Welcome to Future Transport Tasmania

We are here to lobby for better public transport and rail infrastructure in Tasmania. We aim to find solutions to allow all Tasmanians to have environmentally responsible and affordable commuting options to get around our state and towns. A more detailed mission statement can be found in the left column or <here>.

Find our articles below, starting with the most recent ones first:

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Media Release

Room in State Budget for Rail Service
Tasmania can afford to build Northern Suburbs Railway without help
Community public transport group, Future Transport Tasmania (FTT), said today that the upcoming State Budget should include funding for the planned Hobart to Northern Suburbs Light Rail service.  FTT added that with the additional GST allocation, plus the desire of the State Liberal Government to create jobs, the railway was an obvious job-creating project that will rejuvenate the Northern Suburbs.  FTT believes that the funding commitment should be made now so that planning can begin, and that initially a relatively small amount of money would actually be needed.

FTT’s view has always been that the Northern Suburbs Railway (or Riverline) project can be funded entirely by the State Government without any need for assistance from the Federal Government or any Public-Private Partnership arrangement.  The cost of the necessary infrastructure and rolling-stock will inevitably take a few years to properly plan and implement, thus enabling it to be spread over a number of years.  FTT said that the low cost of Riverline, less than $100 million, as compared to nearly $1 billion for the Gold Coast Light Rail project, meant that Tasmania could easily afford the project.

Future Transport Tasmania spokesperson Toby Rowallan said: “The State Liberal Government wants to create jobs.  That is completely understandable. Well we have a job-creation project right here that is literally ready to go.  The Hobart-Northern Suburbs Light Rail project is easily affordable over a four-year period.  The business case does have a positive net-cost benefit ratio. We are already spending over $30 million for just one intersection on the Brooker Highway. That amount of money per annum over just three years, would pay for at least the first stage of the Riverline project.  The rail service will give us the equivalent capacity of an additional lane each-way on the Brooker Highway, our most congested arterial road in Hobart. Spending that money on the highway itself will not give us anywhere near that amount of bang for our buck.”

“The Northern Suburbs Railway service will do far more than just improve public transport in Hobart and Glenorchy.  It will create jobs. It will improve land values, encourage investment into higher density housing, and increase new job accessibility. It will also guarantee good transport access for the Macquarie Point development project, a vital part of that project’s future success.  If done properly it will also enable heritage trains and trams to use the line, furthering our tourism sector.”

“Not only can we afford to build the Northern Suburbs Railway without Federal Government assistance, but the cost of not building it is definitely more expensive.  Increasing congestion does have a negative economic impact, and we already know that to build the equivalent capacity into the highway will be more than twice as much.  Even if the Federal Government paid for more road upgrades, it will be good money thrown after bad, as there will be no guarantee that it would even reduce congestion.  Over the life of the previous Government Tasmania spent over $120 million on Tasrail over a four year period for new trains, no one blinked an eyelid, and rightly so. We can do the same here, finished Mr Rowallan.”

Friday, May 22, 2015

Media Release

Keep our Closed Railway Lines
Future Transport Tasmania Condemns Rail Trail Campaigns
Community-based public transport lobby group, Future Transport Tasmania (FTT), today said that rail trail proposals that involve ripping up existing railway lines in Tasmania should not go ahead.  Both the North-East Railway line from Launceston to Scottsdale, and the Derwent Valley Railway line should be retained, with the intention to reopen them in the future for possible rail freight and rail heritage trains.  The Derwent Valley Line in particular has an enthusiastic and active rail heritage group ready to operate tourist trains to National Park as soon as all the necessary conditions are fulfilled.  To remove that railway line after all the effort of the Derwent Valley Railway Preservation Society would be an ill-thought out decision.  FTT doubts the tourism potential of these two rail trails, especially given the existing unrealised potential of the lines for freight and tourism.

