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Urban rail perspectives in Perth, Western Australia: modal competition, public transport, and government policy in Perth since 1880

Cole, Peter (2000) Urban rail perspectives in Perth, Western Australia: modal competition, public transport, and government policy in Perth since 1880. PhD thesis, Murdoch University.

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The decline of public transport in Western Australia is observed in four separate historical studies which narrate the political and administrative history of each major urban transport mode. Perth's suburban railway system is examined as part of the State's widespread rail network, including the extravagantly-equipped short-lived suburban railway in Kalgoorlie. Political interference in early railway operations is studied in detail to determine why Perth's rail-based public transport systems were so poorly developed and then neglected or abandoned for much of the twentieth century. The llnique events in Kalgoorlie at the turn of the century are presented as potent reasons for the early closure of Perth's urban tramway system and the fact that no purpose-built suburban railways were constructed in Perth until 1993. The road funding arrangements of the late nineteenth century are considered next, in order to demonstrate the very early basis for the present lavish non-repayable grants of money for road construction and maintenance by all three layers of government. The development of private and government bus networks is detailed last, with particular attention paid to the failure of private urban bus operators in the 1950s and the subsequent formation of a government owned and operated urban bus monopoly. The capital structure and accounting practices of public transport modes are analysed to provide a critique of popular myths concerning the merits of each. In order to obtain an impression of the changing political view of different transport modes, the attitude of politicians to public transport and the private motor car over the last one hundred and twenty years is captured in summary narrations of some of the more important parliamentary transport debates. Two possible explanations of public transport decline are discussed in conclusion; one relying a neoclassical economic theory of marginal pricing, and the other on an observation on the fate of large capital investments in the modern party-based democratic system of government.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Murdoch Affiliation(s): Institute for Sustainability and Technology Policy
Supervisor(s): Kenworthy, Jeff
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