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Buses replace trains North Melbourne - Upfield until 8.00 Sun 26 Apr (maintenance works take place).5.25 Frankston line: Minor delays (an equipment fault near Mordialloc). Trains may be held/changed.- 7.55 Major.- 8.26 Ongoing.- 9.16 Now with police at Bentleigh adding to the existing delays.- 11.45 Now minor and clearing.We acknowledge the service & sacrifice of all who served Australia & New Zealand. 41 Railway Squadron, Royal Australian Engineers was comprised of railway employees. Sept.65, VR News Letter reported on their annual camp at Bandiana.Buses replace trains Newport - Werribee from 20.30 until 6.10 Sun 26 Apr (works).Frankston Line: Buses replace trains Moorabbin - Mordialloc from 23.30 Apr until 6.00 Sun 26 Apr (urgent track works).
Opinion COVID-19 sees Victorian democracy fail behind closed doors April 25, 2020
The road to recovery: Are Victoria's mega-projects still worth it? April 25, 2020Comb through government funding records for 1932, the year unemployment peaked at 32 per cent during the Great Depression, and you will find £5000 set aside for a significant road project in Victoria.video: Melbourne's mega-projects: why do they cost so much?If there's one thing Melbourne is doing a lot of right now, it's massive road and rail projects.Scroll left through recommended storiesScroll right through recommended storiesThe money was part of “an unemployment relief fund used to widen the Great Ocean Road and provide work for more than 200 returned soldiers”.The road – now one of Australia’s biggest tourist attractions – shows the legacy governments can leave when trying to boost a collapsed economy.Almost a century later Victoria is staring at another savage economic downturn, of a magnitude not seen since the Depression, and certainly since the state’s last recession in 1991.Premier Daniel Andrews has fronted the media almost daily since calling a state of emergency in March, with a forceful focus on staving off a health catastrophe.But the economic woes coronavirus could wreak upon Victoria may be as big a challenge as the health crisis, with state treasury estimates this week predicting a quarter of a million Victorians will soon be out of work – twice the current number. To cope with the economic battering, Victoria will borrow up to $24.5 billion in extra cash.Premier Daniel Andrews at Carrum Station in January.Credit:Jason SouthAndrews has regularly said construction will be one of the ways his government digs Victoria out of the crisis. “We are going to need to do more in road and rail. It will need to,” he said this week, "go to another level”.But with the state’s infrastructure drive already at what most thought “next level” before the pandemic, can Victoria realistically contemplate embarking on more mega-projects – builds with price tags in excess of $1 billion? Or could the pandemic provide a sort of reset, where Daniel Andrews relaxes his focus on big builds and instead turns the state towards other infrastructure to get the economy pumping again?'We've been conned into a major projects approach'Andrews this week said his government’s choice of projects had always been both big and little, with the state’s massive transport build packaged up so that “small firms, medium firms and large big tier-one firms” got work.Four immense transport projects are either underway in Victoria, or might already have been signed off had the pandemic not ground the state to a halt.The West Gate Tunnel motorway is under construction, bidding is underway for the North East Link toll road and freeway widening, plans for an airport rail line were close to finalised, and the Metro Tunnel rail line is being built. Then there is the $50 billion Suburban Rail Loop, on which the bill for planning alone comes to $300million.Is it wise to forge ahead with all of these enormous projects?“No” was the resounding answer from financial and planning experts quizzed by The Age this week. The prevailing view was that while city-shaping projects are nice in theory, their enormous lead times and vast cost reduce their wider community benefit.“More smaller projects, you can turn the tap on and off easier,” said economist Terry Rawnsley, from consultants SGS. “You don’t want to get in a position where in five years’ time you’ve built [major] projects and maxed out the credit card.”Some projects put forward by the Andrews government also don’t make as much sense as they once did, with COVID-19 likely to see population growth dip, travel patterns change and a recession if not worse. “We’ve been conned into a major projects approach,” said economist John Stanley, a Sydney University transport professor and former Victorian transport industry executive.He said costly projects like the Suburban Rail Loop were “grossly over-designed” and shorter-term public transport projects that helped people navigate Melbourne’s suburbs made more sense.The North East Link done “more modestly” might benefit the city but its vast cost meant it should be postponed, he said.The proposed suburban rail loop would intersect with 10 other rail lines.Credit:Fairfax MediaIf past practice