Toby Rowallan, spokesperson for FTT, said; “What the community in both Scottsdale and the Derwent Valley need to understand, is that if these railway lines are pulled up then they are gone forever.  There will be no going back.  The removal of the lines means that there will be no chance to get heavy trucks off the roads in those areas, and no chance to have heritage rail tours come back either.  There are very few cases where a railway line has been rebuilt from an actively used trail.”

“Today we also want to show our support for a new group that has recently been created, called “Keep Our Rail Lines – Tasmania, and we strongly believe in their very simple and clear aim, to keep our closed railway lines.”

“We appreciate that the groups who are lobbying for these ‘rail trail’ proposals believe that under current conditions these railway lines will never reopen.  However the business case for the North East Rail Trail pays no consideration to the cost of increased heavy truck use in these areas in future.  There has been no assessment of the possibility of freight returning to these closed lines.  We have log trucks passing through the Scottsdale area all the time, freight that used to be carried by rail. There is potential for farming produce and possibly bauxite ore that could also go by rail.”

“In the Derwent valley we also have log trucks in use, again another freight task that used to be on rail.  We do not support the rail trail proposal for the Derwent Valley, given that it would condemn the Derwent Valley Railway Society to the status of a static museum for their heritage vehicles, and totally prevent the use of the railway for freight trains in the future.”

“We know that heavy trucks are involved in a much higher proportion of serious crashes than private or light vehicles. We should be doing more to make sure that we reduce the use of these vehicles wherever possible.  We also know that the vast majority of Tasmania’s carbon emissions are transport related. Rail freight is around six times better for emissions than road. The solutions are obvious, and the need is clear.  We cannot afford to lose these railway lines,” finished Mr Rowallan.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Media Release

Hobart Bypass Unaffordable
Time that the idea of more roads was consigned to dustbin of history

Community-based public transport advocacy group, Future Transport Tasmania (FTT), today said that the idea of a CBD bypass through the western suburbs should be consigned to the dustbin of history.  FTT said that the proposal was unaffordable and would only cater for approximately 15% of the traffic coming from Kingston, Sandy Bay and South Hobart.  The cost of such a bypass would easily exceed one billion dollars and could even be more than twice that.  FTT condemned transport economist Bob Cotgrove (who spoke at yesterday’s RACT Transport Forum) for deliberately confusing the transport issues facing Hobart.  FTT pointed out that it is the Brooker Highway and then the Tasman Bridge which have significantly more congestion, not the Southern Outlet and Sandy Bay.

Toby Rowallan, spokesperson for FTT, said that, “We saw yesterday the ridiculous claims that public transport alternatives are only for commuters going to work and that this won’t affect the peak congestion.  When of course it is precisely when everyone is going to or from work that we get the congestion!  We also saw the equally ridiculous claim that there is an ‘anti-car’ movement.  As always what the pro-highway lobby fail to address is that we cannot afford to build the roads they want.  We cannot afford almost infinite space for cars.”

“Unlike the road lobby who are always worried about the cars, our concern is for people. The fact remains that Hobart still has a lack of transport choice and alternatives.  We can make a big difference for Hobart’s future growth and liveability by investing in the Hobart Northern Suburbs Railway (Riverline).  The business case has a positive benefit-cost ratio.  The cost of this project is a fraction of any of these mad highway proposals.  It will have a dramatic effect on accessibility for those who cannot drive a car for reasons of age or illness, a demographic always forgotten by those who want to build more roads.”

“Tasmania simply cannot afford to build more roads.  The Federal Government equally cannot afford to fund more huge road projects.  We await commitment from particularly the Liberal Party but also the Labor Party, that they will fund the Riverline project should they be in Government after the State Election.  Both parties have an abysmally poor record in relation to public transport funding in this state, both parties urgently need to change this focus, for the good of Tasmania,” finished Mr Rowallan.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Combating the Naysayers

We noticed this letter as a response to our article in the Sunday Tasmanian of a week or so ago (March 17th).  This is from our usual pro-car anti-public transport naysayer.  So as to avoid giving him further undeserved attention we will simply refer to him as Mr Car.  Mr Car's letter is in italics.  Our response to each paragraph of his letter is below it.  Feel free to use some of our arguments in a letter to the newspaper. We don't think Mr Car deserves any more attention, so we won't be writing any letter in response to this one.

