Saturday, February 2, 2013

Forum discusses sustainable transport options for election

Fremantle Town Hall was packed with 250 people on January 31 for a public meeting on sustainable transport organised by the Freo Road to Rail campaign and hosted by the Fremantle City Council. The forum was also supported by the Curtin University Sustainability Policy Institute (CUSP), the Bicycle Users Group and the Wheatbelt Rail Retention Alliance.

Public transport has emerged as a major issue in the lead up to the March 9 state election.

The crowd was addressed by Professor Peter Newman from CUSP, Jane Fuchsbichler from the Wheatbelt Rail Retention Alliance and Gaye Page-Burt from Fremantle Road to Rail.

Fuchsbichler stated that “we need to keep grain on rail” and that the roads in the Wheat belt area were unable to cope with increase amount of freight on the roads especially since they were built 50-60 years ago and were in a state of dilapidation. If the Barnett Government closed the Tier 3 railway, an extra 57,000-85,000 trucks would be on the road she said.

The crowd also heard from Ken Travers (shadow transport minister), Lynn MacLaren (Greens transport spokesperson), Sam Wainwright (Socialist Alliance co-convenor and Fremantle City Councillor), Max Trenordan (Independent MP). The Liberal transport minister, Troy Buswell, was invited to speak at the forum but neither he nor another representative of the Liberal party attended.

Travers promised that if the ALP was elected on March 9 that they would build "Metronet" - Labor's brand name for an expanded train system including a ring route connecting outer suburbs and a train line to the airport. Travers pointed out that the WA Liberals had a 30 year track record of breaking public transport policies made at election time.

Both MacLaren and Wainwright welcomed the ALP plans for Metronet. MacLaren argued that previous advocacy by the Greens for light rail development contributed to the pressure on the ALP to put forward its policy. She also called for 3% of the governments transport budget to be set aside to upgrade the bike network for cyclists to be integrated with the public transport system.

Afterwards she told Green Left Weekly that “this forum demonstrates that transport is an election issue” and called for people to vote for the Greens and other independents to parliament so as to maintain scrutiny on the major parties to keep their election promises.

Wainwright slammed the attempts by the Barnett Liberal government to close the so-called "Tier 3 rail lines". He argued that privatisation needed to be reversed. He also slammed the government's $1 billion "Gateway Project" saying that nobody had done a proper cost/benefit analysis nor considered sustainable public transport alternatives. "Every cent of the government's planned expenditure on the Gateway project and the Roe 8 extension - together around $2 billion dollars - would be better spent on public transport instead," he told Green Left.

Wainwright also said that the issue of public transport was a matter of social justice with 30% of Perth’s population unable to drive due to medical conditions, disability, cost and other factors. Any transport policy that doesn't consider this treats those people as second class citizens, he said.

[This article by Alex Salmon was written for Green Left Weekly #952.]

Video of Sam Wainwright's presentation to the forum