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Rural and Regional Affairs and Transport References Committee
Role of public transport in delivering productivity outcomes

GOODMAN, Mr Chris, Committee Member, Yarra Campaign for Action on Transport

KOPPEL, Ms Jill, Committee Member, Yarra Campaign for Action on Transport

STAR, Ms Chris Lynch, Committee Member, Yarra Campaign for Action on Transport


CHAIR: Welcome. Is there anything you wish to add about the capacity in which you appear today?

Ms Koppel : I am a committee member of the Collingwood and Abbotsford Residents' Association.

Senator IAN MACDONALD: Where is Yarra?

Mr Goodman : The City of Yarra goes from Carlton to Richmond.

Senator IAN MACDONALD: That is what I meant. You are interested in the City of Yarra, not the wider Melbourne—

Mr Goodman : Not at all. We are focused on the City of Yarra. It is an inner urban area. It kind of wraps around the CBD. It wraps around the City of Melbourne from north to east. We are very interested in transport both for our own usage and also because a lot of people travel through Yarra.

CHAIR: I am going to give you the opportunity to make an opening statement, so we will keep the formalities going and then come to the questions. I now invite you to make an opening statement.

Mr Goodman : Thank you very much. YCAT formed in 2008 largely in response to the study from Sir Rod Eddington which proposed a major road through the area that would be quite disruptive to the inner suburbs. We have been campaigning for better public transport options, better cycling and pedestrian opportunities as alternatives to another road. We are a non-partisan group. I will ask Chris Star—

CHAIR: Not all of us are from Victoria, so it would be helpful if you could tell us what the road is.

Mr Goodman : Yes.

CHAIR: You said there was a major road going through your city?

Ms Star : Yes. The reason we are addressing this committee today is that we have reinvigorated the group in the last six months. This is to do with the renewal of the East West Link project through the inner northern suburbs and its impact on our community.

Senator IAN MACDONALD: This is not the opening of the Swanston Street thing that a previous witness spoke to us about.

Ms Star : That is metro rail. We are talking about the East West Link.

CHAIR: Okay. Keep going.

Mr Goodman : We are a broad community group. We advocate. We campaign. We have a website, which is and which promotes alternative transport and is where we are active against the link. We are protesting against the link. There are a lot of other groups—small community groups, transport groups, environment groups—who are also opposing the project, and we collaborate with them on various matters as well. It is not a single unified campaign. There are picket lines and councils all opposing it from various angles.

I would like to address some of the committee's terms of reference. First is the need for an integrated approach across road and rail in addressing congestion. We see that as a critical component of transport planning that is missing. We have a good radial train network in Melbourne. It was put in up until about 1920 and, similar to Sydney, is quite extensive. However, Melbourne has grown. It now has nearly five million people and is projected to go to eight million with the current policies on population and immigration, and the rail network has not expanded except for some very small expansions in a few suburbs. Due to car development, Melbourne has expanded enormously; it covers an area as large as Los Angeles It has fairly low density. Largely that is because it has a lot of drive-in suburbs with a lot of garages and a lot of roads. We have also had a history where different transport modes have been organised by different bureaucracies; the trams and trains do not talk to each other.

CHAIR: And the buses.

Mr Goodman : Yes, and the buses. So we see one of the critical and very cost-effective measures would be to improve the network where the different modes are talking to each other. This needs investment in IT and changes in bureaucracy and would also require the buses to be made more coordinated so that they feed the trains rather than trying to compete with them. That is also very important for equity, which I will come to under social equity.

We do not believe that because the city is a dispersed city that you cannot have good public transport. This was often argued as the reason you do not have good public transport—because of low density, unlike, say, London. However, the work of Dr Paul Mees has debunked that, and it is quite possible to have very good public transport in a city with a development pattern similar to what Melbourne has. We have less of the geographical issues that Sydney has. We do not have a harbour; we just have the Yarra River, although that does cause some problems. Our connectivity is overall better than Sydney's, but it certainly has a lot of issues, largely because of an overinvestment in road transport and freeway building since the 1970s until now, and a lack of investment in alternative modes. Regarding the social and environmental benefits—

CHAIR: What I might do is: if you have it in a written form, I may ask you to table it, because time is of the essence; we do want to get to questions. We are not trying to rush you, but if there is any real pertinent point you want to put to us, to emphasise as part of your submission or whatever, please fire it at us now and then we will go to questions.

