Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Roads plan raises new truck route fears

NEW laws that would see some Melbourne roads prioritised for tram, bus, bicycle, pedestrian or freight use have alarmed local councils, who see them as an attempt to ram through new heavy truck routes.

- Truck highways fears
- Trams, buses, bikes to get priority
- Move to unblock public transport routes

The changes would give the State Government power to prioritise transport types on all public roads across the state.

A new VicRoads register would be established, listing how roads had been prioritised and the laws could mean new bus or bike lanes on a local road or the sudden appearance of massive freight trucks.

The local government sector is concerned about a lack of detail in the new laws and the potential for new truck highways through suburbs.

The proposed laws before the State Parliament would give Roads Minister Tim Pallas the power to prioritise bicycle, pedestrian and freight roads. The Roads Minister and Public Transport Minister Lynne Kosky would have the power to prioritise roads for trams and buses.

The only check would be that if the public road were a municipal road there must be consultation with the Local Government Minister. There is no mention of the local council.

Municipal Association of Victoria chief executive Rob Spence has written to Mr Pallas requesting more details on the laws.

"We are talking about heavy vehicles, that is the real tension point in our sector," he said. "There has been no discussion with us on the detail of this at all."...

Read the whole article at TheAge.com.au

Sunday, December 28, 2008

The road to perdition - TheAge

John Whitelegg

MELBOURNE — a world-class city with a rich cultural diversity, fantastic architecture and a dynamic mosaic of communities — is drowning in traffic because of its love affair with the car. It is a love affair fuelled by over-generous budgets and the space provided for roads and illustrates a nervousness Melbourne has about getting to grips with its public transport system and making sure it is as good as Vienna's, Frankfurt's or Basle's.

This combination of boldness in catering for cars and shyness with public transport, walking and cycling could propel Melbourne down the list of the world's most liveable cities and cancel out its multiple advantages. It will also add to the burdens of poor health, especially through low levels of physical activity, obesity and early onset diabetes. The time is right to make sure that Melbourne's budgets and policy priorities contain a clear map of how the city can celebrate the virtues of walking, cycling and public transport, reduce car trips and reward its residents with cleaner air, less noise, lower greenhouse gas emissions, fewer deaths and injuries and a calmer, more child-friendly and more economically successful city...

Read the entire article at TheAge.com.au. No, no... seriously... read it! I've been to Basle... I've also been to Bangkok. I know which city I'd prefer to get around in!

Monday, December 22, 2008

Fed Govt to review priority infrastructure projects

The Federal Government has released a preliminary audit of its infrastructure project priorities.

Infrastructure Australia has listed 94 projects which will be further examined ahead of a final list to be handed to the Government next year.

The audit recommends that investment be directed towards seven key areas including broadband and the national energy grid.

Infrastructure Minister Anthony Albanese says while the list is a positive start, more work needs to be done to develop projects for the long term.

"We are determined to get it right and with this advice and the process that we have from Infrastructure Australia, we are making sure that we invest taxpayers' money wisely and in the national interest," he said.

The projects listed include the $4 billion northern Sydney rail freight corridor, the $3.5 billion east-west rail tunnel in Melbourne and the $14 billion Brisbane inner-city rail upgrade.

Other key New South Wales projects on the shortlist include $4.8 billion for Sydney's CBD metro, $8 billion for the city's western metro under Parramatta Road and nearly $12 billion for the expansions of the M4 and M5 motorways.

Also shortlisted are $6.7 billion dollars for updrages to the Pacific Highway and $1 billion for the Princes Highway.

But the list will have to be narrowed down considerably to fit into the Government's Budget.

Mr Albanese says the list contains projects needed to improve the nation's productivity.

"Much more work needs to be done to determine the relative merits of these projects and whether they should be included on the final priority list which will be given to the Government as determined in the first quarter of 2009," he said.

Read the original article at abc.net.au/news

Tim Pallas Underestimates the West, Pays the Price

An obviously under-prepared Minister for Transport, Tim Pallas, drew the ire of residents from Footscray, Kingsville, Tottenham, Yarraville and Sunshine on Wednesday 17th December when addressing a Public Meeting organised by No Freeway for West Footscray and Brimbank Transport Action Group.

Pallas clearly failed to understand the concerns of residents, particularly in relation to the proposed “Westgate Alternative” which will see Road freight spilling out in West Footscray and causing a truck-onslaught for Tottenham and Sunshine Residents.

While some Footscray residents clearly welcome a truck diversion, there is general consensus that a tunnel opening into Sunshine Rd in West Footscray is bad policy. We suggest that Minister Pallas do some homework and real consultation before he puts his head up in the Western Suburbs again. We also suggest that he not use the term “market value” in relation to compulsory acquisition, given that his Government’s Transport Plan has caused property values in affected areas to nose-dive.

Lastly, we register our disgust that promises of information and consultation that were made by the Department of Transport in the weeks leading up to the launch of the Transport Plan, have not been honoured.

If sitting MPs don’t start to listen, they will find themselves voted out - “safe” seat or not.

Read the original at respectthewest.wordpress.com

Tunnel mooted to fix Hoddle traffic - TheAge

What IS it with this State Government and car tunnels... hey?
Clay Lucas
A traffic jam on Hoddle Street.

A traffic jam on Hoddle Street.

A FOUR-kilometre road tunnel from the MCG to the Eastern Freeway is among key recommendations in a report into fixing traffic jams on Hoddle Street, commissioned by the Brumby Government.

- $1.5b Hoddle Street tunnel plan
- Would remove 17 sets of lights
- Average journey cut by 12%

The $1.5 billion tunnel concept is in a report by engineers GHD, which was commissioned by the Department of Premier and Cabinet as it developed its recent transport statement.

The report will feed into a $5 million study to be completed by VicRoads next year into how to improve traffic conditions on Hoddle Street.

The proposed road tunnel would start at the Punt Road Oval in Richmond and end at the entrance to the Eastern Freeway in Collingwood, running 18 metres beneath Hoddle Street. It would remove 17 sets of traffic lights, and cut the average journey on Hoddle Street by 12 per cent, the report says.

The project would shut part of the MCG's car park for at least two years, for use as a construction site.

The Government, in its transport plan, said it would investigate "the feasibility of grade separating key junctions on Hoddle Street".

Tunnelling under Hoddle Street is backed by key groups, including the Victorian Employers Chamber of Commerce and Industry, which want a more dramatic solution to Hoddle Street's traffic problems.

The RACV has long backed a series of underpasses and overpasses for Hoddle Street. It repeated its call to improve conditions last week, saying there were few north-south routes in Melbourne.

The GHD report details other options for smaller tunnels on Hoddle Street, including:

  • A $600 million underpass at Victoria Parade, which would require some property acquisition.

  • A $530 million tunnel at Bridge Road.

  • A $70 million "park and ride" facility at Victoria Park train station.

Hoddle Street has some of Melbourne's worst congestion points, with 47,000 cars a day battling to get through the intersection at Swan Street in Richmond. At the corner of Hoddle and Victoria streets, another 40,000 cars a day cause some of the city's worst traffic snarls.

Read the original article at TheAge.com.au

Friday, December 19, 2008

Doubt cast on need for new rail tunnel - TheAge

Clay Lucas

A $4.5 BILLION "metro" rail tunnel that is the centrepiece of Victoria's transport plan has not been adequately justified, and other options to increase train services in Melbourne should have been investigated, a Government-commissioned report has found.

- Options should be investigated: expert
- Methodology's 'critical flaw'
- Passenger numbers set to soar

Senior rail consultant and transport planner Edward Dotson was hired by the State Government to help assess rail projects including a tunnel from Footscray to Caulfield, which was recommended in this year's report by transport expert Sir Rod Eddington.

The Government's plan proposes building a first stage of the tunnel, from Footscray to the Domain, within a decade.

But Mr Dotson found that while planning work for the rail tunnel should continue, some key assumptions behind it have not been proved.

He is particularly troubled by Transport Department passenger projections, which show a continued soaring in numbers over the next 13 years.

It was not possible to reliably make such projections beyond five years, Mr Dotson wrote.

And little work had been done to look at other options for running more trains on the network besides building the tunnel, he wrote. "This is a critical flaw in the methodology."

He said forecasts for passenger growth on Melbourne's trains, and alternatives to the tunnel, needed to be examined further.

The Department of Transport says a maximum of 20 trains an hour can run on each of Melbourne's train lines. But international rail experts argue this is, at best, unambitious.

Mr Dotson agrees, saying Melbourne's rail system should have a target of 24 trains running each hour on each line.

Read the rest of the article at TheAge.com.au

Thursday, December 18, 2008

You can say that again, and again, as spin cycle blows a fuse

Paul Austin

CABINET solidarity is generally a good thing, but this is ridiculous. The final big announcement for 2008 from the Brumby cabinet was last week's $38 billion transport plan. So big was it that it was accompanied by 23 media releases. Yes, 23.

Reading them, a certain similarity becomes apparent. "The Brumby Government is taking action on transport so that Victorians can have the best transport network in Australia," Public Transport Minister Lynne Kosky says in the first release under her name. And in the second. And again in the third, and fourth, and so on until her seventh, on extra transit safety police.

That one has been tweaked subtly: "The Brumby Government is taking action on transport, so that Victorians can have the best and safest transport network in Australia." Kosky's releases Nos. 8, 9 and 10 revert to the original wording.

Then we get to Roads Minister Tim Pallas' releases. It seems he agrees with Kosky, not just in general terms but word for word, because the first of his media statements includes the line: "The Brumby Government is taking action on transport so that Victorians can have the best transport network in Australia." So do the next six, and the ninth.

But Pallas release No. 8, on upgrading bike paths, has a subtle addition: "The Brumby Government is taking action on transport, so that Victorians can have the best transport network in Australia — and the most sustainable." You can see why this Government retains a phalanx of media advisers.

All 10 Kosky releases (except the one about the transit police) go on to say: "Delivering the best transport system in Australia will mean Victorians can spend less time commuting and more time with family and friends."

So do Pallas' nine releases, except the one about removing trucks from residential streets around Yarraville, and the one about the bike paths, which contains a mistake: "Delivering the best transport system in Australia will mean Victorians have more can spend less time commuting and more time with family and friends."

Each Kosky release includes this boast: "Our $38 billion action plan also will generate up to 10,000 jobs a year during construction, resulting in more than 100,000 jobs over the life of the plan."

Pallas says exactly the same thing in each of his releases, except the one about the bike paths, the one about getting trucks off the streets of the inner west (which inserts the word "transport" before "action plan"), and the one about the Frankston bypass (which drops the word "also").

Most of Pallas' releases then say: "In tougher global times, the Brumby Government is taking action to deliver thousands of jobs now and to build for our next era of prosperity." So do half of Kosky's. That line also appears in one of their two joint media releases, under Kosky's name. Perhaps she got to say it because she's the more senior minister, at least for now.

(Incidentally, it's not just Labor that plays this game. Ted Baillieu, or at least someone in or around his office, came up with a good line last Thursday about the Government's record on public transport: "A public transport system ought to run like a Swiss watch. But we've got a cuckoo clock. John Brumby's transport system runs like a cuckoo clock." Baillieu's loyal upper house leader, David Davis, was so impressed that he said it again the next day: "Our transport system should work like a Swiss watch. Instead of that, it's working like a cuckoo clock.")

Underneath the tedious rhetoric, many of those 23 media releases on the Brumby transport plan announce welcome projects.

For example, one of the joint Kosky/Pallas releases is about a promise to spend $440 million over the next 12 years to eliminate some level crossings. This is a program that will save not only time but lives.

"With even more train services to be added across the network over coming years and more vehicles expected on key arterial roads, the Government must separate rail and road in key locations," Labor explains. But how many level crossings will be eliminated under this plan? Well, "a number". Which ones? There is not a clue, beyond the first: Springvale Road, Nunawading. How much will that one cost? We are not told, beyond the fact that "the Commonwealth Government has committed $80 million towards the project".

There's one other aspect of the transport plan where detail has evaded the Premier. Asked the cost of the advertising campaign that is on your TV screen right now spruiking the benefits of his blueprint, Brumby replied: "Look, I don't have the exact figure. I think it's somewhere between 1 and 2 million dollars."

Somewhere between 1 and 2 million? This from the Premier who can tell us that over the next 12 years the metro rail tunnel will cost $4.5 billion, the so-called regional rail link $4 billion, the Dingley bypass $80 million, the restoration of passenger rail services to Maryborough $50 million, planning for an outer ring road $10 million, and a study of what to do about Hoddle Street $5 million.

No doubt if Lynne Kosky or Tim Pallas were asked how much the advertising campaign for their transport plan was costing us taxpayers, they'd say the same thing as the Premier. Cabinet solidarity, you see.

Read the original article at TheAge.com.au

Monday, December 15, 2008

Transport plan? The joke's on us

Kenneth Davidson, as usual, pulls no punches...

THE Brumby Government is having us on. Are we expected to take seriously a $38 billion transport plan that needs $8 billion from a total Federal Government national infrastructure pot that has $10 billion in it and is leaking badly as a result of the deepening recession?

Surely Brumby doesn't seriously believe that he will get the lion's share of these infrastructure funds for multibillion-dollar projects that haven't been subject to a credible environmental impact study or cost-benefit analysis?

The Victorian Transport Plan is just a continuation of Melbourne's real long-term transport plan drawn up in 1969 by Wilbur Smith and Associates. This American consultancy envisaged Melbourne as a replica of car-reliant Los Angeles with freeways, ring roads and a residual bus service for the poor. (An excellent tram service was sold to a trust comprised of the leading car and tyre manufacturers, which then closed the network.)

The trustee in charge of Wilbur Smith's vision is VicRoads, the most powerful quango in the Victorian bureaucracy. Part of the long-term plan is to complete the ring road — a diabolical attack on Melbourne's radial public transport network separated by green wedges. This plan was created by the Melbourne Metropolitan Board of Works, which was Melbourne's de facto planning agency as development was forced to follow the most expensive infrastructure — sewerage and water.

But after the break-up of the MMBW, VicRoads, under a series of weak and incompetent state governments, has been allowed to run riot while planning has fallen into the hands of the developers and water is well on the way to being privatised.

VicRoad's strategy is salami tactics: one slice at a time. The Eastern Freeway becomes a traffic jam at Hoddle Street backing up towards Burke Road in peak periods. Solution? Bulldoze an east-west extension through the inner suburbs to get more cars into Melbourne, even though trains are the only way to get masses of people into the CBD without environmental and economic catastrophe as half the city building will need to be replaced by car parks.

Meanwhile, at the other end of the Eastern Freeway-EastLink is the promise of a $6 billion extension from Bulleen to Greensborough to link up with the ring road from the western suburbs.

Why would the Commonwealth finance this when there are cheaper and more environmentally sound alternatives? For example, spending a few hundred million dollars to upgrade the Melbourne-Sydney-Brisbane rail link to get freight traffic off the Hume Highway and create a standard gauge link from Dandenong to Dynon Road freight terminal to move freight by rail to all the mainland capitals.

Bulldozing a freeway across the Yarra flats and through historic Heidelberg has never been off the agenda. I addressed 500 people at the Heidelberg Town Hall in November 2002 and pointed out that EastLink was a highway from nowhere to nowhere. It only made sense if it connected to the ring road. Then transport minister Peter Batchelor promised the meeting that the link would not be made in his tenure. Local member Craig Langdon said he would resign from Parliament if the road was built. It was a lesson in political management.

Batchelor also told Parliament that "I put it on record the Government has no such proposal (to link the Eastern Freeway with the ring road) … It is not on our radar … There is no truth in the suggestion."

But urban planner and public transport advocate Paul Mees discovered a document under freedom of information, a recording of a ministerial briefing by a senior planning official dated October 2001 that clearly stated the connection was recommended by the department.

It is impossible not to conclude that the Government hates the idea of extending or improving the rail network. Its technique for avoiding sensible options is to refuse to examine them. This is why it can't afford to undertake serious cost-benefit analysis. For instance, Mees says there is no reason for an expensive duplication and extension of the rail network because there is a bottleneck in the city underground loop, which can be resolved by a better timetable.

This should be subject to expert inquiry as Mees' proposal has the ability to save at least $8 billion in unnecessary investment and extend the network where it is needed.

The Government, under the thrall of VicRoads and an incompetent public transport bureaucracy with a vested interest in the maintenance of the franchise system, refuses to hold the inquiry. Why?

Kenneth Davidson is a senior columnist.

Read the original article at TheAge.com.au

Melburnians fare badly when paying for public transport - TheAge

MELBOURNE'S public transport is again the country's most expensive, after the Brumby Government announced the biggest price increase in fares in five years.

Public Transport Minister Lynne Kosky confirmed on Friday that train, tram and bus fares will jump by 5 per cent from January 1.

With tickets up by as much as $2.20 (for a zone one and two weekly ticket), the Public Transport Users Association has compared Melbourne's fares with other Australian cities.

Melbourne fared badly, with the price of a ticket far higher in all but two cases.

Melbourne is the most expensive city for all journeys, except short trips in Adelaide, and for trips longer than 40 kilometres, since the Government abolished zone three for the outer suburbs last year.

"In extreme cases, Melbourne costs 50 per cent more than some cities," said Public Transport Users Association president Daniel Bowen.

For a 20-kilometre single trip in Melbourne — for example, from Clayton to Flinders Street — passengers will from next year pay $5.80 (a rise of 30 cents). For a trip of the same length in Brisbane, passengers pay $3.80.

Ms Kosky, defending last week's price rise, said it was not true that Melbourne had the country's most expensive tickets.

But the PTUA said the figures spoke for themselves.

"The bulk of commuters are paying more per kilometre than passengers anywhere in Australia," Mr Bowen said.

The 5 per cent fare increase that will hit passengers next year is separate from another two increases with which they will be slugged in 2012 and 2013.

Those rises will help to finance the state's $38 billion Victorian transport statement...

Read the rest of the article at TheAge.com.au

On a road to nowhere? - TheAge

The Brumby Government's transport blueprint has been labelled a PR exercise - filled with empty promises - to soothe frustrated commuters. Clay Lucas reports.

"IT'S part of the plan," says a 30-second, Department of Transport ad that made its debut on Melbourne television in July. The ad, which featured a series of traffic jams and busy construction images, shows viewers that, despite the many delays on our roads and rail tracks, the State Government has a plan.

"With many initiatives already under way, the signs of an improving transport system can now be seen," it says.

Try telling that to the thousands of motorists stuck on Melbourne's freeways last week, in some of the worst traffic gridlock in recent memory; drivers on some freeways waited for up to an hour for roads to clear.

Or the thousands of train passengers, stranded by scores of morning rush-hour cancellations.

All part of what plan? The $1 million ad campaign attracted some attention at the time, attacked by the Opposition as excessive spending. But, as the lavish launch of the Vic-torian Transport Plan last Monday now makes clear, that modest transport ad was just the start of the campaign.

The transport projects outlined in the plan will cost $38 billion between now and 2021. Given this Government's past performance on delivering transport plans, however, completion isn't assured.

Their 2006 plan Meeting Our Transport Challenges has had just 2 per cent of its projects completed, according to an analysis in October by the Property Council.

The latest plan's key promises - all of them dependent on federal funding - include a $4 billion-plus rail line to connect Werribee to Southern Cross Station, a new $3 billion inner-west road to link Geelong Road to Dynon Road, and the Footscray to Domain rail tunnel.

A controversial road tunnel, proposed by Sir Rod Eddington, from the Eastern Freeway to CityLink was left out, but the $750 million Frankston bypass road and the controversial north-east "missing link" - a $6 billion freeway joining Greensborough to Bulleen - was included.

But the new plan will hit travellers with a "transport tax" of 5 per cent on fares from 2012 and again in 2013, raising $500 million to help finance key projects.

To promote the plan, the Brumby Government will spend $2 million more on ads.

Documents obtained by The Age under Freedom of Information, show the background to the "It's part of the plan" ads. Briefing notes reveal just how concerned, last December, the Government was about swelling anger in the community about transport gridlock.

A research briefing paper to Howard Ronaldson, then head of the department of infrastructure (now the Department of Transport), warned that the masses were growing furious about delays.

But there was a way to calm them, the briefing note said: tell them there was a plan.

Research paid for by the Government found that people did not link delays from construction with being part of a strategy. "People stated they would be more likely to accept delays if they had clear information about why the disruptions were occurring," the briefing note says.

And so $1 million of taxpayers money would be spent to convince angry commuters that something was being done.

And, viewed in this light, political analysts and critics of the Victorian Transport Plan say it makes it all the more easy to understand what is going on.

Monash University's senior politics lecturer Nick Economou says that while the transport plan could be good politics, much of it was empty promises.

"The sort of money that Brumby is talking about would mean that the Commonwealth would have to shell out an enormous amount to Victoria - and that is unlikely to happen," he says.

At least $13 billion of the $38 billion plan is predicated on federal funding. But the Rudd Government's Building Australia Fund, originally to hold $20 billion, now holds only $12.6 billion because of the global economic downturn. Of that, $4.7 billion has been earmarked for the national broadband network - leaving $7.9 billion to be divided among all of the states for general infrastructure.

Add it up, and the Victorian Transport Plan starts to sound all too familiar, Economou says.

"You keep promising to extend the rail line to South Morang (this Government started promising it in 1999 and in last week's plan promised it again) and you never actually do. The sales pitch from Brumby is just re-badging (old transport projects) and pie in the sky stuff," he says.

But it is likely to be enough to calm some angry drivers and commuters, he says. "At least it looks and sounds like a plan."

Economou says if transport can be nullified for the Premier as an issue as a result of the plan, it will help bullet-proof the Government until well after the 2010 election.

"The Brumby Government is travelling along quite nicely because it is seen as a can-do, achieving Government so far," he says. "The shipping channel has been dredged without a ripple of protest from anyone but a few Blue Wedgers. The desalination plant is getting built. And their road building program is going ahead with barely a ripple of dissent."

But anger is still mounting in the community, says Melbourne University's transport research centre chief Nick Low, because the public wants a real strategy to fix the problems - not just a grab-bag of promises and re-announcements.

But not all are critics.

Monash University historian Graeme Davison, who has written extensively about Melbourne's love affair with the car, says he has been surprised the new transport plan gives as much as it does to public transport.

"It's clearly an attempt at some form of balance, because it tilts the balance more towards public transport than any previous plan," says Davison, whose 2004 book Car Wars detailed the victory of the car in Melbourne.

He praises the idea of extending the regional rail line to Geelong so that it goes through growing areas of suburbia around Caroline Springs and Tarneit.

He is less keen on the "extravagant" $4.5 billion rail tunnel from Footscray to the Domain - "all it does at present is to relieve a bit of congestion at the centre" - but respects that it marks a shift in thinking within the Government.

But many of the city's transport obsessed are sick of this Government's transport promises.

The Public Transport Users Association is one, describing the transport plan as nothing more than a way of getting people off buses, trains and trams and into cars.

The plan, presented by the Government as "sustainable", promises 122 kilometres of new roadways, and 36 kilometres of new rail track through new areas.

"No ordinary person was asking for diverting Geelong trains through Tarneit, or a second set of rail tunnels under the CBD. But they were asking for suburban rail extensions to Rowville and Doncaster and Melton and the airport, more trains to the western and eastern suburbs, and for buses every 10 minutes," says PTUA secretary Tony Morton.

Melbourne could have it all for far less than $38 billion, he says.

"There will be nothing for the family in (suburban Melbourne) that has no useable bus service to the railway station," says Morton. "(That family) faces a one-kilometre walk if they do manage to park their car there, and basically can't have a life unless they drive everywhere."

Cheap, simple alternatives to multibillion-dollar rail and road tunnels are needed instead of expensive tunnelling proposals, Morton says.

"They need to build South Morang for $60 million, not $650 million," he says. "The balance (should be spent) completing the rest of the suburban rail network. They need to run buses the same way they run trams. And they need to actually co-ordinate the network so it takes you from anywhere to anywhere without falling in a heap at every transfer point."

The president of the Planning Institute, Jason Black, says the problem with the transport plan is that it acts as if a new land use strategy, Melbourne @ 5 Million released four days before the transport plan, did not even exist.

"The transport plan and the land use plan are not connected," Black told a forum at Melbourne University last week. "The notion of sustainability relies on these plans being aligned, integrated, and they just aren't."

If Melbourne's suburbs and its transport services were not planned together "greenhouse gas emissions will never drop, we will never see a shift away from providing `a missing link' somewhere in the road network - which seems to be a constant in Melbourne - and we will never see a shift away from the reliance on (cars) over public transport", Black says.

For other planning experts, the problem with the Victorian Transport Plan is far more profound.

RMIT transport and planning academic Paul Mees says it is "a pretend plan" that puts forward a list of public transport projects the Government has little chance of delivering.

"You can tell that from the fact that, two years ago we couldn't run any more trains on the train system unless there was a third track on the Dandenong line," he says.

Meeting Our Trans-port Challenges in 2006 promised a third rail track running from Caulfield to Dandenong. That project has since been abandoned.

But several new "mega" transport projects - most of which have a delivery timetable between 2017 and 2021 - have now been announced.

"You can say anything you want," says Mees, "and it's not that as a politician you actually have a direct intention not to deliver it - it's just that you know you won't be there when the time comes."

Mees often compares Melbourne's poor performance on delivering new public transport infrastructure with that of Zurich - renowned around the world for its ruthless efficiency.

"If you go to the Zurich (transport agency's) website, there you will find their capital works plan for 2011 to 2014, which was released in July this year. All of it will happen.

"This (Victoria's) transport plan," says Mees, "it is just media-release issuing as a substitute for real planning."

Clay Lucas is transport reporter.

Read the original article at TheAge.com.au

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Thanks to Greg Barber

The first politician to do anything in Kensington regarding the tunnel was Greg Barber (Greens). He organised a public meeting, and the Greens distributed hundreds (thousands?) of No Road Tunnel green triangles. Many, many residents, regardless of the political allegiances, displayed these on their houses.

