QLD BUDGET 09-10: Bligh turns to buses to rescue economy

By: Graham Gardiner

Queensland’s bus and coach sector will receive a significant boost next financial year, as the Bligh Government turns to public

Queensland’s bus and coach sector will receive a significant boost next financial year, as the Bligh Government turns to public transport to rescue the State’s economy from the global financial crisis.

In handing down the Budget today, Treasurer Andrew Fraser announced a wave of new public transport funding initiatives designed to meet patronage demand and lay the groundwork for economic recovery.

The Government will spend $3.6 billion on transport as part of an $18.2 billion infrastructure investment, as the Sunshine State faces raising debt levels and deficits for eight years.

Despite dire economic conditions — Queensland faces an almost $2 billion deficit next year — Fraser says it is vital the Government continues to invest in transport.

He- says the spending will help meet Queensland’s growing population levels, while also "building the infrastructure that will see Queensland ride out of the economic recession in a position of strength".

"A growing population means more traffic — we need better roads and a more efficient public transport network," Fraser says.

The busway projects will receive a combined $367 million, with $171.8 million going to the Northern Busway, while the Eastern Busway will receive $176 million.

Another $1.2 billion will be pumped into TransLink for public transport in South East Queensland, as patronage levels put pressure on the State’s public transport system.

"This investment comes as patronage continues to climb on South East Queensland’s public transport network, which has seen growth of almost 50 percent since 2004," Minister for Transport Rachel Nolan says.

Regional areas will receive $162.7 million, with Nolan saying the funds will help the long-distance coach sector improve services.

From mid-2010, the Government has also committed to upgrading the State’s school bus fleet, providing an additional $28.4 million in funding over three years.

"These additional funds will extend the current program of replacement of an ageing Queensland school bus fleet with newer rollover compliant vehicles," Budget papers reveal.

An extra $14 million will be allocated to anti-congestion initiatives over four years, with $2.5 million being spent on new articulated passenger buses capable of carrying 180 passengers on the South-East Busway.

Funding has also been set aside for the Gold Coast rapid transit system, after the Bligh Government received federal funding earlier this year for the project.

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