Friday, September 5, 2008

Government warned of train crisis five years ago -

by Ashley Gardiner, John Ferguson

PLANS to head off the public transport crisis were ignored five years ago, despite a warning of the looming crush.

The shelved 2003 Melbourne Train Plan forecast that the system would carry 200 million passengers by 2006-07.

The overcrowded network didn't actually reach that figure until this year, but the warnings were clear.

"There is limited capacity in the existing network to absorb growing demand," the plan warned.

It recommended several new lines, extending existing lines and upgrading signals -- none of which has come to pass.

"The Government can't claim it wasn't warned," Public Transport Users Association president Daniel Bowen said.

"It's a crying shame that the Train Plan document has languished for all these years without being funded and implemented."

Premier John Brumby will host a summit today ahead of the release of the Victorian Transport Plan later this year.

It will be the third major transport blueprint to be issued by the State Government in four years.

Mr Brumby described today's transport summit as the last chance for input into the Eddington report, whose key recommendations were an east-west road tunnel and a passenger rail tunnel from Footscray to Caulfield.

"We're looking at all of the options," he said.

The 2003 Melbourne Train plan recommended an extensive list of train projects to cope with the looming patronage surge, including:

NEW lines to Mernda, Epping North and the airport.

EXTENDING electric rail services to Cranbourne East, Baxter, Sunbury, Melton and Werribee West.

MODERNISED signals for the City Loop and the Hurstbridge line.

EXTRA tracks from Springvale to Caulfield, Footscray to Sunshine, Cheltenham to Moorabbin and Cranbourne to Dandenong.

The 2003 Melbourne Train Plan was never released by the State Government.

Another document, the Metropolitan Transport Plan, was released in 2004.

In 2006, the Government came up with another plan -- Meeting Our Transport Challenges.

Opposition transport spokesman Terry Mulder said the Government was unable to do anything except make plans.

"They have had their chance and they haven't delivered," Mr Mulder said.

A spokesman for Public Transport Minister Lynne Kosky said the 2003 Train Plan did not reflect the current demands on the rail system.

"Some of the content has already been completed, such as park-and-ride upgrades, Southern Cross Station and delivering extra services on many lines," spokesman Stephen Moynihan said.

"The plan was based on much lower annual growth figures of around 4 per cent a year. In the last three years train patronage grew by 39 per cent."

Mr Moynihan said a number of line upgrades were under way or had been funded.

"These will add extra track capacity to run more peak hour services," he said.

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