Thanks Greg.

And now there's more detail coming out about West Footscray, it's looking like the fight may increase there. And Colleen Hartland and the Greens are still in there fighting.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Thanks from Lindsay Tanner

...I am glad to see that local communities can communicate with government,
make their opinions heard, and continue to be influential on the

Thank-you again for having contacted me about this issue and I hope this
information is of assistance....
Part of an email sent to anyone who send Lindsay Tanner an email about the East-West tunnel

Thanks from Bronwyn Pike

Many community members raised concerns about the impact of the Eddington Report Recommendations on J.J.HollandPark, through your efforts and my advocacy I can assure you that the Plan specifically rejects the use of the park for either staging or construction of a road tunnel. Once again thank you to everyone who made a submission.
Read more here - http://www.bronwynpike.com/

And Bronwyn, the residents of Kensington thank you for your efforts!

Park saved from tunnel for good, Pike tells residents - Melbourne Times

Bianca Hall

KENSINGTON'S JJ Holland Park will never be used for a freeway staging post, Melbourne MLA Bronwyn Pike has promised.

The Victorian Government released its long-awaited $38.5 billion transport blueprint on Monday, in response to Sir Rod Eddington's east-west transport plan.

Sir Rod controversially recommended the Government construct a road tunnel and freeway between the Western Ring Road and Eastern Freeway, using Royal Park in Parkville and JJ Holland Park as staging posts.

In July, Ms Pike invited Premier John Brumby to tour JJ Holland Park, which is heavily used by housing estate residents and sporting community groups.

"Being able to bring the Premier down in person and getting him to see what the park means in person was a real turning point," she said.

The promise was welcomed by Save Holland Park campaigner Cory Boardman. "I'm ecstatic that it does mention JJ Holland Park by name - I think the community's really got behind this."

But the Government committed to constructing a road tunnel from Footscray to the Port of Melbourne, and it has indicated it intends to build a road from the port to the Eastern Freeway in the future.

The blueprint also includes a plan to investigate south-bound overpasses on Hoddle Street at Johnston Street, Victoria Street, Bridge Road and Swan Street to relieve congestion off the Eastern Freeway at Clifton Hill.

Richard MLA Richard Wynne said the transport plan closely resembled his submission to the Eddington inquiry, placing emphasis on public transport over roads.

Chief among public projects is a rail tunnel between Footscray and the Domain, at a cost of more than $4.5 billion. The Government plans to begin construction of the section between Footscray and Flinders Street first - probably by the middle of the next decade.

Transcribed from The Melbourne Times

No Freeway 4 West Footscray - Public Meeting

No Freeway 4 West Footscray are holding a public meeting in light of the Victorian Transport Plan, to learn more about the 'Westgate alternative' tunnel proposal and the Truck Route. Support your neighbours, and anyway, seeing how Kensington Road and beyond lead to/away from this tunnel, it may effect you more than you think!

Wednesday, December 17, 2008
7:30pm - 10:30pm
Bluestone Church
Hyde St Footscray (Next to Maribyrnong Council)
Melbourne, Australia

Public Meeting with Minister Tim Pallas and local MP Marsha Thomson to answer concerns about the Road Tunnel & Stage 2 Truck Route as announced.

More details as follows
or for those on FaceBook http://www.facebook.com/event.php?eid=50092648017&ref=share

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Funds may be uncertain, but the need to proceed is definite - TheAge

Marc Moncrief

JOHN Brumby's $38 billion plan to redesign Victoria's transport system depends on Federal Government money that is unbudgeted, uncertain and — as far as the public knows — uncommitted.

Delivering the much-awaited plan yesterday, Brumby said he would need $13 billion from the Federal Government over 12 years to clear Melbourne's streets, link the city's major road arteries and boost capacity on the state's rail system.

Tunnel vision for Brumby's billions

Victorian Premier John Brumby announces $38 billion transport plan, with tunnels getting priority

The figure includes $2.8 billion in money already promised by the Commonwealth and an additional $10.2 billion in money hoped for from Prime Minister Kevin Rudd's Building Australia Fund.

It is not the first time the $10 billion figure has been floated, and it is a figure that comes with some controversy.

The state has been pressuring the Commonwealth for a commitment of at least $10 billion since federal Treasurer Wayne Swan publicly questioned whether the global financial crisis would allow the Government to deliver on its promise of $40 billion to invest in transport, health and education....

Read the rest of the article at TheAge.com.au

Funny that when I clicked on the video (above), it ran an ad for GM Holden.

Something for everyone — and therein lies the problem - TheAge

Tim Colebatch

A TRANSPORT plan as big as this — investing $38 billion over 12 years — can transform the city it serves, or give it more of what it already has. But this is John Brumby's plan, so it tries to do both.

Melbourne is one of the world's most spread-out cities, small islands of high-density housing amid a vast sea of low-density, mostly single-storey homes set in gardens. It is inevitable that a city like that will rely on cars for its transport needs.

But it's the 21st century, and car emissions cause global warming. Melbourne's population is nearing 4 million, heading for 5 million, and its roads are congested as never before. The planners say that instead of building out, we should build up, creating a different kind of city where trains, trams and bicycles can take us where we need to go.

And where is the Brumby Government on this? Everywhere.

Last week John Brumby announced yet another expansion of Melbourne's urban boundaries, pledging to rezone enough rural land for 134,000 new homes. Yet he also made a fresh move to get Melbourne to build up, selecting just six of the 116 activity centres identified by Melbourne 2030 as priority business centres, to create momentum for their redevelopment.

We are moving ahead at full speed, in both directions.

Brumby declares the new Victorian Transport Plan "transformational", and in a sense it is. In recent times, 80 to 90 per cent of the state's transport investment has gone into roads and only 10 to 20 per cent on rail. In this plan, it's roughly 50/50, and it proposes investment in rail on a scale not seen since the 19th century.

Assuming Commonwealth funding — and the plan assumes Canberra will pay a third of the total cost, although it has committed only $3 billion so far — by 2020 Victoria will build two significant new rail lines, extend or electrify five others into rapidly developing suburbs, and invest $4.5 billion on new trains, trams, and buses.

In 1999 Steve Bracks promised to spend $80 million to upgrade rail tracks on four lines. Regional Fast Rail ended up costing more than 10 times that, and even then many of its best ideas were jettisoned to keep costs down. Now the money is there, or assumed to be there. These projects are staggeringly expensive. For the South Morang line, to build 3.6 kilometres of track and a new station, duplicate five kilometres of track closer in, and enlarge Thomastown station will cost $650 million. To electrify 15 kilometres of track to Sunbury will cost $270 million. To electrify the track as far as Melton (with new stations and improvements, of course) will cost $1.3 billion.

The two tunnels in Sir Rod Eddington's report on east-west options were costed at $16 billion as a preliminary estimate. And few voters saw them as meeting their own transport needs.

So instead, Brumby is offering us a smorgasbord: 60 projects, in roads, rail, trams, buses, bicycles, ports, even regional airports. Some are already under way or programmed. Others are new projects, whether on roads, tracks, buying new trains, trams and buses, freight terminals, etc. There's something for everyone.

Half that spending would be on four big projects: two road, two rail. What remains of Eddington's road tunnel is a $5 billion tunnel under the Maribyrnong River and the western suburbs to link the Dynon Road freight terminal to its supply sources, via the Geelong road and the Western Ring Road. We need roads like this for Melbourne to work, yet remain liveable.

The second road costs even more: $6 billion-plus to build a nine-kilometre freeway underground from Greensborough to Bulleen. It's the link our rulers left out of the Outer Ring Road, because they assumed it would have to go through Eltham, and even Jeff Kennett was not game to try that. But if money is no problem, we can build it underground, without going anywhere near Eltham. Just don't be surprised if it ends up as a toll road.

The Tarneit-Sunshine rail link proposed by Eddington would be expanded into a $4 billion line from Werribee to Southern Cross, creating a dedicated double track for regional passenger trains from Geelong, Ballarat and Bendigo, with a spur line to serve the new suburbs of Tarneit and Wyndham Vale.

Eddington also proposed a rail tunnel from Footscray to Caulfield. Brumby has promised to build only the central bit. Even that would cost $4.5 billion, a cost he defended as kicking off "the development of a metro system in Melbourne".

But it doesn't do that, and can't, unless we have planning policies that create population densities where public transport becomes our best option for getting around. This plan sets some good priorities, but in trying to please everyone, it lacks a clear strategy.

Read the original article at TheAge.com.au

Is this our future? - TheAge

Paul Austin
...It was in May 2006, that Brumby's predecessor, Steve Bracks, announced as part of his grand transport plan that $5 million would be spent commissioning an "east-west needs assessment" by international transport guru Sir Rod Eddington.

