Spending plan only ‘a PR exercise’

From The Age October 17, 2008 Reported by Clay Lucas

While Melbourne’s trains groan under the pressure of 40% more passengers in the past three years, the Brumby Government’s much-touted plan to fix Victoria’s transport system is travelling at a glacial pace, new analysis shows. Just 2% of a $10.5 billion transport plan promised in 2006 has been spent, a frank assessment by the Property Council of Australia has found.

The property council’s research – disputed by Public Transport Minister Lynne Kosky yesterday – found only five of 76 commitments made in 2006’s Meeting Our Transport Challenges strategy had been delivered. The Government was not moving fast enough on big transport projects, the powerful business group that represents major building owners and developers said.

“Victoria is choking because of a lack of transport infrastructure,” executive director Jennifer Cunich said.

“The commitments … need to be delivered at a much faster pace to keep Melbourne moving.”

The research also found no major new infrastructure projects had been finished since the plan was launched in 2006.

The property council highlighted two major projects promised in 2006 – the myki smartcard and the new Metrol train communications system – that were over budget and behind schedule.

The Government will release a new transport plan next month, its fourth “long-term” strategy since 2002.

The property council said it was crucial the Government did not let the 2006 promises fall off the agenda. “We cannot let existing infrastructure commitments fall off the radar just because another transport plan is developed for Melbourne,” Ms Cunich said.

RMIT transport planning lecturer Paul Mees lambasted Meeting Our Transport Challenges when it was released, and said yesterday the new analysis showed he was right. “The property council, understandably, thought that Meeting Our Transport Challenges was a transport plan,” he said. “Instead, it was a public relations document designed to deflect public anger about the deteriorating state of public transport.”

But Ms Kosky said the property council’s assessment of the 2006 plan was incorrect.

“Many more than five projects are completed, and many more are already under way,” her spokesman Stephen Moynihan said, pointing to a list of 18 projects, including the $1.4 billion M1 freeway widening project and Clifton Hill rail bridge duplication.

The property council, presented with the list of 18 projects from Ms Kosky’s office, said it stood by its assessment.

Opposition transport spokesman Terry Mulder said the “three ‘M’s” promised in Meeting Our Transport Challenges – myki, Metrol and the M1 – had collectively have blown out in cost by $790 million.

“While John Brumby, Lynne Kosky and Roads Minister Tim Pallas prepare to spruik Labor’s fourth transport plan in nine years, Meeting Our Transport Challenges stands testament to Labor’s blowouts and bunkum,” Mr Mulder said.