In a new report, Auditor-General John Doyle has called out the state for not developing ample transport infrastructure and services for Melbourne’s growing areas.
Several unrealised road and rail projects are threatening to turn Melbourne's outer suburbs into isolated ghettos. Doyle blames this $18 billion backlog on successive state governments’ failures to convert long-term plans into reality.
Doyle stressed a number of long-standing transport projects for Melbourne that have languished at the planning stage, including the Doncaster rail line, which was first brought forward in 1929 and is due for completion in 2027, or 98 years after the prospect was first raised, according to Public Transport Victoria's rail plan.
"'The time taken to fund rail services to growth areas from first identifying the need is usually excessive - in most cases it exceeds 30 years, more than a generation. Over many years, the state has failed to deliver the transport infrastructure and services needed to support rapidly growing communities,” Doyle said in his report.
''This is adversely impacting accessibility and risks the future liveability of metropolitan Melbourne. Urgent action is required to address this serious problem. Inadequate public transport and growing gaps in the road network in these communities are creating barriers to mobility, including access to critical services, education and employment.''
Doyle commented on the increasing car dependency in the outer suburbs, resulting in air pollution, traffic congestion and time waste for citizens. He also criticised multiple state governments and their departments for having no coherent strategy in recent years to deliver adequate transport to support suburban growth.
While 6.2 billion dollars in outstanding rail projects were identified for the outer suburbs, annual funding of $197 million is the necessary sum estimated to improve bus services.
''If this funding challenge is not addressed, the current situation is likely to worsen as new growth areas come online,'' Doyle said.
According to the report, the growing suburbs most affected by the lack of good transport links are Cardinia, Hume, Melton, Whittlesea and Wyndham.
"The delivery of transport infrastructure and services to Melbourne's growth areas has not kept pace with the rapid rate of population growth," Doyle said. "This has resulted in inadequate services, and a significant and growing backlog of much needed state public transport and road infrastructure works."
Opposition Leader Daniel Andrews said the information in the report illustrated problems with the Napthine government's putting urgent public transport and road projects on hold while pushing ahead with the $8 billion east-west link.
Roads and Public Transport Minister Terry Mulder responded by saying the Napthine government had 'inherited a huge slate of backlogged road and rail projects for the outer suburbs from the former Labor government and could not deliver them all in one term.
Doyle recommends that the government should consider private partnerships to develop land surrounding railway stations and charge differential rates for properties near transit routes.