Federal Budget to boost bus sector

The Federal Budget is expected to benefit the bus industry despite a funding focus on rail

Federal Budget to boost bus sector
Federal Budget benefits bus sector
May 15, 2013

Public transport and the general transport sector
are set to benefit from $14.7 billion
earmarked for
Australia's road and rail networks, but controversy over rail funding has so far stolen most of the 2013-14 Federal Budget limelight.

The budget's
$3-billion funding allocation
for the Melbourne Metro rail tunnel project in Victoria
was at the centre of debate today.

The federal funding objectives listed for the nine-kilometre rail project
are out of sync
with Victoria’s State budget priorities for the East West Link road project.

The Victorian Government’s budget last week prioritized the East West Link road ahead of the Metro rail tunnel, despite Infrastructure Australia listing the rail tunnel as the higher priority.

The Victorian Government’s budget allocated about $300 million to the East West Link road, with $1.5 billion in federal funding assistance needed.

But debate between road and rail funding has not dampened enthusiasm from the transport industry, including the Bus Industry Confederation (BIC).

"While the public transport investment in the budget is rail-based, the funding would free up state government revenue for investment in increased and improved bus services, particularly in and around the corridors of operation of the rail projects," a BIC spokesperson says.

"This budget has contributed to the growth of public transport’s share of the passenger transport pie and growing the Australian bus and coach industry’s client base."

As part of the Federal Budget, New South Wales will receive $2.2 billion for Sydney's M4 and M5 motorways – Westconnex – and link the F3 and M5 motorways.

Brisbane will receive $715 million
for the Cross River Rail project and Western Australia will receive $500 million to build the Perth Light Rail project.

"This budget included significant investment in urban public transport, building on the government’s previous historical investment in public transport projects,"
the BIC spokesperson says.

"This continued investment is a win for the BIC’s moving people agenda and demonstrates a commitment from the Commonwealth Government towards a role in investment in, and planning for public transport."

The Tourism and Transport Forum (TTF) also welcomed the emphasis on infrastructure, and called for the Federal Opposition to match the budget pledges.

"We need to accept that Australia’s transport woes will not disappear after 14 September, so both sides must commit to investing in our future," a TTF spokesperson says.

"Investment by the Federal Government in partnership with the states and the private sector is vital to ease the pressure on commuters and to unlock the productivity potential of our cities."

The Australian Automobile Association (AAA), which comprises the nation’s eight automobile clubs, also welcomed the emphasis on transport infrastructure, noting it would make an "important contribution to addressing worsening congestion and improve road safety".

The association launched its Demand Better Roads campaign last month.

"The support in this budget for crucial transport infrastructure projects is well-targeted and will deliver long-term benefits for Australia," AAA Executive Director Andrew McKellar says.

"The commitment to key transport projects is essential if we are to address worsening congestion in our major cities and to improve safety and productivity on our national highways."

The Federal Budget’s heavy emphasis on improving road congestion and public transport efficiency continues a trend the Federal Government has maintained since elected under the leadership of Kevin Rudd.

Treasurer Swan noted in his budget speech the new slate of infrastructure investment was 42 percent higher than allocations made in the last year of the Howard Government, which had ridden the surge of tax revenue generated by the first six years of the mining boom.

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