Passenger Rail

Currie calls for bipartisan approach to grow transport

Public transport expert Graham Currie says Melbourne needs to grow its public transport network three-to-four times over if it is to significantly improve congestion by 2050.

Speaking days ahead of the Victorian state election, Currie said the only way Melbourne could cope with anticipated population growth was for the state to develop a proper, bipartisan plan for transport.

Public transport has been a major issue in the lead-up to this year’s election. The Labor Government has promised to build the $50 billion Suburban Rail Loop, a big-ticket item the Liberal Opposition has countered with its own plans to upgrade regional railways to accommodate 200km/h services. Both sides have also presented different ideas for the Cranbourne Line, and both are also at odds over how key level crossings will be replaced around Melbourne.

Currie this week said the election once again highlighted Australia’s politicisation of public transport.

“We don’t have proper planning in Australia,” he said. “We have a series of statements designed to capture media attention.”

Estimates suggest by 2050 Melbourne’s population could grow to similar levels seen in London in the present day. But given London boasts 1,000 trains to Melbourne’s 200, and 8,000 buses to Melbourne’s 2,000, Currie says there’s no way Melbourne can expect to cope with this growth without a “300 to 400 per cent” growth in public transport.

And this, he says, can’t be achieved without a significant shift away from Australia’s politicised approach to infrastructure spending which – as well as being messy – also favours road building.

“Historically, Melbourne has always followed a path of building new roads to solve traffic congestion problems,” Currie said.

“But in the medium- to long-term they don’t solve the problem. In London they’re not building new roads, they’re building new rail lines.”