Budget boosts roads

By: Amie Hickland

The Queensland Government will invest millions in road funding under its recent budget

Road construction was the real winner in the 2014-15 Queensland Budget released this week, but bus operators can still rejoice in the continual funding of an upgrade scheme.

Among bus-based items, the Queensland Government announced a reduction in annual fare hikes for public transport passengers with any rises not to go above inflation.

The Queensland Government will also deliver $768 million of improvements to the Bruce Highway over the next year as part of the budget.

Queensland Bus Industry Council Executive Director David Tape says the budget will not have a major impact on bus operators throughout the state.

He says the item of most interest in the budget is the $22.7 million set for the School Bus Upgrade Scheme which will be welcomed by operators.

"That’s all I really see in regards to passenger transport from an industry perspective."

Tape says the annual fare hike reduction is unlikely to have a direct impact on bus operators.

"Keeping fare reduction at a minimum is good for congestion and patronage but apart from that it does not impact on my members – the revenue risk is left with the state," he says.

"It’s good to see fares not go up by the previous 15 per cent."

Although Tape says the budget was to be expected, he says roads were the real "winner" in the budget.

"They’re definitely throwing a lot of money in there – both state and federal," he says.

Transport and Main Roads Minister Scott Emerson says hard work will pay off to deliver a more efficient, frequent and reliable network.

"Under our policies, a regular weekday two-zone passenger will be paying $1.20 less per journey, saving $750 per year compared to Go Card prices under Labor.

"A passenger from the Gold or Sunshine Coast will be better off by $4.30 per journey, saving $2,500 per year."

Emerson’s claim is based on the assumption of a pricing policy, now discarded, of hiking fares by 15 per cent at the start of each year. Nevertheless fares will still rise each January, but at a rate equal to or less than the rate of inflation.

"The budget reveals any annual change to fares is not above inflation for the next three years," he says.

Emerson says the budget also reveals public transport patronage is ahead of its target, with 176.7 million trips taken in 2013-14, more than 1 million additional trips than the previous year.

"Fixing affordability is the final plank of our plan to get people back on to public transport," he says.

"We've already taken train reliability from a three-year low to an all-time high and added more than 1,000 additional weekly train and 2,000 additional weekly bus services." 

Emerson also says the record package for the Bruce Highway will be part of the 2014-15 to 2017-18 Queensland Transport and Roads Investment Program (QTRIP).

"The upcoming program will start delivering our record $10 billion, 10-year deal with the Commonwealth Government to fund safety, flood mitigation and capacity works right across the Bruce Highway and the Gateway Motorway."

Funding has also been confirmed for the Gateway Upgrade North, Toowoomba Second Range Crossing and the Warrego Highway Upgrade between Toowoomba and Miles. 

Treasurer Tim Nicholls says the State Government is carefully balancing increases in education, health and community services spending, while not introducing or raising any new taxes or reducing services. 

"Strong choices have to be made so that Queensland can have a brighter future," Nicholls says.

"The budget builds on the careful, considered work we have done over the last two years to rein in expenses and put the state’s finances back on track.

"If we want to invest in the schools, hospitals and vital infrastructure we will need for the future in our growing state, we must address the accumulated $80 billion debt." 

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