The 2010 state election has seen the defeat of the 11-year-old Labor government and its replacement with a majority Liberal-National Party coalition by the barest of margins. During the election campaign, Friends of Banyule campaigned vigorously against the proposed North East Link freeway and in favour of sustainable transport initiatives in the City of Banyule and adjoining municipalities. Our campaigning included regular street stalls where we were received by a very supportive and concerned public and letterboxing, both in the electorate of Ivanhoe and adjoining electorates. Our letterboxing activities were supported by a number of community groups including : Public Transport Users Association, Koonung Mullum Forestway Association and Warringal Conservation Society.
We also conducted a very successful Public Meeting at the Ivanhoe Centre attended by approximately 600 people. The Meeting was addressed by Transport policy expert Dr Paul Mees, The Age columnist Kenneth Davidson and Public Transport activist, Darren Peters.
The Greens candidate for Ivanhoe, Paul Kennedy, declared that the North East Link project should be stopped. He also argued in support of the much-needed upgrade of the Hurstbridge railway line and a range of other initiatives.
The position of the Liberal candidate, Carl Ziebell, was equivocal. He appeared to say at our Ivanhoe public meeting on 6 October that more needed to be known about the north east link project before he would be prepared to commit to any line of action.
Labor candidate for Ivanhoe, Anthony Carbines, re-affirmed his support for the project, albeit with the proviso that it be built underground (however, this would require $6b of federal funding which to date, has been refused).
Mr. Carbines was elected as the member for Ivanhoe with a much reduced majority compared with his predecessor, Craig Langdon. Both the Greens and the Liberal candidates substantially increased their vote in Ivanhoe.
Transport issues predominated in the local media leading up to the State election, which is a measure of its increased importance in the electorate at large.
General reportage of the election result suggested that the much publicised failures of the public transport system, especially train services and the accident-prone MYKI ticketing system, were instrumental in the Brumby government being thrown out of office after holding a near record parliamentary majority.
It is interesting that there were very few promises of new roads projects made by the major parties during the campaign. There is now widespread agreement in the electorate at large that the public transport network is in poor shape and needs to be upgraded. Still, we have seen these types of promises before, including in 1999 when the Labor government was first elected, only to see that government allow itself to become captive of the Road Lobby and any significant public transport initiatives stymied as a result.
The Baillieu government has come to office in 2010 with some significant promises which if implemented quickly, would significantly reform public transport in Melbourne. And some of these would potentially assist residents in Banyule. In doing so they would also take the pressure off both road congestion as well as our natural environment.
The new government’s promise to undertake a feasibility study for the long hoped for Doncaster railway line would significantly help residents in the east and north-east of Melbourne. This would especially be so if effective bus connections were to be established at Bulleen Road, Burke Road and Chandler Highway, modelled on the very successful rail system which now operates in Perth.
Similarly, the government’s promised feasibility study of the proposed Rowville rail line is important. This project, first mooted many years ago, would result in a major shift in travellers from road to rail in the outer east of Melbourne. It would especially assist commuters who are now compelled to travel on the Monash Freeway and others such as the many students and staff at Monash University. When last considered it was estimated that the rail line to Rowville would remove one lane of traffic from the Monash Freeway. This would provide for improved travel time in this thoroughfare which is designated as a major freight carrying route.
Also, a significant proportion of the traffic that currently travels through Banyule, including on Rosanna Road and the Greensborough Highway, is comprised of passenger vehicles destined for Melbourne Airport. The airport is one of Melbourne’s greatest traffic generators with over 100,000 traffic movements each weekday. It is a major source of road congestion because public transport to the airport from the eastern suburbs is virtually non-existent.
The Liberal Party promise to revive the Melbourne Airport rail project, which had previously been promised but then abandoned by the Labor government. This project would assist in reducing traffic congestion in the northern suburbs in particular. When built, the train network and connecting buses would for the first time provide ready public transport access to Melbourne Airport for most people – the reduction in pressure on the road network would be substantial.
However there was little in the new Victorian government’s transport policy in the form of direct improvements in public transport services for residents of Banyule. There were no promised bus service upgrades and no indication of an upgrade of the Hurstbridge Line. Of particular concern is the fact that the new government appears to have given little consideration to the important role of the local route bus network. The previous government’s refusal to fund bus service improvements in Banyule which were recommended in the recent bus services reviews was a major disappointment to many, including Friends of Banyule.
Meanwhile, the opening of East Link by the Labor government and lack of a corresponding spend on public transport infrastructure, has resulted in greatly increased congestion on roads in Banyule including Rosanna Road. Rosanna Road was not designed for the heavy vehicles now using these routes as a short cut instead of City Link/Monash freeway. With the start date of the proposed North East Link freeway not till 2017, this is not a solution likely bring any relief for almost a decade in any event. Hopefully, the election outcome will make clear to the new government that simply building more freeways is a 1950’s solution and that the electorate and the people of Victoria now demand better public transport and a more strategic approach to both transport and planning.
It is early days yet but there has also been no indication of the government’s official position on the former Labor government’s proposed North East Link. We remain vigilant and we continue to press the case for the abandonment of the project and the assignment of scarce public resources to more effective and environmentally sustainable transport options in metropolitan Melbourne. And we urge all residents to continue doing the same.
- Coalition pledges Doncaster rail plan (news.theage.com.au)
- Now for the hard part (theage.com.au)
- Payback time for fed-up commuters (heraldsun.com.au)
- Leader to drive traffic changes (theage.com.au)