By Emily Contador-Kelsall
Public transport was largely left out of the recently announced federal budget, casting doubt over Sydney’s future transport solutions. Current transport projects in Sydney including WestConnex and the CBD and South East Light Rail have been criticised for being inappropriate transport solutions for the city.
The City of Sydney commissioned and released an independent report by SGS earlier this year. The report found that WestConnex was not the right solution for Sydney’s transport problemsm instead naming public transport as a more viable solution.
Shadow Minister for Infrastructure and Transport and member for Grayndler Anthony Albanese was quick to criticise the federal budget’s failure to invest more money in public transport and other infrastructure projects. He tweeted early last week that the budget was an “infrastructure fail” with “$2b infrastructure cuts, no public transport funding, no vision.”
In a statement on federal cuts to funding for the Pacific Highway, Mr Albanese said the government had “produced the first Budget in living memory that did not fund a single new infrastructure project”.
Greens spokesperson for WestConnex and state member for Newtown Jenny Leong said it was disappointing to see billions of dollars of public money committed to more tollways instead of investing in public transport.
“If we truly want economic growth in Sydney, we need a world class public transport system instead of gridlock and traffic,” she said.
“Investment in public transport is the only way to enable a city like Sydney to function efficiently. Not only are new tollways hugely expensive, they are also hugely inefficient. The measure of a great city is its connectedness.”
Health was another issue Ms Leong raised in relation to Sydney’s transport concerns.
“An unacceptable number of Sydneysiders have no access to effective, efficient and accessible public transport and are forced to spend hours each day sitting in traffic. Traffic gridlock has so many negative impacts on individuals and communities,” she said.
Ms Leong cited pollution from cars causing respiratory diseases as a serious health concern and added that “sitting in cars for hours each day is bad for our physical and mental health.”
The SGS report stated that rail patronage in Sydney has risen while car usage has slowed. The rapid population growth of the city, which is set to hit around 6.2 million by 2013 and 8.5 million by 2061, poses a substantial planning challenge.
Sydney Lord Mayor Clover Moore has openly condemned the WestConnex tollway and stood in support of public transport solutions for Sydney. She said giving people a “serious public transport alternative” means less traffic on roads.
“Driving will always be a big part of how our city operates, but prioritising a $15 billion roadway above public transport is not the solution Sydney desperately needs – particularly western Sydney,” she said.
“I think it’s a great shame that the Abbott Government continues to shirk its responsibility to help provide public transport.”