History Shows Vision Needed for Land Transport in Australia


Federation had an inadequate impact on the land transport system in Australia, the President of the Australian Automobile Association, Dr Max Lay, said in an address to the 11th National Conference on Engineering Heritage in Canberra today.


Dr Lay's paper "The Inadequate Impact of Federation on the Australian Land Transport System", was based on an assessment of the history of Melbourne's roads. It showed that many of the key decisions were made before Federation. It draws a number of conclusions from this history and suggests that-by and large-these conclusions apply nationally.


Dr Lay reviewed the development of Melbourne roads since early settlement in 1835, the self-supporting colonial infrastructure, the subdivision history and early land sales. He commented on the formation of the Central Roads Board during the Gold Rush of the 1850s, the massive spending on rail, the universally hated toll roads, the use of the bicycle (and Melbourne as the cycling capital of the world in 1896) and the introduction of cars in the late 1890s.


"At the time of Federation roads were not seen as a national issue and the Constitution reflected this view. They were a nasty local problem which would have to be solved by local means".


"Coincidentally our rail systems suffered from a similar omission.


"Land transport was not seen as a national issue and the impact of the car and the truck were not foreseen. The Federation and the Constitution made no useful provision for national surface transport systems.


"…the rail system is in serious distress and the road system falls far short of the needs of Australia today and in the future.


"Sometime, someone must have a grander vision than the one which has bedevilled our Australian land transport for the last 175 years" he said.

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