Victorian Transport Summit Report

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Report from the Victorian Transport Summit on Friday 5th September, 2008

Kevin Chamberlin, representative for Protectors of Public Lands Victoria at the Transport summit

The speakers at the Summit were:

  • Premier of Victoria – John Brumby
  • Minister for Public Transport – Lynne Kosky
  • Minister for Roads and Ports – Tim Pallas
  • Minister for Environment and Climate Change – Gavin Jennings
  • Minister for Major Projects – Theo Theophanous
  • Minister for Regional and Rural Development – Jacinta Allan
  • Minister for Planning – Justin Madden
  • Sir Rod Eddington – Chair “East West Link”

Each of the above made a presentation on the transport needs of Victoria from their respective portfolio obligations. The Summit was also attended by groups from the environment/community, union/trucking lobby, consultants with expertise in this area, RACV/road lobby, State Government administration and elected officials from Local Government. The City of Melbourne was not in attendance.

It became very clear following the presentations by the above that transport issues are very high on the Government agenda and the situation is serious. The State Government clearly sees the creation of major projects to overcome these problems as employment/economic stimulators for the state as much as they see them as solutions to the transport problems. It was emphasized that the cost of Channel Deepening and the M3 had played an important part in the economic figures for Victoria. Theo Theophanous referred to “pipelines of work” and “keepings the skills and equipment in Victoria”. John Brumby referred to “pipelines of projects” twice and stated “we will definitely get these”.

There was a “breakout discussion session” where the participants were divided into 5 groups. The themes were-

  • Creating a more livable, fairer and sustainable Victoria
  • Meeting the challenge of Public Transport and patronage growth
  • Meeting the challenge of road congestion and the increasing freight task
  • Meeting infrastructure delivery challenges
  • Connecting Regional Victoria

I was in the first grouping along with a cross-section of the participants including Ministers Jennings and Madden and their staff. I made the point, and had some support, that the Government needs to send a very clear message to the community that it is serious about fixing the transport situation in Victoria and a commuter/freight rail solution should be one of the highest priorities, and not new road/tunnel construction. It became clear during discussions in the group and privately, that many of the consultants with expertise in this area consider the situation in inner Melbourne to be so serious that a road/tunnel solution is not feasible. They believe that the social, environmental and economic impact of a road/tunnel solution is not sustainable and cannot be justified.

Other issues of interest were –

  • Victoria has 53,000 kilometres of road and 3000 bridges.
  • Containers will become much bigger.
  • Freight will grow from 15 – 20% of total road traffic.
  • Victoria’s population is currently 5.1 million and will grow to 7.6 million in 2036 (this is a government figure and is generally acknowledged to be conservative/inaccurate)
  • Melbourne’s population will grow from 3.74 million today to 5.41 million in 2036.
  • Regional Victoria will grow from 1.38 million today to 1.85 million in 2036.
  • The pressure from population growth will be in the north-west and west of Melbourne and in the Cities of Casey and Cardinia.
  • Growth will be slow in the eastern suburbs.
  • There will be significant pressure for growth in the inner city.
  • Congestion is estimated to cost between $2.6 billion and $3 billion annually.
  • The State Government has 7 funding options for major projects including tolls, PPP’s and Federal funding.
  • 3% of the journeys in Bendigo are by public transport.
  • 24 – Hour freight delivery is seen as an option by the Government.
  • 80% of all freight coming out of the Melbourne Port is destined for locations within 50 kilometres.
  • Doing nothing about Melbourne’s transport issues is not an option (Eddington and Brumby said this.)
  • The Government claims to have spent a total $73 million on bicycle paths.
  • The transport system caters for 200 million journeys a year while 10 years ago it was 100 million.
  • Freight volumes double every 10 years.
  • The Federal Government has a responsibility to contribute to the solutions and is seen as a definite source of funding.
  • Urban/strategic and transport planning need to be seen as one at a State level.

In his final address John Brumby guaranteed “the pipeline of projects” and said the Government was looking at a 10-year time frame and believed it could be managed and financed. He wants a strategy based on the whole State with short, medium and long-term objectives. He also stated he wants an improvement in all modes of transport with a “big expenditure” on public transport. He is of the view that we need to make better use of the existing infrastructure and it is essential to get the freight transport system right.

The lobby groups and others with significant interests in this area have the ear of Government and are very influential “behind the scenes”. It is interesting to note the link between the truck lobby and the Transport Workers Union and their influence in the Labor Party. It is now 8 years since the “Make Melbourne Marginal” campaign was started and has resulted in many community and other groups having success with the State Government on issues that are important to them. The view held by many in the Melbourne State and Federal Seats of Parliament was that they would have had very little influence while the Labor Party considered these seats as safe.

– Kevin Chamberlin

Past President, Protectors of Public Lands Victoria Inc. and, currently, a Committee member
8 September 2008

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