PTDA okay - but bus cash didn't splash

There was a mixed reaction to the public transport element of the Victorian budget – handed down a week before the Wayne Swan slash-a-thon

By David Goeldner | May 13, 2011

Victoria opted to release its annual allocations days before this week’s Federal budget – with mixed results for the bus industry.

While the Northern Territory also went early with a budget that unexpectedly boosted bus services in the north, the other end of the Australian mainland sees a freeze on bus and tram spending in Victoria.

Melbourne-based Public Transport Users Association (PTUA) expressed disappointment at the lack of upgrades for tram and bus users.

PTUA President Daniel Bowen says there is no new spending on bus services to new suburbs, no new Smartbuses, no tram extensions or improvements to help trams and buses out of traffic jams.

He says blowouts in the cost of the Regional Rail Link and Myki had crowded out other public transport improvements.

"This underlines the need to openly and transparently review those projects and their alternatives, to ensure that we get the biggest bang for our public transport buck."

However Bowen welcomed funding for the Victorian Government’s proposed new Public Transport Development Authority (PTDA).

He says the PTDA should show the way forward to better planning, and improvements across the board.

"We will be watching as the government implements the PTDA, to ensure it’s got the right powers and the right people to make a real difference," Bowen says.

"Done right, and with the appropriate backing and funding from government behind it, it’s got the potential to make a tangible, positive difference to train, tram and bus users."

Transport Minister Terry Mulder says the PTDA would adopt a back-to-basics approach, including better maintenance, improved reliability and detailed planning for network expansion.

"The Authority will be a single public transport authority to administer our trains, trams and buses, replacing the current confusing structure of multiple agencies and authorities," he says.

"The first job of the Authority will be to audit all Victorian public transport assets and report publicly on the value and condition of those assets and the cost of renewing them and bringing them up to 21st century standards."

An examination of Mulder’s budget notes, however, confirmed Bowen’s criticism on the lack of bus and tram expansion, instead seeing the Minister focus on six proposed rail feasibility studies, allocating $24 million to conduct the research.

Opposition transport spokesperson Fiona Richardson says the Minister had either overlooked or ignored large increases in passenger numbers expected over the next 12 months.

Melbourne’s trams were projected to carry 8 million more passengers over the next year while 3.7 million more commuters were expected to crowd onto the state’s route service buses, claims Richardson.

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