Sir Rod's brief was to advise on new transport connections between the Western Ring Road and the Eastern Freeway. The headline recommendation in his report, released in April this year, was a road tunnel from the west to the Eastern Freeway. That tunnel came to symbolise in the public mind what the Eddington Report was all about.

Yesterday's plan was the Government's response to Eddington (and a lot more besides). But guess what? The most compelling part of Eddington is not even in Brumby's plan, which we are assured is a blueprint for the state through to 2021.

Cabinet has determined that all the other plans and projects listed in the Brumby plan are more important than Eddington's tunnel.

The Brumby plan makes considerable sense as a staged "closing the gap" exercise, particularly on the road network. So the roadblock at the end of EastLink is dealt with via a ring road around Frankston to Mount Martha. There will be a new road tunnel under the Maribyrnong, a "competitor" to the West Gate Bridge. Provision is made for an outer metropolitan ring road (starting at Avalon Airport and going around to the Hume Highway). And there is a commitment to build the "missing link" in the metropolitan ring road, to join the Eastern.

But a direct east-west road connection becomes the new "missing link". Brumby's message to those long-suffering commuters coming in on the Eastern is that his plan will do more for them than the Eddington tunnel ever would. It's an argument sure to test their patience.

The premier points out that the Eddington recommendation was for a tunnel with no off-ramps into central Melbourne. Brumby says, the "bulk" of the people queueing up at the end of the Eastern each morning are not trying to drive through to the west, but rather are edging towards the left lanes to turn south into Hoddle Street.

There's the next bottleneck. So guess what? Brumby announced yesterday as part of his grand transport plan that $5 million would be spent commissioning a north-south needs assessment, to advise on ways to free-up traffic flows down Hoddle Street, probably involving tunnels or fly-overs. And so the cycle continues, as successive governments try to keep up with the transport needs of a rapidly growing city. It is an endless work-in-progress...

Read the whole article at TheAge.com.au

Quite an obvious take on the VTP - that a LOT of it is asterisked that it is dependent upon Commonwealth funding. Even so, it is still concerning the amount of pro-East West Link car tunnel rhetoric that is still out there.

Monday, December 8, 2008


La la la la laaaaaaaaaaaaa


Take a look, if you can get thru...

And here it is in writing boys and girls. Pages 105 AND 155. The fat lady is now singing, loud and strong!


Many of the recent newspaper reports suggest that the East-West Link road tunnel was not going ahead.

However, a number of friends of SaveHollandPark.org.au have heard from Bronwyn Pike herself that the State Government's forthcoming Transport Blueprint states JJ Holland Park by name, stating that it will never be used for a staging point for any transport development.

We have learned that Bronwyn Pike worked hard to ensure that the park was mentioned in the report.

So... if you wanna let out a huge HURRAH... then go ahead, I'm with you. However, my full celebrations won't happen until I read it in print.

And a BIG thanks to each and every one of you - no matter how you contributed - emailing politicians, sending in a submission on the Eddington Report, attending a rally, or perhaps just discussing it with your friends and neighbours.

Brumby's $40bn plan to get Victoria moving - TheAge

PLANS to buy 52 trains and 50 trams for Melbourne, as well as 20 trains for regional Victoria, will be unveiled today as John Brumby seeks to lay claim to the title of "the public transport Premier".

The $4.2 billion buy-up of rolling stock will be accompanied by a promise to build Melbourne's first metro-style underground suburban rail line — a 17 kilometre cross-city tunnel from Caulfield to Footscray via St Kilda Road and inner Melbourne — as well as a new surface rail line through the rapidly growing western suburbs and a long-awaited extension of the Epping line in the north.

The Age believes the Government's transport blueprint, to be revealed today, will involve nearly $40 billion of purchases and projects.

Mr Brumby will claim the plan will create tens of thousands of jobs and transform Victoria's road network and public transport system into Australia's best.

But the Opposition will claim the timeline for many of the major projects is so long that there can be no guarantee Labor will deliver them.

Commuters on the Eastern Freeway will have to wait years for relief from the daily congestion as they hit Hoddle Street, with cabinet rejecting a recommendation from its transport adviser, Sir Rod Eddington, for a $9 billion road tunnel from the end of the Eastern Freeway under North Carlton to the western suburbs.

Instead, Mr Brumby will announce that the Government will commission an engineering study to consider building underpasses or flyovers south along Hoddle Street at the intersections with Johnston Street, Victoria Street, Bridge Road and Swan Street.

But there will be quicker action to get freight traffic out of residential areas of the inner-west, notably Francis Street in Yarraville.

Mr Brumby will announce plans to build an elevated road from West Gate Freeway to Hyde Street, to carry trucks along Footscray Road to the Port of Melbourne, at a cost of about $380 million.

About $80 million will be allocated to build a 3.5 kilometre Dingley bypass road in the south-eastern suburbs, between Perry and Springvale roads.

The Age has confirmed that, as part of the Government's public transport push, today's statement will include:

  • $1 billion to buy 50 low-floor trams. But the first of the trams, which can carry up to 200 passengers, will not start operating until 2012-13.
  • $550 million for 20 V/Line trains, to add more than 1500 extra seats to the regional.
  • $650 million for a further 20 X'Trapolis trains, to be added to the 18 already on order and due to start operating from late next year.
  • $2 billion for 32 "new generation" trains, with 30 per cent more carrying capacity and extra doors. These trains will not start operating until all 38 X'Trapolis trains have been rolled out.

The transport plan is also expected to include:

  • An investigation of potential routes to extend the Metropolitan Ring Road from Greensborough to EastLink at Ringwood, possibly through environmentally sensitive areas such as Diamond Creek and Warrandyte.
  • Buying up land for a road in an arc from Avalon Airport to the Hume Highway as the start of a new outer ring road.
  • A bypass road around Frankston, costing about $750 million.
  • Extra bus services for Doncaster and surrounding eastern suburbs.
  • About $100 million — but spent over 12 years — for new and improved bike paths across the state.
  • More than $30 million to fund extra transit police, especially on train lines with high levels of violence and vandalism.

Mr Brumby would not discuss details of the transport blueprint yesterday, but emphasised it was for the entire state, not just Melbourne.

"It is transformational in terms of its scale," he said.

But the Opposition said the fact that the plan was being unveiled nine years into the life of the Government showed Labor had failed to plan adequately for the state's population boom.

Opposition transport spokesman Terry Mulder said: "We keep getting told this is a plan for the future, but it seems to be a plan to have a heap more plans and studies."

Read the original report at TheAge.com.au

Tunnel vision on track - news.com.au

THE $38 billion transport package will revolutionise the way you move around this city. It will also change the way goods are moved.

Train travel will become quicker and less prone to disruptions with construction of a $9.5 billion tunnel from Footscray to Caulfield.

Stations are expected in the university and hospital precinct in Parkville, at the Domain interchange and possibly in the CBD.

The project is designed to carry about 40,000 passengers an hour.

Metlink chief executive Bernie Carolan said the tunnel was essential in ensuring the delivery of reliable commuter train services into the future.

Inner network problems needed to be fixed before extensions, such as to South Morang, could be fixed, he said.

The $1.5 billion Tarneit link, from Sunshine to Werribee, is designed to improve metropolitan and country services.

V/Line services to and from Geelong will be more reliable because they won't get stuck behind suburban trains.

You might be more likely to get a seat in future thanks to an immediate order for 20 trains and a further order for 35 next-generation trains.

Quicker trips to and from Doncaster can be expected with enhanced bus services.

But don't expect a quick, seamless drive from the Eastern Freeway to CityLink any time soon.

Another of Sir Rod Eddington's major recommendations, an east-west road tunnel, has proven to be more politically difficult than the rail tunnel.

But relief is in sight for motorists with a $240 million upgrade of the West Gate Bridge, revealed by the Herald Sun last week, to provide a medium-term alternative.

A further reason to delay the east-west road tunnel will be a plan to build flyovers along Hoddle St.

Motorists will also get an easier run through the notorious Springvale Rd level crossing at Nunawading, rated the worst in the state for safety, which will be replaced.

What is less obvious is a growing problem around the ports area: more capacity to move freight around is desperately needed.

Resident anger is building around the inner-western suburbs as truck numbers increase.

The solution is the first stage of Sir Rod's road tunnel, underneath Footscray to the ports, and better connections to Hyde St and Footscray Rd, allowing trucks to bypass residential areas.

Read the original article at news.com.au

$6 billion super link - news.com.au

EXCLUSIVE: THE biggest road project in Melbourne's history to connect the northern and eastern suburbs will spearhead today's transport plan.

The 9km North East Link, with tunnels under the Yarra River, will cost at least $6 billion - more than the combined cost of the CityLink and EastLink freeways.

But the Brumby Government won't say whether it will have tolls.

The road will link the Melbourne Ring Rd at Greensborough to the Eastern Freeway at Bulleen.

