Call for action on transport funding review

By: Jason Whittaker

The Australian Greens Party is concerned a new report on public transport funding, tabled in the Senate last week, may

The Australian Greens Party is concerned a new report on public transport funding, tabled in the Senate last week, may sit on a shelf unnoticed as governments continue to build "obsolete infrastructure for an age that has passed".

The Greens' warning is supported by the Rail, Tram and Bus Union (RTBU), which says a national public transport coordination authority is needed to drive better standards in the delivery of public transport services across the country.

Greens Senator Scott Ludlam says the report on the Senate inquiry into public transport recognises a multitude of reasons why public transport is vital, but is in danger of joining "the many other [reports] in the recent past to have made similar recommendations".

"I hope that this report will play a role in focusing Government attention on the urgent need for a systematic re-prioritising of transport funding," he says.

In the 30 years to 2004 the Commonwealth spent $58 billion dollars on roads, $2.2 billion on rail, and just $1.5 billion on public transport.

Trips made using public transport increased by 14.7 percent from 2004 to 2008 in the eight capital cities.

"The emphasis is now swinging back to public transport, but we have five decades of catch-up ahead of us," Ludlam says.

The report recommends that any commonwealth funds made available for public transport be allocated to States and Territories with integrated, well planned transport plans.

"This is a shot across the bows for some states to urgently reassess their attitudes to public transport," Ludlam says.

"There won't be any blank cheques – only states with coherent public transport plans and proposals will benefit.

"States that retain outdated planning policies favouring freeways over public transport will miss out."

Acting RTBU National Secretary Phillip Kessey today called for the creation of a national body following the release of the Senate Report into government investment in public transport infrastructure and services.

Kessey welcomed the report's findings on public transport infrastructure funding and reform, but warned that its recommendations didn’t go far enough.

"Australia is one of the few developed countries in the world where the central government has no formal role in planning, funding and maintaining public transport," he says.

"The public is frustrated by the ad-hoc approach to public transport planning which has delivered poor priorities, poor investment decisions and poor outcomes.

"The proof is in the pudding. Roads are clogged and public transport networks are bursting at the seams because of an approach to public transport planning that has reached its use-by date."

Kessey says public transport is now a national issue and could no longer be seen as a State and Territory responsibility.

"The cost of congestion on our roads was around $9.5 billion in 2005, while countless international studies have shown that poor transport planning can be a barrier to employment and education," he says.

"These are not just State issues, they are serious issues for the Federal Government with its ultimate responsibility for the economy and employment."

He says Infrastructure Australia has already expressed the view that public transport is not administered and managed in Australian cities as well as in cities overseas.

"The Federal Government has emphasised that it will invest more funds into public transport in the future, but money is not the only answer," Kessey says.

"A national authority which encourages cooperation and communication between all State Governments and agencies will ensure national standards are developed, services are delivered effectively and infrastructure funding is spent wisely."

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