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With petrol prices set to explode, WA Government must commit to light rail now

As the IMF predicts oil prices will double over the next decade, the State Government's slow-moving approach to light rail and public transport investment will leave West Australians acutely vulnerable to rising fuel costs, the Greens (WA) warned today.

Greens national transport spokesperson Senator Scott Ludlam said the Federal Government had allocated four million dollars to WA for light rail despite the Barnett Government apparently neglecting to include the project on its list of priorities for federal funding.

"The Greens have campaigned for five years to bring light rail to Perth, and we welcomed Premier Barnett's announcement in November 2010 that Perth could have light rail within a decade. 18 months later it's a story of delay and compromise, with the refusal to commit funding or complete the line to Curtin University and to the University of Western Australia. On paper at least, the Government seems intent on reducing the ‘knowledge arc' to a brief intermission between bus rides."

Senator Ludlam said reducing pollution and traffic congestion were just two of the many benefits of light rail.

"In ‘The Future of Oil: Geology versus Technology, IMF analysts warned of crashing through a ‘pain barrier' as the price of oil doubles in inflation-adjusted terms over the next decade. We are sleep-walking into an oil shock."

Greens WA transport spokesperson Lynn MacLaren said a major change in thinking was needed to end congestion and oil-dependence.

"There is no excuse for a half-baked approach to light rail. The WA Government is prepared to throw more than $600 million at the despised and pointless Roe Highway extension; they'd be better off putting those funds in the forthcoming State budget for light rail.

"The COAG reform council's findings last month were a graphic confirmation that Australian cities are buckling under growing road congestion and unregulated growth, but neither major party is serious about tackling this problem. We need to get commuters and freight off roads and onto rail, yet the major parties' thinking seems stuck in bitumen.

"The proportion of people using public transport to get to work in Perth is only 10.7 per cent, even lower than the tiny national average of 13.5 per cent. The 89.3 per cent will pay a steep price as the cost of oil rises.

"Electric rail can be powered by renewable energy, and even when run on energy from coal-fired power stations, electric rail is significantly cleaner than using cars and buses. The Chinese government is rapidly expanding a network of high-speed electric rail and presiding over one of the fastest-growing renewable energy sectors in the world, while our governments are pouring money into obsolete oil-dependent infrastructure," said Ms MacLaren.


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