Is Labor pork-barrelling bikepaths in SE Melbourne marginals while starving northern suburbs heartland?

Is it Labor Governmemnt pork-barrelling when the south eastern suburbs marginal electorates get a 17 km bike path constructed as part of the Level Crossing Removal and here in the northern suburbs in safe Labor seats we get nothing but silence?

The Upfield path extension amounts to about 4.5km of path needing construction from Box Forest Road to Barry Road at Upfield Station. It is a major arterial extension into Hume municipality, with suburbs with a high car dependency, that also links in the Western Ring Road bike path.

There is no safe legal direct north-south cycling route provided by VicRoads through Campbellfield. Sydney Road is a cyclist’s nightmare of 6-8 lanes of heavy traffic in a 70 km/ hour zone. Yet VicRoads have no plans for extending the Upfield bike path north of the M80 ring road in what is designated a strategic cycling corridor.

One would think that state government Transport policy is applied equalling to the various major transport projects. But this is clearly not the case.

It is clear the Level Crossing Removal Authority and Vic Roads failed in implementing provisions of the Transport Integration Act 2010 and Section 1.7 of the Transport Department policy document (Victorian Cycling Strategy 2018-2028) on “Incorporate new cycling infrastructure in major transport projects” which states clearly:

“Major transport projects offer a valuable opportunity to improve strategic cycling corridors. This is because planning and building high-quality cycling infrastructure as part of a new project is less-disruptive and lower-cost than retrofitting it into an existing development.

“All major transport projects currently being planned and built such as the Level Crossing Removal Project and the West Gate Tunnel Project include substantial new and upgraded cycling infrastructure, including infrastructure to fill gaps in the strategic cycling corridor network.”

The Level Crossing Removal Authority is proceeding to build a 17 km path from from Dandenong through to Caulfield for the Cranbourne/Pakenham train line.

Project Director Brett Summers described the project in the Level Crossing Removal Authority news article as “not just about cars and trains”.

“It’s about improving the ways available to people to move around their suburbs.”

“Anything that encourages kids and families to get out and about is fantastic, and exactly what good infrastructure should be all about,” he said.

There is a similar need for a bikepath through Campbellfield, and the kids and families that live here, yet there has been no move to build the 4.5 kilometres of bikepath for these families.

John Englart, Campaign Co-ordinator of Extend the Upfield BikePath to Upfield said “Camp Road level crossing removal should not have been just about roads and trains. Pity the same thoughts of Brett Summers weren’t extended to the people in the northern suburbs, especially those who live north of Campbellfield Plaza shopping Centre who have no safe cycle route to their local shopping centre.”

“The Upfield Bike Path would provide a much needed cycling route through Campbellfield for both commuter and recreational cycling, including to access Campbellfield Plaza.” Mr Englart said.

“An arterial cycle path is badly needed to serve the suburbs of Campbellfield, Dallas and Coolaroo to enable the opportunity for commuter cycling from Hume municipality through Moreland to the Melbourne CBD.” he said. “Is a 4.5 kilometre path too much to ask when we see a 17 km path pork-barrelled for marginal electorates in south-east Melbourne?”

The Level Crossing Removal Authority and VicRoads have been silent on developing the bike path extension to Upfield despite the clear social need, policy and legislative imperative for them to do so.

It gets even more complicated with the Level Crossing Removal Authority doing the Camp Road work in such a way that building a path past this spot is now much more difficult and costly to do.

“The Level Crossing Authority did not leave enough space under Camp Road for a bike path and also cemented cabling to occupy the pedestrian and cycling part of the M80 rail bridge.” said John Englart.

“They stuffed it up, and they are not willing to admit they stuffed it up.” said John Englart, who detailed the problems in a post at Sustainable Fawkner.

Bike path Pork-Barrelling by Labor?

The South Eastern suburbs on the Cranbourne Pakenham train line are marginal seats for Labor. Hence the full application of transport policy to build 17 km of bike path as part of the level crossing removal.

The northern suburbs are Labor’s heartland, with the seat of Broadmeadows occupied by Labor backbencher Frank McGuire, a particularly safe Labor electorate. The Upfield Path extension is in Frank McGuire’s seat of Broadmeadows.

Although both Hume Council (see August 2017 and March 2018) and Moreland Council (March 2018) have strongly advocated for construction of the Upfield bike path to Upfield, Frank McGuire has been noticeably silent in his public advocacy.

The seat of Pascoe Vale occupied by Lizzie Blandthorne is also reasonably safe for Labor. Her predessessor Christine Campbell MP did put forward a motion in State Parliament for funding the path up to the Western Ring Road in 2013, but Labor were in opposition and this was defeated on the floor of parliament. Ms Blandthorne has been publicly silent on the issue.

Labor’s retiring State Member for Brunswick Jane Garrett MP has also been silent on any public advocacy for extending the Upfield bike path to Upfield.

It should be noted that more state government funding has gone into better cycling infrastructure in the seat of Brunswick, which is now seen as a marginal Labor/Greens electorate.

John Englart said there was an easy way to disprove the pork barrelling theory.

“The way to disprove that bike path pork-barrelling is taking place is for Transport Minister Jacinta Allan and Roads and Roads and Safety Minister Luke Donellan to clearly announce funding for VicRoads to Extend the Upfield Bike Path to Upfield as a priority project to concur with the Transport Integration Act 2010 and Transport Department Policy on integrating cycling infrastructure.” concluded John Englart.

The state Labor government should be applying the same state transport policy to cycling infrastructure and major transport projects regardless of electoral politics.

The fact that a Labor Government is blatantly ignoring a need in the northern suburbs should be strong cause for concern over fairly applying transport and roads policy and funding.

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