Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Australia's urban railways are full: experts

Australian urban railways are full and the federal government needs to pour at least $10 billion into meeting public transport demand, an expert panel warns.

The panel says new railways have to be built to handle the huge influx of people leaving cars at home and cramming onto public transport.

Professor Graham Currie, the chair of public transport at Monash University, said Australia's railways had used up their spare capacity.

"The railways are full - we need to solve the railway capacity problem and we are five to 10 years away from even implementing it," he told reporters.

"We need to act now to find a solution - it has an impact on our economy because mobility is going to start declining."

He said disadvantaged families living on city fringes who depend on cars will fare the worst.

"Beyond that issue, we have greenhouse gas emissions that will impact on our weather system and the viability of the economy, we have pollution and peak oil prices," he said.

The panel called for major investment in public rail and bus systems.

Dr Janet Stanley, chief research officer at the Monash University Sustainability Institute, said the federal government's emission trading scheme would hurt low income families and could cost rural families as much as $1,200 a year.

"It will cause considerable difficulties for low income people but we support it because people will be worse off if it isn't introduced," Dr Stanley said.

Professor John Stanley, of the Institute of Transport and Logistical Studies at Sydney University, said Australia was one of the few developed western economies where the national government played no role in public transport.

"This needs to change," he said.

He was backed up Michael Apps, executive director of the Bus Industry Confederation, who said it was time the Rudd government made good on its rhetoric.

"So far we've heard a lot of talk from the new government about their commitment to addressing the problems of fuel prices, traffic congestion and climate change - it's time we saw some action before it's too late," Mr Apps said.

Read the original article here - http://www.theage.com.au/national/australias-urban-railways-are-full-experts-20080708-394r.html

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