Written by Peter Smythe, independent Democrats candidate for Morialta SA, 23rd January 2018
As an Independent Democrat I am committed to socially responsible public transport that thinks beyond the City Centre and benefits those living in rural areas.
Transport planning and urban planning are inextricably linked. Previous Governments have allocated both portfolios with the one Minister. This should continue.
However, this State Government has failed to produce a statewide transport strategy accommodating all facets of transport, only focusing on the most expensive option: roads.
The Government’s Infrastructure Plan, where it does deal with transport, is almost entirely focused on making things better for car drivers while pushing up the costs of ownership and maintenance of vehicles. However, a lot more could be done.
Below are proposals that could be used in a statewide transport strategy that accommodates all facets of transport.
Reducing car use
The Bureau of Transport and Regional Economics advises that, Australia-wide, 2000 people die earlier than they would have each year as a consequence of vehicle pollution, and an equal number suffer from asthma attacks from the same cause. Add to that the people killed and injured in car crashes, and it is clear that there is a substantial cost to being car-dependent.
The State’s Infrastructure Plan refers almost exclusively to roads, including the multi-million dollar South Road underpass. Worldwide, experience shows that the more roads and freeways built, the more they are used, creating demand for further roads and freeways to deal with the clogged arteries. The SA Democrats believe that this money should be redirected into public transport. As we have seen with the tram extension from Victoria Square, commuters will need little encouragement to use extra services.
Reducing car use through better public transport, walking and cycling facilities, and reducing the amount of land devoted to roads and carparks offers great potential to improve healthy living in Adelaide and beyond.
Design for cyclists, pedestrians and the mobility impaired
Bicycle paths should be mandated in all new housing sub-divisions, more rail cars should be modified to carry extra bikes, and bicycle racks should be provided on suburban buses.
Cyclists should be recognised as legitimate road users who are making a positive contribution to our environment, and therefore everyone else’s health and wellbeing.
There are health benefits for those who undertake the activity when more people choose to walk rather than ride or drive. More attention needs to be given to footpaths. Sometimes these are non-existent, and most are not disability-friendly for those using walking-sticks or wheelchairs, or for parents with prams.
Increase light rail and heavy rail
Solutions to our transport problems must address crucial factors such as climate change, carbon emissions, oil prices and technology. In recognition of the problems associated with climate change, greater efforts must be made to increase the use of public transport.
Frequency and reliability of services is a key indicator for acceptance and use of public transport. The interstate and international experience demonstrates that the more frequent the service, the more it will be patronised.
Rail in the forms of light rail (trams) and heavy rail (trains) cater for different modes of commuting. Because of their weight and fuel, trains are most effective when they can reach higher speeds, and this is best achieved when there are longer distances between stops. For more frequent stopping with shorter distances between stops, trams are more energy efficient.
Making public transport stations more user-friendly, safer and convenient is the key to getting more people to frequent them. Facilities such as cafes, post offices, florists and newsagents could operate at interchanges. This creates the necessary security for transport users.
Commuters – more focus beyond the City Centre
I support the extension of the Seaford rail line to Victor Harbor, making a positive impact on road toll statistics.
I am concerned at the amount of urban development on the fringe of Adelaide where no dedicated public transport routes have been set aside: it all but guarantees that people in new sub-divisions will have to be totally car-reliant. We therefore propose a commuter train services linking Gawler to both Roseworthy and the Barossa Valley.
The SA Democrats have long called for a new rail freight route to bypass the Adelaide Hills and I strongly support this. It would then allow the commuter rail service between Adelaide and Belair to again be able operate through to Bridgewater and, with proper planning, to Mount Barker and even Murray Bridge.
New freight routes
For carriage of freight over distances of more than 100 kilometres, rail is a better option than road. Rail has an enviable safety record compared to road freight, and it makes sense, both in terms of controlling the road toll and reducing road maintenance, to have long distance freight on trains.
But effective rail travel requires minimal curves and low gradients on the track route. The Adelaide-Melbourne rail line between Mitcham and Monarto South defies this with curves amounting to 26 complete circles in just 80 kilometres and an ascent of 550 metres. The route takes the line through a series of tunnels which prevent the implementation of double-stacking. An alternative route east of Adelaide must be pursued by the State Government in concert with the Federal Government.
The Mt Gambier-Wolsley freight line was handed back to the South Australian Government however the line remains unused and decaying. With an increasing number of semi-trailers on south-east roads, it could assist in getting trucks off roads.
Regional Railways – a Renewable Commuter service
Research from a wide spectrum of rail-based studies (including light rail and trams) indicates that for every 100 people travelling by cars to work, a train can do the same job using 75% less fuel and energy. So that’s less carbon emissions, less traffic, less accidents, and more time to relax on a train rather than stress in traffic jams.
Less reliance on cars due to greater public transport options also reduces the interaction between commuters and road freight vehicles and the potential for accidents in general.
Reduction in costs to commuters are not limited to fuel savings but time, maintenance on vehicles, vehicle ownership, increased safety via less time spent on busy arterial roads.
The type of ‘Commuter’ train I envisage is something similar to the old Blue Bird trains, a specific rail car made for express trips, with workers in mind, therefore targeting and delivering specific services for specific needs. Rural rail cars should allow commuters to have tables, even fold down ones similar to airlines, wireless internet capabilities, beverages, seat belts, conductors, phone and computer charging facilities.
There are a number of rural railway lines that have been ‘abandoned’ by Genesee Wyoming Australia (GWA). The Gawler to Tanunda line is an example. I am also aware that in about 2012 a study on reopening the Gawler to Tanunda line was completed concluding it was a ‘viable’ option. The State Government has chosen to ignore these recommendations. Yet the process of upgrading the line to reopen would be of benefit for job creation in the area.By deciding on one line first and using that as our test we can ensure specific requirements such as making it an express line are met. The Barossa line, if correct, could be opened to Lyndoch without too much cost and time. A 12 month trial would provide the necessary market analysis needed to justify expansion of such a regional rail policy.
We know the future will see reductions in the supply of oil, simply because it is a non-renewable resource. Prices will continue to increase as a consequence. We cannot keep building dormitory suburbs with employment opportunities at significant distances from home but with inadequate or no public transport. Governments created social disadvantage by doing this.
We cannot close our eyes to this problem or that of climate change. Fewer cars and more commuter transport is the way of the future.