Nov 19, 2014

Walls closing in in Abbott over public transport

The walls are closing in on Tony Abbott over his absurd refusal to invest in public transport with new evidence questioning his decision to fund Melbourne’s proposed East-West Link road project instead of the superior Melbourne Metro train project.

Victoria’s Labor Opposition has obtained advice from senior Victorian Government transport planners urging Premier Denis Napthine to fund the Melbourne Metro instead of the East-West Link because it would do more to lift the state’s productivity.

Their advice is consistent with that given to Mr Abbott by the independent experts at infrastructure Australia.

But Mr Abbott has ignored the experts and scrapped all commonwealth funding for public transport that was not the subject of contracts.

He has diverted money allocated by the former Labor Federal Government for the Melbourne Metro to the East-West Link despite not having seen a cost-benefit analysis for the project.

Mr Abbott’s $1.5 billion advance payment to Dr Napthine, paid in June, included $1 billion for Stage II of the project, which is not even due to start until 2016 at the earliest.

News that Victorian bureaucrats favoured the Melbourne Metro ahead of the East-West Link comes just a day after the Tourism and Transport Forum called for commonwealth investment in public transport to ease traffic congestion and boost economic productivity.

Only last week the Australasian Railways Association made a similar call.

Mr Abbott is becoming increasingly isolated in his roads-only approach, which he summed up in his 2009 political manifesto Battlelines.

In that book Mr Abbott wrote:

Mostly there just aren’t enough people wanting to go from a particular place to a particular destination and a particular time to justify any vehicle larger than a car and cars need roads.

It is time Mr Abbott stepped into the 21st century.

Australia’s cities are under increasing pressure from traffic congestion, which is becoming worse as jobs growth shifts to inner suburbs of our cities – well away from the drive-in, drive-out suburbs where millions of Australians live.

Labor believes part of the answer to this phenomenon is investment from all levels of government in properly integrated transport systems that include both road and rail.

Anyone who believes he can solve traffic congestion simply by building new toll roads is kidding himself.