Feds should fix public transport, say industry experts

By: Graham Gardiner

With congestion costing more than $10 billion a year, passenger transport groups last night presented an action plan to fix

With congestion costing more than $10 billion a year, passenger transport groups last night presented an action plan to fix Australia’s passenger transport networks to Federal Transport Minister Anthony Albanese.

Moving People – Solutions for a Growing Australia is an action plan developed by the Australasian Railways Association (RA), International Association for Public Transport (IAPT) and the Bus Industry Confederation (BIC), the three major bodies representing passenger transport in Australia.

Co-author of the plan Professor Stanley, from the University of Sydney’s Institute of Transport and Logistics Studies, says only leadership by the Federal Government can achieve the massive change needed to reverse the deterioration of Australia’s land transport systems.

The plan identifies seven key actions the federal and state governments and industry can put into practice to start improving passenger and land transport in Australia, including improving freight capacity, investing in public transport, improving the fuel efficiency of cars and reform of road pricing and taxation.

Stanley says business as usual is no longer an option.

"Greenhouse gas emissions in our major cities are 2-3 times higher than London and rising, congestion is choking our economy and the overcrowding on our public transport systems is as much a symptom of road congestion as traffic snarls," he says.

"We believe state-based land passenger transport policies have failed and this action plan outlines what we believe should be the role of all levels of government, including the Federal Government, in delivering passenger transport that not only meets existing demand, but also provides solutions to the growing problems of congestion and pollution in our cities.

ARA CEO Bryan Nye says the recent announcement from Prime Minister Kevin Rudd about changes to the health system opens the door for some clear thinking about the role of the Federal Government in land transport.

"If we are going to move to a national model for our health system we also need to take a serious look at the role the Federal Government should play in overseeing the way Australians utilise transport," he says.

"Our mobility connects us to our jobs, our services and to our society. The Federal Government can no longer say public transport is a state responsibility. We need to move to a more co-operative approach in developing infrastructure and offering mobility options for all Australians be they rail, bus or car.

"We have a national freight strategy and now we are calling for a parallel moving people strategy to be developed by the Federal Government."

Professor Graham Currie, Chair of Public Transport at Monash University, adds that significant investment and leadership from the Federal Government is needed to guarantee the future prosperity of our cities.

"Australian cities have neglected ageing urban bus and rail infrastructure for decades and now face major challenges in upgrading services while overcrowding problems are growing," he says.

"The answer from worldwide experience is investment in quality infrastructure and services to 'future proof' our cities from the challenges of climate change, oil dependence, an ageing population, population growth and growing urban traffic congestion."

BIC Executive Director Michael Apps says the visit of Indonesian President Yudhyono is a timely reminder of the problems ahead for Australia if no steps are taken to fix problems in passenger transport.

"In terms of traffic what we don’t want is Melbourne turning into the Jakarta of Australia where more than 1,500 new vehicles hit the road every day and this is with 50 percent of trips in that city being taken on bus; imagine what Melbourne will be like with a population of 7 million if only 20 percent of people use public transport," he says.

"What we’re calling for is the Federal Government to take the lead in ensuring the quality of our transport networks is retained and developed in a coordinated and concerted manner now and into the future."

Peter Moore, Executive Director of the International Public Transport Association, a Brussels-based group with branches across the world, says after steps have been taken to fix public transport systems, a thorough examination of congestion charging in our major cities would be essential in reforming the system.

"First we need better public transport systems and then we need a more accurate road pricing system which reflects the real costs of road travel, including congestion, health costs, air and noise pollution.

"We think that this new system should include congestion charging after a full investigation into where it would apply and how the system would work in Australia," he says.

Copies of the report are available at www.ozebus.com.au or at www.ara.asn.au.

For a detailed story on the report see the March edition of ABC magazine, out soon. Visit the subscribe page, email us see the Contact Us page or call 136 116 to subscribe.

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