Tunnels will be bored for 4.5km from Rosanna to Bulleen to protect the environment and homes.

Premier John Brumby today will commit to the project, which will run through and under suburbs including Greensborough, Rosanna, Heidelberg and Bulleen.

The North East Link will be one of dozens of projects in the $38 billion transport plan.

Mr Brumby said the plan would eclipse recommendations by transport expert Sir Rod Eddington.

"This is a bigger plan, this is bigger than Eddington in terms of its scale, its impact, its investment, jobs, the profound changes it will make to our transport system," he told the Herald Sun.

Details of the plan already revealed by the Herald Sun include:

  • AN $8.5 BILLION rail link from Footscray to Caulfield.
  • THE Frankston bypass, to cost $700 million.
  • A ROAD tunnel under Footscray connecting to the port area, to cost several billion dollars.
  • THE $240 million plan to convert emergency lanes on the West Gate Bridge to regular traffic lanes.
  • A TRUCK route through inner-western suburbs to cost $380 million.
The eastern section of an inner-suburban east-west road tunnel is set to be shelved, with the Government convinced the North East Link would take significant pressure off Hoddle St and other arterial roads.

The Government is also considering a series of flyovers and underpasses to resolve Hoddle St bottlenecks.

At least half the North East Link will be tunnels while the rest of the freeway will use existing roads, which may need to be widened.

Dubbed the "missing link", the Melbourne Ring Rd would be lengthened from Greensborough to Rosanna before tunnels take traffic beneath the Yarra and under heritage areas including picturesque land around the Heide Museum of Modern Art.

The Government's preferred option is to minimise environmental damage at the Banyule Flats - the scene of many landscapes by the Heidelberg School of artists.

Planning for the North East Link will begin immediately but construction may have to wait until 2012.

The transport plan is crucial to the Government's future with road congestion and public transport chaos threatening to seriously undermine Labor's run to the 2010 election.

Some of today's projects will not begin until after 2010 but some smaller projects are likely to begin almost immediately.

Shadow transport spokesman Terry Mulder doubted Labor would deliver on the plan.

The Victorian Employers' Chamber of Commerce and Industry urged the Government to set down time limits for long-term projects.

Read the original article at News.com.au

Sunday, December 7, 2008

On your bikes, says Brumby

COMMUTERS will be asked to leave their cars at home, share the drive to work, get on motorcycles and scooters or take to their bikes in a sweeping package of reforms to be unveiled as part of the State Government's transport blueprint this week.

But the Brumby Government's plan to upgrade bike paths — believed to amount to $100 million over 12 years — is likely to disappoint cyclists, adding only $800,000 to existing annual funding statewide.

"They have made the time scale very long," Bicycle Victoria chief executive Harry Barber said. "With this commitment, they are clearly not moving quickly enough to turn car trips into bike trips to relieve congestion."

Premier John Brumby yesterday confirmed that his much-anticipated transport plan will be released this week, possibly as early as tomorrow.

The Sunday Age believes the plan's road-building focus, which reportedly includes the Frankston bypass, a port to CityLink freeway and possibly an outer ring road, will be offset by a large campaign to convince people to stop driving their cars to work.

Part of the campaign will be a push to make motorcycles and scooters safer, increasing their appeal to commuters as low-emission alternatives to cars.

The Sunday Age believes the Government will also aim to set a carbon emission target for its vehicle fleet. This is likely to mean state bureaucrats will in future be driving more hybrid Camrys and locally made small cars, such as the Ford Focus, instead of the traditional six-cylinder Holden Commodores and Ford Falcons that dominate the fleet now.

It is understood the transport plan will closely match the Government's ambitions to create newly designated business centres at Broadmeadows, Box Hill, Dandenong, Frankston, Footscray and Ringwood. Significant transport projects are likely to be focused around these areas in a "decentralisation" of Melbourne's transport strategy.

In his recommendations to the Government, Sir Rod Eddington said $60 million worth of new east-west bike tracks should be built in Melbourne. The transport plan's bike funding will commit $100 million over 12 years across Victoria, replacing the previous commitment of $75 million from 2006 to 2016. Cycling advocates were hoping for a much bigger investment. A new statewide bike strategy is expected next year, with upgrades to existing bike paths, new and extended paths, priority traffic signals for cyclists and better separation of cyclists and cars...

Read the entire article at TheAge.com.au

So... what bicycle will you be riding Mr Brumby!? (Don't worry... I'll escort you on the one I ride every single day, if you like. I'll even give you some tips!)

Getting Melbourne moving - TheAge

The government's response to Sir Rod Eddington's transport report is imminent. Here are the most pressing problems and some possible solutions...
Yet another article of conjecture prior to the release of the State Government's Transport Blueprint. Click here to read it at TheAge.com.au

Saturday, December 6, 2008

North-south road tunnel next on employers' list - TheAge

VECCI release their wish list.

A POWERFUL employers' group has announced its wish list of transport projects for Melbourne, including a road tunnel from Hoddle Street in Collingwood to CityLink in South Yarra.

The Victorian Employers Chamber of Commerce and Industry was instrumental in putting the plan for a $9 billion east-west road tunnel from Footscray to Clifton Hill on the State Government's agenda.

The first stage of that project is expected to be among the promises in the Government's transport plan expected to be released on Monday.

The chamber believes the Government must begin planning the next wave of transport projects. Key among them is a north-south road tunnel, beginning at the end of the Eastern Freeway in Collingwood and emerging at CityLink in South Yarra.

Other projects it said should be built over the next two decades included a rail line to Melbourne Airport and a rail link to Avalon Airport.

Read the original article at TheAge.com.au

Funding for road upgrade brought forward - TheAge

The $2.25 billion upgrade to Melbourne's Western Ring Road will commence six months ahead of schedule to help boost the national economy during the global financial crisis, Prime Minister Kevin Rudd says.

The overall upgrade will add extra lanes and enhance traffic management systems and improve traffic flow on the 38 kilometre road between the Princes Freeway in Laverton North and the Greensborough Freeway, Greensborough.

In Melbourne on Saturday, Mr Rudd said the federal government committed $900 million at the last election towards the project and has brought forward $5 million in the 2008-09 budget for construction to begin immediately.

The early works will commence on the extra Altona-bound lane from the Deer Park Bypass to Boundary Road and is expected to be complete by mid-2009.

Mr Rudd said bringing the project forward was important stimulus for the economy during the financial crisis.

"Good infrastructure, but also at a time like this, (is) a good investment in the national economy," he said.

Victorian Premier John Brumby said his government was delighted with the announcement.

"This road, which so many Victorians use every day, will be immeasurably improved by the bringing forward of funding and the substantial investment that we are partnering together today," Mr Brumby said.

The road currently carries up to 142,000 vehicles a day, of which 16 per cent is freight traffic.

The upgrade is also expected to help improve safety for motorists on a road that has seen nine fatal and 750 casualty crashes in the past five years.

Read the original article at TheAge.com.au

Friday, December 5, 2008

The case against a tunnel

NO one likes sitting in traffic jams. But there is a lesson we are now beginning to learn: we can't build ourselves out of congestion.

So, however tempting it is to relieve the frustrations of motorists on the West Gate Bridge, the State Government should not build the Eddington road tunnel from the Eastern Freeway, under Parkville and out to the Western Ring Rd.

This tunnel is an engineering project in search of justification. It does not need to be part of any systematic plan to provide for transport needs across the whole city, and across different modes of transport.

Although Sir Rod himself backed the tunnel (a project put to him by VicRoads), the detailed analysis in his report can be interpreted to tell a different story.

Try to think of roads like drainage systems. Water flows from small pipes from households into large fat pipes, then to sea.

Unlike drainage systems, road systems discharge people and cars back into narrow channels - the local streets and roads that contain people's destinations.

But, like water, the traffic will back up when the large pipe enters the small pipe system. So freeway off-ramps always become congested.

The Eddington analysis shows clearly that drivers crossing the West Gate Bridge or those entering the city from the Eastern Freeway have many destinations throughout the inner and middle suburbs.

Most drivers do not want to travel right across the city east-west or the reverse.

So relieving congestion at the ends of these freeways merely transfers the traffic congestion to the streets of inner Melbourne - on both sides of the city.

It opens the way to even more freeways, spaghetti junctions and flyovers throughout inner Melbourne. That's devastating to the local environment of homes, schools and parks.

Sir Rod Eddington recognised this problem and that's why he recommended providing no off-ramps on a tunnel that would run under Parkville and Royal Park.

But the analysis then showed that the road tunnel could not be justified economically because too few motorists would use it for a through east-west trip.

The only economic justification for the tunnel is the increased productivity that comes from reduced time spent in travel.

But the tunnel would return only 45 cents in value of time saved for every dollar spent. That's not a responsible use of our taxes. Yet even that calculation was optimistic.

