ELECTION EXCLUSIVE: Action needed, say states

Australia’s bus industry associations give their candid views on Election 2010, pushing for Federal Government action on public transport planning and infrastructure.

ELECTION EXCLUSIVE:  Action needed, say states
<b><font color=red>ELECTION EXCUSIVE: </b></font> Action needed, say states

By David Goeldner | August 20, 2010

A chorus of bus industry associations around Australia are united in their call for an increased Federal Government role in public transport planning and infrastructure.

Here is a state by state round-up of how each association views this Saturday’s Federal election, and what they would like to see in the months ahead.

New South Wales

BusNSW Executive Director Darryl Mellish:

We’ve asked our members to consider the issues of congestion, the environment, social exclusion and energy resources as important election issues.

NSW has not done well with receiving funds from the Federal Government for public transport projects.

The recent release of funds for a rail line from Parramatta to Epping appears to have been done as a pork barrelling exercise.

The fact that this project was not included in any Government transport plan makes it difficult to have confidence in the announcements.

After Saturday we would like a greater commitment from the Federal Government to get involved in public transport in a policy framework, particularly congestion in cities and increasing bus priority.

There hasn’t been a lot by way of announcements that gives me confidence that transport issues are being elevated.

I think there is evidence that BIC has had a good response from Federal politicians on the ‘Moving People’ strategy and about the importance of public transport, but there has been little demonstration of conveying that into action.

The issue of the national government saying transport is a state issue needs a fundamental shift of thinking.

We need a greater partnership between Federal and State Governments on funding for public transport.

The Infrastructure Australia process was thought to benefit public transport, but as the state done poorly we would say it’s been working from a NSW public transport point of view.

We need transformational, not incremental change and more of the same will not meet the NSW community’s expectations.


QBIC Executive Director David Tape:

Regardless of who gets in what we want is for the Federal Government to help the states with infrastructure and the growth of passenger transport services.

Queensland is sitting reasonably well, we are leading the way with our busway infrastructure and we have continuance of our existing network.

But we are still looking for growth funding for services in our TransLink network for increasing frequency and services to keep up with population growth in our region.

We have to keep chipping away at the iceberg to get the Federal Government to free-up funds to invest in state public transport systems.

Long-term we need people to get out of cars and onto public transport – whether it be rail or bus – and free up the roads.

We can’t continually reclaim land to build bigger roads. If we do that, the roads are chock-a-block again.

We have to use our current road infrastructure more sensibly and start looking at priority lanes, like we do with our busways, but that doesn’t cover all parts of south-east Queensland.

I am hoping to see something come out of Saturday’s election. I know the Greens are looking at light rail, but there are other options on how bus services can feed in and complement such services.

There needs to be a holistic approach, not just looking at one form of transportation to get our ever-growing population around. We need to look at what services we have available and how each mode can complement the other.

There needs to be a definite commitment to throw some funds to the states and assist them to develop transport systems within each jurisdiction.

For years the Feds have been calling public transport a state issue. Sooner or later the Federal Government needs to take action, and we’ve seen that in health where a national approach is being taken. Public transport is another one of those issues.


BusVic Executive Director Chris Lowe:

Victoria would like to see acknowledgement of State and Federal interdependence in order to progress the nation’s public transport infrastructure requirements.

The infrastructure task can’t be funded by either a state or a nation, it has to be done together, merely because the cost is so large. It has to be above politics to co-fund the nation’s public transport requirements.

Without adopting this uniting approach we won’t be adequately addressing the issues associated with urban congestion, conversation of energy, oil security and social inclusion.

We are heartened that major political parties seem to have done a paradigm shift from previously declaring public transport to be a state issue, shifting from that position to take the view that it should be on the Federal agenda.

Victoria doesn’t see the Federal Government as having a role in provisioning the service or recurrent expenditure associated with increasing bus frequency or span of services – that’s a state issue.

But there is a role for the Federal Government in assisting the delivery of infrastructure so the recurrent servicing can transpire. The Federal Government should have a role in delivering infrastructure to the point where it’s ready to operate.

And then there needs to be a continued acknowledgement from all state governments that the public transport system is best operated by the private sector.

Bus rapid transit systems are the future. New rail lines take too long to build and are capital intensive. A bus rapid transit system can be delivered in half the time at a fraction of the cost.

If the service is frequent, reliable and safe, patronage will grow and people will get out of their cars. It’s good for congestion, the environment, energy conservation and social inclusion.

A renewed spirit of commitment is needed between the states and the Federal Government, perhaps with the signing of a charter.

Intergenerational interdependence needs to be written in because we won’t get what we need in the term of one government.

It’s going to take several generations for the Federal Government to assist with infrastructure delivery for public transport on a national basis.

Western Australia

Transport Forum WA Passenger Services Manager Wally Gargano:

We want the Federal Government to buy into public transport – it’s certainly not a state issue. It’s through the Federal Government that we can get people out of their vehicles.

We believe that by moving people with public transport you can address congestion, although it’s not really bad in Perth yet, but it’s getting that way.

If people take to other forms of transport it could help health and obesity problems that seem to be rife in Australian society right now.

WA is looking at light rail with bus links between Perth CBD and the north-eastern suburbs and to western areas along the beaches. Dedicated bus lanes should be considered to reduce the cost of a light rail system.

All states need a helping hand with these projects because the infrastructure costs are exorbitant, therefore the Federal Government should pitch in.

We need a whole of Australia policy, not state by state, and let’s get real and get people out of their cars and move people by a better method than having a hundred cars on the road when you could have one articulated bus.

As soon as it settles down after Saturday we will be talking to our Federal members about where we should be going.

At the end of the day we want the Federal Government to produce a policy that will improve public transport and the infrastructure.


TasBus General Manager Geoff Lewis:

Following on from Tasmania’s last State election we got passenger transport up for this first time ever into the political field. From that state election we received some money for the development of services.

The Federal election has brought passenger transport out into the open, especially for outer-metro areas where people are hurting more with cost rises.

The solution is for the Federal Government to take a bigger interest in passenger transport. We have seen that slowly happening over the last few years with BIC taking a pro-active view in Canberra.

But it’s clear all the political parties need to be doing more, particularly in smaller states like Tasmania and South Australia where we find the dollars are not around for passenger transport.

We have a decentralised population in Tasmania. A less than a third of the population is in Hobart and the rest is spread all over the state. The cost to provide services to those people – and it’s an aging community – is where the Feds need to come into it.

You are going to have isolation with some of those people living in outer areas and not having access to passenger transport when they get to the point of not being able to drive their cars.

Here we are finding people living further out of Hobart because housing blocks are cheaper.

The Federal Government needs to get away from building infrastructure as meaning building roads. We need infrastructure to get people onto passenger transport which will then relieve road congestion.

We should be looking at taking funds out of road infrastructure and putting it into passenger transport, and not building more roads.

The infrastructure we need in Tasmania is to match low floor buses, which have been funded and are in operation. But we need bus stops designed for ramps particularly in outer areas. Now that we have the low floor buses, we need the infrastructure to access them.

The other issue is with park ‘n’ ride. We need to bring people to the edge of the city from urban fringe areas where they can park, jump on the bus and come into the city.

A park ‘n’ ride has been trialled south of Hobart, and there are plans for more. If the trials go well, we would like to see more, and that’s where the Federal Government can help.

Whoever wins on Saturday, we will need to work with them.

* South Australia was unavailable for comment

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