PT needs attention

Major Federal Government re-think required to keep PT in-step with population growth

PT needs attention
Bus Industry Confederation executive director Michael Apps hopes recommendations of the Australian Infrastructure Audit will be a catalyst for change

The bus industry hopes recommendations that public transport becomes the focus of national investment are heeded by the Federal Government.

The Australian Infrastructure Audit warns than unless a coordinated national approach with a strong emphasis on public transport is adopted, Australia will fall behind in productivity and employment.

The report records the cost of congestion on all city roads in 2011 at $13.74 billion.

Major reforms are needed to the way infrastructure is financed and operates, to ensure Australia’s productivity and employment is maximised – the report suggests.

Bus Industry Confederation (BIC) executive director Michael Apps says he hopes the Federal Government takes notice and the opposition advocates for federal investment in public transport.

"We welcome the report, since it highlights all the facts and statistics," he says.

"It shows that we need Federal Government to address the challenges of growing population and congestion.

"Public transport has a major role to play in this and more services are needed."

The report says that by 2061 Melbourne will have more people than Sydney and our major cities will almost double in population over the next 15 years, as Australia hits the 30 million people mark.

Travel times on major arterial roads in our cities will also increase by 20 per cent by 2031.

Currently, only one one-in-six Australians use public transport to get to work, but this is changing fast – with public transport patronage growing rapidly in all major cities since 2004.

While all forms play a role, bus transport must be seen as integral to keeping up with the needs of the community, Apps says.

"From a bus perspective; the reality is that bus is the workhorse in the major regions.

"We need to invest in bus infrastructure and make it a priority."

The Gillard-Rudd Government was the first to invest in public transport since federation.

Although short-lived, this gave the industry figureheads a glimmer of hope that the Federal Government was willing to contribute to public transport, at least in certain political climates.

Apps says the fact the Federal Government is not currently contributing to improved public transport to help keep networks in-step with population growth is outrageous.

"We are one of the few developed countries that’s national government is not involved in public transport.

"This report is significant, because it shows that a government department has identified that national investment in public transport is needed."

Apps hopes Infrastructure Australia’s recommendations will encourage change at the Federal level and influence policy that supports and articulates this growing need in the future.

Queensland minister for transport and infrastructure Jackie Trad agrees, saying the report highlights the importance of investing in public transport.

 "It is disappointing that Mr Abbott is still steadfastly refusing to commit to support the vital infrastructure projects to ease congestion," she says.

"If he is serious about being an Infrastructure prime minister, he must do more than release a report.

"He must invest in critical infrastructure projects and work with the state governments to ensure priority projects are funded."

Trad says roads were just one part of the solution and that government must also invest in public transport infrastructure to ease congestion on our road networks.

"An efficient and integrated transport network is critical to grow productivity and ease congestion."

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