Spring Street jumps up and down at Western Sydney City Deal, hasn't released Melbourne PT network development plans

Spring Street jumps up and down at Western Sydney City Deal, hasn't released Melbourne PT network development plans
Spring Street jumps up and down at Western Sydney City Deal, hasn't released Melbourne PT network development plans


In a perfect world, different levels of government would work well with each other, with the layer of government who's better placed to plan for a region's future - the state government - producing, consulting and updating plans over time with the Federal layer swooping in every now and again, choosing to help out financing new infrastructure projects the state government has deemed a specific region will need.

That's how we'd want things to work, alas, if the public slanging matches are anything to go by, we know that something altogether different occurs.

One day after the Western Sydney City Deal was announced, Tim Pallas, the Victorian Treasurer, has put out another one of his colourful 'Prime Minister for Sydney' media releases.

It feels as though they are designed for maximum multi-platform tabloid media coverage given that segment of the local media's penchant for overt Melbourne boosterism-jingoism.

I must admit, I tend to smile whenever I see the headlines float about the internet because who doesn't like to see when our leaders give the 'roaches north of the Murray a good clipping. The entertainment/joy lasts about ten seconds, however, and with nauseating predictability, those ten seconds of hilarity get shorter and shorter the more that line of attack is used.

One figure Spring Street likes to repeatedly use is the percentage of Federal infrastructure funding states get - New South Wales gets 45% and Victoria gets 10% despite having 25% of the country's population.

On face value, the criticism headed northward is valid.  But it loses its lustre when it's so often repeated.

With infrastructure Victoria's purpose to 'take the short-term politics out of planning' trashed on the day its draft report was released, when the Premier ruled out altering the road pricing regime, the constant public sniping at Canberra doesn't bode well from altering the perception that infrastructure planning is anything but political.

The Victorian Infrastructure Plan sets out priorities and projects underway right through to 2021, but in reality, the transport section is just a shopping list of items the current government - for the most part - announced either during the election or has given little justification other than they want to 'fix' congestion.

For instance, in the last budget round, we saw that money would be made available to study how getting the Melbourne Airport rail Link built faster might happen - according to previously released network development plans there was a dependency on the Metro Tunnel before the Airport rail Link could be built.

Changed plans are fine, even welcomed when the benefits could be realised sooner and kudos to the Federal Government who've come in over the top and said 'let's get it done sooner'.  The reason why they did that is not important, it's the fact they're willing to accelerate infrastructure delivery that is important.  

It follows that if this Federal Government is willing to accelerate certain projects, then why not give them a long laundry list of them.

The one shining beacon Spring Street has released is its regional network development plan - even the state opposition's pledge over the weekend to remove the 'classic V/Line fleet' and replace with new trains appears to be based on this plan.

Plan Melbourne's vision of a 20-minute city is unquestionably an admirable goal but in the context of a growing city, how would that be achievable from outer to middle ring areas of the city where, increasingly, roads will be unable to cope with increased levels of use as jobs are concentrated in areas like Monash, La Trobe, Dandenong South, Sunshine and Werribee East?

Rather than lobbing pebbles at Canberra using predictable one-liners, Spring Street should be releasing its updated public transport network development plans so the debates, consultations and updates can get underway, nurturing public support for them in the process.

Cheap shots across the Murray might be easy, but winning the argument by pointing out the lack of commitment from the Federal Government on thorough evidence-based and community-backed transport infrastructure plans is the right thing to do.

Alastair Taylor

Alastair Taylor

Alastair Taylor is a co-founder of Urban.com.au. 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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