is anything to go by, Andrews is unlikely to back down. He has pushed through virtually all promised projects – even the troubled-plagued West Gate Tunnel.John Hearsch, president of transport think tank the Rail Futures Institute, said the $50 billion Suburban Rail Loop – the most expensive transport project in Victorian history – needed rethinking, as did the North East Link.His group wants to see a $2 billion City Loop reworking built to expand trains flowing through – swiftly delivering the equivalent of a 10-lane freeway.Electrification of trains to Melton and Wyndham Vale must go ahead too even if the pandemic causes public transport journeys to dip, he added.Other smaller-scale rail projects where federal money is already on the table such as light rail for Doncaster, electrifying trains past Frankston to Baxter and duplicating rail tracks in Geelong’s Waurn Ponds should also proceed, others said.The Victorian government needs to talk to Bombardier about new trams, say experts, as part of boosting the economy.Credit:Govnews VictoriaBut simply ramping up construction would not avert wide-scale unemployment, Hearsch said. For this reason, an extra 100 new trams should be built in Dandenong by Bombardier, along with more locally made buses.Public Transport Users Association’s spokesman Tony Morton agreed, noting that much spending on multibillion-dollar projects wound up spent on expensive machinery – not wages.He said Victoria’s Treasury had an “ideological conviction” that spending was better on capital projects like new rail station car parks than on state-run operations such as a better bus network, which increased jobs both in manufacturing and driving.“A feeder bus can deliver passengers to the station all day,” he said. “It doesn’t depend on the car park getting full after the first 200 passengers drive in.”Stimulus: the lessons of historyVictoria has of course seen this show before, even if the script is more dramatic now, said respected economist Saul Eslake, who pointed to the enormous stimulus packages of the early 1990s recession.Then, prime minister Paul Keating’s One Nation package funded a range of huge infrastructure projects.“By the time these got started, the recession was well and truly over,” said Eslake, who believes the nation’s biggest states such as Victoria and New South Wales need to concentrate not on mega-projects but genuinely “shovel-ready” works.Treasurer Wayne Swan and Prime Minister Kevin Rudd announce their economic stimulus package during the Global Financial Crisis in 2008.Credit:Glen McCurtayneHe said the Rudd government’s school halls program during the 2008 Global Financial Crisis partially worked because it was spread “around the country, rather than concentrated in a few areas as is typically the case with large projects”. It also required locally sourced labour and materials.Of course there was a downside: “A lot of schools got halls that they didn’t need.”Also funded in Rudd's GFC response was the Regional Rail Link through Melbourne’s west. A success as a transport project, but an abject failure as a stimulus measure. Billed as “shovel ready” in 2009, it took two years to start.Eslake was among a range of voices The Age spoke to who said the biggest success story from the Rudd-Swan stimulus was housing for the poor. In particular, it fitted the need for speed.Across Australia 20,000 new social housing units were built and another 12,000 got repairs. A KPMG spending review found the most vulnerable - the homeless, disabled and elderly - were the beneficiaries.In Victoria, Eslake said, where social housing as a percentage of total housing stock is low, home-building was an ideal focus point to lift the economy. It would also calm the jangled nerves of many in the sector.Construction expert and RMIT professor Ron Wakefield is also a director of Launch Housing, which has helped the state house 700 homeless people during the crisis. “When the pandemic finishes, they will just get pushed back onto the streets,” he said. A once-in-a-generation home-building program would create jobs and tackle the housing crisis affecting many Victorians before the pandemic, he said, and meant Victoria was “not putting everything into roads and trains”.Overseas cities beset by pandemic lockdowns have also urgently pushed cycling and walking projects into action, said Monash University planning lecturer Liz Taylor. “There are so many Melbourne projects shelved for ages that could quickly be reprioritised,” pointing to the west’s Federation cycling trail as a prime example.She said while the economic uplift and job creation from building new active transport infrastructure was minute on the scale of mega-projects, they would leave a lasting legacy.She said pouring millions into permanent bus lanes should also be considered because coronavirus might change travel patterns long-term. “Travel demand for cars will be lower, just from changes to people’s working-from-home habits."The dangers of getting stungAnother lesson from Australia’s GFC response, economist Rawnsley said, was another shovel-ready project commissioned back then: Peninsula Link.The road improved trip