May 7, 2014

Abbott’s public transport claims off the rails

Tony Abbott’s claim that state governments have enough money to fund better urban rail services has gone off the rails after the Victorian Government was forced to downsize the proposed Melbourne Metro in the absence of any Commonwealth funding.

Since taking office Mr Abbott has refused to invest a cent in urban rail, claiming it is not a Commonwealth responsibility and refusing to honour billions of dollars in public transport investment in the Budget he inherited from Labor.

The consequences of this illogical aversion toward public transport were confirmed in yesterday’s Victorian State Budget, in which the Napthine Government announced a scaled-down Metro rail project vastly inferior to an earlier proposal to which the previous Labor Federal Government had committed funding.

Because Mr Abbott will leave Victoria to go it alone on urban rail, the second-rate Napthine Metro will not even pass through the Melbourne CBD and will not meet the city’s long-term public transport needs.

Tomorrow’s Western Australian Budget will reveal whether the Barnett Government will fill the black hole left by Mr Abbott’s refusal to invest in a much-needed rail link between the Perth CBD and the city’s busy airport.

Labor allocated $500 million toward the project.

Investment in efficient urban public transport boosts economic productivity by easing traffic congestion. And productivity gains deliver jobs and economic growth.

Mr Abbott’s refusal to fund public transport will prevent our nation securing maximum productivity gains by forcing states to deliver second-rate, band-aid solutions that will not meet the public transport needs of the 21st century.

Funding only roads and not rail projects distorts infrastructure investment because it means Mr Abbott will address only part of the urban productivity equation.

If he was fair dinkum about productivity he would be put aside his personal distaste for public transport and invest in properly integrated urban transport solutions that involve both roads and rail.