Shorten sparks bus bonanza

Federal Government on course to invest in bus as Shorten pledges $10 billion for PT projects

Shorten sparks bus bonanza
A bold promise by Opposition Leader Bill Shorten to pledge $10 billion to public transport infrastructure if elected has increased the pressure on new prime minister Malcolm Turnbull to commit Federal Government funds to public transport

The bus industry is delighted at Opposition Leader Bill Shorten’s pledge to deliver 10 of Australia’s most important public transport projects if elected.

The announcement made this week indicates Labor will campaign strongly on the issue in the lead up to the next federal election, which must be held on or before January 14, 2017.

Shorten proposes to pledge $10 billion to get the ball rolling and, although this is but a fraction of what it would cost to complete the projects, it may be enough to attract sufficient interest from and financial backers in the private sector.

"This announcement by Bill Shorten in unison with the Coalition adoption of a minister for cities places our industry, public transport and cities at the centre of the next federal election campaign, and a race to the top for all political parties to fund public transport initiatives," Bus Industry Confederation (BIC) executive director Michael Apps says.

"BIC’s core aim over the last decade has been to engage the Federal Government to get involved in public transport and grow the public transport pie so all BIC members can grow their business."

The bus industry has had a lot to do with this change in attitude by all political parties at a federal level, and Apps is adamant it can take at least part of the credit for this historic change in policy direction.

"We now have tri-partisan support for public transport at a Federal level, but it is even more important now for each of you, at every opportunity, to remind our federal and state members about the important role that bus plays in the public transport network."

To this end, Apps is encouraging BIC members to lobby hard and specifically for the Federal Government to invest in Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) systems and bus priority measures.

"Where a rail project is being considered, we want a transparent cost -benefit analysis done with bus rapid transit for the project," Apps says.

"If major rail projects are to be funded, it needs to include funding for integrating bus services and infrastructure with the rail to make public transport seamless.

"All funded new or upgraded urban roads must include bus integration and bus priority where practical."

"All federal government infrastructure funding should allow the inclusion of rolling stock as an option for states and territories to include in the project bid for buses and trains."

Shorten is resolute in his determination to make public transport funding a pivotal political issue, if not the centrepiece of Labour’s impending federal election campaign.

"According to Infrastructure Australia, the economic cost of our failure to invest will reach $53 billion a year by 2031," he says.

"We’re all spending more time getting to work, and less time with our families and decent roads and public transport can unlock Australia’s economic potential.

"That’s why Labor plans to boost infrastructure investment in Australia if elected.

"If a national investment in roads and public transport delivers significant productivity benefits, creates jobs and boosts growth, then it’s worth making that investment."

Projects prioritised include Brisbane’s Cross River Rail and planning work on the Ipswich Motorway, Gold Coast light rail, Pacific and Bruce Highway improvements, a rail link to Sydney’s new airport, the Melbourne Metro Project, upgrading Tasmania’s Midland Highway, the Metronet plan in Perth and Gawler Line electrification in Adelaide.

This bold move by Shorten will undoubtedly increase the pressure on new prime minister Malcolm Turnbull to commit Federal Government funds to public transport improvement projects.

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