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Video: The Transport Crisis in the Frankston Area: Economy, Ecology and Social Connectedness by Ian Hundley

Video added inside. Headings in this highly informative paper include: How people get to Frankston Station, Social needs and mobility, The household transport cost burden, Peninsula Link, East West Link, The VicRoads Point Nepean Road Study, The Container Port at Hastings, The Cranbourne/Pakenham rail corridor project, and remarks on Road Spending. Only about 0.6% of Frankston residents who travel to work, work in locations that would be accessed by the Napthine government's proposed East West link, if they chose to drive. Poor frequency of service is a major issue in Frankston and on the Peninsula for bus services. The Stony Point train service is in danger of death through neglect and indifference if its service frequency is not improved and locals do not mobilise to support it. Local government can and should play a major advocacy role in this space.

Original title of this paper by Ian Hundley was, "The Transport Crisis in the Frankston Area: Issues of Economy, Ecology and Social Connectedness." It was presented to a meeting of Victoria First about overpopulation in Victoria, and Frankston's specific burden, at the Frankston Lifesaving Club on Saturday 2 August 2014. A video of the speech plus comments and questions will be uploaded to youtube soon.

Introduction

I am here to discuss some of the things that are going on and what needs to be done to improve the public transport outlook for residents in the Frankston area. What we will find, I think, is that there are both local and larger issues that are having major consequences for the residents of Frankston. And they do raise issues about economy, ecology and social connectedness. The influences that local people are able to bring to bear will be very important in how things pan out.

So, firstly, how do people use public transport in Frankston and in the rest of Melbourne?

Travel to work

In Frankston and on the Mornington Peninsula about 80% of trips to work each day by residents are taken by motor car alone and relatively few by public transport. [1] For Frankston residents, only about 5.6% of trips to work involve public transport and on the Peninsula only about 2.3% of all such trips.

Where public transport is of higher quality, such as in the City of Yarra, for example, nearly 30% of trips to work by local residents are made by public transport.

Where do Frankston residents work?

Both of the major political parties say their transport policies will make it easier for people to travel to and from work, thus providing them with more time with their families. Unfortunately, in outer Melbourne these projects are predominately roads projects, not improvements to public transport.

However, it is typical for most people who live in the Greater Melbourne Metropolitan area to work in the local government area in which they live or in relatively close proximity to where they live. About 60,000 Frankston residents travel to work every day. About 63.5% of all these residents work in Frankston itself or in an adjoining local government area (i.e. Greater Dandenong, Kingston, Mornington Peninsula, or Casey). About 5.5% of Frankston residents work in Melbourne. A large proportion of those taking the daily commute to Melbourne each weekday would do so by train.

Based upon the most recent Census data, only about 340 of these 60,000 Frankston residents who travel to work, or about 0.6% of the total, work in locations that would be accessed by the Napthine government's proposed East?West link, if they chose to drive.

These are Frankston people who travel to work to such far flung locations as Brimbank, Hume, Hobsons Bay and Moonee Valley.

Interestingly, in other eastern suburbs of Melbourne, including Boroondara and Whitehorse, the pattern is the same. Relatively few of their residents too would benefit from the East? West link because they work in the CBD or closer to home. From an economic planning perspective it should also be a primary objective of planning and transport policy to generate jobs close to home.

Public transport within Frankston and the Mornington Peninsula

So, what are the public transport options for residents travelling within Frankston and the
Peninsula each day? By and large it is the local bus network.

One measure of the quality of the bus network is the numbers of train patrons that rely on connecting buses to take the train from Frankston. As shown in Table 1 a mere one in five of train passengers connected by bus at Frankston station, whilst about 45% connected by motor car. At Box Hill station, which has higher daily patronage than Frankston station, about 28% of train travellers connected by bus and 43% walked to the station. Only about one in six travelled by car.

It is the network capacity of public transport systems that is so important. The local bus network around Box Hill is much more effective than it is in Frankston. Connecting services have to be frequent and they have to be timetabled to provide good intermodal connections. There is nothing worse than seeing the train disappear around the corner as your bus arrives at the station.

Poor frequency of service is a major issue in Frankston and on the Peninsula. The 788 bus service between Frankston station and Portsea/ Point Nepean National Park, for example, runs about every 45 minutes on weekdays and about every 75 minutes on weekends. Who is going to use this as a commuter service in the morning and the evening? And who is going to use it on weekends and public holidays?

We would almost be forgiven for thinking that the government is trying to put the service out of business. However, despite the government inertia that has left the 788 service about as unattractive a proposition for patrons as it could possibly be, you might be surprised to know it is one of the most heavily patronised route bus routes in Melbourne. This clearly demonstrates the latent demand for effective bus services on the Peninsula and in
Frankston which remain unmet. And it also demonstrates the capacity for a good public transport service to get cars off roads and out of car parks.

