It has been a busy and fruitful 12 months since I started as the CEO of the Committee for Geelong with the last months of 2019 filled with significant announcements including our Australia’s Gateways to Growth report and advocacy for new trackless trams transport technology from China.
Another key element of the Committee for Geelong’s work last year was the development of a new Strategic Framework for 2019-2022. This Framework has been a collaboration with our members, stakeholders and included analysis of existing and proposed projects and policies from all levels of government.
Of all the issues raised, transport was high on the agenda. Concerns included congestion our road and rail connections to Melbourne, the functionality of road networks through and around the region, the frustrations between bicycle and car users and resultant impacts of car parking in central Geelong, including the ongoing debates regarding bus routes and role of Moorabool Street.
As a result, we have identified Sustainable, Accessible and Connected Transport as a key action area in our Strategic Framework.
In late 2019, the City of Greater Geelong released a draft Transport Network Operating Plan. Unfortunately, this Council draft Plan only focuses on the road network and does not address buses or the potential impacts of other significant State and Federally funded transport initiatives.
In the community’s Clever and Creative vision, there is an aspiration for A Fast, Reliable and Connected Transport Network. Within that aspiration there is a measure of success that outlines a future where 50 per cent of journeys to work are made by public transport, walking or cycling.
Apart from short walking and cycling trips, public transport is the key alternate transport option to private vehicle use into the Central Geelong area. Beyond rail and regional ferry services, all public transport within Geelong shares the road network which highlights the lower order priority that public transport plays in our road networks.
According to the data outlined in the draft Transport Network Operating Plan, all people who travel to work to Central Geelong from a four to six kilometre radius, 92 percent travel by car with five percent choosing to use public transport (three percent cycle to work). This clearly shows there is a considerable public transport challenge facing us.
Public transport provides the greatest opportunity to promote mode shift away from private vehicle use. It needs and must have a high order priority within Council’s medium and long term planning.
Public transport is a significant consideration of Geelong’s future as we grow to 500,000 people in the next 20 years. The Committee for Geelong made a submission to the TNOP with some recommendations including:
- The need to align with the Accessible and Inclusive Geelong Feasibility Study and recognise that walking and cycling is often not an option for people with a disability and that public transport that is accessible and inclusive is often the only option.
- That public transport options and the consideration of new technology – for example trackless trams – be included at the forefront in ongoing dialogue with the Victorian Government’s Department of Transport.
- Priority routes and transit lanes for public transport that supports the cycling and pedestrian priority routes within the Central Geelong area that offers flexibility and creativity, acknowledging the evolving nature of public and sustainable transport.
Another key element in our transport future is faster rail and the discussions regarding optimal routes and planning for the Geelong-Melbourne journey. Currently there are at least four different options being touted for this journey including a Metro 2 which would take Geelong rail travellers back to the Werribee rail line. This work is receiving significant attention and funding from both State and Federal Governments.
The Committee for Geelong is supportive of fast rail to the region and wants to see the best outcome for our community as we grow. We are working with both the State and Federal Governments on a range of initiatives in a constructive and collaborative manner. I sit on the State Government’s Geelong Fast Rail Reference Group and recently met with the National Faster Rail Agency in Canberra. Detailed planning and discussions are occurring at the highest level and we will continue to be involved with these plans with a focus on the best long term future for the region.