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THE man who today takes charge of public transport in Victoria has rejected the Auditor-General's recent judgment that $30 billion must be spent in the next 10 years to avoid choking the city, saying the system simply needs to be run better.
''The biggest opportunities are in making best use of what we've got at the moment, rather than believing that all the solutions are building, or buying new kit,'' said Ian Dobbs, the new head of Public Transport Victoria, which today replaces the Department of Transport and some other organisations to become the sole public transport authority.
''There's lots of things we can do with what we've got so we can improve significantly the performance and thereby the quality of the service,'' he said.
The Coalition promised when in opposition that it would replace the state's patchwork of public transport operators with one authority, and that the change would improve the system.
Mr Dobbs predicted those promised improvements would arrive ''fairly early'', beginning with better information about travel times and followed by better-connected bus services, which he said needed to connect with train timetables.
''They are unloved; we've got a massive amount of potential to realise on buses, a massive amount of capacity,'' he said.
''Very few people transfer from buses to trains or buses to trams and I think that's largely because they don't trust that interface and its not very well planned.''
Despite his preference for efficiency rather than expenditure, Mr Dobbs said the government had to build before the end of the decade the Melbourne Metro tunnel - the proposed nine-kilometre rail tunnel from South Yarra to South Kensington - or risk a failure to cope with passenger growth.
''It introduces an extra pipeline through the middle of the city,'' Mr Dobbs said
''The system at the moment is very busy. We've got the ability to get a few more services through the middle of the city in the rush hour but not many, certainly not enough to take a new railway line, wherever it was.''
Other hoped-for train lines, to Tullamarine, Doncaster and Rowville, were rated lower-order priorities. The British-born transport executive is starting his second stint running the state's public transport system.
He oversaw the Kennett government's Public Transport Corporation from 1993 to 1998 and was responsible for preparing Melbourne's publicly run train and tram systems for privatisation in 1999.
Auditor-General Des Pearson's review of public transport in Victoria last month stated despite privatisation, the cost to the state of running the network had increased, proportionally and in real terms.
In 2010-11 it cost $2.22 billion to run the network - 70 per cent of which was government subsidy.
Mr Dobbs said the growing subsidy was due to ''spending more money on improvements''.
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