Another horror story is that of the 787 route bus service between Sorrento and Safety Beach. This service runs disjointedly on week days and just twice on Saturdays. If you travel from Rye, for instance, to Rosebud Plaza to do some shopping you could easily find yourself waiting up to an hour and a half for the next service to return home.

Frankston gained very little from the timetable and network changes that were introduced last Sunday 27 July. Late night changes were made to scheduling for the 770, 771, 775, 782 and 785 services to improve co?ordination with late night train services. However, when I checked on Wednesday morning, the updated timetables for the 775, 782 and 785 services were still not available on the PTV website. They did bob up a bit later.

These services at least have the virtue of running seven days a week. But they are far too infrequent, typically with a 30 minute headway during week day peak times, hourly for the rest of the day and hourly on Saturdays and Sundays with severely reduced service span from first bus to last.

We all need to bring significant pressure to bear on the major parties to commit to upgrading local bus services in the lead up to the state election in a few weeks time.

We also have one train service that serves destinations south of central Frankston to Westernport Bay, the Stony Point line. It operates seven days a week but only every two hours in the middle of weekdays and on Saturdays and Sundays. A previous state government attempted to close it. Service frequencies must be increased and this could be done relatively easily with the introduction of passing loops and a couple of extra vehicles. In my view, the Stony Point service is in danger of death through neglect and indifference if its service frequency is not improved and locals do not mobilise to support it. Local government can and should play a major advocacy role in this space.

Social needs and mobility

A report by Dr Belinda Robson for Crossroads Youth and Family Services in the Salvation Army,[2] and based on interviews with 100 residents of the new suburbs of Craigieburn and Roxburgh Park on Melbourne’s northern fringe, highlighted the importance of public transport for social connectedness.

Summary findings of the report showed that costs of travel as well as practical issues with transport mean that many young people were not able to participate in different activities and that many new households are at risk of mortgage stress and many face problems juggling financial demands.

However, a very high value was placed by respondents on the new stations incorporated into the metropolitan rail network in 2007, Roxburgh Park and Craigieburn, and the direct rail connection they provided to the city. Service providers also felt it had made a very big difference to residents’ ability to get around, and for their community pride.

The findings and observations in this report could be very readily translated to the transport issues now faced by Frankston residents.

The household transport cost burden

Now, to look at car dependency in outer suburbs and what the lack of public transport means for household budgets.

In the City of Melbourne only 30.7% of households have 2 or more cars. In the Shire of Mornington Peninsula a whopping 74.9% of households have two or more motor cars. A large part of this difference must be attributed to the relative ease with which inner urban residents can travel by public transport, cycling or walking, rather than having to drive a car.

Cars are expensive things to run in absolute terms and relative to the cost of public transport. Annualised operating cost for a small car may be in the order of $8?10,000. For a Frankston resident who works in the Melbourne CBD clearly the cheapest option is to pay $2210 annually for a Zone 1 + 2 MYKI. But this does not work as well for local travel because the bus system is so poor.

The welfare impact of lack of access to reasonable public transport is shown in sharper relief when one examines family household income. In the City of Melbourne (2010) only 26.8% of family households have weekly incomes of less than $1,000. In Rosebud 42.7% of family households have weekly incomes of less than $1,000.

Thus lower income households on the periphery of Melbourne are basically compelled to incur substantial additional transport costs and own more cars because they do not have reasonable access to public transport.

Peninsula Link

A number of you here today may have been involved in the campaign against Peninsula Link, which was originally characterised as a traffic bypass for Frankston. The project precipitated environmental losses, most conspicuously at locations such as The Pines Flora and Fauna Reserve in North Frankston and Westerfield in Langwarrin. Peninsula Link connected EastLink from Carrum to Dromana, at a cost of about $750 million. No serious attempt was made to assess any alternative approach which would see an increased focus on sustainable transport, especially public transport. It was simply a case of "predict and provide" based upon forecasts in motor vehicle traffic without regard to potential alternatives, including public transport.

The project was later criticised by the Auditor?General,[3] particularly in relation to the procuring of the project through a Public Private Partnership, the likely overstatement of economic benefits, and the dismissal of longer term negative effects, including induced traffic.

The only positive employment effect of the project I've seen in official propaganda has been the trumpeting of the opening of a new road house on the Peninsula Link reservation.

The VicRoads Point Nepean Road Study

You may know that in June 2013 VicRoads concluded this study to further increase road capacity on the Peninsula. It can be seen as the natural consequence of the induced traffic on Peninsula Link identified by the Auditor?General.

