Responses to Arguments Against Wollert Rail Campaigning

ACA Website Post
16 September 2018 (Updated)
Tony Francis

This post builds on a recent ACA post on 8 September about campaigning for the Wollert rail (see website http://www.aurora.asn.au/2018/09/aca-campaign-for-rail-and-roads/). Arguments abound with regard to opposing the Wollert rail proposal. As soon as one is countered, another pops up so that this rail continues to be deferred indefinitely causing much hardship and disadvantage for local residents. Responses to past invalid arguments follow.

Reasons for not campaigning
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  Responses
It is too early to campaign for Wollert rail. This rail is not due for more than 20 years (after the Metro 2 rail tunnel is completed).   The Wollert train will be forgotten if there is no campaigning. A campaign win depends on sustained and increasingly stronger and more noticeable campaigning. Major and worsening local transport problems are current and require a current solution.
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Locals do not have enough time to campaign.   The longer the wait the less time there will be to campaign as increasing time is required for commuting. The current campaign is failing because insufficient campaigners make it look as if locals don’t want the train or are not interested.
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Getting the Mernda rail indicates it will be straight forward and easy to get the Wollert rail.   The success of the Mernda rail campaign has brought in measures to stop a repeat of this success. Three senior Whittlesea Council managers who strongly supported this campaign are no longer with the Council. Future Access Denied type transport campaigns appear to be out of the question for this Council. Some with major influence on the current Council have appeared much more supportive of Mernda and Wollert busways.
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A shortage of detailed submissions for Wollert rail indicates lack of support.   At least one of the detailed submissions has lots of references and shows lots of people who support the rail line to Wollert – see website http://www.aurora.asn.au/wp-content/uploads/2017/08/Wollert_Rail_Full_Submission.pdf.
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Roads deserve priority.   More and widened roads alone attract more vehicles and consequently more road congestion.
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I can’t or won’t use distant rail – so campaigning for rail is a waste of my time.   A new train line will allow many to switch from road to rail. Remaining drivers will hopefully experience less congested roads; driving will then be quicker and easier. Or at least congestion will not continue to worsen so heavily.
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The Mernda rail is enough for the Whittlesea municipality.   Whittlesea City covers a very large area with an increasing very large population. Wollert and Epping North are too far away from Mernda and need their own rail line to Wollert.
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Rail campaigning is political. Many have no time for politics or politicians. There may be adverse repercussions from campaigning against a major political party.   We live in a democracy which requires that people registered to vote are active and interested in how they are governed. Otherwise democracy fails. Irresponsible or threatening governments can be voted out. Above all, governments should not be allowed to concentrate funding for corporate lobbyists and/or marginal electorates. Ministerial and career advancement for anti-rail MPs should not be happening. It is most unfortunate that major political parties have made urban infrastructure political.
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Whittlesea Council should not have been involved in the Access Denied transport campaign (Connect O’Herns Rd | Build Mernda Rail). Their involvement was not needed and much Council money was wasted. Hence no more Access Denied type transport campaigning from Council.
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  Whittlesea Council was very important for the success of the 2014 Access Denied campaign and did not waste money. Inexperienced local residents should not have to start an impossible major social uprising to advance their cause. Council participation adds much needed weight and authority to campaigning. Council is also severely disadvantaged by transport problems ignored by State government. Councillor responsibilities normally include advocating on the important needs of the municipality.
Current transport problems in Epping North and Wollert can be fixed by a rapid transit bus service or light-rail on the Wollert transport corridor. This will be cheaper and quicker.   These alternatives are vastly inferior to Wollert heavy-rail and are very likely to be cause heavy-rail to be deferred indefinitely – especially if either of them occupy the Wollert transport corridor. They are far less popular and will be substantially slowed by passengers getting on and off buses and trams and where the corridor connects to congested roads. Buses and trams providing a comparable service to trains will have much higher operating costs. Quicker development is pointless if it does not work.
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Funding for the Wollert rail will result in less funding for other electorates.   A Wollert rail will benefit residents in a number of electorates in or close to Wollert. MPs are rightly justified in pushing for more funds for their electorates. But this should not have them campaigning against the Wollert rail.
