Daniel Andrews has resigned as Victoria’s Premier.
It’s hard to think of bigger changes to Melbourne’s public transport infrastructure in recent decades than what we’ve seen since 2014 when he became Premier. Dozens of level crossing removals (and rail lines and stations rebuilt) and the Metro tunnel nearing completion.
The level crossing program was particularly ingenious. Highly visible across Melbourne, benefiting lots of local communities.
And despite what some claim, they’re beneficial to public transport users as well as motorists.
Hopefully the Metro tunnel also triggers a big train service uplift – long overdue, and still not guaranteed.
Smaller but definitely beneficial projects funded and completed by Labor have included the Mernda rail extension, and more duplication of the Cranbourne and Hurstbridge lines.
There are other big projects underway too. Suburban Rail Loop has barely begun, though a major tunnelling contract was signed last month. The Airport rail link hasn’t been so lucky, currently paused pending a review.
Less well favoured by many are the two massive road projects: North East Link and West Gate Tunnel, both of which look set to continue the trend of more road capacity resulting in more traffic and more car dependency – and both have blown out by billions of dollars.
(It’s not “balanced” to invest equally heavily in roads as well as rail when public transport is so far behind that most people in Melbourne have no viable option but to drive everywhere.)
Taking on so many projects in the Big Build all at once is not without consequences, with demand for materials and skilled workers driving up costs.
Over on V/Line, there have been some good solid infrastructure and fleet upgrades, and some service improvements, but the crowding resulting from the fare cap has meant urgency on getting more upgrades sooner – which so far, isn’t really happening.
Meanwhile for all the big ticket infrastructure items, other, important, smaller projects have been left by the wayside – particularly around service upgrades to keep up with Melbourne’s population growth.
Chair of the Metropolitan Transport Forum Jonathon Marsden noted in The Age:
“The accessible tram deadline came and went last year and is urgently needed,” Marsden said. “Straightened out bus routes and joined-up walking and riding paths are yet to be given the focus that is needed to make Melbourne truly liveable. The next premier must refocus on these pressing needs.”
We now know that Andrews’ successor is Jacinta Allan, with Ben Carroll as her deputy – both of them have served as Public Transport Ministers.
Hopefully this from Jacinta when asked on a recent podcast about road and rail, is an indication of the focus moving forward:
I think rail… is the most equitable of services. You don’t need the ability to drive. Many people don’t have the ability to drive. Many people can’t afford to drive or have a second car, so it addresses those important equity issues that having a good transport network, road and rail, but then particularly having those rail connections gets you a better equitable outcome for the community that we are working in.
The point is an important one. And it goes for all public transport modes, with rail having obvious advantages for capacity, speed and comfort over longer distances.
So congratulations to both Jacinta and Ben, and if more rail and trams and buses and public transport services in general is what we’re getting, then bring it on!