The study report recommends even further increases in road capacity in the southern Peninsula.

We know that one certain outcome from this project, if it goes ahead, is that it will generate more traffic in the area. The terms of reference for the study were deficient because they did not take account of the potential for modal shift to public transport rather than simply catering for more cars. I rang VicRoads and asked them if it was in their terms of reference. They said no, but what a good idea! I understand that some people who made formal submissions to the study also put the view that modals shift should have been reflected in the study. But it wasn't. It is always difficult to teach old dogs new tricks.[4]

I see that the Southern Peninsula Indigenous Flora and Fauna Association has concluded that if the proposed Mornington Peninsula freeway proceeds, as contemplated in the report, it would damage the biodiversity values of the Tootgarook Swamp as well as having hydrological impacts through bisecting the swamp with a major embankment.

East West Link

According to Denis Napthine, the East West Link is supposed to solve all our problems, with the possible exception of the common cold. The reality is, however, that there will be nothing left for the timely introduction of necessary transport projects in Frankston or elsewhere if the East?West Link goes ahead. The two sections have been estimated to cost in the order of $20 billion.

In September 2013 the Premier and the Treasurer, Michael O'Brien, announced three short? listed bidders for the project, the East West Connect, Inner Link Group and Momentum Infrastructure consortia. However, by June this year the Momentum group had evidently lost necessary momentum when the Treasurer reappeared, this time with the Roads minister, Terry Mulder, to announce that only the East West and Inner Link groups remained in the contest.

What was not made clear by these two ministers of the Crown, but which was subsequently reported in the press, is that the Momentum group gave up on the project. Leighton Contractors, a major partner in the Momentum consortium, reportedly found the project to be too risky for them due, they said, to unacceptable geotechnical risks associated with the tunnelling required for the project.[5]

This raises serious questions about the bona fides of the bid process. Robust tender processes rely on the presence of a substantial number of genuine and able bidders. What we have here is a classical case of monopolistic competition ? limited sellers of a product. What is worse, the final shape of the product remains unclear and it is backgrounded by a business case that remains undisclosed. This is extraordinarily fertile ground for plundering the public purse.

I had my own experience of government secrecy on this project when I wrote to the minister for roads in February 2014 to request traffic volume data for CityLink and for EastLink to assist in the preparation of submissions to the Assessment Committee that reported earlier this year to the planning minister. I was denied the information by the minister on the grounds that "..the terms of the contractual arrangements between the State and the toll road operators prohibit the State from disclosing confidential or unpublished information without the consent of the relevant road operator". The letter was signed on the final day of public hearings by the Assessment Committee.

Just prior to Leighton's declaration that the project was not for it, the Sunday Age reported that "The Napthine government will use the East West Link and other major projects to leverage donations from big business as it builds up a war chest before this year's state election".[6]

The Napthine government is determined to sign contracts for the project prior to the prorogation of the Victorian parliament in early November. It is in the best interests of the state that this not occur.

The Labor opposition has repeatedly declared the East?West Link to be a "dud" project. Notwithstanding this it says that, if elected to government, it will continue with contracts if they are signed. The Labor Party needs to have a hard look at itself and decide whether they are prepared to govern in the interests of the state or a select group of contractors.

One of the excuses that Labor is using to evade a commitment to drawing a line under the East?West Link project is that it would cause the price of public debt to increase. However, as Kenneth Davidson rightly pointed out in The Age on Monday [7] the potential for the ratings agencies to do damage to Victorian public finances in the event that government debt is downgraded from AAA to AA is relatively minor relative to the colossal costs that would be inflicted on the Victorian economy if this calamitous project is permitted to stumble on.

On the face of it it would be absurd if the credit rating were to decline in the event that the ALP in government or the current Napthine government had the gumption to pull stumps on a project which has negative rather than positive consequences for the economy at large.

To my mind it should strengthen the belief that the credit rating agencies don't know what they are doing. In fact, their abject performance in the lead?up to the Asian financial crisis in the late?1990's and their inability to assess the consequences of the accumulation of sub? prime debt which triggered the Global Financial Crisis in the last decade inspire little confidence in their credentials.

Container port at Hastings

As you know, the Victorian government has been trumpeting the virtues of Hastings as the location for Victoria's second container port. They say it is to retain Melbourne's status as the freight and logistics hub of Australia. The Victorian opposition was very keen on Hastings at one stage but has now gone cold on the idea. It is now directing attention to a location in Port Phillip Bay but west of Melbourne. I won't go into the debate about whether we need a second container port and, if so, where it should be but I do suggest that the following are important factors:

I understand that prior to the introduction of containerisation, the Port of Melbourne employed about 6,500 waterside workers in general freight. I understand it now employs about 200 in the container terminals.