But what would you do if you could save a few minutes on the journey - get to work earlier or get out of bed later? Time will be saved, for a few people, for a while.

But soon people and businesses will adjust their locations further apart to take advantage of the time saving.

In the long run, time spent in travel stays much the same, but distances increase.

We must face the fact that travel time per person has not fallen in Melbourne over the last 30 years, despite successive governments having built more freeways and relieved more bottlenecks than any other Australian state capital.

Like city people all over the developed world, Melburnians are discovering that car travel is indeed expensive.

The oil price has come down, but they know that it will go back up just as soon as global growth kicks off again.

They are transferring to public transport, causing congestion on trains.

Their demands that governments provide high-quality public transport before they spend more money on unproductive and environmentally damaging roads make sense.

And billions spent on an east-west tunnel is money not spent on public transport.

Prof Nicholas Low is head of Melbourne University's transport research centre

Read the original article at News.com.au

Do we tunnel east to west?

RACV's pro-tunnel statement, in today's Herald Sun.

THERE has been widespread speculation the east-west road tunnel will not be included in the State Government's transport plan.

The RACV has a clear view that a road tunnel from the Eastern Freeway to CityLink, with an extension to join the Western Ring Rd, is an essential part of a rational and comprehensive transport plan for Melbourne's future.

The West Gate-Monash corridor is being upgraded, including five lanes each way on West Gate bridge with an active emergency management system in place, but Melbourne is now totally reliant upon this route.

If something happens along it - especially given it serves the Port of Melbourne - the entire metropolis grinds to a halt.

The Eddington east-west project will provide an essential alternative to the West Gate-Monash corridor and this will "future-proof" Melbourne long-term.

This project will also significantly reduce traffic through Parkville, the inner north and upper part of central Melbourne, improving the amenity for workers and residents in these vital areas. And there will be less delay to both traffic and public transport travelling north-south.

RACV is aware some commentators have said there is not enough through traffic to justify the tunnel.

We do not agree and are aware that the Eddington team reviewed previous studies, including the northern central city corridor work and came up with a contrary analysis.

The RACV is strongly urging the State Government to deliver the Eddington blueprint for this project in its entirety and not just "cherry-pick" selected parts suiting interest groups.

We have proposed a comprehensive suite of road and public transport projects and initiatives that are integral to getting Melbourne moving properly.

The key longer-term issues include strategies for land use, new outer road and public transport corridors on Melbourne's west and north, consideration of cross-town heavy and light rail options within 10km of the city.

We need a dedicated airport rail link, too.

The transport priorities we need delivered in the next decade include:

FINISHING the Metropolitan Ring Rd. The end at Greensborough must be joined to the Eastern Freeway and EastLink to provide a proper route around Melbourne.

BUILDING the east-west rail tunnel from Footscray to Caulfield.

MAKING key public transport and road improvements in the outer growth suburbs (see RACV's Connect Outer Melbourne report at racv.com.au)

GOING ahead with the Tarneit rail line from west of Werribee, and joining the northern group of rail lines, to serve Wyndham and relieve V/Line congestion.

RELIEVING a blockage at the Frankston end of the Monash and EastLink freeways by building a bypass link to the Mornington Peninsula.

RACV has also proposed a ramp-up of the SmartBus network to cover the Doncaster corridor. New rail to South Morang and Epping must go ahead.

We're urging the Government to ensure that all these critical projects are in the transport plan and especially the complete east-west tunnel project.

A plan without this key project will not sufficiently ease Melbourne's congestion or improve life in the inner suburbs.

Brian Negus is RACV general manager public policy

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Emergency lanes to make way for more traffic on West Gate Bridge

Ashley Gardiner

EXCLUSIVE: EMERGENCY lanes on the West Gate Bridge will make way for more traffic in a bid to tackle Melbourne's congestion crisis.

An extra lane across the bridge in both directions could make room for 40,000 more motorists a day.

The Herald Sun believes the plan will be a major plank of the State Government's transport blueprint, to be released within days.

A $2 billion road tunnel under Footscray is also tipped, as is a substantial increase in suburban rolling stock to cope with booming public transport numbers.

At least 20 extra trains and about 100 trams will be bought, and the Preston tram depot is set for a $200 million expansion.

Victoria's peak motoring organisation, the RACV, confirmed yesterday it had promoted the West Gate expansion idea.

The expansion plan would mean the scrapping of a proposal to change the direction of one lane according to the time of day.

RACV public policy manager Brian Negus said the organisation had lobbied against the so-called contra-flow lane plan.

"We have been saying that's not a desirable outcome," Mr Negus said.

Traffic would be monitored constantly, as it is on CityLink, by closed-circuit television.

A similar arrangement will be in place along CityLink's southern link when the current upgrade is finished.

Lanes could be closed in an instant from a control room using electronic overhead signs, as is done in the tunnels, to compensate for the lost emergency lane.

The bridge would be strengthened to carry the extra traffic.

VicRoads has been conducting a detailed structural investigation.

A source said the Government had decided to build only one section of the east-west tunnel proposed by transport expert Sir Rod Eddington. The tunnel would run under Footscray and the Maribyrnong River underneath Buckley St.

It would connect Geelong and Sunshine roads with Dynon and Footscray roads.

By providing a new link to the ports area, the tunnel would remove much of the truck traffic from the inner western suburbs.

A source said a decision not to build a road tunnel under Kensington, Carlton and Fitzroy for now was politically easier.

The Herald Sun has previously reported the Government's decision to go ahead with the first stages of the underground rail tunnel from Footscray to Caulfield.

The Tarneit rail link, between Sunshine and Werribee, will also form part of the package, as will electrification of the rail line to Sunbury. Extending rail services to South Morang is also expected.

Opposition transport spokesman Terry Mulder said the Government appeared to be ignoring several of Sir Rod's recommendations.

"The road (tunnel) project doesn't appear to be what Sir Rod wanted," Mr Mulder said.

Releasing his report on east-west transport this year, Sir Rod cautioned against cherry-picking his recommendations.

"Not only are they cherry-picking, but also altering the recommendations of Sir Rod," Mr Mulder said.

The decisions on which projects to adopt have been affected by the global financial crisis.

State Government transport spokesman George Svigos declined to comment when contacted by the Herald Sun yesterday.

Read the original article at HeraldSun.news.com.au

Our font size increase and bold, above.

City transport plan revealed - TheAge.com.au

Paul Austin

A MULTIBILLION-DOLLAR expansion of Victoria's rail network and the go-ahead for some of the most controversial roads ever built in Melbourne are the key elements of the State Government's transport blueprint.

The Age believes Premier John Brumby will announce a "metro-style" rail tunnel from the western suburbs to the south-east, a new rail link to free-up the Geelong and Ballarat lines, and an extension of the Epping line in the rapidly expanding outer north-eastern suburbs.

Mr Brumby is also expected to flag the Government's intention to build the so-called "missing link" in the Metropolitan Ring Road through some of the city's most environmentally sensitive areas in the north-east and east.

He will also signal plans to start work on a new outer-metropolitan ring road, and to build the long-mooted Frankston bypass.

But it is understood the plan will pull up short of an immediate go-ahead for the contentious east-west road tunnel recommended by the Government's transport adviser, business leader Sir Rod Eddington.

Instead, the Government plan is expected to include only a new road in the inner west, designed to cater for increased freight traffic from the Port of Melbourne and to free up residential roads such as Francis Street, in Yarraville, that are clogged with trucks.

Mr Brumby will sell the plan as a blueprint to ease Melbourne's road and train congestion and to transform a suburban transport system into a modern, metro-style network.

But the Opposition, which expects transport congestion to be one of the major negatives for Mr Brumby in the lead-up to the 2010 election, will accuse the Government of failing to act quickly enough to enable Melbourne to cope with its population boom.

The Government last night refused to comment on the plan, expected to be released within days. But The Age believes it will include:

  • A rail tunnel from Caulfield to Footscray via St Kilda Road and the central business district, which the Government will describe as the start of a European-style underground network. It is expected to cost about $8.5 billion, and construction is unlikely to start for several years.
  • A "Tarneit link" surface rail line from Werribee to Deer Park, providing services for residents in that growth corridor, and freeing up the Geelong and Ballarat lines. The new link will cost about $1.5 billion.
  • An extension of the Epping rail line to South Morang, with construction to start in the election year of 2010 and the first trains to start operating in 2013, at a cost of about $650 million.
  • A detailed study of routes to extend the Metropolitan Ring Road from Greensborough to the EastLink tollway at Ringwood, possibly through environmentally sensitive areas such as Diamond Creek and Warrandyte.
  • A bypass road around Frankston to Mount Martha, costing about $750 million and jointly funded by the State and Federal governments.
  • Setting aside land for a road in an arc from Avalon Airport to the Hume Highway as the start of a new outer ring road.
  • Extra bus services for Doncaster and the eastern suburbs.
  • About $30 million for more transit police on train lines that have high levels of violence and vandalism.

