Government public transport group is secretive and compromised, says lobby president

The Baillieu government's specially created public transport authority is so far failing in its task to fix and expand public transport in Victoria because it is too politically compromised, the state's leading public transport lobby group says.

Tony Morton, the new president of the Public Transport Users Association, has condemned the performance of Public Transport Victoria, the overarching authority the Baillieu government established to improve transport governance, saying that eight months after its formation it was yet to reveal an agenda.

Dr Morton accused the authority of being secretive about its plans and of failing to demonstrate its independence from government.

"It appears that PTV is just a rebranded version of the failed old bureaucracy, rather than a re-skilled agency with a clear mandate to fix and extend public transport," Dr Morton said.

He said the authority ought to speak out against any politically motivated decisions by government that are detrimental to good transport planning, such as reopening the New Street level crossing in Brighton, when the money could go towards fixing a level crossing that creates far worse traffic problems.

"Perhaps it's early days, but we still seem to have political imperatives driving things," Dr Morton said.

He also said the authority had avoided engaging in genuine, open public discussion on matters from timetable changes to planned new railway lines.

"They're still talking to the government and the operators when they should be talking much more to the public and the passengers," Dr Morton said. "That's what's really missing, we're still not seeing public involvement in formulating and making decisions.

"It still feels like the bureaucrats' club – one bunch of bureaucrats in the government talk to another bunch of bureaucrats in Metro or Yarra Trams and they all hammer things out between themselves behind closed doors and the public finds out once the decision has been made," Dr Morton said.

The Baillieu government promised from opposition to create a new independent public transport development authority "to rescue the Victorian public transport network from its shambolic state after 11 years of Labor".

The authority was tasked with promoting the extension of public transport, particularly rail, auditing all public transport assets and reporting publicly on their condition and the cost of bringing them up to 21st-century standards.

Dr Morton said this auditing and public reporting had not yet happened.

Public Transport Victoria was approached for a response but declined to comment.

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