Greens entrench light rail stance with TOPS data

The Australian Greens see the latest TOPS data released this week as proof positive of the need for heavier Federal Government investment in public transport – particularly light rail

Greens entrench light rail stance with TOPS data
Greens entrench light rail stance with TOPS data

By David Goeldner | December 10, 2010

Western Australia’s Green Senator Scott Ludlam has seized the opportunity to push his party’s case for more public transport spending in the wake of this week’s release of the December quarter Transport Opinion Survey (TOPS) data.

The latest survey conducted by the Institute of Transport and Logistics Studies found 54 per cent of people across Australia see investment in public transport as a higher priority than fixing roads.

"The pleasing thing from the research is the strong support for public transport, but of equal importance was the study’s findings of widely-held views that transport in Australia is getting worse," Ludlam says.

"People feel there has not been enough investment in public transport and we agree - this needs to change."

But mirroring Australian Green’s policy nationwide, Ludlam has inevitably overlooked bus and used the data to push the case for light rail systems.

"Electric light rail reduces congestion and, if run on renewable energy, has zero carbon emissions," he says.

Ludlam believes light rail is a relatively inexpensive investment compared with the cost of road projects.

"The 2009-10 Federal Budget included an announcement the Government would spend $28 billion on road projects over the next six years," says Ludlam.

"A comprehensive light rail network could be built in Perth for about three billion dollars, and you can imagine what we could achieve with light rail around the nation with $28 billion."

A closer look at the TOPS data for the recent quarter suggests that it’s Victorians who are most concerned about the state of public transport, and blame the state’s privatisation policies.

ITLS Director Professor David Hensher says Victoria’s public transport has experienced more privatisation than any other state, with tram and metropolitan rail services franchised to private providers in the last decade aiming to improve efficiency.

"But many users believe services have deteriorated in private operators’ hands with unreliability and overcrowding, possibly due to under-investment," Hensher says.

"It’s possible the decline in service levels and increased inefficiencies influenced voting sentiments in Victoria, particularly those in Melbourne’s outer suburbs."

Hensher says only 35 per cent of Victorians favour the private sector playing a greater role in the provision of public transport while 42 per cent prefer a reduced role for the private sector.

"Other states view the private sector more favourably, perhaps suggesting they see private involvement as a path to improved public transport," he says.

"Around half of Western Australians and Queenslanders support a greater role from private interests."

TOPS is the first national survey to measure transport opinions on a regular basis.

December’s TOPS report is available at

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