Saturday, May 31, 2008

Trains versus cars, only WA is really doing it right!

Compared to the basket case that is "Railcorp, we are" etc etc, finally somewhere in Australia is showing to can be done.
Now why cant the bunch of self interested loosers in charge of NSW do it thusly?

Western Australia has a lot to teach the nation about learning to live with rising petrol prices. But its FuelWatch - or should that be FuelBotch - scheme to be launched federally, is the least of it. Some Perthites apparently like FuelWatch - though I have yet to meet one prepared to drive out of their way to save a couple of cents a litre.
At the very time political leaders should be bold, preparing us for the high fuel and energy bills that climate-change policies necessitate, and finding ways to shield the poor, Kevin Rudd toys with lowering the GST on the excise on petrol, and adopts a scheme from WA of dubious merit.
The pity is WA has much better ideas to offer the nation. It has done more to tackle an entrenched car culture than any other state. Its hyperactive and hyperbright Minister for Planning and Infrastructure, Alannah MacTiernan, has not just talked about getting people out of their cars, improving public transport and building railways. She's done it.
While Bob Carr and Morris Iemma have announced, then abandoned, a series of public transport strategies over 11 years, and delivered instead tollways and tunnels, crushing traffic congestion, and diminished train services, MacTiernan has almost doubled the size of the Perth railway network in seven years. Her crowning glory is the 72-kilometre Perth-Mandurah rail link through Australia's fastest-growing urban region, that opened in December. She launched the project and six years later rode the first train.
Under her watch, Perth has also got an extension and spurs to the northern suburban rail line that was built in the 1990s by the previous state Labor government; a series of gleaming new stations, including one in the city that makes our Town Hall station seem even worse; an integrated ticket system, still a pipedream in Sydney; and an enviable $80 million investment in a bicycle path network.
Perth also has free city buses, paid through a levy on parking spaces. And its TravelSmart scheme is now franchised around Australia and overseas to help people reduce their car use. (Part of it involves personal phone calls to new residents in a suburb to see if they want to participate in the scheme; if they do, they get appropriate information about public transport options and timetables). That scheme alone has led to annual reductions of 30 million car trips, and seven million more hours of cycling or walking.
If ever there was a car-dependent city, it was Perth. I should know. I grew up there, a non-driver right until I left in my 20s. My most miserable memories are of waiting endlessly at suburban Perth bus stops. Buses were a bit like Godot. The (Charles) Court Liberal government was so dismissive of public transport, it shut down the train line that ran from Perth to Fremantle in the late 1970s. When I left Perth to live in Manhattan, I thought I had landed in heaven: a city of non-drivers who walked or used the brilliant underground subway system.
The challenge MacTiernan faced, given Perth's car culture and its mindset, could hardly have been greater. Just about the only thing she is not responsible for in WA is FuelWatch. Her planning and infrastructure roles, which she has held since 2001, have put her at the centre of WA's boom, and she was determined to make a difference.
Back in 1995, she came to the realisation that demand for oil would inevitably outstrip supply. (It was a book called The Decline Of The Age Of Oil by West Australian Brian Fleay that convinced her long before most of us had heard about "peak oil"). Climate change as well as the need to combat Perth's sprawl stiffened her resolve to provide the city and suburbs with first-class public transport. "Practically and financially it's unsustainable to rely on fossil fuel," she said.
Like a prophet in her own land, MacTiernan has gone through hell. The West Australian, the city's only daily newspaper, and the local ABC, were virulent critics of the Perth-Mandurah train line, aided and abetted by a coterie of Tory engineers and militant unionists. Nothing was off-limits to the critics, including MacTiernan's hairstyle. From China, where she was celebrating on Thursday the delivery of the first iron-ore shipment from Andrew Forrest's Fortescue Metals Group, she likened herself to a "soldier at the Somme; you go over the hill, dodge the bullets, regroup and fight another day". Now Perthites love the train, and MacTiernan said that on taking the inaugural trip two days before Christmas, she felt she "had done something right".
It is possible FuelWatch is useful at the margins in providing consumers with information. But it's inconsequential compared with weaning people off petrol, reconfiguring our cities, and supporting the less advantaged in outer suburbia. MacTiernan got it - Perth is on the way; Carr and Iemma missed the boat; Brendan Nelson doesn't get it. And Rudd has crumbled. Urban planning, public transport and cultural change are critical, not knocking a cent or two off the petrol price.

You would think we would learn by now.....

But no...............
Good old human stupidity, and short sighted greed is at it again.
No wonder we have no viable future in our present form of society!

PLANS for a huge expansion of longwall coalmining under the Sydney water catchment have emerged as a leaked NSW Department of Environment and Climate Change report urged the Government to confront the state's coalmining industry.
The proposals, part of a presentation to the Australian Stock Exchange earlier this month by Indian-owned resources company Gujarat NRE, call for longwall mining to within 500 metres of the wall of Cataract Dam near Wollongong.
The proposal, currently being assessed by the State Government, could cause widespread surface damage and endanger Sydney's water supply, says a coalition of green groups. Longwall mining operations similar to the Gujarat plans have led to subsidence that has damaged homes, dried up rivers and led to surface gas leaks.
The chairman of Gujarat NRE, Arun Kumar Jagatramka, did not reply to Herald questions about the project.
The NSW Minerals Council reacted angrily to the draft report from the climate change department. "The mining industry has been defending itself against misinformation for a long time," said the council's director of external affairs, Lancia Jordana.
Subsidence from longwall mining, in which the removal of slabs of coal hundreds of metres long causes the surface to crack and sag, was a problem being addressed by industry, Ms Jordana said.
"Where cracking occurs, you may have an area that runs dry but the independent science [shows] there is no loss of water quality, that there is in fact no loss of water at all. It flows back into the river a bit further down."
The draft climate change report said subsidence was a "major issue" causing environmental damage in the southern coalfields, and regional staff did not have the expertise to assess properly its impact.
Gujarat NRE plans to expand longwall operations in the Sydney Water Catchment beneath the Cataract River, which ran dry in 1994, largely as a result of longwall mining, but now feeds the Cataract Dam again.
Gujarat NRE acquired Elouera Colliery from BHP in December and merged it with neighbouring Avondale Colliery to create a single giant mine.
The company's documents say it intends to extract 350,000 tonnes of coking coal this year, rising to 1.3 million tonnes in 2010, with longer-term targets of 2.5 to 3 million tonnes a year, by mining areas close to the dam.
The NSW Government is yet to approve the mine extension plans, though approval has been granted for access tunnels.
It commissioned an inquiry into mining in the southern coalfields in December 2006, with the findings likely to be released next month. In its submission, the Sydney Catchment Authority said it feared 91 per cent of the catchment area would be undermined.
"The impact of the scheme will be enormous," said Jeff Angel, director of the Total Environment Centre. "It will lead to more serious cracking, more damage to river and stream beds, more damage to swamps, more cliffs collapsing, less groundwater, and a threat to the dam itself."
Environment groups, including the National Parks Association of NSW, Rivers SOS, the Colong Foundation, the Nature Conservation Council and the Wilderness Society, say longwall expansion will continue to damage rivers and drain upland swamps.