times to the Mornington Peninsula but failed to deliver many other promised benefits. And it proved a “sweet deal” for the project’s private-sector consortium, Rawnsley said. Taxpayers are now paying around $100 million a year until 2037, a total of $2.75 billion for a road built for just $651 million nine years ago.The case showed the Victorian public can get stung when state governments hastily dust off long-planned projects and start construction to boost the economy.Melbourne's West Gate Tunnel is among the massive infrastructure projects that need renewed scrutiny.Credit:Luis Enrique Ascui“The view on this was at the time the economy was falling off a cliff and the state was happy to pay a bit more,” he said, “to make sure things were happening.”As builders grow increasingly risk-averse in the face of a deepening recession, Daniel Andrews may be forced to pay a premium for the major projects he does build – whether trying to repair the state’s economy or not.Rawnsley doubted the $16 billion North East Link would deliver bang for the bucks, and questioned its legacy beyond getting trucks off Heidelberg’s Rosanna Road. And in the face of global travel bans, Rawnsley warned an airport rail link costing between $8 billion and $13 billion might be dubious. “The imperative for the rail link,” he said, “has kind of disappeared overnight.”However, Infrastructure Partnerships Australia's chief executive Adrian Dwyer said maintaining a pipeline of mega-projects was important, in addition to prioritising $50-$500 million projects and fast-tracking level crossing removals.Keeping the construction industry open during the crisis was also a "master stroke" by the Victorian government he said, because it saved jobs and built industry confidence.Where will the growth come from?The key unknown in the crisis, the Grattan Institute’s city and transport head Marion Terrill says, is how quickly the economy will recover if social distancing continues for years in the absence of a vaccine.“Traditionally we tend to grow our way out of debt. After World War II, we grew fast and debt dwindled to nothing and that works as long as the economy is growing faster than interest rates on government borrowing,” Terrill said. "At the moment, it’s hard to imagine a lot of economic growth.”Borrowing while interest rates were radically low to build infrastructure was a good idea, but it was crucial the money went towards projects that increased productivity and matched the needs of a changing world, she said. “You can waste money cheaply as well as expensively.”The risk in marching ahead with major transport projects already being promoted by the Andrews government is that many of their underlying assumptions – surging population growth and travel patterns – have now been turned on their head by COVID-19.And those changes could be permanent: commuters may be less inclined to travel on overcrowded trains and more people may work from home, putting less strain on transport. It was time for the government to stop and think about what projects the state truly needed. “The big projects are particularly risky right now,” Terrill said.* It is easy to see all this construction is about Melbourne centric. The rails and tunnels are there because Melbourne is essentially gridlocked. All the growth is too far out for people to get to work in Melbourne or Melbourne suburbs. Some time ago we had a chance to start a new port outside of Melbourne, it was declined by the businesses that use the current gridlock because they would have to build new warehouses and build their businesses outside of Melbourne. The politicians in authority caved in. They would rather borrow billions to spend on the current gridlock with only a temporary solution that a new port would bring. The politicians we get never have any longterm vision for this nation, state or federal, that is the truth.<www.theage.com.au/politics/victoria/the-road-to-recovery-are-victoria-s-mega-projects-still-worth-it-20200423-p54mja.html>* Who controls Andrews? Which union? Certainly not public interest.* Yes I know not much air travel happening currently. Mr Rawnsley BUT it is this sort of short thinking which has seen Victorians waiting 50 years already for airport rail. Another 50 ???* With working from home becoming the trend, perhaps all these road projects will become unnecessary white elephants , just like the 40 billion dollar desalination plant.* The North East Link if it goes ahead in its present form is an environmental, health, social and financial disaster! We don’t need it as the COVID19 Pandemic social changes have shown. A lot of us will want to continue to work from home, use active transport in clean air, walk and cycle with our partners and kids with whom we can spend more time, and expand and enjoy natural habitats. Back to the drawing boards for a comprehensive Town plan that will provide non-polluting electric transport, less overconsumption and waste, beautiful natural surroundings, physical and mental health, community gardens and organic farms, renewable electric energy with solar panels, Wind power, battery and pumped hydro storage, and insulation with efficient use of resources.