PTUA AGM: Thirty Years and still 'Standing Up for Passengers'

The Public Transport Users Association held its thirtieth AGM this evening marking a milestone in the advocacy for better public transport in Melbourne. Thirty years ago the cancellation of a Lilydale train, led East Ringwood resident Frank Casey to seek a group of like-minded individuals to form an organisation focused on public transport advocacy.

That organisation originally known at the Train Travellers Association (TTA) later became the Public Transport Users Association (PTUA) to represent its focus on all modes of public transport. The dedication shown towards the organisation is evident through people such as Patrick O’Connor who remained a committee member from its foundation days through to his passing in 1998.

Over the past thirty years the PTUA has had a number of successes including uniform weekend timetables for train and tram services, the introduction of NightRider services, all-night services on New Years Eve, the grade separation and subsequent upgrade of the Boronia interchange and the introduction of SmartBus services that provide more frequent and later running bus services and not just electronic signs.

The PTUA has also been growing at a local level with branches established in Geelong (seven years), the outer east (three years), the southeast and the northeast meaning the PTUA is able to cover much of Melbourne with local expertise in a responsive manner.

Alex Makin addressing the PTUA's AGM and 30th anniversary

This year alone the PTUA focused on the Transport and Liveability Statement and condemned this plan when it failed to deliver key promises and appeared to abandon the goal of 20% public transport modal share by the year 2020.

These highlights were featured in a video that showed archived media footage of the PTUA’s various campaigns over the past thirty years. It is worth noting that Channel Seven won an award for amateur footage taken by the PTUA in demonstrating the chaos that occurred to a due a lack of public transport on the 2003/2004 New Year’s Eve.

The new slogan for the PTUA was also unveiled – Standing Up for Passengers since 1976.

The PTUA’s AGM included a celebration of not just the past thirty years but also for the future of the organisation. With a state election just eight weeks away the efforts of the PTUA in demonstrating the importance of public transport will be crucial in ensuring that Melbourne has relief from rising petrol prices and worsening traffic congestion.

In the post-AGM meeting I was elected as Vice-President in recognition of the importance the success that the outer eastern branch has had to date. With a number of marginal seats being located in eastern Melbourne, the outer east is well poised to demonstrate the importance of public transport in this year’s State Election.

Laburnum Community Action Group

The second public meeting of the Laburnum Community Action Group, which was held this evening, was coincidentally scheduled exactly three months after their inaugural public meeting.

Much has happened over the course of the last three months, including the successful formation of a regular steering committee (which was one of the outcomes from the first public meeting) and the group being able to develop alternative plans to address concerns in the redevelopment of Laburnum Station.

This evening I was invited by the Laburnum Community Action Group to speak on behalf of the Public Transport Users Association (PTUA) to provide an overview of a similar issue that occurred at Boronia in the mid nineties:

It is great to see the Laburnum Community Action Group continuing so strongly. I noticed that tonight’s meeting is exactly three months after the inaugural meeting that was held in this very hall. The fact that both the community action group and yourselves are here this evening demonstrates how the government and VicRoads have failed to adequately consult the community and hence have so far failed to manage and deliver a project that will meet community needs.

This project was announced in the lead up to the 2002 State Election, yet funding was not provided until the 2006-2007 State Budget, a budget that was passed in May this year. The government had four years to ensure consultation for this project and yet the government chose to simply keep people waiting, leaving the community in the dark over not just over consultation but also whether the project was actually going to proceed.

Alex Makin delivering a speech on the importance of community action to the Laburnum community.

As a result of the lack of consultation we have already seen last minute changes including a series of five weekend rail closures before the end of the year and the abandonment of the temporary station known as Box Hill East. Such last minute changes are a worrying sign and are clearly the result of a lack of consultation. Issues in regard to buses travelling along residential side streets could have been uncovered years ago if the government provided consultation, issues in regard to rail and parkland closures could have also been explored.

Instead both the government and VicRoads have displayed nothing but pure arrogance in the delivery of their plans. These plans provide very little station amenity and fail to incorporate pedestrian and cycling needs, aspects that should have been recognised and addressed by proper consultation. Instead we have heard VicRoads claim that they were always willing to speak to the Laburnum Community Action Group, this is contrary to the fact that VicRoads refused to the speak to the action group before tonight’s public meeting.

I do have some good news this evening and that is community action does bring favourable results.

As a case study I wish to refer you to the Boronia interchange in the mid to late nineties. In Boronia before the late nineties there was a level crossing over both Dorset and Boronia Roads and this resulted in a notorious bottleneck and safety concern for the local community.

In 1995 the PTUA called on the State Government to fund the grade separation of this level crossing, a project that was considerably more complex than the situation at Laburnum. VicRoads claimed that the PTUA’s proposal would cost in excess of $200 million and favoured a typically road based option that would actually sever Boronia into two.

This however did not deter the PTUA or the local community and we continued to question this extraordinary cost and submitted our own plans for grade separation during the public consultation phase. The PTUA estimated that these plans would cost approximately $23 million.

