The Eastern Transport Coalition has thrown its support behind a call from the Australian Council for Private Education and Training (ACPET) for concession fares for international students.

 ETC Chairperson, Cr Samantha Dunn said integrated and affordable public transport was crucial to the continued growth of the eastern region and required the support of all levels of government.

 Cr Dunn said education, particularly tertiary education, was a key industry in the region and good public transport options were crucial to its continued strength.

 Cr Dunn’s comments follow the release of the ACPET position paper, which found that more than 89 per cent of international students they had surveyed would not recommend studying in Victoria because of the lack of public transport assistance.

 The report estimated that paying full fare on public transport added about $30 per week to the living costs of overseas students.

 Cr Dunn said the benefits of an affordable and integrated public transport network would flow to the entire community, including students attending Swinburne University.

 “The ETC and communities in Melbourne’s east have lobbied for many years for integrated and affordable public transport to ease congestion and provide better links to activity hubs, tertiary institutions and other facilities,” Cr Dunn said.

 She said improved public transport would make existing businesses and schools, including tertiary institutions, more accessible and allow for further growth, while at the same time decreasing road congestion.

 Melbourne’s eastern region is home to many highly regarded secondary schools and tertiary institutions including Monash and Deakin Universities, Swinburne University of Technology and Box Hill Institute.

 According to Regional Development Australia, international education is Victoria’s highest export, valued at more than $5.5 billion in 2010. Modelling carried out by ACPET estimated that the cost of providing international student concessions would be $93 million per year.

 Regional Development Australia has also identified transport as the most significant challenge facing the region, with inadequate infrastructure to link activity centres, employment hubs, tertiary institutions, hospitals and other facilities.

 “Inadequate public transport is a major challenge for students in Melbourne’s east, particularly international students, and requires a significant investment in the coming years,’’ said Cr Dunn.