Mr Goodman : Yes, I think that is the most important point—it is about equity, that as a government we should not be funding one group and not another, as a fairness issue, and we should be looking at the disadvantage. In a way, poverty really equates to a lack of choices; that is one of the defining features of poverty: lack of opportunity and lack of choices. When you have only one possibility to get anywhere, which is to drive, that will be a very poor outcome. So, although we live in the inner urban area—which is rich in terms of alternative transport; we can get anywhere easily on public transport, within the inner area—the outer area is disadvantaged. And we see that as critical for equity and also for productivity and for the environment. It is critical that we provide good public transport opportunities as an alternative. There are many people who cannot drive, for various reasons, including age and disability. It is simply a very poor situation in which they need to live in a place where they have to own a car; it costs $18,000 a year to own a car. So, we are arguing that the federal government should be looking not only at the transport infrastructure—which of course is the focus of a lot of discussion now—but also at what is going on with the buses: why is it so disorganised? Perhaps investment in a zero-emission bus fleet, along with some regulation to make the buses cooperate with the trains better, rather than for their own private interest, would be a valid recommendation for the committee to consider.

CHAIR: Just before we go on to Senator Gallacher, we will paint a picture for YCAT: this east-west link is going to plough through your suburb—is that what it is? Is it widening of the existing route, or is it buying up properties? And at what cost?

Senator IAN MACDONALD: As the chairman said, none of us are from Melbourne, so whilst this is a daily event in your minds, I do not know quite what the east-west link is. So, could you tell us what it is, and what you object to?

Ms Star : The East West Link is a continuation of an existing road project. In the 1950s or the 1960s there was the freeway plan that was to bring in the F19—now the Eastern Freeway—from, I believe, the top of Ringwood into the inner east. It went through Yarra Bend Park, Yarra River Valley and then came into Alexandra Parade, which was then a cul-de-sac which ended at the Yarra River. That is now a major highway in Melbourne, and that was the site of many protests and community issues in the 1970s when that was constructed. In the 1990s there was widening of Alexandra Parade and that again brought about community dissatisfaction with the processes involved. In 2008 the Eddington East West Link Needs Assessment brought in the tunnel option, which would come in at Alexandra Parade, have an eastern portal and come out at Sunshine, I believe, in the western suburbs. That was discontinued by the ALP government in, I think, 2009 or 2010. In the last 18 months we have seen the East West Link plan, which is again on top of the same traffic area, for a tunnel which would begin at Alexandra Parade, cut and cover through possibly the most highly used part of Yarra, which is the area we are from, and come out at the western portal at Royal Park West, which is an area of great significance for parkland, sports clubs and remnant vegetation.

CHAIR: How long is the proposed tunnel?

Ms Star : Seven kilometres.

CHAIR: And it goes through parklands and residential housing?

Ms Star : Yes.

CHAIR: Does that mean it is clearing the top and people will be moved out of their homes?

Mr Goodman : At each end of the tunnel there will be those disturbances. The proponents are arguing, 'Hey, it's great. All the traffic's going underground. You should be happy.' What we realise is that some of the traffic goes underground and that creates space above ground, and then more cars will be soaked into the area. There will be fewer long-distance trips but more shorter trips, and that will make it more attractive to drive into these suburbs. That is one of the debates.

CHAIR: I get the picture. Currently there is an existing road. Is it two lanes each way?

Ms Star : Three lanes.

Mr Goodman : We have an eight-lane freeway that stopped in 1977 at a suburb. So you have eight lanes of traffic and two roads, Hoddle Street and Alexandra Parade. You can go either south or west. You have the diabolical situation where this magnificent freeway ends in the middle of nowhere, so all the traffic is congested. If you see that is the problem—'We've got this congestion. We've got to clear the congestion'—then the solution is the tunnel. If you see the problem as 'We've got eight lanes of traffic and that's not enough. We need to widen this freeway,' then clearly that is a different way of looking at the problem.

CHAIR: So we are talking about a tunnel and widening?

Mr Goodman : Yes, but they are not talking about demand management or, as the gentleman before said, user based charging—perhaps for the tunnel but not for the above-ground part, because there is political reluctance to toll existing routes.

CHAIR: How many properties will be affected—how many landowners?

Mr Goodman : Over a hundred will be acquired. A lot of them are in highest grade heritage areas, as well as seven hectares of Royal Park, which is crown land.

Senator IAN MACDONALD: For the Hansard, I have just checked with one of your colleagues. It is really an extension of the M3 towards the west, coming out under Royal Park Golf Club, is it—

Mr Goodman : Yes.

Senator IAN MACDONALD: and near the M2?

Mr Goodman : Yes.

Senator IAN MACDONALD: So it is going underground near Wellington Street, is it?

Mr Goodman : Hoddle Street.

Senator IAN MACDONALD: Yes, that is right. Someone was telling me about that before. It comes out near the zoo?

Mr Goodman : Exactly. It impacts on that park.