In 1997 a breakthrough occurred and the project was tendered for $28 million in accordance to the PTUA’s plans. While the PTUA did underestimate the cost of the project – our estimate was much closer to reality than the absurd price of $200 million as claimed by VicRoads.

In 1998 the underpass was completed and while minor works continued to take place the rail line was closed for just four days over two weekends. The station itself and corresponding bus interchange cost $2 million of the total amount.

The successful result at Boronia was due to local residents, traders and the PTUA advocating for the best solution. Not only did this solution save money but it also enhanced the amenity of the local area and helped rejuvenate Boronia.

Similar community action is required for Laburnum to ensure that you are provided with the best outcome for this project. Grade separations are a good initiative but they must include community consultation and a design that is responsive to community needs. The Laburnum Community Action Group has submitted alternative plans to VicRoads and the government and these plans must be seriously evaluated. Issues in relation to pedestrian and cycling access as raised by the community must be rectified.

Continued community action is required to ensure that you are provided with an acceptable outcome. Given the absence of consultation and leadership from the State Government it is imperative that you raise your concerns with the Laburnum Community Action Group and the PTUA. Issue letters to the local papers and ensure that your voice is heard.

Alex Makin delivering a speech on the importance of community action to the Laburnum community.

In six months or a year’s time you do not want to look at the flaws in this project and think that if only you have been actively involved the outcome may have entirely different.

Liberal commitment towards safety at Ringwood Station

This afternoon I was invited by Ryan Smith, the Liberal candidate for Warrandyte and Heidi Victoria, the Liberal candidate for Bayswater, to a policy announcement made delivered by Ted Baillieu, the leader of the Opposition, at Ringwood Station.

The policy announcement contains $120,000 for a security upgrade to Ringwood Station to ensure that the entire station, rather than just a designated ‘safety zone’ are monitored by police. The commitment is based upon a similar project that has been operating at Lilydale where the police actively monitor the security cameras installed at the rail station.

The program at Lilydale has been hailed a success since it has seen a reduction in vandalism, graffiti and other anti-social behaviour in and around the rail station. A similar program has also been proposed for both Croydon and Mooroolbark.

Ringwood Station is often perceived as being unsafe and as such it is imperative that safety concerns at stations such as Ringwood are addressed. Ringwood as the junction between the Belgrave and Lilydale line is an extremely busy station and at times is the scene of anti-social behaviour, the installation of actively monitored security camera will help address these safety concerns.

The installation of security cameras will also assist in improving the safety of the local area while the much-needed plans for the redevelopment of Ringwood Station are implemented. It is worth noting that at this time neither major party has committed itself to the redevelopment of Ringwood Station.

It is hoped that this policy announcement will demonstrate the wider need for the redevelopment of Ringwood Station into a well lit, safe and accessible modern rail station. I look forward to the unveiling of further policy releases over the next eight weeks.

Outer East Citizen's Advocacy

The Outer East Citizen’s Advocacy Inc. is a not for profit organisation that aims to defend, promote and protect the rights of people with disabilities and to empower people to access the resources within their local community.

This evening I was invited to speak to the Outer Eastern Citizen’s Advocacy in regard my background in public transport advocacy and my role as a councillor for the City of Maroondah. One of the most important responsibilities of being an elected councillor is to provide advocacy on behalf of the local community whether internally in council or in regard to state or federal issues.

Maroondah has one of the highest proportions of people with a disability (14% of approximately 100,000 residents) and as such it is imperative that infrastructure such as Ringwood Station is upgraded to ensure compliance with accessibility standards. It is only through accessible infrastructure that people will be able to fully participate within society.

Furthermore there is a need for footpaths to be constructed along well-used pedestrian links to ensure an ease of mobility for people in travelling to shops, schools and public transport. Fortunately in this regard Maroondah City Council is currently finalising a Footpath and Pedestrian Strategy. This strategy will provide a framework that will rectify the shortfall of footpaths within Maroondah.

Maroondah City Council provides a number of avenues for people with disabilities to be heard including the Maroondah Disability Forums held quarterly and the Scoot Wheel N Move workshops.

Outer East Citizen’s Advocacy continues to provide a valued service for the community by removing the barriers that prevent people from participating within society.

Delegates' Report: EVRC, Heatherdale Road and the ETC

I echo comments in regard to the Eastern Volunteer Resource Centre and the community service the organisation provides. In regard I will be tabling their Annual Report, which was presented at their 30th AGM.

On the 13th I attended a meeting of the Heatherdale Community Action Group. This group, which represents the residents of Heatherdale, continues to grow and flourish with each meeting as the interests of the group diversity to cover the overall community. I am pleased to report that the group has been appreciative of council’s efforts in regard to Southern Rocycling and labelled the verdict of the recent court case as a ‘very successful win’. The verdict was obviously a victory for both residents and council alike and it is great to see that these efforts are being appreciated by the Heatherdale community.

The Eastern Transport Coalition met on the 14th and I am pleased to say the campaign for fair fare zones is continuing. It is planned to undertake a survey to ascertain the extent in which people drive to avoid paying the additional slug of a zone three fare.