* We need more Overseas investment in Victoria.* Good opportunity to keep more people employed by public housing projects etc compared to the risky costly infrastructure projects* Up to 70,000 people are gradually being made redundant as a result of the NBN being 'completed'. Why not build the NBN as initially planned with full fibre connectivity? This is about as shovel ready as possible. There are already the skills and workforce, the design has been done and there need for a world-class broadband network is more apparent then ever as a result of huge demand on remote working emanating from this pandemic.* I really hope now the proposed airport rail tunnel project gets approved, state doesn't have to pay for it and we do need it. The idea of running the trains through the Metro tunnel, guh, no thanks!* The lack of media scrutiny of the $24b COVID19 loan is outrageous given we are told that the curve is squashed - that’s almost 2 North East Links ( or actual cost after blowout!) - punchdrunk media, punchdrunk Treasurer and Premier* Rhetorical question. Infrastructure is always needed for a myriad of obvious reasons. However, the question is about overpriced contracts that somehow manage to result in cashed up Labor sinking funds.* We need money flowing to households and communities. Big projects like tunnels, done under secretive Public/Private deals, with mezzanine financing and big overseas corporations milking every last drop, are not efficient at getting money flowing into communities. Up to 50% of the money simply flows straight out of here, overseas. Remembering as well - roads are tolled. So it is a massive drain on the economy for decades, again with all the money going to a few big corporations, with huge percentages of foreign ownership. We should be building - it is the what and the how. It is the time for more smaller projects. I am personally getting sick of these secretive PPP arrangements. They are our taxes being spent, and billions in future tolls, but commercial in confidence palaver means we dont even know what we are on the hook for. Or to who. Is this Belt and Road?* It won't matter to Dan & Co if projects dont go according to plan or when theyre built and completed and found to be wanting. Thats because, barring illegal activities, MP's and govts arent accountable. And if problems do arise long after completion, those MP's, either wont be there anymore or not walking upon the face of the earth anymore.* He had taken on too many big complex projects at once. They always overrun cost wise and will break the state finacially* These projects are more important than ever and we will need even more to get out of the coming recession. Remember that Pres F D Roosevelt saved the US during the great depression by bringing in the New Deal and building the massive Hoover Dam to employ unemployed workers.* Andrews only listens to the unions and no one else.* It would appear the state govt gets rings run around it continually. Borrow to build...cease these ridiculous long-term deals where the tax payer pays many many many times the cost of the project over many years. You are letting these companies take our future, then they offer relief by leveraging the same dodgy deals to pay for another round of dodgy deals, further committing us to even more ridiculous over payments. Can't anyone in the State Govt actually negotiate? And politicians...stay out of it! Where is the unbiased, unmanipulated Procurement?* Even more so. Further there are future generations* A very good article. Given the scale of change brought upon us by COVID-19 it would be neglectful NOT to review all existing projects, etc. A reset of our economy is required because of this virus - so our governments tell us. Therefore existing projects to which we are yet to fully commit must be reviewed. This doesn't mean they have to cease or be put on hold - just reviewed in the context of designing an economic path forward. However, as the article suggests, there are many more ways of stimulating the economy besides what is essentially road building.* We're still paying for under investment in major infrastructure with terrible congestion. These hand picked academics always say we shouldn't build project xxx and instead just incease urban density. Keep the projects rolling Dan. That's why we re-elected you.* We NEED these projects and many more NOW! They are at least 20 years behind when they should have been built* Build hospitals. We need more hospitals and public housing.* This isn't the Great Depression, unemployment is tipped to hit 10% not 32%, with a bounce back next year. Then we are back to congestion and the same problems that need fixing.* Please correct the title of this article. Instead of 'The road to recovery: Are Victoria's mega-projects still worth it?' it should read 'The road to recovery: Are Melbourne's mega-projects still worth it?' - You would think no-one lives outside of Melbourne.* If anyone giving planning advice is thinking we are loving this lockdown so much we are going to keep working from home and avoiding air travel into the future voluntarily, please don’t let them anywhere near policy. By the time these projects are completed we will need them more than ever.