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It's better to judge a government's priorities by its budgets not by its words
Today very serious, very educated and very rational people
from the government will be telling us what we can't have because it would cost
too much. One must be realistic. It's what responsible management demands
while wasting not a single moment in getting things done. There is no
alternative. The minuses on one sheet must reconcile with the pluses on another
as Numbers Do Not Lie.
the side of government we'll see today.
It's a far cry from late last year just before the
election. Then we saw the government's visionary, creative and intuitive
elements on display. Most active before elections, they dabble in
the strategic, long-term, state-building, and, yes, vote-winning, realms.
Financially adventurous, they ask 'How do we fund?' more
often than 'Can we fund?'. Their antics have made past governments prone
to the offerings of spruikers proposing novel off-book financing for their pet
schemes. In Australia that's been anything from seeking unconventional finance to
develop energy projects to unsustainable transport franchise
contracts in an attempt to save money. Fancy schemes rarely end
If the numbers initially don't work you make them work. One
might quantify benefits that most people wouldn't express in financial terms.
The more you rely on 'wider economic benefits' the spongier things get. You
might accuse opponents of being 'narrow' or 'small minded'. Projects could be
strung out over long periods, so paying for them becomes someone else's
problem. And don't put it beyond governments to leave their successors
unwelcome presents, as Labor did with myki in 2010 and the Liberals did with
the expensive to cancel East West Link road
project in 2014.
So much for history, where do we find ourselves today? Victoria's population
is growing rapidly so there remains increased demand for services such as
state-provided health, transport and education. Prisons aren't cheap. And
there's a large capital works program with more grade separations, more roads
and more trains coming on stream. People will be looking for the
government to honour commitments made there. That's on the spending side.
On the income side, Australian state governments have few
independent revenue sources. Payroll tax, gambling taxes, stamp duty and
land taxes are some of the major examples. However the softening property
market means reduced income from the latter. The recent federal election
has returned a result the state Labor government was not expecting (nor would
Even ahead of that the treasurer has signalled there will be some tough
decisions made. That means either tax hikes and/or spending cuts. Although as
it's the first budget after the election now is politically the best time to do
them as they will likely have been forgotten by the 2022 election.
Last year's budget (May 1, 2018)
Before we see the contents of this year's budget we'll
examine the salient part of last year's state budget. At the very
least familiarity with it should make it easier to find things in this year's
The budget papers most important for public transport are:
* Paper 3 (Service Delivery) from
page 10 and again page 117
* Paper 4 (State Capital Program) from
page 2, page 20 and again page 25
Some service km per capita calculations from Daniel Bowen
year's budget (May 27, 2019)
Salient points from Paper 3 (Service Delivery)
* Better Buses Fund. Ramping up to $6.4m in 2022-3.
Includes more frequent services in Romsey & Lancefield, new Mernda -
Craigieburn bus, new Donnybrook - Craigieburn bus, new Keysborough bus, express
bus from Eltham during Hurstbridge line disruptions, new Alexandra - Eildon
* $6.8m on 'Bus Industry Innovation Fund' to support bus
industry "through delivering initiatives focused on improving network
efficiency, patronage, customer experience, safety and driver support."
* 100 more authorised offices, to be recruited 10 per year
over 10 years across all modes.
* Funding for planning and business case development
of tram and active transport connections between Fishermans Bend and the
* Last year we spent $1210m on bus services, $3899m on
train services, $957m on tram operations and $1357m on road operations
(p323). The budget has small increases for buses and trains, a very big
increase (67%) for road operations and a small cut for tram operations.
* There is an allocation (about $56m from 2020-1) for
additional train services. Not much detail on these are given but they relate
to the Ballarat Line Upgrade, Cranbourne-Pakenham Line Upgrade and High
Capacity Metro Trains. This will be supported by more train authorised
officers (p 100). Mobile phone charging will be available at inner Melbourne
stations (p 104).
* There is no budgeted increase in metropolitan train service km to 2019-20
(remains at 23.8 million km). Patronage is expected to grow slightly to 246.2m
trips (p 332).
* 10 more E-class trams will be purchased and 10 Z-class trams overhauled (p
115). Nothing significant for tram services with a small cut proposed in
operating budget. Page 335 refers to the drop being due to payment
scheduling. Tram patronage is expected to rise slightly to 208 million trips
per year. Last year's service delivery target (99.2%) will be maintained, even
though actually delivery has been less.
* Metropolitan bus patronage has been and is expected to
remain static at just under 120 million trips per year. There is only a very
minor increase in service kilometres to be run. (p 326). Much stronger growth
is expected for regional bus patronage despite no increase in service
kilometres (p 327).
* Significant asset initiatives mentioned in this paper
include many level crossing removals (75 by 2025), new trains for Sunbury -
Pakenham/Cranbourne, Hurstbridge line upgrade, additional station parking,
Melbourne Airport Rail and improved security and resilience.
points from Paper 4 (State capital program)
* Page 9
has the big picture. Something like 80% of government capital investment is on
transport projects. It's way higher than health, education and justice, which
are the next three.
current projects include: level crossing removals (25 more by 2025 costing $6.6
billion), Sunbury line upgrade to support the High Capacity Metro Trains,
Cranbourne line duplication and doubling peak frequency, Hurstbridge line
duplications, 10 new E-class trams and upgrades of Zs (p 3).
projects include Suburban Rail Loop planning, Melbourne Airport Rail planning and
Western Rail plan, including electrification to Wyndham Vale and Melton (p 5).
Allocations for Metropolitan (rail) Network Modernisation Program improvements
as part of level crossing removals. (p 78)
Continuing on from past years, this budget contains
significant investment in capital works, but relatively little on running
services. So it's very much a status quo budget for passengers. Busy trains, trams and buses will continue to leave people behind in established areas. And tens of thousands more people each year will be living in fringe areas without even basic bus services. The only possible silver lining come from the Bus Industry Innovation Fund, 100% of which should go to reforming bus networks in areas that need it.
Due to the budget tomorrow's Timetable Tuesday will not run. Normal
service will resume next week. We apologise for any inconvenience caused.
This item was written by Peter Parker http://www.melbourneontransit.blogspot.com
This article first appeared on melbourneontransit.blogspot.com
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