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Tuesday, 22 September 2015

New Era for Transport Federally Requires Important Decisions

The Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull, has announced his new Ministerial team, which includes a Minister for Cities and the Built Environment. The PM has also stated that the Government would no longer prioritise roads over public transport.

These are hopeful signs that indicate a change to a more balanced way of looking at national transport requirements. The STC has sent an email to Malcolm Turnbull encouraging him to adopt this 'new way' and asking that he revisit federal funding in relation to MAX Light rail and the Perth Freight Link, in the Perth Metropolitan Area, and the issue of Tier 3 Grain Rail lines in regional WA.


Dear Prime Minister

On behalf of the Sustainable Transport Coalition of Western Australia, I congratulate you on becoming the 29th Prime Minister of Australia and wish you well.

The STC has been very concerned at the lack of effective involvement of the federal government over the past two years in matters of urban transport and, in particular, the government's 'sticking to its knitting', which meant funding roads and not public transport.  In this respect, we note with approval your appointment of the Hon Jamie Briggs MP as Minister for Cities and the Built Environment and your reported statement that the Government would no longer prioritise roads over public transport (http://www.abc.net.au/news/2015-09-22/light-rail-back-on-agenda-with-turnbull-expert-hopes/6793438).

The STC has long promoted transparency and a level playing field for transport funding and investment (http://sustainabletransportcoalitionofwa.blogspot.com.au/2014/10/transparency-and-objectivity-needed-in.html) as has the Federal Government's own Bureau of Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Economics (http://bitre.gov.au/publications/2014/overview-project-appraisal.aspx) and by Infrastructure Australia (http://infrastructureaustralia.gov.au/policy-publications/publications/files/Australian-Infrastructure-Audit-Key-Findings.pdf). We hope that your appointment of a Minister for Cities and the Built Environment heralds a new era in the way business is carried out.

In Western Australia, your predecessor's refusal to fund public transport resulted in the withdrawal of federal funding from an important light rail project (MAX Light Rail) and its reallocation to a highly contentious road project (Perth Freight Link - see http://www.rethinkthelink.com.au to see how contentious it is) that had not previously even been on the transport agenda and runs counter to decades of port and related transport planning that had bipartisan political support. Infrastructure Australia has noted that "the Perth Freight Link project is not directly mentioned in any of [the relevant] State plans and policies" (http://infrastructureaustralia.gov.au/projects/files/WA-Perth-Freight-Link.pdf).

Neither the abandonment of MAX Light Rail nor the planning for the Perth Freight Link has yet reached the point of no return and we respectfully request that your Government reassess its funding priorities using objective analysis as part of an inclusive and transparent process.

Outside the Perth Metropolitan Area, there is a key issue of the closure of what are known as Tier 3 rail lines, which are primarily seasonal rail lines serving the multi-million tonne annual grain harvest of Western Australia. Lack of funding to maintain these lines is resulting in their closure and a massive increase in heavy trucks on country roads (largely local government roads) not designed for this level of loading.

The STC would be very happy to discuss these important issues with appropriate members of your Government by email (catalystian@netscape.net), phone (08 9328 8978 or mobile 0435 305 662) or, should the opportunity arise, in person.

With all best wishes for the future.

Ian Ker, Convenor, Sustainable Transport Coalition of Western Australia

Written and Posted by Ian Ker, Convenor, STCWA

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