Senator IAN MACDONALD: Where does it actually come out? Is it under the zoo?

Mr Goodman : It comes out in two places: one is very close to the zoo and then the other is closer to the M2 Freeway, although that is what they call a reference project. When it gets handed over to a private developer, they will be allowed to make changes, including adding additional entrances and exits.

Senator IAN MACDONALD: And your objection is mainly for those houses that will be destroyed.

Ms Koppel : The community objects to this project, because it represents some of the most expensive roadway in the world in terms of its kilometres—the cost per kilometre. It is ineffective. It will not ease traffic congestion in inner Melbourne. Approximately, nine per cent of the traffic coming in from the east will actually be using it. The residents of the inner suburbs will not benefit at all, nor will the northern suburbs. Only those in the eastern suburbs who are actually going to the west may in fact use it—and we have seen from the example of City Link when Tullamarine Freeway was privatised and tolls were put on that the filtering of traffic through the suburbs throughout that area to avoid tolls was significant in exacerbating further traffic congestion.

CHAIR: $100 million per kilometre.

Mr Goodman : $1 million per metre.

CHAIR: I got into trouble trying to do my own maths.

Mr Goodman : Eight billion dollars for seven kilometres.

Ms Star : And that is the eastern portal, not the western portal. There is stage 1 and stage 2 of this project.

Mr Goodman : That is only half.

CHAIR: Eight billion for seven kilometres.

Mr Goodman : That is half the project.

CHAIR: I know that there is a hearing problem in this room but that is what you said, didn't you?

Mr Goodman : Yes.

Senator IAN MACDONALD: You are saying you could spend the money better. I am just trying to understand.

Senator GALLACHER: From a slightly different perspective, it has been said that the committee is not from Melbourne—and this applies equally to Senator Rhiannon. As a frequent visitor to Melbourne and Sydney, I think your public transport is fantastic, because I can get a tram, a bus. I can get a free tourist trip on Sydney Harbour for the cost of public transport. Can you inform the committee and distil, if you can, what the problems succinctly are and what would be a better use of this $8 billion in the submissions we are hearing?

Mr Goodman : We have been arguing for a rail project which goes to the eastern collector called Doncaster, the Doncaster rail project. There are Victorian government studies of this project and it would follow the same route as the existing M3 or Eastern Freeway and provide an alternative into the city. A lot of people would find that very attractive, because it would get you to the city quicker. You will find that the public transport is brilliant in the city but as you go beyond, it is only some radial areas—areas of advantage and areas of disadvantage—that have public transport.

Ms Koppel : And we have costed out for the $8 billion estimated for the eastern side of the East West Link a number of other projects involving rail extensions to the growth corridors of the outer suburbs, particularly to the north and south-east—some of which our state government is encouraging people to move to as growth areas—where there are no trains and inadequate buses that only run between eight o'clock and five o'clock weekdays. So those areas will stand to benefit from those sorts of funds being put into relatively cost-effective rail extensions.

CHAIR: Just so I am clear: $8 billion for the tunnel and the connections, but what do you with the transport or the road users that are using those freeways—I am looking at the map—or whatever you call them? They just come to a grinding halt: eight lanes into two run-offs you said.

Mr Goodman : This is the existing situation. Three lanes going into—

CHAIR: There is still going to be a lot of road transport used. You have spoken about the $8 billion rail connections and all that for public transport, but how do you propose to fix the road congestion?

Mr Goodman : There are 800 people or 1,000 people in a crowded train, and 1,000 cars is more than a kilometre of one lane on a freeway.

Ms Koppel : Eighty per cent of the freeway traffic filters into the city.

CHAIR: So you push more people off those roads onto rail, and the road would be left for trucks and taxis and whatever.

Mr Goodman : Of course, the issue is the peak hour. If you can reduce people during the peak hour then that frees up the need for so much investment.

CHAIR: I understand now. Thank you.

Senator RHIANNON: I have a question on the money. Maybe you could take it on notice or maybe you can clear it up now. We have the figure of $8 billion, but I thought I had read in your submission that there was $14 billion earmarked for the East West link?

Mr Goodman : If I could address that. These should be official figures, I am not the source of this information. With regard to the $8 billion, the East West link eastern section has stages A and B. Stage A is the tunnel and stage B is a flyover, which goes over the Moonee Ponds Creek from the western end of the tunnel to the ports. Then there is a second phase, which is the western section of the East West Link. It is not actually east-west yet; it is just east to the centre. To go from the centre to the west—which Eddington said was actually the higher priority project, as well as the rail project for the Melbourne metro—will double the cost. So this $8 billion to $14 billion is just the eastern half of the project.

