The latest Essential Report has found most people would prefer investment in public transport over new roads and freeways.
A total of 56 per cent of those surveyed said it was more important to expand public transport, while 33 per cent said it was more important to build roads and freeways. The preferencing of public transport was seen across political divides, though was strongest amongst Labor and Greens voters.
The same report found that just 24 per cent of those surveyed thought road users should be subject to tolls, with 64 per cent saying new roads and freeways should only be built if the government could pay for them without charging tolls.
Greens Senator and spokesperson on transport and infrastructure Janet Rice said the results showed that new Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull should fund public transport instead of taking selfies on it.
“People are sick of waiting for delayed trains, cancelled buses and packed trams,” Ms Rice said.
“The new Prime Minister seems to love taking selfies on public transport, but he needs to put his money where his camera is.”
Ms Rice said the best way to ease congestion was to give people alternatives to driving their cars.
“We need to get our transport mix right, but right now commuters are suffering from years of a ‘roads roads roads’ ideology.”
She said the results also showed that toll road projects like WestConnex were being progressed without public support.
“The government is throwing billions of dollars to projects like WestConnex, without a full business case made public. This funding should immediately be redirected towards public transport.”
The federal government has, however, already capitulated on funding a range of public transport projects.
While the Abbott Government had refused to use the $3 billion it had committed to the failed East-West Link to help fund the Victorian Andrews Government’s Melbourne Metro plan, Prime Minister Turnbull said the government would look at a funding proposal with “a very open mind”.
The new minister for cities and the built environment Jamie Briggs went further, saying the government would “find a way” to fund the Metro project.
“Clearly it’s part of the solution; it’s undeniable,” he told radio 774 ABC Melbourne.
The Turnbull government has also giving in-principle support for the Gold Coast Light Rail project to be built in time for the 2018 Commonwealth Games.
The news comes following former Prime Minister Tony Abbott refusing to fund the second stage of the project unless the Queensland Government sold assets. Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk was reportedly aghast at the news, which had followed a private meeting with Mr Abbott who had suggested that Ms Palaszczuk submit a business case and request funding as a “Commonwealth Games enhancement”.
The news of the recommitment to funding was welcomed by Engineers Australia.
“Our communities rely on all levels of government, regardless of their political allegiance, to come together to deliver projects which will deliver significant benefits into the future,” Engineers Australia Queensland president Chris Warnock said.
“The recently announced federal in-principle support supplements the commitment of the Gold Coast City Council and the Queensland State Government to deliver a much needed infrastructure asset to south east Queensland in time for the 2018 Commonwealth Games.
“Considering the congestion costs faced by our major cities, the forecast effects of climate change, and the impact a gridlocked city has on its citizens’ quality of life, we hope this in-principle support from the federal government indicates a change in policy to consider public transport initiatives, rather than just road projects.”
Mr Warnock said, however, that until the in-principle support turned into a solid agreement, engineering organisations would carry the associated commercial risk.
“Engineering companies will spend millions of dollars in meeting the tender requirements with no solid guarantee that this project will actually be confirmed,” he said. “In the current economic climate, finalising project funding sooner will inject more confidence into industry and into our economy.”
The Greens have also called on the government to:
- reinstate $500 million previously committed for Perth public transport package intended for projects such as Perth Light Rail
- invest $2.1 billion into light rail projects across Sydney and NSW, including the Western Sydney Light Rail Network and Inner West Light Rail
- reinstate the federal contribution of $715 million to improve Brisbane passenger rail services
- establish a dedicated High Speed Rail Authority