In response to a question put to council a fortnight ago I also raised the issue of parking at Croydon Station. The Eastern Transport Coalition as a regional body will be pursuing this matter with the State Government and Connex to seek not only additional parking but also a more functional bus network to provide an integrated service to get people to and from Croydon Station.

Another issue I raised was the current lack of hourly bus services on a Sunday along Maroondah Highway. After much advocacy the state government pledged to provide an hourly Sunday service for bus route 670, which connects Ringwood, Croydon, Chirnside Park and Lilydale along the Maroondah Highway.

While some Sunday services were provided on this highly patronised route there is currently a three-hour gap in the middle of the day. The Eastern Transport Coalition will be requesting the fulfilment of the government’s commitment made in 2005 to deliver a proper hourly Sunday service.

Eastern Transport Coalition continuing the fight for fair public transport fares

Tonight’s Eastern Transport Coalition Meeting focused on the ‘fair fare’ campaign with a survey being developed which aims to ascertain the extent in which zone three penalises public transport users and encourages the practice of driving to areas such as Heatherdale to avoid paying for the additional zone. This research will help present a case to call on the removal of zone three and minimise the price hike between fare zones.

Other items discussed include the need to directly candidates and MPs in the lead up to the State Election to ensure that the goals of the Eastern Transport Coalition and the need for better public transport are fully understood and appreciated.

I also discussed the parking difficulties at Croydon Station and a letter will be issued by the Eastern Transport Coalition to seek additional parking and better bus services for Croydon.

North Ringwood Community House the 2006 graduates in Certificate III Aged Care Work

Community Houses are an invaluable asset and offer a chance for people to learn and develop new skills to assist in employment or recreational pursuits. In addition the North Ringwood Community House, located in 120 Oban Road, Ringwood North, provides fully accredited courses in areas such as aged care.

Tonight I was invited by the Community House to present graduation certificates to gradates of the Certificate III in Aged Care Work. With an aging population there is a growing need for people qualified in aged care and the Community House provides a friendly and more personalised environment to study such courses.

The class of 2006 must be congratulated for their efforts. The quality of both students and teachers is clearly apparent with all graduates already securing paid employment with aged care providers.

For more details on the North Ringwood Community House please visit

Maroondah Hospital: Charity Golf Day Thank You

Maroondah Hospital located in Mount Dandenong Road, Ringwood East, held its first annual golf day to encourage businesses to sponsor equipment purchases for the Hospital. Today’s event was a presentation organised by the Hospital staff to explain the purpose of the fundraiser and the equipment that they were able to purchase after the successful event.

The Hospital purchased new ventilation machines, which will provide more responsive care for patients requiring breathing support. The new equipment would not have been possible without the generous support of the business community and the support offered by the City of Maroondah in assisting to facilitate the event.

Heatherdale Community Action Group 'celebrating a successful win'

The Heatherdale Community Action Group Inc. (formerly the Heatherdale Road Action Group) continues to grow as it strives to represent the Heatherdale community.

Tonight’s meeting included the Manager of Property and Rates from Whitehorse who explained the process of revaluations and a State Emergency Services (SES) volunteer who spoke about the Nunawading SES and the service they provide. The role of Victoria’s SES cannot be underestimated as it responds to emergencies such as floods, severe storms, earthquakes, road accidents as well as search and rescue. It is great to see the Heatherdale Community Action Group inviting speakers who are able to provide details on what is an essential service for Victoria.

The meeting also covered the recent court case and adverse finding against Southern Rocycling. I am pleased to say that the community was appreciative of council’s efforts calling the verdict a ‘very successful win’.

The court action, which was the first such case against Southern Rocycling, demonstrated that the concerns shared by the community were real and that they had a genuine grievance.

I thank the Heatherdale community for their patience and dedication in regard to Southern Rocycling.

Maroondah Leader: Station short of all-day parking

The Maroondah Leader has reported parking difficulties experienced at Croydon Station which were raised as a public question at the last Maroondah City Council meeting:

LACK of all-day car parking at Croydon railway station is driving commuters away from public transport, student Nicolas Piastra says.

The Croydon student asked Maroondah Council at its September 4 meeting to support a push for more long-term parking at the station.

Croydon Station has 400 car parking spaces, however these are regularly full after the morning peak causing difficulties for people wanting to use public transport outside of peak hours.

Cr Alex Makin said the three-hour parking was funded by Croydon traders.

He said the State Government should provide more parking for train passengers and bus services co-ordinated with the rail system to “ensure there is a reliable alternative to people having to drive there in the first place”.

While there is a need for more parking at Croydon there is also a need to ensure that we have a functional bus network that is able to take people to the station and back again in an efficient manner. If bus services were coordinated with rail timetables residents would have a feasible choice between driving to the station or using public transport for the entire journey.

There is a need for the State Government to finally realise that public transport needs to operate as a functional network, not as a collection of isolated bus routes and rail services.

Cr Makin said he planned to raise the need for more parking at Croydon at the Eastern Transport Coalition meeting on September 14.

Given Croydon Station’s status of premium station and as an important public transport hub for the outer east, the Eastern Transport Coalition would be best suited to advocating for the needs of residents that utilise Croydon Station.