United approach to fix public transport


POLITICAL differences have been put aside and municipal transport priorities tempered in the quest to extend the railway beyond Frankston.

A regional advisory committee will report to Infrastructure Australia that the key to solving inadequate public transport connectivity in the region hinges on building a double-track rail extension to Langwarrin at least, or potentially Baxter, with trains running every 15 minutes.

Earlier this year, Infrastructure Australia (IA) listed “Frankston Public Transport Connectivity” as one of its six key “near-term” nation-building projects in Victoria.

The national infrastructure body then tasked a local advisory committee to explore 23 ideas that would significantly improve public transport and revitalise the region’s economy.

The new committee was led by Committee for Greater Frankston and members included Liberal and Labor MPs, municipal transport department heads, representatives of Monash University’s Peninsula campus and Chisholm’s Frankston TAFE, and business and community group leaders.

Frankston Council’s and Mornington Peninsula Shire’s respective public transport priorities have merged, with broad agreement that a rail extension is pivotal to scaling up the region’s future bus network. Liberal and Labor politicians have put aside public transport point-scoring to work together on identifying which train extension options would deliver best value for money.

The advisory committee’s 54-page document went to Infrastructure Australia on 16 June. It acknowledges there is broad agreement that Frankston and peninsula bus networks also needed to be more frequent to boost usage.

However, more buses alone was not the answer. The report recommends reworking the entire public transport network around an extended rail backbone, supported by a series of ancillary “commuter connection hub” projects to improve localised “car-to-train, bus-to-train, and pedestrian–cycle path-to-train connections”.

Committee for Greater Frankston chief executive Ginevra Hosking said two priority options that provided the “minimum 15-minute train service” were recommended by the majority of advisory committee members:

1 Twin tracks to Langwarrin plus a new Leawarra station (near Monash Peninsula) and new Langwarrin station.

2 Twin tracks to Baxter plus new Leawarra and Langwarrin stations.

The rail extension has an estimated annual economic value of more than $572 million.

First proposed more than 90 years ago, in 1929, an extension to the Frankston line has an initial budgeted federal commitment of $225 million. However, the state government has yet to financially support or commit to its construction.

Ms Hosking said the most controversial aspect of the advisory committee’s report was “what to do if, without state government investment, there was insufficient funds to duplicate and electrify all eight kilometres of the line to Baxter”.

“One shorter-term option we investigated was electrification of the existing single track rather than replacement with a double track, on the assumption that a second track could be built in future,” she said.

“However, a single track would severely reduce train frequency. A single track to Langwarrin should support a 15-minute ‘turn up and go’ service. A single track to Baxter would not.”

Advisory committee chair Christine Richards saw the project as being “critical to unlocking the potential of our region” and called on state and federal politicians to commit to building the rail extension with a minimum 15-minute service.

The full report is available at: c4gf.com.au

* Mike Hast is a freelance writer working for the Committee for Greater Frankston

First published in the Mornington News – 23 June 2020


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