Wednesday, September 10, 2008

RACV to Brumby: City fringe roads need $3.2bn

Clay Lucas

THE RACV has demanded that the Brumby Government double the money it pours into road building in outer Melbourne.

Calling for $3.2 billion to be pumped into 85 new road projects over the next five years, the RACV said there was a growing gap between transport options for people who lived in inner and outer Melbourne.

"The transport disparity between outer and inner Melbourne continues to get wider," public policy manager Brian Negus said.

Many of outer Melbourne's main roads were built for light rural traffic, but are now handling tens of thousands of vehicles a day, the RACV said in its report, Outer Melbourne Connect.

"Country roads are now handling city levels of traffic," Mr Negus said yesterday.

The report criticises governments for failing to provide adequate public transport to outer Melbourne. "(The) transport system has failed to keep pace with rapid population growth," the report says.

"Many of Melbourne's newly developing suburbs are public transport black holes with little prospect of significant improvements in the near future."

On top of $3 billion in road projects, the RACV called for:

■ Underpasses or overpasses to be built at five level crossings in Melbourne each year.

■ A "missing link" tollway from Greensborough to Ringwood, connecting EastLink to the Metropolitan Ring Road.

■ Rod Eddington's proposed $9 billion east-west road tunnel.

Some of the new roads should be paid for using a public-private partnership model known as "shadow tolling", the RACV said. Private firms would build a road and bill the Government over 20 to 30 years based on usage.

The RACV also called for a new railway line to Mernda, near Whittlesea, electrification and duplication of the line to Sunshine and new stations at Melton and Point Cook...


But Public Transport Users Association president Daniel Bowen said the RACV plan would deplete resources sorely needed for more urgent public transport projects. "Exactly what Melbourne doesn't need right now is more roads," he said.

To suggest it did not come down to a choice between roads and public transport was laughable, Mr Bowen said.

"As a city we need to make a choice: do we keep building roads like we have been doing for the last 50 years — which has just resulted in worsening traffic congestion and more reliance on petrol — or do we invest heavily in transport that provides real solutions?" he said.

The Metropolitan Transport Forum's 2005 study of Melbourne, Most Liveable and Best Connected?, found three times as much was spent on new roads in Victoria as on public transport infrastructure. In this year's state budget, $729 million was committed to roads and $730 million to public transport.

But the Federal Government will spend large amounts on road projects in Victoria — including widening the Western Ring Road — while spending nothing on public transport.

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