* There are many opinions expressed in this article that I think are based on either sour grapes or fallacious arguments.Firstly, the ridiculous claim that COVID-19 has made some projects no longer necessary because of reduced population growth. You don;t need to be a Rhodes scholar to know that projects like the North-East Link (which has been called for for a decade or two) are needed now based on current (as in pre-coronavirus) congestion levels, so will be even more beneficial when they eventually are completed. As much as I'm against the continual population growth, it will resume in time. The article also continually assumes that no smaller infrastructure works are happening, when that is patently untrue, as Daniel Andrews states. There are always small and medium-sized road projects happening all over Melbourne and the rest of Victoria, as well as the enormously beneficial level crossing removals. All up, a very slanted, non-objective article.* The best possible thing to happen would be for bipartisan agreement at the federal level to end population growth as the chief economic driver. Sensible population growth will still occur (natural growth plus some immigration) but at levels close to a quarter or less of where they are now (immigration levels controlled only of course). Melbourne and Sydney are getting far too much population growth, green wedges are being built over and urban densification is destroying both cities. The economic advantage at federal GDP level does not justify the damage to the Australian way of life and does not raise per capita GDP levels. With the above restrictions in place, state projects can be reviewed and projects that still make sense can continue, whilst other new projects may appear more relevant.* We were treated to a variation of the same story by the same journalists in the same newspaper last weekend. All that's changed is that Daniel Andrews has legislated to borrow $25 billion, which margically equals the cost overruns his government has run up so far on their current projects. Lock downs will end eventually and we will need roads for our growing population.* There are many smaller projects that would probably give better value for money but they don't provide photo opportunities for politicians in hard hats & hi viz vests.* It's like Richard Wynne realised this week his role is an economic position not a red tape creation position. But even then he issued permits on projects with huge lead times and unlikely to start in current economic climate. After 5 years realised his job then failed at it. Planning on family homes and small scale development has ground to a halt, councils "town planners" have become red tape administration officers obsessed with adding reports, dragging decisions and responses to the maximum timelines. Aborist reports on properties with no trees, 3D shadow diagrams where existing fences already cast shadow, Cultural heritage management plans in inner city suburban streets. Structural engineering drawings for planning. Just to list a few of the long winded high cost completely ridiculous reports requested recently. And this isn't just to block big greedy developers these are people wanting to build an extra room for a growing family or a home office or a garage.* For a while during this crisis, there seemed to be hope of a realisation of how out of kilter everything had got with what humans most need. That is, health, homes, community, positive connections, all of which have been subjugated to the almighty dollar and the economy under 30+ years of neoliberalism. Now, it seems it's more of the same, more roads, more massive development (but no housing for the homeless), more glass to let in the hot sun requiring more air-conditioning, more artificial building materials that provide no buffer to the heat or cold,, more pollution and more damage to the environment. Meanwhile, the cladding and building defects' crisis is not even dealt with from decades of exactly this pattern. Why not learn from the mistakes cities have made overseas, not replicate them? There's no point in complaining about climate change when cities are being beefed up in the least environmentally friendly way possible.* Jobs in regional areas of Victoria are required more than jobs in Melbourne. But the vast majority of union members are in the city so that is where the money will be short by Dan. As much as Victorian government seems to think the CBD is the only place of workers moving functionality to the region's is a key strategy to be processed. What covid-19 isolation had shown is that much can be done by working from home, do rather than returning to the CBD offices, we should be working from regional cities. This would provide state wide stimulus.* After every global crisis, historically and today, the road to economic recovery has and will always be construction and manufacturing. Both sectors employ huge amounts of people, skilled and unskilled, with long programs. To change tact now would be to spit in the face of history. There could be spreading out of work to other parts of the city, but unfortunately the population isn't there to support the cases. People want to see major investment in rural areas but yet they all live in Melbourne.