Hundreds attend Melbourne Transport Forum to quiz politicians on trains, roads and best options

Melbourne Leader: Hundreds attend Melbourne Transport Forum to quiz politicians on trains, roads and best options. Kylie Adoranti. 15 August 2014

Audience members were keen to question politicians on their policies at the Metropolitan Transport Forum at the Melbourne Town Hall. Pictures: Angie Basdekis

Melbourne must spend billions of dollars greatly expanding its public transport, especially trainlines, Labor, Liberal and Greens politicians told a forum last night.

But they didn’t agree on much else, signalling that public transport will be one of the major differences between the three parties in the November state election.

Hundreds of people filled Melbourne Town Hall last night to hear State Transport Minister Terry Mulder, Opposition spokeswoman on transport Jill Hennessey and Greens leader Greg Barber address a forum organised by Leader Newspapers and the Metropolitan Transport Forum.

The East West Link drew the strongest and angriest crowd reaction when it was raised by Mr Mulder.

Public Transport Users Association member Daniel Bowen asked Mr Mulder why he was not letting Victorian people have a say on whether they want the East West Link and another audience member asked why parkland was being replaced with a freeway.

Public Transport Minister, Terry Mulder, speaking at the Metropolitan Transport Forum. Pictures: Angie Basdekis

Mr Mulder responded by saying the Government could “not sit back and rely on one single crossing of Melbourne”.

Ms Hennessey called the Liberals “cowardly” for planning to sign the contracts to the project just weeks before the election but stopped short of saying whether her party would abandon the project if it came to power.

Mr Barber then asked the audience to raise their hand if they were in favour of the East West Link, which no one did.

A member from the Aurora Community Association in Epping questioned the politicians on constructing the O’Herns Rd Hume Fwy Interchange. Mr Mulder said he would take the road project on notice.

There was also a question about whether any of the parties had any plans to improve bus services in the outer suburbs. Mr Mulder said the government had already announced extra services. Ms Hennessey said Labor would release a bus policy soon.

Mr Mulder said his government had improved public transport after it was left in a mess by the former Labor government.

Opposition spokeswoman on transport, Jill Hennessy.

Ms Hennessey started her speech with Federal Treasurer Joe Hockey’s comments that poor people did not drive.

“Hardworking families often have no choice but to drive,” Ms Hennessey said.

“And that’s because the public transport system does not exist in some parts of the outer suburbs.”

On the East West Link, Ms Hennessey said that “building one of the world’s most expensive roads won’t solve our transport nightmare”.

She said while she supported an airport rail link it was not a priority and instead favoured the ALP’s Melbourne Metro Rail Project.

She said if elected, her party would remove 50 of the state’s most dangerous and congested level crossings and made a guarantee to the crowd that the party would allocate $1 billion for outer suburban roads and $1 billion to fix country roads.

A 24-hour public transport service for Friday and Saturday nights would be trialled, Ms Hennessey said.

Greens Leader, Greg Barber, speaking at the Melbourne Transport Forum.

Greens leader Greg Barber outlined some of his party’s transport policies, which included: putting more trains on at peak hours to reduce overcrowding; filling in missing links on the tram network; bringing back tram conductors; constructing better cycling infrastructure; running trams late at night; and building more trams and buses in Victoria, which would boost industry and provide local jobs.

The forum was organised by Leader Newspapers and the Metropolitan Transport Forum and hosted by Melbourne Lord Mayor Robert Doyle.

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