The Victorian government could dramatically improve the state’s public transport system by extending its Fast Train plan and devoting extra resources to an eight year transport investment strategy for regional areas, says a new report from Environment Victoria.
The first comprehensive review of public transport from an environmental perspective, Driving the Fast Train Further – integrated public transport across all Victoria was launched today (4 May) by State Transport Minister Peter Batchelor at Spencer Street Station. The report examines how the benefits of the Fast Rail project can be optimised and then translates this approach to the whole of the state.
It recommends that the introduction of simplified signalling and cheaper track upgrade options could save $200 million. These funds could then be used to bring in extra fast train services, and commence a strategic plan to enhance bus services across the state.
“If regional and rural towns and new population centres on the edge of Melbourne are to prosper we need to think about reducing our impact on the environment through use of a properly integrated public transport system,” said Esther Abram, Director of Environment Victoria.
“It is vital that regions have a transport system that enables people and freight to move efficiently between major provincial cities, their hinterland, the capital and the ports,” she said.
“The benefits of better public transport are enormous. It promotes economic growth and development. It improves easy access to education and health facilities. Tourism development would be facilitated by a fast, frequent public transport network. There are also significant environmental benefits from less car travel,” said Ms Abram.
Environment Victoria’s analysis of the situation draws on transport feasibility studies, reports by shire councils and other transport agencies. The recommendations about Fast Trains centre not only on Ballarat, Bendigo, Geelong and Traralgon, but on other routes such as North Eastern Victoria/Goulburn Valley, Warrnambool, Mildura, Portland and Dimboola.
The report found:
John McPherson, one of the report’s authors, said: “The Fast Train Corridor projects will be of great benefit to regional Victorians in the four designated corridors. But only 42% of regional Victorians live in these corridors and the same benefits need to be extended right across the state.”
“While any improvements to public transport infrastructure are welcome, the task does not stop there. The central government has a major role as well to plan and manage public transport right across the state. The Fast Train project is a good start but as our Environment Victoria report shows there is much to do,” concluded Mr McPherson.