Toby Rowallan perpetuates the fallacy that spending hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars on a northern suburbs light-rail system, at the expense of hospitals, schools and other deserving infrastructure, would relieve traffic congestion on the Brooker.

Firstly Mr Car, you've clearly not read either the article or the Northern Suburbs Light Rail Business Case properly.  Constructing the line to Claremont with electric overhead vehicles was costed at just $92 million.  If we compared this to the Brooker Highway upgrades at over $215 million, for less than 3km and only three intersections upgraded, I wonder what hospitals and schools would Mr Car like to close for that?  Secondly we made the suggestion that this need not be taken from the State Budget, but land could be offered to developers and the money from those sales be used to pay the capital cost.  We’re also highlighting that the railway will affect much more than simply congestion, which Mr Car seems to have ignored.

He talks about the need to move people as if the good citizens of the northern suburbs are cattle to be moved from farms to stockyards, or packages to be transported as freight.

No, we didn't.  We talked about the need to move thousands of people into and out of Macquarie Point on a daily basis.  Unfortunately the Mercury added 'The Northern Suburbs' to that sentence which confused the context. Nonetheless it is a big step to refer to people as cattle or packages. How desperate is Mr Car getting? The need for Macquarie Point and the Northern Suburbs Railway is there because that’s what people will want.  How are that many people going to move in and out of the area with just cars or shuttle buses?

Except in special circumstances requiring special vehicles – patients transported by ambulance to hospitals, prisoners in prison vans moved from courts to jail, or military personnel assigned on defence duties – people in democratic societies are free to travel where and when they like and by whatever mode of travel they choose, subject to budget and institutional constraints.

Here the constraints that Mr Car is happy to have, is that those who cannot drive, those who cannot afford to drive, are forgotten.  Hobart’s problem is precisely that people cannot choose.  Odd that he wants to refer to our democracy when we have more political choices than available transport choices!  The people who are transport disadvantaged, who have poor access to transport of any kind, are the people that really need the Northern Suburbs Railway, as per MONA founder David Walsh’s remarks quoted in our article.  Mr Car does not seem to be interested in this demographic.

Rail provides access only to destinations close to stations at times determined by restricted timetables and therefore lacks the flexibility of personal travel modes to access destinations throughout the urban area at times that will suit the traveller.

Mr Car forgets or ignores the fact that a rail service will have linked bus services.  He ignores or forgets that with a 12-15 min interval between services, the flexibility and accessibility of rail is far higher than the majority of bus services in Hobart.  The only bus service that is more frequent is on Main Road, and it is of course by far the most heavily utilised.  A bit of a clue there, Mr Car.

The costs of motor car use – congestion, road trauma and pollution – can, and inevitably will, be managed by congestion charging as recommended in the Henry tax review, by safety improvements and by the transition to electric vehicles.

Will they now? This is perhaps Mr Car’s most extraordinary claim.  It would be a very brave politician to recommend congestion charging in Hobart.  It would be an even braver one to do so without providing an alternative transport choice at the same time.  Very few recommendations contained within the Henry tax review have been implemented.  This one is perhaps the least likely to affect Hobart.  Safety improvements continue with new car types but this is irrelevant.  Motor vehicle crashes will also continue as long as people drive cars.  Mr Car also seems to have a great deal of faith in the apparently imminent arrival of electric vehicles.  I hope he will tell us just which car manufacturers will be doing this, and why everyone in Tasmania will be able to afford to replace their current vehicle/s.  Clearly the arrival of electric cars is not nearly as imminent as Mr Car might wish.

