public transport

A new front in the battle against WestCONnex has opened up with the beginning of preparatory works at the Alexandria Landfill adjacent to Sydney Park in the inner west suburb of St Peters. The landfill was chosen last year to be the site of a WestCONnex interchange, spewing anywhere between 30,000 to 100,000 cars a day into congested inner south-west streets. Nearby residents are in uproar when they found out last week that asbestos would be removed. This is despite the Environmental Impact Statement not having been released, or approval granted, for that stage of WestCONnex.
"No West Connex: Public transport is the answer," was the theme of a public forum sponsored by Green Left Weekly on March 17 at the Sydney CBD Resistance Centre. Up to 30 people gathered to hear Sue Bolton, Socialist Alliance councillor from Moreland, Melbourne, and Chris Elenor, No WestCONnex activist, discuss issues surrounding the huge toll road projects being pushed in Australia's major cities.
About 3000 people marched through Sydney's inner-west suburbs of Newtown and St Peters on February 1 to show their opposition to the $12 billion WestConnex motorway project. The project would destroy 80 homes and bulldoze sections of six local parks. Iconic Sydney Park is projected to lose 12,000 square metres of green space. WestConnex Action Group and Reclaim the Streets organised the rally.
It’s 8pm and I’m sitting in the main section of the carriage. A weathered, middle-aged man in a tracksuit and peak hat is swaying around by the doors, muttering. I watch him out of the corner of my eye as he ambles over. “How’s it going?” He slurs. “Yeah good mate.” The train soon shudders to a stop, the doors open and he springs out like some manic racehorse into the night.
Three quarters of Victorians believe improvements in public transport are more important than the construction of the East West Link. Although its stated aim is to ease congestion, in particular on one of Melbourne’s most congested roads, a government report revealed late last year that it would actually attract more cars and trucks and consequently increase traffic.
The campaign against the East West Link received a boost on July 18 when the Moreland Council voted to take legal action against the Victorian state government in the Supreme Court in a bid to overturn planning minister Matthew Guy’s approval of the unpopular motorway. The proposed East West Link is an 18-kilometre tollway between the Eastern Freeway in Collingwood and the Western Ring Road in Sunshine West. In a special meeting, the councillors voted six to two to take the legal action, challenging the process by which the minister made the decision to give the project a green light.

More than 2000 people marched in Melbourne on June 28 to protest the proposed East West Link motorway. The East West Link is to be a partially tunnelled toll road that would give commuters crossing the Yarra River an alternative to the currently overloaded West Gate Bridge. Protesters, however, said the East West Link will be excessively costly, will contribute to pollution and will generate far fewer jobs than an equivalent public transport project. Demonstrators also voiced concerns that the East West Link would erode Melbourne’s culture of public transport.

Drivers on Sydney’s proposed WestConnex motorway will pay a toll for almost 50 years, according to documents released to state parliament last week. Tolls will also be introduced to existing free motorways and extended on those due to expire. The government’s plans were revealed when boxes of documents relating plans to build the WestConnex motorway were delivered to New South Wales Parliament House last week at the request of the NSW Greens Roads and Ports spokesperson Mehreen Faruqi.
About 140 people attended Manningham City Council’s forum on February 20 to hear speakers discuss the case for a railway line to Doncaster, Victoria. Doncaster Rail has been promised since the late 1890s and Manningham City, comprising 10 suburbs and only 12 kilometres from the CBD, is the only Melbourne municipality without a railway line even though it is a rapidly growing area. At the 2011 Census, Manningham had a population of 111,300.
The Rail Revival Alliance is a group formed in response to the Victorian coalition government’s Rail Revival feasibility study into returning passenger trains between Geelong, Ballarat, and Bendigo via Meredith and Newstead. After being let down by the previous state Labor government, the group is now determined to hold the coalition state government to their policy.
Paul Mees, well known to many Victorians, was an academic specialising in urban planning and public transport. He was an associate professor in the School of Global, Urban and Social Studies at RMIT University. He died of cancer on June 19. Mees was an indefatigable campaigner for sustainable public transport. One of his last public appearances was in a video shown at the launch of the Yarra City Council’s “Trains Not Toll Roads” campaign, just days before his death.
For many years the Manningham council in Melbourne’s northeast, which consists of 10 suburbs, the largest being Doncaster and Templestowe, has been advocating for some form of mass rail transport. Manningham is the only Melbourne metropolitan municipality without train or tram services. At the 2011 census, Manningham had a population of 111,300 people, 41% of whom are classified as low-income earners — a higher percentage than Melbourne’s average.
A global survey of 27 of the most important cities in the world has ranked Sydney as fourth-worst for public transport. Sydneysiders also pay more for public transport than anywhere else. The study was carried out by PricewaterhouseCoopers. If this was not bad enough, the situation is set to worsen. The November 16 Sydney Morning Herald said a high-level RailCorp document outlined another 690 jobs to be cut in the train sector.
With impeccable smiling customer service staff motioning to myki readers and swarms of grinning, armed, uniformed officers pursuing passengers for a chat, the Victorian Liberal government hopes to win support for its public transport agenda. Public Transport Victoria stopped selling weekly, monthly and yearly Metcards on July 2. More than 80% of Metcard machines have been removed from train stations. The expensive and unpopular myki system will soon take over.
Fremantle in Western Australia is emerging as a key battleground between a Liberal-National state government committed to building freeways at any cost and a community that wants to see better public transport and an expansion of rail freight. Container movements at Fremantle Port are predicted to double by 2020, yet the percentage being carried to port by train has declined from 17% in 2007 to 11% in this year. It is predicted to dwindle to 8.5% by next year.
In the following article Margarita Windisch explains why she is running as Socialist Alliance candidate for Footscray in the November 27 Victorian election. Socialist Alliance’s other candidates are Mitch Cherry for Bellarine, Trent Hawkins for Brunswick and Ron Guy for Melton. * * * I moved to Australia from Austria in the late ’80s and currently teach welfare work at Victoria University TAFE in Footscray. There I have had firsthand experience of the Brumby government’s misguided “skills reform” agenda for the sector.

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