rail to reduce traffic congestion.

While the Prime Minister wants to focus on roads and leave states to fund urban passenger rail, a recently released report by Infrastructure Australia argues that any discussion about urban transport must consider roads and public transport together.

This is a sensible approach. But Mr Abbott refuses to invest in public transport.

The IA report makes clear policy makers need to be more flexible.

The Office of the National Infrastructure Coordinator believes it is critical that any discussion on urban transport needs to consider roads and public transport together, since greater use of one may result in less use of the other and funds allocated to one are not able to be allocated to the other.

Infrastructure Australia, Urban transport Strategy, page 5 

The previous Labor Government delivered record funding for urban public transport while also doubling spending on roads.

But since taking office Mr Abbott has scrapped plans for federal investment in major public transport projects like Brisbane’s proposed Cross River Rail project, the Melbourne Metro, Adelaide’s Tonsley line upgrade and passenger rail projects in Perth.

This approach is a recipe for worsening traffic congestion.

Investing only in roads and ignoring urban public transport will ensure commuters spend more time in their cars travelling to and from work than they do at home with their kids.

Better public transport not only improves our quality of life, but if more commuters use trains there will be more room on roads for the efficient movement of freight.

It is critical that Mr Abbott work with states to ensure scarce public resources are invested in forms of transport than do the most to boost national productivity.

Infrastructure Australia’s report can be found at:

http://www.infrastructureaustralia.gov.au/publications/files/Urban_Transport_Strategy_Paper_FINAL.pdf