The Committee for Mornington Peninsula says commuters have been left stranded after Victoria’s 2021-2051 Infrastructure Strategy failed to recommend any significant improvements for our public transport infrastructure. The committee released this statement this afternoon in response to the strategy, which was tabled yesterday in State Parliament:
CfMP executive officer Briony Hutton said: “Disappointingly, Infrastructure Victoria has not recommended any significant improvements for public transport infrastructure for the Mornington Peninsula, despite this being one of our community’s most significant infrastructure deficits.” Infrastructure Victoria has recommended that the City Loop be remodelled to enable more services to be run on metropolitan train lines, including the Frankston line. This is, however, unlikely to benefit Mornington Peninsula commuters who will be restricted from accessing the Frankston line in the coming years if the Frankston line is not duplicated and electrified.
The CfMP supports the staged electrification and duplication of the existing rail line from Frankston to Baxter as the first stage, including a dedicated commuter park and ride and a transit interchange at Baxter station, to connect to a Mornington Peninsula bus network with improved route efficiencies and frequencies. We are disappointed that the longstanding proposal to extend the Frankston line has not been recommended as part of Victoria’s Infrastructure Strategy 2021-2052, beyond a footnote referencing Infrastructure Australia’s listing of this issue as a National Infrastructure Priority in 2020. Although the Frankston rail extension proposal received a $225 million commitment from the Federal Government in 2019, a Victorian Government preliminary business case in 2020, and is currently being assessed as a National Partnership Agreement between the Federal and Victorian governments, it did not warrant Infrastructure Victoria’s recommendation for construction in the next 30 years.
“Electrifying and duplicating the train line from Frankston to Baxter presents a once-in-a-century opportunity for the Mornington Peninsula to gain access to a metropolitan train line with a dedicated park and ride facility for commuters from the Mornington Peninsula, as well as a local transit interchange to provide a direct connection for Mornington Peninsula bus routes, instead of interchanging at an already congested Frankston station with substandard service frequencies,” Ms Hutton said.
Mornington Peninsula residents currently face the near-term possibility of not being able to park in Frankston to access the Frankston train line due to enduring commuter carparking scarcity in Frankston. About 48 per cent of commuter carparking in Frankston is taken up by Mornington Peninsula commuters on any given day, which significantly contributes to Frankston’s congestion and limits its economic growth. It is possible that a permit system could soon be introduced to exclude Mornington Peninsula commuters from parking in the City of Frankston to gain access to the Frankston train line.
Adding to that concern, Infrastructure Victoria has recommended that parking be priced at all train station carparks and commuter park and rides in the near future, which would render parking further up the Frankston line an economic disincentive for Mornington Peninsula commuters. These possibilities would combine to deter Mornington Peninsula commuters from catching the train to the city for education or employment, thereby encouraging more dependence on motor vehicle travel. Increasing the reliance on motor vehicles for Mornington Peninsula residents traveling to Melbourne would also come at an increased cost to commuters, as Infrastructure Victoria has recommended an urban congestion tax, meaning road users would pay additional fees to access the City of Melbourne by road during peak hour.
“An urban congestion tax would be a double-whammy for Mornington Peninsula uni students, apprentices and professionals travelling to and from Melbourne during peak hour times, considering access to public transport infrastructure is set to be significantly impeded in the coming years,” Ms Hutton said. Infrastructure Victoria is effectively discouraging travel from the Mornington Peninsula to Melbourne through recommending increased taxes on car travel to Melbourne during business hours and priced parking at train stations, whilst at the same time recommending against extending a metropolitan train line onto the Mornington Peninsula to enable improved improvements to our bus network. “Infrastructure Victoria’s recommendations only serve to make travel between metropolitan Melbourne and the Mornington Peninsula more difficult, although our residents are entitled to the same standard of transport infrastructure as the rest of metropolitan Melbourne,” Ms Hutton said.
If the Mornington Peninsula loses access to a metropolitan train line due to Infrastructure Victoria’s recommendations in its 30-year strategy, we estimate a combined $200 million loss of income for commuting local residents per annum. Not only would this compound the disadvantage of metropolitan public transport accessibility for Mornington Peninsula commuters, but also for workers from other areas seeking to gain employment on the Peninsula in our key sectors including healthcare, tourism and hospitality. One of the biggest barriers to Mornington Peninsula businesses throughout the pandemic continues to be access to a skilled workforce across a range of local industries. “Being cut off from metropolitan transport options would severely impact the Peninsula’s ability to employ skilled workers from other areas and limit the economic potential of our tourism-reliant local economy for decades to come,” Ms Hutton said.
Infrastructure Victoria has recommended the Victorian Government investigate rolling out ‘next generation’ bus services around Frankston and the Mornington Peninsula in the next year, instead of extending the Frankston train line to Baxter. Infrastructure Victoria also notes the Victorian Government has allocated funding to undertake bus network reform on the Mornington Peninsula. Three out of 12 bus routes on the Mornington Peninsula received upgrading funding in 2020, although the vast majority of local residents still do not have adequate access to bus services. The CfMP hopes that a future funding commitment has been earmarked to improve Mornington Peninsula bus services in addition to existing improvements, as recent improvements do not go nearly far enough to fix the Mornington Peninsula’s public transport accessibility issues. “The CfMP would welcome next generation buses on the Mornington Peninsula to connect commuters to a metropolitan train line in the next 12 months, however increasing bus movements to the current interchange at Frankston Station is not possible due to existing congestion, and one of the key issues of our bus network is service frequency,” Ms Hutton said.
Infrastructure Victoria recommends further upgrades to Frankston Station Precinct inter-modal transit interchange as the station develops, which would build upon the Victorian Government’s funded improved bus services to the Mornington Peninsula. However, to increase service frequency for Mornington Peninsula bus routes connecting with the Frankston train line, either a Frankston Station upgrade or an urgent decentralisation of the transit interchange from Frankston CBD is required. Infrastructure Victoria has instead recommended against extending the Frankston rail line, which would enable increased service frequency for Mornington Peninsula bus services through a decentralised transit interchange.
The CfMP does however put hope in Infrastructure Victoria’s recommendation that in the next five years, the Victorian Government should complete feasibility studies to plan the ultimate development of public transport services on the Mornington Peninsula and secure the remaining land required. “We hope that this recommendation will enable the progression of the Frankston rail extension proposal to a detailed business case, to pave the way for the extension of the Frankston train line under a National Partnership Agreement and enable an efficient Mornington Peninsula next generation bus network that is directly connected to a metropolitan train line,” Ms Hutton said.
“The CfMP is disappointed that beyond recommending next-generation buses, there is no meaningful recommendation for improving public transport infrastructure for the Mornington Peninsula in the 2021-2052 Strategy. We are concerned that beyond this, Infrastructure Victoria is recommending to further constrain transport access between Melbourne and the Mornington Peninsula by recommending against the Frankston line extension and imposing an urban congestion tax for peak hour road users. If the Mornington Peninsula is unworthy of metropolitan public transport investment in the next 30 years, according to the Victorian Government’s key infrastructure advisers, then the legitimacy of our current metropolitan classification is once again thrown into serious question.”