Call to boost public transport

Ash Bolt

A new report from Infrastructure Victoria has called for boosts to public transport in Geelong to address the changes the pandemic has had on Victorians’ working habits.

The report, ‘The post-pandemic commute: the effects of more working from home in Victoria’, used modelling to determine the state’s infrastructure needs if the change to working from home continued.

Based on a third of workers working from home two-to-three days per week by 2036, Victoria’s population will be more spread out around Melbourne and around regional cities like Geelong, as people factor in a lower commute time-cost and seek out the lifestyle benefits of a tree change.

“When people can work from home some days each week, they are willing to tolerate longer commutes on their fewer days in the office,” Infrastructure Victoria acting chief executive Jonathan Spear said.

“But access to major job precincts remains a factor in people’s housing choices.”

To address the region’s population growth, particularly among people who worked in Melbourne, the report called for the state government to prepare for the Melbourne Metro Two project – a tunnel between Newport and Clifton Hill in Melbourne – and provide direct trains to Geelong.

It also called for improved bus services in and around Geelong.

Committee for Geelong chief executive Jennifer Cromarty said there needed to be a shift to thinking of Geelong as another metropolitan city.

She said the committee had lobbied the state government to improve the rail connection to Melbourne, but there also needed to be improvements to the rail service within Geelong.

“We should be using our rail system as more of a metro commuter rail,” she said.

“We’re looking at having a population of half a million by 2042 … we’re not another regional city like Ballarat or Bendigo, so there needs to be the planning and funding to ensure the infrastructure is there.

“Just like they’re seeing in Melbourne, we’re seeing strong growth in Armstrong Creek and the north-west area around Lara.

“For the north-west, there’s no forward budget for the infrastructure needed when we’re essentially building Ballarat on our doorstep.

“Public transport down to the south to Armstrong Creek and Torquay is also an issue that needs to be resolved urgently.”

Ms Cromarty said the committee also agreed with the report that Geelong’s bus services needed an overhaul.

“We need to be getting timely bus services … the network needs to be rerouted and reworked to ensure it matches with [what the community needs],” she said.

She said public transport had been a strong focus of the committee’s lobbying, but it also felt there needed to more “residential living in central Geelong”.

“We need to be getting residents into the city … and population growth needs to be funded by government,” she said.