Jeff's 'underground' and the $100 billion in bond money

Jeff's 'underground' and the $100 billion in bond money
Alastair TaylorMarch 10, 2016

Subways, metros and undergrounds, whatever you want to call them, they're all a bit glamourous when you don't have them in your city.  And Jeff Kennett was quoted in the Herald Sun - not the first time - as saying the state government should borrow $100 billion and build Melbourne an underground system.

“If I was premier today I would probably go out and borrow $100 billion and I’d build an underground rail system which would last for years and years and years,” Mr Kennett said.

“You go to every city in the world, whether it’s Moscow, St Petersburg, London, Paris, they’ve all got underground rail systems that were built 50 years ago.

“At today’s (interest) rates, you could borrow that amount of money, stack it away, earn a bit of interest and then slowly roll it out"

One can never fault Jeff Kennett for having a lack of vision for Melbourne and regardless of your political views, we're all better off that he's still active in the conversation about our city.  I recommend following him on twitter.

Perhaps the most refreshing thing Jeff Kennett has said is that public borrowing should finance productive new transport infrastructure.  But is a new, third, tier of rail service in Melbourne the best way to spend $100,000,000,000?

That's right, an underground, metro or 'subway' would be a third tier of rail service in Melbourne - our train network's primary focus is on moving commuters longer distances into the city and of course the trams focus on the inner-to-middle rings of the city.

Notwithstanding PTV's own heavy rail network plan, there's ongoing bus network changes - which have a tendency to slip under the radar - and we tend to ignore the tram network which with a bit of tweaking, extending and creation of new routes would be an even greater asset.

And if we are aiming to become comparable to cities like London and Paris we'd also need to take a leaf our of their book and think seriously about discouraging widespread car use and reallocating road space for cyclists, and of course put the pedestrian first.

Let's accelerate existing network plans first

If there were a hypothetical $100 billion for general active and public transport infrastructure investment made available over a period of time then it would be prudent to simply accelerate plans we already have.  

That doesn't mean we shouldn't dream - metros will probably have a place in Melbourne, especially in areas outside the immediate centre - but even in a heavy state borrowing scenario we must prioritise existing plans first, dream second.

Our rail network has a long-term plan, including a second cross-city train line that would function like a metro line, but not much has been made of any public network extension plans for trams or the cycling network.

If we're to borrow like Bolte, the money should be spent across all forms of public and active transport.

Alastair Taylor

Alastair Taylor is a co-founder of Now a freelance writer, Alastair focuses on the intersection of public transport, public policy and related impacts on medium and high-density development.

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