17 August 2023, 17:45
Legislative Council of Victoria, Melbourne

David ETTERSHANK (Western Metropolitan):

My adjournment matter is for the Minister for Transport and Infrastructure. Reliable, affordable and accessible public transport is the hallmark of a civilised society. It allows people to access employment and education, health services, shops, entertainment and social activities. It promotes productivity and inclusion and reduces pollution and congestion. If you live in the inner or middle-ring suburbs of Melbourne, you probably take public transport for granted. If you live in the outer west, not so much.

The outer west has the fastest growing population in the state. This growth is pushing an already strained public transport system to the brink. The lack of reliable and accessible public transport forces people to rely on cars, with households needing multiple cars to get around, creating unwarranted financial stress on families and increasing congestion and pollution in the west. Those who do not have access to private transport face long and unpredictable travel times, with sometimes unbearable wait times for transport services. While we await the construction of major rail projects, buses could be and should be a good alternative, but they do not operate in the evening or on Sundays. Even at peak times, they are few and far between – literally, the average wait time for a bus is around 40 minutes.

There are solutions available to the public transport malaise in the west. The Melbourne Centre for Cities at Melbourne University released the Better Buses for Melbourne’s West plan last year. It proposes replacing the current network grid with an entirely new one. The new grid would decrease the number of routes and increase the distance to bus stops but would dramatically increase access for residents and reduce the average wait time to around 10 minutes. We have it on good authority that the plan has been sitting in the in-tray of the Minister for Transport and Infrastructure for over a year now.

We know that the government is in the process of negotiating contract renewal for bus services in the west, so now would appear to be an opportune time to be discussing these routes. It is not a major infrastructure project that will cost tens of billions to implement. This is restructuring an already existing bus network for little cost to improve accessibility and wait times for literally tens of thousands of people in Melbourne’s west. The action I seek is that the minister adopt the Better Buses for Melbourne’s West plan and reshape our bus services accordingly.

Written Answer
Received: 14 September 2023
Hon Jacinta Allan MP
(Minister for Transport and Infrastructure, Minister for the Suburban Rail Loop)

Bus service reform does not fall within my portfolio responsibilities. The Member for Western Metropolitan Region may wish to direct his question to the Minister for Public Transport, the Hon Ben Carroll MP.

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