Despite the fact that political parties implicitly assert the employment creating capacity of a new container port it is sobering to realise that new container facilities are likely to be highly automated, which would further reduce the demand for direct labour.

It is understandable that people should be seeking new sources of employment growth when traditional employment sources, such as Bluescope Steel, have been static or declining.

However, labour replacing automation is increasingly common in the transport and materials handling industry. For instance, Rio Tinto is in the process of removing drivers from its iron ore trains operating on 1,500 kilometres of track in the Pilbara region of Western Australia through its Autohaul driverless train program. The trains will be run from an operations centre in Perth.

Analysis recently completed at Victoria University suggests Hastings may not be a very bright idea for a container port, for a number of reasons.[8] There are significant environmental concerns including the future of the RAMSAR Convention ? protected wetlands. It may also jeopardise local tourism?based industries, and the location is sub? optimal having regard for the land?based distribution task once the containers are landed.

The Cranbourne/Pakenham rail corridor project

The Napthine government has accepted an "unsolicited bid" for the upgrade of the Pakenham/Cranbourne rail corridor which is to include moving block signalling, rail duplication and grade separations. The proponents are MTR (METRO), John Holland Construction and UGL Rail Services. The project is to cost $2?2.5 billion according to the government which also claims it will provide a 30% capacity boost on the corridor, the equivalent of two lanes of traffic on the Monash Freeway, and will facilitate increased freight from the proposed container port at Hastings.

New stations are to be built at Carnegie, Murrumbeena and Clayton. Significantly, the Cranbourne?Pakenham rail corridor project is described by the government as a supporting initiative for the container port at the Port of Hastings. When a committee chaired by former deputy prime minister, Tim Fischer, reviewed the Victorian rail freight network in 2008, he recommended that 90% of freight from Hastings be dedicated to rail.[9]

However, it appears that the concept plans released recently for each of these new stations show only the two existing tracks. There are no tracks shown to cater for the proposed Rowville rail link, nor for the government's proposed container port at Hastings.

This is starting to sound like the East?West link. Secret bids, secret processes, no costings, no business case worth the name. Another one of the Napthine government's "game changing" infrastructure projects.

A concluding remark on roads spending

The recent draft industry consultation document prepared in Infrastructure Australia noted that most of the economic infrastructure projects submitted in recent years for Commonwealth funding for assessment by the agency were road projects and that they lacked any cost?benefit rigour whatsoever. The report said in part "... road project proponents...spend next to no effort examining what problems their projects and plans are trying to solve, other than the perceived problem that they do not have enough road funding. In other words, the answer is almost always 'I just need more money,' regardless of the question."

The Victorian Auditor?General also concluded recently that our road system in Victoria is operated inefficiently, in part because "Trams and buses are not currently able to provide accurate and reliable reference data to VicRoads traffic signals systems, and thus more efficient public transport traffic signal prioritisation is not available to these high? productivity vehicles".[10]

This is certainly the case with the East?West Link where Tony Abbott has been happy to turn over $3 billion of our hard earned money. No business case. No comparative analysis. No questions asked. It was the mentality behind the Peninsula Link project, and now threatens in relation to the Point Nepean Road Study where VicRoads hopes to tack some more freeway onto Peninsula Link, effectively. And without any regard for more effective public and active transport solutions that don't contribute to the further environmental degradation of Frankston, the Peninsula and surrounding areas and keeping local residents poor through continuing car dependency.

FOOTNOTES

[1]. See Australian Bureau of Statistics 2011 Census of Population and Housing

[2]. Building Lives, Building Community in Craigieburn and Roxburgh Park: Report to the
Community
(University of Melbourne 2009)

[3]. Auditor?General of Victoria, Management of Major Road Projects, June 2011

[4]. VicRoads, Point Nepean Road Study Report, June 2013

[5]. Jenny Wiggins and Adam Carey, "Link project too risky for Leighton," The Age, 29 July
2014

[6]. Farrah Tomazin, "Libs use major projects as fund?raising bait, Sunday Age, July 27, 2014

[7]. Kenneth Davidson, "The case against East West Link gets ever stronger," The Age, July 28,
2014

[8]. Dr Hermione Parsons and Mr Peter Van Duyn, Build it ? but will they come? A pre?mortem analysis of the Port of Hastings Development Project to encourage alternative integrated planning (Institute for Supply Chain and Logistics, Victoria University, 9 July 2014).

[9]. Switchpoint: Victorian Rail Freight Network Review (Department of Infrastructure Victoria
2008), p. 58

[10]. Auditor General of Victoria, Using ICT to Improve Traffic Management (June 2014)