About 400 people filled the Fitzroy Town Hall for the launch of the “trains not toll roads” campaign on June 13.
The Yarra City Council organised the launch to advocate for a rail line from the CBD to Doncaster Hill, as well as to oppose the state government’s proposed East-West road link.
Several local groups attended the launch including the Public Transport Users Association (PTUA), Beyond Zero Emissions, Fitzroy Residents Association, Yarra Climate Action Now, Yarra Campaign for Action on Transport and Protectors of Public Lands Victoria. Representatives from Banyule and Manningham Councils and Adam Bandt, deputy leader of the Federal Greens also attended.
Yarra City Mayor, Jackie Fristacky, addressed the meeting and emphasised that 95% of Victorians had expressed support for public transport.
During the 2010 state election campaign, Ted Baillieu, the then-leader of the Liberal National Party, had campaigned on building the rail link and expressed his commitment to public transport.
Instead of building the Doncaster rail line, Baillieu has approved the East-West road link which is major new road tunnel across Melbourne linking the Eastern freeway with CityLink and the Port of Melbourne.
There are concerns that the proposed 18-kilometre road will destroy the parklnd and billabongs near the Melbourne Zoo. It will increase road congestion and has a negative cost/benefit outcome.
Alannah MacTiernan, former ALP Minister for Planning and Infrastructure in Western Australia, told the meeting that buses had become competitive with cars because they linked to the train network and significantly cut traveling time.
She explained that many people, in particular those living in outer suburbs, may spend up to 19% of their personal income on private transport. So, while housing in outer suburbs can be cheaper, lack of public transport can erode this benefit. Moreover travelling time on congested roads has a negative effect on work/life balance and on family life.
Dr. Sophie Sturup from the faculty of building and planning at Melbourne University spoke about the mentality of mega projects such as the East-West road link. The decision making processes are not democratic and problems are “constructed” to fit proposed solutions.
The Linking Melbourne Authority, which has been tasked to solve Melbourne’s road congestion, are responsible for managing road projects. It has not considered public transport as one of the options to ease congestion because it prioritises freight and business travel over peak travel by the majority of people.
Paul Mees from the PTUA said that the East West tunnel will be the largest and most expensive infrastructure project the Victorian government has ever built.
If the tunnel is constructed there will be no money for any other major projects, such as the Doncaster Rail line.
The meeting unanimously passed a motion endorsing the “Trains Not Toll Roads” campaign and called on the premier to make public transport a priority. The motion stated in part, “We demand the Victorian government abandon its plans for the costly and destructive East-West Road link project through inner Melbourne in favour of viable, sustainable public transport projects, and progressing the commitment to build Doncaster Rail.”