Senator RHIANNON: Could you also give us a run-down on the community sentiment? You are part of a community organisation. I have heard that there have been meetings et cetera. Where does community sentiment lie, how is it being expressed, how can you quantify it?

Mr Goodman : I have been involved in community action on the environment particularly and in transport. I have been a member of the Public Transport Users Association for over 20 years. This project goes back 20 years. It was floated when Jeff Kennett was Premier. I have never seen the community more anxious, concerned and just worried. But I have also never seen the community more organised and active as this in opposing a project. That is incredible. It is not just one community group; it is networks of community groups all over the city who are fighting this like it is the most important project, the most important environmental issue, the most important issue for their livelihoods. Some of them are people who are directly impacted either by their house being bought by the government or by the house next door being demolished and turned into an entrance ramp, and they have to sit there. There are people concerned about diesel. That is now known to be cancerous. It is a class 1 carcinogen, so it puts it up there with asbestos and tobacco. You do not want to mix diesel with a population, especially a low-socioeconomic population. There is a lot of public housing at either end of the tunnel. It is just a diabolical project. I have never seen the community so committed to fighting a project.

Ms Koppel : Can I just add also that my experience would confirm what Chris said. Particularly now, people are turning around saying, 'What can we get for this money in terms of public transport?' So what is happening is public transport is becoming an electoral issue in Victoria as I have never seen before. It is about time because we are inviting people to come to Melbourne. We boast of its liveability and yet the traffic congestion is not going to be eased by this giant, mega-monster project. People are starting to talk about public transport like it is essential and it is possible to improve and provide a network that will work for a large area of Melbourne and still provide the liveability that we enjoy now. People are talking about public transport as never before.

Senator RHIANNON: Have you identified what some of those public transport projects could be? It could be considerable if it is $8 billion or $14 billion or whatever it is. We are talking about a lot of money.

Ms Koppel : We are in contact with people out in the northern suburbs—the Mernda line, Rowville, Doncaster and Mildura—even regional rail.

Mr Goodman : There is no railway to the airport and it is about $50 in a taxi to get to the airport, as you have probably discovered—just really basic stuff. There is also what is called the Melbourne Metro project—it is No. 1 on Infrastructure Australia's priority list, at least for Victoria. It is a massive underground tunnel through Melbourne, from east to west.

Our rail network is already at capacity. If there is further growth in people getting on the trains, it will not be able to cope. There is a short-term fix for about $1 billion. You can fix the signalling. It sounds technical but what it means is that instead of having a 19th century method requiring trains to stay three kilometres behind the next train, you can have the trains much closer to each other. They would then run every five minutes instead of every 15 minutes and all of a sudden you will get a lot more productivity out of your existing rail network. This should be the No. 1 priority, because it is so easy to do. It is only $1 billion and you get a lot more benefit out of that. The rail tunnel would still be needed in the future, but it would be pushed out by quite a few years.

CHAIR: I want to ask real people—I had better be careful how I put that!—people who live every day with the issue of public transport and congestion. It has been put to us that none of the trams, the trains or the buses 'speak' or coordinate—you mentioned this again, and previous witnesses said it. And we also understand that in the state of Victoria it is not even the same entity under the umbrella of public transport that all reports to a top. Some have said that it is not bad except in peak hours when, with the traffic lights, the buses may miss the train. Others have said: no, it is not even coordinated. What is your view, as residents who live in inner-city Melbourne? Lay it all the table. Who has it wrong?

Mr Goodman : There were recent improvements to the bureaucracy under the current minister, Terry Mulder, who is also the Minister for Roads and Public Transport—they used to be different ministries.

CHAIR: That is a good fit, yes.

Mr Goodman : Yes, that is an improvement. And Public Transport Victoria was recently created. There are still a lot of other agencies, like myki and the ticketing—everyone had their own little agency. I think that the current Victorian government has made a lot of improvements in that area. However, there is a lot more that could be done, particularly with regard to the buses. For example, if you want to see when the tram is coming you use one web application and if you want to see when the train is coming you go to a different one. Bringing that together, and bringing the buses in—it is starting to happen. That gives you network productivity enhancements. It is really beneficial to the users to know that the bus is going to come; it will be here—it is not going to decide to take a different route because the bus company felt like it. So, you still can have outsourcing of the bus companies, but you do not outsource the timetable and you do not outsource the route. You have the planners say, 'These are the routes we need', and then you bid for the service to be delivered. It is just sensible to do it that way.

CHAIR: It is too easy. I want to thank YCAT—Yarra Campaign for Action on Transport. I wish you well. Thank you very much for coming to us today. Now we are going to walk away from here as experts on the east-west link!—particularly at $8 billion for seven kilometres. So, thank you kindly.

Proceedings suspended until 13:50