EDITORIAL: Fuel pain could be a blessing for public transport

By: Chris Smith

While freight cost and food prices soar due to higher fuel prices, the bus industry is boosted by greater patronage

While freight cost and food prices soar due to higher fuel prices, the bus industry is boosted by greater patronage and more exposure as a crucial service.

The greater need for public transport unfortunately highlights the stereotypical over-crowding, unreliable service and inconvenience of users on some networks which can’t adapt quickly enough to the sudden patronage surge.

This is negative media which needs to be combated and reversed into positive spin.

The big issue is finding enough resources including busses, drivers and rolling stock to cope with the hordes of commuters opting out of cars and onto public transport.

As a colleague wrote in a sister publication, enough is enough. It’s time to get real about fuel prices and how they are affecting society.

Managing Editor of Australia’s premier supply chain and transportation tittles Supply Chain Review (SCR) and Australasian Transport News (ATN), Jason Whittaker, says it’s time the media moved on from its obsession with ‘fuel pain’ on middle Australia.

"Not a day goes by when some analyst is guessing the future price of oil, and some economist is calculating the growing squeeze on families," he says.

"It’s time populist governments stopped pandering to ‘working families’ by appointing watchdog commissioners and price monitoring agencies that, Mr Rudd, in reality will do little.

"It’s time even more shamelessly populist oppositions stopped promising cuts in excise that, as prices continue to escalate Mr Nelson, will have almost no tangible impact on family budgets.

"It’s time, frankly, we all stopped whinging about the cost of fuel. Because there’s absolutely nothing anyone can do about it."

His comments are in line with the higher fuel prices impacting on average Australians through higher transportation costs.

But, the point is, it is time to evaluate the issues and look at real solutions.

The price of diesel, like that of petrol and every other oil-based product, will continue to rise. Thanks to skyrocketing transport costs most goods and services will rise in price.

Predictions about oil reaching $200 per barrel (it’s already well above $130) are more about when rather than if.

The concept of peak oil is becoming more than a theory, it is becoming a reality. Whether this is because of the theory infiltrating the oil futures market or a fact is anyone’s guess.

Simply put, the markets have created a situation where there isn’t enough supply of fuel to satisfy the demand.

The bus industry has been a champion in finding alternatives for years with more efficient engines, alternative fuels and hybrid technology as well as buses being a way to reduce the overall carbon footprint and reduce fuel usage by taking up to 70 cars off the road at a time.

Looking at the silver lining oil cost is a blessing to the industry and it is time for suppliers, operators and associations to show the positives of investing in public transport.

The secret is to convince society public transport should be a greater part of their lives at the expense of private cars.

It’s time to spruik transport oriented developments (TODs), dedicated busways, bus lanes, greater public transport infrastructure and push for better contracts with newer, more comfortable, vehicles.

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