Opposition Leader Tony Abbott's pledge to prioritise roads over commuter rail transport if elected is misguided and reflects his head in the sand response to the challenges of climate change, congestion and obesity, say Australian Greens Senator Lee Rhiannon and Melbourne MP Adam Bandt ("Abbott's road pledge derails state projects", p 8 AFR today).
Australian Greens public transport spokesperson Lee Rhiannon says: "The Opposition Leader says he will "stick to our knitting" and fund roads not rail if elected, abandoning commuters and the environment to increasing congestion and air pollution. The evidence is clear that Mr Abbott needs to change his choice of craft.
"Tony Abbott is blind to the costs of continuing to prioritise roads over public transport. A recent report predicted congestion costs alone will rise from $9.4 billion a year to $20 billion a year by 2020.
"The job of any future Australian government is to look to the future and refocus investment on public and active transport.
"Denying Western Australia, Queensland and Victoria federal funding for rail projects suggests an Abbott government will be even more captive to the roads lobby than the Gillard government.
"Roads are a bankrupt solution to the urgent problems of climate change, clogged roads and population growth and Infrastructure Australia has backed this view today by criticising the Opposition Leader's stance.
"Minister Albanese has taken first steps to a federal public transport strategy but has not stopped the lion's share of funding flowing to road transport. Mr Abbott has a responsibility to reverse this trend if he wins government.
Greens Deputy Leader Adam Bandt is calling on the Gillard government to fund the Melbourne Metro project as well as a line down the Eastern Freeway then out to Doncaster in the May Budget.
"Tony Abbott is again proving himself to be a transport dinosaur," Greens MP Adam Bandt said.
"The East-West tollway will be a disaster for inner Melbourne and will not solve the transport problems. It will divide communities and ruin our parkland."
"The key to keeping Melbourne liveable is more rail and active transport, not motorways. Labor must now commit to funding the Metro tunnel and Doncaster Rail in the upcoming Budget."