The folly of the Abbott Government’s refusal to invest in public transport will be underlined today with the opening of congestion-busting Regional Rail Link in Victoria.
The Regional Rail Link, funded by the former Labor federal government and the Victorian State Government, will unscramble rail lines used by Melbourne suburban trains from those used by trains serving regional centres of Ballarat, Bendigo and Geelong.
It will add 54,000 passenger seats per day to Victoria’s train system, reduce commuting time for hundreds of thousands of travellers and save Victoria $300 million a year by reducing traffic congestion.
These outcomes justify the former Labor Government’s decision to invest $3.225 billion in the project – the biggest commonwealth investment in public transport in the nation’s history.
In contrast, the Abbott Government refuses to invest a cent in public transport. Since taking office in 2013 it has invested only in new toll roads and scrapped other great public transport projects like the Melbourne Metro and Brisbane’s Cross River Rail project.
Tony Abbott does not even believe that Australians use public transport.
In his 2009 political manifesto Battlelines he wrote that:
Mostly there just aren’t enough people wanting to go from a particular place to a particular destination at a particular time to justify any vehicle larger than a car and cars need roads.
Despite Mr Abbott’s prejudice against public transport, Infrastructure Minister Warren Truss will attend today’s opening.
As he seeks to elbow in on the celebration, Mr Truss should explain to Australians how he expects to make any impact on the traffic congestion clogging Australian cities without investing in improved public transport.
Mr Truss should also explain why he cut funding that had been allocated in the federal Budget for the Melbourne Metro project.
This and other cuts have resulted in Victoria receiving just 8 per cent of the national infrastructure budget despite representing 25 percent of the population.
The recently completed Infrastructure Australia national infrastructure audit warned that traffic congestion was costing Australia $13 billion a year and that this figure would rise to $53 billion a year by 2031.
This problem is holding back economic growth and creating the tragic situation whereby many Australians spend more time in their cars travelling to and from work than they spend with their children.
Labor believes in investing in an integrated transport system that involves both road and rail.