Fast-tracking the extension of the Epping line will be welcomed by public transport advocates and residents.

The Bracks government two years ago promised to begin duplicating the track from Keon Park to Epping in 2016 and to extend the double-line to South Morang from 2021.

Mr Brumby will announce that both projects will begin in 2010, to provide services for the booming Plenty Valley.

South Morang will be a "premium station", staffed from first train to last, with about 380 services a week, a 500-space car park, a taxi rank and timetables linked to local bus services. Trains will run about every 10 minutes in peak times and 20 minutes during off-peak.

As part of the project, Thomastown station will get a second platform and will be upgraded to improve access for disabled and elderly passengers — as will Epping station.

Once the second rail bridge now being built across Merri Creek at Clifton Hill and the South Morang extension are finished, the line will have two tracks all the way from South Morang to the City Loop.

"This time it's actually going to happen," one Labor insider said last night of the long-promised project.

Read the original article at TheAge.com.au

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Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Peak-hour drivers give major freeways the flick - TheAge

Clay Lucas

JUST days before the State Government releases its much-anticipated Victorian transport plan, new figures show car numbers on two of the city's biggest freeways are falling.

Roads agency VicRoads has released data that shows the number of cars using the West Gate and Eastern freeways during the morning rush hour have fallen consistently over the past six years.

On an average day in 2008, there were 20,400 cars using the Eastern Freeway in the morning peak, from 6am to 10am.

Six years earlier there were 22,600 cars using the freeway each morning.

Figures for the West Gate show a similar situation.

This year, the West Gate averaged 22,900 cars each morning, while in 2002 an average 24,000 cars used the road.

A VicRoads spokeswoman said the reduction had occurred because the two freeways were too choked to fit any more cars. "Peak traffic times are spreading out to deal with the increase in congestion," VicRoads' Ayllie White said.

Other figures released by VicRoads yesterday showed that if all Melbourne's arterial roads were taken into account, freeway traffic was growing.

But where the Government has made public transport options available, drivers appear to be taking them.

On the Eastern Freeway, bus patronage jumped 11 per cent in the past year, a result of the Brumby Government's boost in express bus services.

And the Department of Transport predicted in April that patronage on overcrowded western suburbs' trains would grow by 9.5 per cent a year.

The freeway figures could cast doubt on Sir Rod Eddington's proposed $9 billion freeway from Clifton Hill to Footscray.

In April, Sir Rod proposed what would be one of the world's longest road tunnels: an 18-kilometre freeway between the Eastern and the West Gate.

The tunnel would relieve growing pressure, he said, in travelling between the east and west of Melbourne.

But critics say Sir Rod provided little fresh evidence of the need for the road, which a government taskforce rejected in 2003 because of a lack of travel demand.

That taskforce used the government's own transport planners, whereas Sir Rod used traffic consultants Veitch Lister — who were re-employed to work on the Victorian transport plan.

Since the release of the Eddington report, Roads Minister Tim Pallas has warned of a looming congestion crisis between the Eastern and West Gate freeways. He has called for the first stage of the Eddington road project to be built, saying he supports building a freeway to cross the Maribyrnong River.

"Victoria's reliance on the West Gate Bridge into the long term is unsustainable," Mr Pallas said last month.

The head of Melbourne University's transport research centre, Nicholas Low, said people wanted better public transport, not more freeways.

"Tim Pallas wants to build lots of new roads but he is out of step with public opinion, which wants the money spent on better public transport," he said.

Confidential VicRoads data obtained by The Age in July showed zero growth in car use on Melbourne's roads over the past year.

Read the original article at TheAge.com.au

Planners attack sprawl, question transport plan

Clay Lucas

PLANNERS have asked why the State Government has released a major strategy to let Melbourne's sprawl extend without first releasing a detailed transport plan.

The Government announced yesterday that it would rezone 50,000 hectares of farmland on Melbourne's city fringe into building lots.

"Where is the transport plan?" Planning Institute president Jason Black asked.

The community needed to know how growth areas would be accessible by public transport and road, Mr Black said.

A proposed metropolitan rail line between Werribee and Sunshine must form part of the Government's transport strategy if Melbourne's west was to have adequate public transport, he said.

The $1.5 billion rail line was proposed by Sir Rod Eddington in April.

Government sources have confirmed that the rail line, known as the Tarneit link, will be included in the Government's transport plan, due out within days.

Mr Black said the city's expansion had been driven more by population growth projections than by a strategic plan for Melbourne.

And housing would not be made more affordable by the release of more land, Mr Black said.

Last month Curtin University's Peter Newman published a study with global engineering company Parsons Brinckerhoff that showed development of housing on the urban fringe cost $85,000 more per block than on existing inner-city sites.

"Governments just don't know how to stop sprawl, because they don't know how to facilitate high-density building," Professor Newman said.

The expansion will further increase Melbourne's carbon emissions. The city produces 11 million tonnes of carbon dioxide a year, compared with 8.5 million tonnes in London, despite having almost half the population.

Read the original article in TheAge.com.au

Monday, December 1, 2008

Any chance of delivery on transport promises, Premier? - TheAge.com.au

Peak hour at Flinders Street station.

Peak hour at Flinders Street station. Photo: Paul Rovere.

Sick and tired of rubbish public transport? You're far from alone.

FOR too long public transport has been the poor cousin to what the Government considered were more pressing policy areas, and commuters have suffered.

This has occurred at a time when train patronage has grown by more than 30 per cent in the past three years. Indeed, on one morning last October at the Caulfield station, most trains between 8am and 8.30am carried more than 900 passengers, with the 8.23 squeezing in 1035. Similarly at Clifton Hill, the 8.13am and 8.20am services averaged more than 1000 passengers. And this when the Government considers any more than 798 passengers in a six-carriage train "a load breach".

Transport plan: 60-second opinion

Experts in transport and key government officials were given the opportunity to spend 60 seconds explaining how they see the upcoming Victorian transport plan.

Premier John Brumby will soon deliver Labor's umpteenth "transport plan". He needs to deliver major improvements in service. An Age/Nielsen poll published last week made this clear when almost two out three Victorians said spending on public transport was more important than expenditure on roads.

The same proportion are unhappy with the Government's performance on public transport. Too many people in inner Melbourne can no longer turn up at a station and expect to board a train and get to work on time. Nor can they expect to find room to even board their local train. Rather, they just watch dangerously overloaded trains pass by.

Meanwhile, too many people in Melbourne's growth areas rarely see public transport. A recent parliamentary study found just one in 100 outer suburban residents used public transport to get to work.

While Melbourne has gained an average of one new freeway every 10 years over the past four decades, since Sir Henry Bolte was premier, the last suburban link built was the Glen Waverley line in the 1930s. As train line building ceased, Melbourne's population grew from 1.5 million in 1954 to almost 4 million now - no wonder the trains are full.

The deficiencies in the public transport system are the result of successive governments finding other priorities for taxpayers' money.

For much of the 1990s premier Jeff Kennett was fixated with cutting costs, reducing debt and building up a large cash surplus. The newly elected Labor government in 1999 had to find hundreds of millions of dollars to deliver its promised regional fast rail project.

When private rail operator National Express decided to walk away from the train contract, the Bracks government had to step in with an additional $1 billion funding over five years. So while the present Victorian Government could argue that an extra $1 billion was spent by Bracks on public transport, none of it was spent on extra trains, trams or buses.

In recent years there have been ad hoc transport plans, most recently the Government's marketing extravaganza in 2006 known as "Meeting Our Transport Challenges", which boasted a "25-year vision" for Melbourne's transport needs.

Just two years later the Government conceded the plan massively underestimated public transport demand. Yet it continued to find other spending priorities.In July 2006 it committed almost $5 billion to new water projects. By the November 2006 state election, its focus had shifted to rebuilding every government school.

Now there are signs the Government may be dampening expectations for its latest public transport announcement as the financial crisis hits Government finances. Treasurer John Lenders has said Victoria was expecting at least $10 billion from Canberra and warned if the money was not forthcoming the Government's transport plan would have to be scaled back.

One option the Government may be considering is pushing projects back, with some to be delivered in decades to come.

What is clear is that hollow transport promises will not help one commuter. The new transport plan must include real projects with deliverable timelines. If state borrowing is the only way to fully fund the urgently needed upgrades, the Government should do it. There is no doubt people are prepared to pay more for reliable, accessible public transport.

On the day Mr Brumby was sworn in as Victoria's 45th premier, he listed "accelerating public transport improvements" as a priority. Now is the time to deliver. No more empty promises, public transport's time has come.

Jason Dowling is city editor.

Read the original article in TheAge.com.au