* Yes they are. Now more than ever.* No. They are not worth it. They never were. These BIG projects get BIG votes. Were they run past the Department of Transport before they were announced? Were they shown to be NEEDED? Or were did they just SOUND good? What we need is what we already have to be working well. For example: that turn into Swan street from the Punt is rubbish. Why couldn't they just fix it properly and build a bridge? Because fixing stuff doesn't sound good at all to a PR person. Oh? They're just going to fix something? BORING. We want NEW, BIG, announcements. OMG. I just want them to start asking the experts what is the BEST thing to do and stop trying to get elected using big projects that might not be the best use of money.* Many will not be able to understand why several big projects should be abandoned in favor of hundreds of little ones. If they employ the same number of people, what difference does it make. In addition, the claim that we will max out the credit card is inflammatory when market interest rates are zero, and credit card rates are not relevant here. History also shows that big projects can be massively morale boosting in times of need and often end up as iconic examples of triumph in the face of adversity. During the last great depression, the Sydney Harbour Bridge, the Sydney underground and New York's Empire State Building are three such examples. To summarize, one wonders what the motives are for the claims in this article.* When the built the Sydney harbour Bridge they didn't go through 10years of planning.* The risk is that future generations will be paying off the "credit card" for decades to come - just look at the articles' Peninsula Link costs cited as an example.* North East Link will kill the business case for the Outer Suburban Rail Loop. Dan Andrews will be gone by then, but, he should state clearly whether his preference is car dependence or public transport. If North East Link was such a winner, why not get the private sector to build it and run it? Because the BCR is too low an its too risky. The same goes for airport rail. - let it out to the private sector, or dont bother. It will just clog up the Melbourne Metro capacity and we will all catch Ubers to the airport in 10 years time anyway. Government should leave toll roads to the private sector and spend its limited funds on projects that help with transition to the new green economy (public transport, solar and storage, energy hubs)* "Government should leave toll roads to the private sector and spend its limited funds on projects" Best you ask the Victorian public if they want more toll roads first and I can tell you the answer will be NO!* No doubt you had stickers on your vehicle saying “No tolls” on Eastlink* This Andrews goverment in charge of more big $$$ construction projects? God help us when the bill needs to be paid* Did you pay cash for your house?* True that. Borrowed $24.5b to start shovel ready projects or just cover the cost blow outs of his current ones.* The mega projects arnt in Victoria , they are in and around Melbourne.Lakes Entrance , Mansfield Traralgon Warnambool Mildura Horsham or Wodonga don't get no share of mega projects . So how is Daniel Andrews any different to sayJeff Kennett the former Premier of Melbourne who was gifted the title ?* check out this link. https://bigbuild.vic.gov.au/projects Next time be informed before making comment.* All good and logical but Dan A strength in the coved crisis is his weakness also, arrogance* An unintended consequence of the virus is demonstrating how much better it is getting around with less traffic, and public transport not the usual sardine situation. Hopefully the manic population growth has stopped now and infrastructure given at least a few years to catch up. And maybe all the dog box flats built for overseas students can be repurposed as public housing, the government should be able to buy them at a big discount with foreign student demand falling off a cliff for the foreseeable.* I think it's reasonable to suggest many businesses will realise they don't need all workers in the office every day, and that *may* translate to reduced peak hour travel. But I think many of the assumptions that covid-19 will have significant long term impacts on our behaviour are questionable. Climate change is far more of a long term driver of necessary economic change, and in the next 10-15 years the world economy is likely to go into overdrive attempting to adapt, mitigate and decarbonize.* 'Dog box' housing for public housing tenants what a good idea, NOT.* Perhaps many who are working from home could continue this in some form, say 2 days or 3 days per week at home. Traffic congestion would be more manageable.* Just get on with the projects as planned please! Delaying them will incur a much larger cost that we wouldn’t be able to take on. At least while we can let’s absorb the cost now so we can pay it off rather than waiting forever and paying much more.