As the Deputy Chair of the Eastern Transport Coalition I was invited to present the ETC’s views on the re-franchising arrangements for the rail and tram network. The presentation provided an opportunity to highlight the needs of Melbourne’s outer suburban residents and opportunities that can be pursued through the new franchise arrangements for more a frequent, reliable and accessible public transport system.
The Eastern Transport Coalition (ETC) as a regional body representing one million residents within its seven outer eastern councils is well positioned to understand the requirements of its communities and to demonstrate the need for efficient public transport operations.
The survey data compiled by the Australian Research Group for the ETC clearly demonstrates that residents of Melbourne’s outer east would be more than willing to use public transport if services are frequent, readily available and easy to understand.
In particular the ETC believes that there is considerable scope to improve off-peak and interpeak services, as a way of shifting travel demand and mitigate worsening overcrowding during peak times. Frequency of service is a key driver to attracting passengers onto public transport at times other than peak periods. Likewise there should also be the opportunity for express services outside the traditional peak periods.
More frequent services will also assist in delivering a more reliable system since it will assist in more evenly distributing demand across the network. Likewise all rail lines should operate at a consistent service frequency and operating span to provide consistency across the network.
While bus services are outside the scope of the train and tram re-franchising proposals there is a need to improve coordination across the entire public transport system, as such the new franchising arrangements must trigger a review of connecting bus services whenever there is a modification of rail and tram timetables. Bus services generally require at least a three month lead-time to implement changes and ample time is provided so that all modes can operate in a coordinated manner.
Accessibility is also a critical factor with the State Government failing to meet targets for disability compliance on the rail network. There would be a considerable opportunity to provide the franchisee with the scope to redevelop nominated stations in exchange for commercial rights. This would provide the operator with an incentive to modernise Melbourne’s rail stations through the creation of mixed use transit hubs and also ensure higher cleanliness and safety standards.
Likewise it is also critical that the new franchise arrangements include scope to extend the rail network, such as the much needed rail extensions to Rowville and Doncaster and the tram extensions that are required to Knox and Doncaster Hill.
Local Government both individually and collectively as a region would welcome the opportunity to engage the new rail and tram operators so that services meet the needs of our community. As an example, we have actively engaged Connex through the Health, Safety and Wellbeing Committee, which has led to the reduction of vandalism along Maroondah’s rail network. Public transport is critical to the mobility of our communities and local government should be actively engaged over initiatives and timetable changes.
The new franchise arrangements for the train and tram network will begin on the 1st of December of this year. It is imperative that the new agreements assist in delivering a service that meets the needs of our community.