The Age has today reported on rising speculation about the contents of the upcoming Transport and Liveability Statement. This statement aims to achieve integration between transport, planning and budgetary outcomes – an extremely noticeable failure of the much criticised Metropolitan Transport Plan (released November 2005) and Melbourne 2030.
It is no secret that Melbourne’s bus network is extremely poor compared to services in other capital cities and compared to the operating span and frequency of Melbourne’s own tram network. It is therefore hoped that the rising speculation and optimism about bus services will actually eventuate:
Long-suffering bus passengers are also in for relief with the statement expected to introduce minimum service levels on all routes, including night and Sunday services.
Buses are the only accessible form of public transport for about two-thirds of Melburnians, yet only one-third of routes offer Sunday services.
Public pressure has also resulted in a statement that is widely expected to include a number of public transport projects:
The Government is anxious about the pressure that rising petrol prices have put on creaking public transport services, contributing to a 7 per cent hike in patronage last year. Sensitivity also follows The Age’s “Off the Rails” series in November that highlighted widespread anger over the state of the system.
Most interestingly is the hope that the South Morang extension, a promise unfulfilled by the Bracks Government since 1999 may in fact be a key outcome of the statement:
The Department of Infrastructure is believed to have sought Government commitment to the South Morang extension of the Epping line, a project promised in 1999 but which appeared to drop off the Government agenda last year along with other rail extensions.
The success of the inclusion of much needed public transport rail extensions demonstrates the effect that lobby groups can have on government policy.
Public Transport Users Association spokesman Alex Makin said he was heartened by the speculation of rail expansion and bus service improvements.
“Melbourne has been promised many public transport projects by the Bracks Government and yet so few have been delivered,” he said. “The Government must ensure that this statement restores a sense of goodwill in the Government’s handling of public transport.”