Car use in developed countries is reaching saturation levels due to the obvious fact that you can’t drive more than one car at any one time.

Really? No Mr Car, it’s due to population growth and the failure of governments to respond to increasing demand for public transport. And yet despite these failures car use has also peaked in many major cities in the developed world, whilst public transport use continues to grow.

Meanwhile car use and low density suburban development is increasing at rapid rates in countries throughout the developing world.

This is not surprising as cheap cars come onto the market in India and China.  However it is irrelevant to Hobart’s situation and provides no justification for ignoring our opportunity to provide additional transport choice.  After all many of these countries already have better public transport systems than we do!

Toby Rowallan’s vision of high-density cities dependent on government-controlled public transport is a throwback to the grim industrial days of the 19th century.

It is the vision of Future Transport Tasmania, not any one individual.  But again Mr Car hasn't read what we've said.  We’re talking about higher density, not some sort of early industrial-age nightmare.  We're talking about changing land use in the inner suburbs.  We're not talking about Soviet or Chinese-style enormous high-rise apartment blocks!  Mr Car should check his history as well - many public transport systems were constructed in the 20th century.  We also can’t understand why Mr Car is so afraid of government control.  After all it is the government that builds his roads, hospitals and schools.  It is the government that owns Metro and TasRail, and Forestry Tasmania.

With all of his comments Mr Car fails to address how we are going to fund unrestrained growth in car use.  Highways are far more expensive than the road lobby will admit.  He fails to address the issues of accessibility.  He has previously suggested small minivans be used for those who cannot drive.  A suggestion that sounds a lot like taxis!  He fails to address why the car manufacturers have not started building his electrics cars.  He fails to address how unrestrained suburban sprawl can be afforded.  He claims public transport is 19th century – if so why are there over 50 light rail, tram or commuter rail projects approved or under construction around the world?  Why have over 140 such systems been constructed worldwide in the last 25 years?  Why are Sydney, Canberra, Gold Coast and Perth all planning or constructing new light rail networks?  Why are other centres in Australia agitating for the same, such as Sunshine Coast and Bendigo?  The answer is that they are not doing it on a whim.  It is because rail is the most efficient form of land transport.  Commuter rail services offer high frequency and reliability.  They are far more accessible for people with a disability or parents with a pram.  They enable people who cannot afford to drive, or are too young to drive, to get access to employment, sporting and social events.  They enable older people who are unable to drive, to gain access to their family, other social engagements and health services.  People on commuter or light rail services can continue to enjoy other activities, such as reading, using a phone or personal computer, or listening to music.  Some of those activities are much harder on a bus that is lurching around corners and coming to a rapid unexpected stop.

Mr Car has previously said that no city in the English speaking world the size of Hobart has a similar size rail service.  This is a neat cop-out avoiding mention of dozens of European cities, including Bern, Lausanne and Geneva in Switzerland, Takoaka in Japan, many in Germany including Magdeburg, Rostock and Heidelberg, several in France including Le Havre, Mulhouse, Grenoble and Montpelier.  There are more in Austria including at Graz, Salzburg and InnsbruckTrondheim in Norway, which has a population of 168,000, also has an 8.8km tramline. There are many many more, all around the same size as Hobart or smaller, all with a rail service of some description, either trams, light rail or a heavy rail service.  We have a list of over 90 such cities.  Each of these cities is different in one way or another to Hobart and each other.  There are varying densities and the lines cover varying proportions of those populations.  To claim that a rail service would not be appropriate in Hobart’s largest population area is simply bizarre.
Finally, the strangest thing in all of this;
As recently as 2004 Mr Car wrote a letter advocating a light rail on the Northern Suburbs.  He seems to have forgotten why he once did this.  You can see it on our Facebook group if you would like to join;

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Transforming Hobart
Why we need the Hobart Northern Suburbs Railway
Some would have us believe that cars, cars and more cars are Hobart’s only possible future transport solution.  We have been told that Hobart is too small, cannot afford it and no one will use any new public transport services.  We are told that Hobart is different and we cannot change just because other cities are.  However the evidence for these claims is weak.  Future Transport Tasmania believes differently.  We believe that Hobart deserves better, and that its citizens deserve new alternatives. 

