Blind Visionaries
Russell Degnan

"But when it [Federation Square] opened and people saw it, they quickly changed their minds"
Peter Batchelor comparing it to Regional Fast Rail.

If only that were true.

The article linked to that quote details the many problems that have plagued the rail project, and resulted in huge cost blow outs. And yet the management of the project - while bad - is the not the reason this project is and will remain a failure in the eyes of people in regional areas.

They are annoyed because they wanted, and expected, better. People don't mind if projects go over time and budget. It is so common as to be expected. But they expect a result in the end. Federation Square was an attempt at something new and different. You may not like it, but they tried, and people appreciate that vision.

The Regional Fast Rail project is not viewed as visionary and advanced. The travel speeds are low, the time savings are minimal, but most of all, they miss the point of what regional people want. These trains need to serve as alternatives to driving to the city. The semi-retired, university students, and regional businessmen who come to the city a few times a week want commuter trains - fast, convenient, regular and affordable. They want, for example, a train that will get them to the cricket on Boxing Day before the start of play (which there wasn't).

They could have achieved this with extra services that all ran express, but they made the mistake of promising fast trains - implying very fast, when they meant slightly quicker - and of implementing a large project without a strategic vision for the long term.

It is vision that is lacking. Is this the last rail upgrade to the regions for ten, fifty, a hundred years? What if their population doubles? How do these places relate to the urban fringe and metropolitan activity centres? What sort of public transport exists within these regions themselves?

There has been a false dichotomy built up the between regional areas and Melbourne itself. This project shows how limited the thinking on regional matters is in State Parliament.

Sterner Matters 27th January, 2005 08:35:01   [#]