Thursday, January 01, 2009

Happy New Year!

Best wishes for 2009 to all readers and contributors.

Public transport was never far from the news with three major themes dominating the headlines in 2008. Major themes for the year were trains, ticketing and transport plans.

A patronage boom tested the limits of a fragile train system with longer trains and revised timetables providing some relief in 2008. Other ideas to 'ease the crush' included free 'early bird' travel, a short-lived bicycle ban and plans to remove seats from carriages to increase standing room.

Ticketing items mainly dealt with the myki smartcard system, which first saw public use in Geelong. Marketing to promote 'bulk purchase' and 'weekend saver' travel continued, while more people got free Sunday travel through the broadened 'Sunday Pass'. Restrictions for seniors and periodical ticket holders were proposed but withdrawn before the effectivness date. Hence, unlike 2008's taxi driver protest, we were spared the sight of topless seniors in the streets.

Discussion about transport planning was largely in the context of Sir Rod Eddington's East-West Needs Assessment, which recommended road and rail tunnels linking east and west. The peak capacity of the rail network was a major point of contention with operators, academics, activists and gunzels debating the extent to which existing infrastructure can reliably accommodate the pathways needed for extra services. The Government responded with the Victorian Transport Plan. This multi-billion dollar long-term plan took up many Eddington recommendations but the major projects will require federal government funding.

To the above 'big three' should be added several topics of local or regional importance during 2008. In the inner suburbs rising traffic is reducing the efficiency and deliverable frequency of tram services year by year. Extended 'Clearways' have sought to provide relief, but not without opposition from local traders.

Further out, buses were the focus, with one major new SmartBus route introduced, continued 'minimum standards' upgrades to local routes and a boosted NightRider network with a doubled service frequency. Local bus service reviews continued with their consultations, meetings and submissions. The earlier reviews had their reports published and some of their less radical recommendations implemented during 2008. December 25, 2008 was the first Christmas ever where the number of local bus routes running exceded 150; a far cry from (maybe) 20 or 30 a few years ago.

Outside Melbourne regional buses received attention with revised timetables in some major centres. Less populous regions also got new or augmented community-style buses run by a local operator under DoT's 'Transport Connections' Program. These generally run a few times a week but provide access to the nearest major centre for country residents.

What's in line for 2009? (Advertisement)

With a three-car consist comprising one 'M' unit and two 'T' units, this flexible all-terrain vehicle is the future for passenger transport in 2009. Styled like the latest European trains it has straight polished metal sides. It also featurs round portholes to convey a luxury liner-style travel experience. Hence it should satisfy those who ask for cross-bay commuter ferries.

Just photographed at a secret depot in Western Victoria, an earlier model featured in a recent Connex advertisement. Enhancements now include fast army-style rear-door loading and quality-assured braking (see rego plate). No sticky overheads are required as the unit is self-powered. Also available in 3'6", 4'8 1/2" & 5'3" flanged wheel models, this vehicle is a must for the quality government or private operator.

I'll refrain from making any serious predictions for public transport in 2009 as it's much easier to be wrong than right. Besides there's no money in it in the slim chance the forecasts prove true. But if you wish to have a go at guessing what the year will bring, feel free to leave them in the comments below.


Anonymous said...

I think that train is from Flagstaff Hill down at Warrmabool

Peter Parker said...

It most certainly is :)