Large congestion busting public transport projects like the Moreton Bay Rail Link will become rarer in coming years thanks to Tony Abbott’s stubborn refusal to invest in public transport.
While the $1.5 billion project will take thousands of cars off Brisbane roads when it opens in 2016, the project was made possible only because the former Labor Federal Government partnered with the former Queensland Labor Government and Moreton Bay Regional Council to provide the funding.
However, since taking office, Tony Abbott has cancelled all commonwealth investment in public transport and is instead spending the money on toll roads.
The Moreton Bay Rail Link is happening in spite of Mr Abbott, who was unable to kill off the project when he was elected in 2013 because construction had already begun.
This and Mr Abbott’s $159 million cut in the project’s funding in the 2014 Budget highlight the inaccuracy of claims by the Newman and Abbott governments that the Coalition delivered the Moreton Bay Rail Link, which was first promised in 1895.
The project was devised and funded by Labor Governments and championed by Labor MPs like Yvette D’Ath.
Australia needs more urban rail projects to counter worsening traffic congestion caused by urban sprawl and changes in the locations of employment growth.
Traditionally jobs growth has been at its strongest in the outer suburbs of our cities, where workers could also find affordable housing.
But a recent shift in jobs growth back to knowledge intense jobs in inner suburbs of cities means many Australians now live in drive-in, drive-out suburbs where they can afford housing but where there are few jobs.
These workers face increasingly long commuting trips to work each day, robbing them of time with their families.
It is critical that all governments work together to counter this trend.
But the Federal Coalition’s refusal to invest in public transport, including its cancellation of Brisbane’s Cross River Rail project, will leave cash-strapped states unable to deliver first-rate projects on their own.
Labor’s Moreton Bay Rail Link is the perfect example of the value of careful investment in public transport because it will give residents in Brisbane’s fast-growing northern suburbs the opportunity to leave their cars at home and use public transport.
One full passenger train can take literally hundreds of cars off the road.
However, other communities will be denied such projects because of Mr Abbott’s intransigence and Campbell Newman’s indifference.