MELBOURNE’S WEST NEEDS ‘FRE­QUENT, RE­LI­ABLE’ BUSES

ABC (Australia) - - NEWS -

MELBOURNE RE­GIONAL AD­VO­CACY GROUP Lead­West has wel­comed the An­drews La­bor Gov­ern­ment’s Melbourne Rail Loop an­nounce­ment, but has called for in­vest­ment in more ur­gent, un­met trans­port needs of Melbourne’s West – namely buses, it’s re­ported.

Ahead of the Vic­to­rian Novem­ber state elec­tion, Lead­West - a non-par­ti­san and not-for-profit, mem­ber­ship-based or­gan­i­sa­tion, it states – is seek­ing com­mit­ment to a fre­quent, re­li­able and fast re­gional bus net­work for the West, which would help to ad­dress the lack of cross-city con­nec­tions much sooner, and at a far smaller cost, it states.

“[The] an­nounce­ment sets a bold vi­sion for the long-term fu­ture of trans­port in Melbourne, but what the West re­ally needs is bet­ter trans­port in­fras­truc­ture that will help us here and now,” said Coun­cil­lor Jonathon Mars­den, chair of the Western Trans­port Al­liance.

“At present, only 3 per cent of peo­ple work­ing in the West use public trans­port to get to work, and a quar­ter of the West’s pop­u­la­tion have no walk­ing-dis­tance ac­cess to public trans­port at all.

“In­vest­ment in a high-qual­ity bus net­work for the West, in­clud­ing bet­ter co­or­di­na­tion of ex­ist­ing ser­vices, would help to ad­dress these chal­lenges within five years, rather than wait­ing 30 years for a public trans­port op­tion to get around our re­gion,” Mars­den said.

Lead­West is also calling for more ur­gent rail projects to be pri­ori­tised ahead of the new Rail Loop, in­clud­ing the Metro 2 tun­nel link­ing Melbourne’s East with New­port and Wer­ribee; elec­tri­fi­ca­tion of the Bal­larat line to Mel­ton and Re­gional Rail Link line to Wyn­d­ham Vale; and bet­ter trans­port links into the De­fence site in Maribyrnong.

“The West needs timely in­vest­ment, both for the one in six Mel­bur­ni­ans who al­ready live here, as well as to pre­pare for the ex­tra 1 mil­lion res­i­dents we will take on in the next 30 years. Without im­me­di­ate in­vest­ment in projects that have been on the books for years, our re­gion’s lack of trans­port will be­come a sig­nif­i­cant bur­den for both the State and the Na­tion.”

WHY WEST?

Ac­cord­ing to Lead­West, more than 800,000 peo­ple al­ready call Melbourne’s West home and its pop­u­la­tion is set to more than dou­ble over the next 30 years to 1.8 mil­lion. Yet while it says it is a great place to live, it lacks the trans­port ser­vices it needs. “It takes too long to get to work, and there of­ten aren’t any al­ter­na­tives if our nor­mal route is dis­rupted.”

Ser­vices don’t con­nect well enough to lo­cal schools, shops and com­mu­nity cen­tres, and they are too dis­jointed, con­fus­ing, and in­fre­quent to rely on, it states. Lots of des­ti­na­tions are within cy­cling dis­tance, but the routes don’t feel safe and easy to ride.

“This is hold­ing us back. It means we have less time with our fam­i­lies; peo­ple strug­gle to take ad­van­tage of job op­por­tu­ni­ties; and too of­ten there’s no op­tion but to drive in con­gested traf­fic,” the group stated.

BUSES PART OF THE PLAN

Melbourne’s West is al­ready larger than many of Aus­tralia’s small cities yet its public trans­port sys­tem is dom­i­nated by ser­vices that run to and from the CBD, rather than ef­fec­tively con­nect­ing it to key des­ti­na­tions within the re­gion, it states. To ad­dress this is­sue, a new net­work of bus routes that run be­tween our ma­jor cen­tres should be de­vel­oped, it says.

This new net­work would: run at high fre­quency; run for ex­tended hours, not just nine to five; be easy to use and un­der­stand, with clear sig­nage, con­sis­tent timeta­bles and log­i­cal routes; get you to your des­ti­na­tion faster, with fewer stops than nor­mal bus routes; and con­nect ef­fi­ciently with other trans­port, in­clud­ing lo­cal bus routes, trains and trams. As part of the de­vel­op­ment of a high-fre­quency net­work, all ma­jor roads should be up­graded to in­clude pri­or­ity bus in­fras­truc­ture like raised plat­forms, new shel­ters, bus lanes and bus sig­nals at busy in­ter­sec­tions, it says.

“... there of­ten aren’t any al­ter­na­tives if our nor­mal route is dis­rupted.”

Be­low: While the Melbourne Rail Loop, which would by­pass the City Loop, is an am­bi­tious and ar­guably much-needed project, Lead­West says there are are shorter-term con­cerns that also need to be ad­dressed.

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