So what would happen if we don’t change?  If the Hobart to Northern Suburbs Railway project does not go ahead, the impact of no additional public transport services, combined with continued growth in car use, will have several serious effects.  Firstly the unplanned suburban sprawl will keep spreading.  Congestion will continue to worsen on Hobart’s key arterial roads.  Money will then have to be spent on those roads, in particular the Brooker Highway which is already the most congested.  These upgrades will only encourage greater car use, and may only move the congestion elsewhere. Infrastructure for housing becomes more expensive the further out you go.  We would achieve nothing in terms of reducing carbon emissions; in fact we will increase them.  We would perpetuate Tasmania’s transport dependence on oil, and our vulnerability to oil price rises and potential shortages.  Councils will struggle to afford to build more suburban roads, water pipes and associated infrastructure.  It is clear that something has to change.

Hobart is definitely large enough to justify a commuter rail service. The density of Hobart’s suburbs is no different to most suburbs in Australia.  The overall size of Hobart merely means that the service will be on a much smaller scale than that of mainland cities.  However unlike other cities in Australia that are planning or building a new light rail system (Gold Coast, Canberra, Perth, Sydney); Hobart has a distinct advantage in that there is an existing railway line, along a corridor that travels through the largest suburban area.  Every other project in Australia has to spend large amounts of money to build their new networks.  Hobart does not.  Yes the track requires an upgrade, we need basic station facilities and of course new trains.  The type of trains could be light rail vehicles (trams but on their own right-of-way), or larger railcars, similar to those being built for Wellington, NZ.  They could be diesel railcars, electric with overhead wires or even battery powered.  Either way, the overall cost is incredibly low compared to almost every other project around the world (for example, the Gold Coast Light Rail approx: $1 billion).  The running costs may sound high at $5 million per annum but this has been calculated as a worst case scenario.  Nor does this annual cost take into account any revenue that would reduce it.

We believe that the redevelopment at Macquarie Point is crucial to the use of the Northern Suburbs Railway.  In order for it to be a success, the redevelopment at the old rail yards site must attract thousands of people living, studying, working in and visiting the area.  Therefore in order to move a few thousand people in and out of the new area on a daily basis, it is abundantly clear that having only car access would be a recipe for disaster.

In a number of State Government strategies and plans there is a stated desire expressed to reduce private car use.  There is a very good reason for this.  Nearly 75% of transport users in Greater Hobart take the car (source: Greater Hobart Household Travel Survey 2008-09).  Just 4% use public transport.  The lack of good alternatives is perpetuating the social disadvantage for those who cannot afford to live close to the city, and those who cannot drive for reasons of age or physical limitations.  David Walsh said it best; that ‘access to that community’s services is a right’, not a privilege, and that these people ‘are rights-denied’.  It is these people who are forgotten when claims are made regarding the flexibility of cars.

Instead of spending more than $200 million on the Brooker Highway, we could instead begin the transformation of Hobart.  We need to look not at where the city is now, but where we want the city to be.  Do we want a noisy car-filled city?  Or do we want attractive places where people want to go and spend time?  The Hobart Northern Suburbs Railway is simply the vital catalyst for this change. Some people ask where the developers are. The answer is that they are waiting for this project to go ahead, and with that certainty, they can act.  Industrial areas can be rezoned to high density residential and commercial plots.  One property developer contacted us specifically to ask about the progress of the Light Rail Business Case, because they wanted their project to benefit from access to the rail service.  Government and councils could offer land as an incentive for developers and help pay for the construction.

