Monday, July 7, 2008

Rail tunnel gets big union push

MELBOURNE risks becoming a backwater unless the State Government gives priority to improving public transport by investing billions in infrastructure.

That's the stark warning from the peak public transport union in its submission to the Government on Melbourne's transport needs.

The Rail, Tram and Bus Union says if it comes down to a choice, the Government must back the $8.5 billion rail tunnel between Caulfield and Footscray before the $9 billion road tunnel linking the Eastern and Tullamarine freeways.

RTBU state secretary Trevor Dobbyn said the situation was urgent, with forecasts indicating rail patronage would more than double in the next 20 years.

"Without it (the rail tunnel) peak-hour road congestion will worsen and Melbourne's international economic competitiveness would be damaged," Mr Dobbyn said.

"It would be seen as a city that has stopped working compared with a city that is expanding its capacity to meet the growing economic and environmental challenges."

The union's call came as government figures showed the city's train system suffocating under the pressure of record passenger growth, with people increasingly being left standing on platforms on the Werribee, Watergardens and Dandenong lines.

Patronage has risen 30 per cent in three years, with more than 189 million trips taken across the train system last year - an average of about 616,000 a day.

The union argues the rail proposals - including the tunnel, the Tarneit loop, connecting the Geelong and Deer Park lines with the Ballarat line, and the electrification of the Sunbury line, put forward by international transport expert Sir Rod Eddington in his East-West Needs Assessment report presented to the Government in March - would go a long way to resolving traffic congestion.

"It will also significantly reduce the pressure for the east-west road connection, with more commuters choosing to use public transport ahead of their cars," Mr Dobbyn said.

Sir Rod predicted in his report the rail network in the west and inner-eastern suburbs was about to hit the wall.

The RTBU, which covers most public transport workers, predicted expansion of the rail network would generate thousands of jobs for its members.

It foresaw increased demand for drivers, station and maintenance staff as construction of up to $10 billion in rail infrastructure was done over the next decade.

The RTBU's argument for investment in rail infrastructure has been backed by Australia's peak industry transport group, the Tourism and Transport Forum.

TTF Australia said that the $8.5 billion rail project was essential.

"Unless bold steps are taken to expand the capacity of the rail network it will simply be unable to cope with the number of people wanting to use it," TTF national transport manager Stewart Prins said.

Premier John Brumby is taking submissions on Sir Rod's report until next Tuesday.

Read the original article at -,21985,23978757-661,00.html

No comments: