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Wednesday, 15 May 2013
Page: 3360

Mr MARLES (Corio) (09:51): As the Cats climb to the top of the AFL ladder on Friday night, so too has the issue of ballooning commuting time, both on the roads and on public transport, when travelling to and from Geelong. Last week's announcement by the state coalition government to fund the eastern part of the East West Link totally ignores the more pressing issues regarding the western entrance into Melbourne. Being the key transport link between the city and the west, the West Gate Bridge is being subjected to ever-growing strain. An article in the Ageof 18 March not only describes that there are 'no specialist bridge engineers managing the West Gate' but also 'warns if the bridge continues to deteriorate, the government will be forced to impose load limits and lane closures, leading to "severe disruptions", including traffic jams several kilometres long'. The impact this would have on Geelong would be nothing short of disastrous.

But the pain for Victorians will not stop there. The Victorian state coalition has announced it is ripping nearly $50 million from the arterial road management program, slashing $100 million from the road maintenance program, cutting the integrated transport system planning from $51.8 million to $26.7 million and has already sacked more than 400 VicRoads staff, forcing the customer service telephone waiting periods to blow out by 800 per cent. They are barely keeping their heads above water conducting day-to-day service. It is a sad sight to see Premier Napthine happy to sit by and let these vital roads, such as the Geelong Ring Road—made possible by the Bracks-Brumby state Labor government—not being paid the attention and funding that it needs.

The other issue that must be brought to the attention of this place is the substandard public transport services between Geelong and Melbourne. If you look at the V/line Geelong Twitter account, it is bombarded with words such as 'delay', 'cancelled', 'carriage fault' and 'operating at reduced capacity'. As I read those last words, a thought comes to mind: is road congestion and a jammed-up public transport system holding Geelong back from flourishing in all it has to offer? Is our city also being delayed, and is the thought of being packed in a train carriage like a sardine for an hour making the thought of train travel unpleasant even at the best of times? Why should commuters be getting in cars and having to drive in the opposite direction to a station across town for the sole purpose of securing a seat? Boarding a train has now become akin to Boxing Day sales with people desperate for a seat hurling themselves through the train door. Where is the hope of getting people out of cars and into trains when the state coalition refuses to upgrade stations such as North Shore or Corio?

Lucky for Premier Napthine, Regional Rail Link, a project championed by the previous Brumby government and this current Gillard federal government and due for completion in 2016, is set to ease public transport demand, but what is happening in the meantime? Under the Napthine government, our public transport continues to rot.