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There is a lack of widespread support in the precinct of Epping North for building the Wollert rail.   It is extremely difficult to show this support. The situation is not helped by the large proportion of local residents who are new arrivals to Australia from non-English speaking countries. Many here are from quite different cultures where community campaigning is far less familiar and can be viewed as a reprehensible attack on government. Many local residents are affected by increasing time needed for commuting that results in less time for family, friends, community and advocacy.
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Major corporations and big business want investment in roads rather than rail.   John Menadue has recently written about how the “banking royal commission confirms our worst fears about many business executives and crony capitalism”. He continues with “The big new honey pot, of course that business and particularly construction companies and financiers want to access, is ‘infrastructure’. Unless we are very careful we will find that their lobbying, as in the past which has resulted in billions of dollars of wasteful road-spending, will continue.” (https://bit.ly/2HXld9p) Corporate influence has contributed to government neglect of outer suburbs and rail.
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Economic benefits of Wollert rail are questionable.   The Wollert rail line will help greatly in business development and employment in the Epping, Epping North (Aurora South, Aurora North) and Wollert town centres with new rail stations. More local employment can reduce the demand for more road development. The Wollert rail line will also support future local real estate development. The absence of the Wollert rail line is already having serious adverse consequences which will get worse to the point of social breakdown. These consequences include social, financial and psychological stress.
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Prioritising other transport project over Wollert rail improves the chances for a major political party to be elected to government.
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  Voter disenchantment with neglectful major political parties increases the chances of inappropriate candidates being elected to Parliament (e.g. media personalities whose ignorance and incompetence attracts undiscerning viewers).
Voters in the southern part of the Thomastown electorate would feel annoyed and neglected if other Thomastown voters further north were the main beneficiaries of government funds for Thomastown.   Most voters and residents in the electorate of Thomastown would benefit from the Wollert rail. Those not using this rail should experience less road congestion because of other drivers switching to rail. The notion that government funding at any time must be evenly dispersed over an electorate will reduce infrastructure spending because it will be prohibitively expensive. If this had prevailed in the past, the absence of necessary infrastructure in Melbourne would be far greater than what it is today.
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Other parts of Melbourne in need of rail extensions such as Clyde and Baxter have been around longer than Epping North and Wollert and therefore deserve higher priority for government rail funding.
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  Prioritising rail funding should not mean indefinite deferral of important rail projects as has happened with Doncaster and Wollert rail. A rail extension to Wollert is needed now and already a large and increasing number of local residents are experiencing increasing hardship and declining liveability because of its absence. The cost of not having the Wollert rail should also be considered e.g. the cost of increasing congestion and hardship.
The Victorian State government will consider a rail extension to Wollert when the time is right.   The Victorian State government has appeared very anti-heavy-rail with its long delay of the airport rail line, its light-rail plan for Rowville and a plan for a new North East road link that will stop a future Doncaster rail line. This anti-rail attitude needs to be strongly challenged.
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The Seymour rail line should be connected to the Upfield line. (Presumably this would provide necessary additional public transport for population growth around Donnybrook, Woodstock and further north.)   The Wollert rail line, which is vitally important for population growth in the Whittlesea Council precincts of Epping North and Wollert, can be extended to Donnybrook or further north on the Seymour rail line. An alternative rail extension from the Upfield line is likely to result in further grounds for not having the Wollert rail line. The current resistance to extending the rail line from Upfield to Epping and Epping North needs to be questioned. Although still the first option, extending the rail line from Lalor will require much funding for rail development elsewhere e.g. the Metro 2 rail tunnel, modern signalling, removal of level crossings etc.
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People should be given what they want. And there are major things they want more than a rail line to Wollert.   How about giving people what their communities most need. People may be well aware of their individual needs relating to car travel (e.g. more and wider roads) but it is difficult for many to understand that meeting community needs (e.g. a new train line) can often provide much better solutions for both individuals and people in general e.g. with regard to road congestion and car travel time. For many people including politicians, thinking in terms of community needs is an unfamiliar way of thinking which they are not trained for. There is a major role here for expert urban planners ahead of politicians.
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The Wollert rail line will be inefficient because it will be a spur line.   The Melbourne rail system has survived for ages with numerous spur lines close to rail stations such as Richmond, South Yarra, Caulfield, Clifton Hill, Dandenong, Footscray and Newport etc.

 

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