9 November 2010
Councillors, mayor at odds over busway
WHITTLESEA councillors have rejected their mayor’s endorsement of the Mernda busway, which they say is a waste of taxpayers’ money.
In a statement welcoming the $48.5 million project, mayor Mary Lalios described the bus way as a “positive precedent” for infrastructure in growth areas.
But councillors Stevan Kozmevski and John Fry said the busway was not what the community wanted or needed.
“lt should be a train line, not a bus, and we should be getting a commitment to that now,” Cr Fry said. “It’s time our state members got off their arses and started representing the community.”
Cr Kozmevski said the bus project represented poor planning and was “a big waste of tax payers’ money”.
He said money would be better spent extending the rail now while machines and workers for the South Morang extension were in place.
“A busway might meet the needs of today but not of tomorrow and governments need to be planning for that now. ”
RMIT transport expert Paul Mees also criticised the busway and claimed a railway to Mernda could cost even less than $48.5 million “if constructed competently”.
Department of transport spokesman Stephen Moynihan said the 7.5-kilometre rail extension to Mernda would cost “hundreds of millions”, but Dr Mees said a comparable train line extension in Perth had cost only $4.5 million for each kilometre.
Dr Mees said the department lacked the skills of its West Australian counterparts.
Yan Yean MP Danielle Green said the busway was a good outcome for the community because it meant the early delivery of public transport without impacting on plans for the rail extension. “lf anything, this means the government is more committed than ever to delivering the rail service but this is a recognition of the need to bring positive transport solutions forward because of the accelerated growth.”
Liberal transport spokesman Terry Mulder said he was “perplexed” at how Labor had gone against its own transport plan, which stated the need for heavy rail. He said his party would announce its own policy on the Mernda rail extension before the election.