May 21, 2014

Melbourne deserves first-rate transport

Tony Abbott has slammed the brakes on productivity and jobs growth in Melbourne by scrapping $3 billion in funding for the Melbourne Metro project.

Mr Abbott’s ill-advised cut is behind the Napthine Government’s recent decision to redraw the Metro project into a second-rate option that does not even go through Melbourne’s central business district.

It also ignores the advice of Infrastructure Australia, which last year rated the original, Commonwealth-backed Metro proposal number one on its list of Victorian infrastructure projects in terms of its ability to deliver productivity gains.

Traffic congestion in Melbourne and other Australian cities inhibits productivity growth.

All levels of government should carefully invest in integrated transport systems including roads and rail.

But Mr Abbott has walked away from billions of dollars of Commonwealth investment in urban rail around the nation, purely because of his bizarre prejudice against investing in public transport.

Melbourne is a first-rate city and deserves better than a second-rate transport system.

Mr Abbott’s only Budget contribution to easing Melbourne’s traffic congestion was his investment in the East-West Link road project, which has not been the subject of a final business case despite Mr Abbott’s pre-election promise of a rigorous cost-benefit analysis for any project worth more than $100 million.

On its 2013 Infrastructure Priority list, Infrastructure Australia rated the East-West Link a lower priority than the Metro, noting that it was in “the initial stages of development’’.

Labor supports investment in roads as well as rail projects – provided they are independently assessed and found to have the potential to boost productivity.

Mr Abbott might not like public transport, but the Australian Bureau of Statistics says more than one million Melbourne residents use it at least once a month, including half a million people who use it at least three times a week to go to work or to the footy on weekends.

And the Bureau of Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Economics has forecast ongoing annual growth in public transport use that will lift demand for public transport by one third between now and 2030.

Mr Abbott is letting Melbourne down.

He is more interested in cuts and ideology than in ensuring Melbourne has a transport system fit for the 21st century.