We need the Northern Suburbs railway for many reasons; to improve social disadvantage and accessibility; to encourage inner suburban development and growth; to reduce carbon emissions and oil dependence; and to avoid spending our limited funds on expensive highway upgrades.
This Northern Suburbs Railway is the only project which can achieve all of these things.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Media Release

Highway Proposal Locks In Car Dependence
Northern Suburbs Railway cheaper than Brooker Upgrade
Community-based public transport advocacy group, Future Transport Tasmania (FTT), today slammed the Tasmanian Government and the Department of Infrastructure, Energy and Resources (DIER) for seeking approval to fund over $213 million dollars of improvements to the Brooker Highway.  The plan is designed solely to ease congestion, however there has been no design work, nor has there been any net-cost benefit analysis.  FTT wishes to highlight the fact that several State Government strategies all have a goal of increasing public transport use, including the Tasmanian Urban Passenger Transport Framework, the draft Hobart Capital City Plan and the Southern Integrated Transport Strategy.  The Southern Integrated Transport Strategy even admits that Hobart cannot accommodate unrestrained growth in private car use.  FTT believes that DIER and the State Government have decided that they do not want the Northern Suburbs Railway to be used as a commuter rail service, despite the fact that it’s introduction would cost less than half that of the proposed highway upgrades.

FTT is appalled at the complete contradiction inherent in Government strategies and their actual plans to build more and more highways. 

Future Transport Tasmania spokesperson Toby Rowallan said: “In preparing our submission to the Legislative Council’s enquiry into Integrated Public Transport Options for Southern Tasmania, FTT found that the Government and DIER are talking about public transport –but doing everything they can to prevent it.  For less than one hundred million dollars we could have the Northern Suburbs Railway up and running.  They wouldn’t need to spend money on the highway at all, because we would have a decent public transport link in place instead.”

“If the State Government truly wanted to encourage a greater use of public transport services, the last thing they would do is to upgrade a highway.  Tasmania cannot afford to lock in more car dependency.  By failing to fund public transport, in particular the Northern Suburbs Railway, we will guarantee increased carbon emissions, increased oil price vulnerability and increased disadvantage for those people who cannot access private vehicle transport.”

“The cost of improving parts of the Brooker Highway to cope with increasing demand is over twice as much as the cost of introducing a commuter rail service.  This was outlined in the State Government’s preliminary submission to Infrastructure Australia that was released late last year.  All this will achieve is encourage greater car use, more congestion in other areas of the road network and more cars in the CBD.”

“In hearings with the Legislative Council in June, Secretary Norm McIlfatrick stated that Hobart did not have a congestion problem by comparison with mainland cities.  Whilst we may have a higher level of congestion than we should, this does not justify spending over $200 million dollars just to cut five minutes of travel time,” finished Mr Rowallan.

FTT’s submission to the Legislative Council enquiry is available on request.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Hobart - Launceston Fast Passenger Rail

On Sunday in the Examiner Newspaper we were quoted regarding the potential re-introduction of passenger rail services between Hobart and Launceston.

One of our key points is that it would be cheaper to upgrade the railway line and purchase fast trains than it would be to build a four-lane highway along the entire route.  We believe this would be far more cost effective than upgrading the highway.  We believe that if a four-lane highway is being considered, then so should an alternative.  Our alternative is faster, safer, reduces emissions and oil price vulnerability.  It would also make it easier for all Tasmanians and tourists to get around our state.

With the launch of our new logo and a logo for the Fast Rail idea, it's timely that this issue is once again in the public domain.
In 2009 we released our vision for Tasmania's railway future.  This document will be updated within the next few months.  We are also going to prepare a more detailed document regarding the fast rail proposal.  In the meantime, below is an extract from the vision document, which describes how we envisaged a Launceston to Hobart Fast Rail service might work.

Hobart - Launceston Express Train
A significant improvement in travelling times could be gained with the re-alignment of the southern section of the main line, and relevant deviations elsewhere (eg. Andover and Vincents Hill).

This would be necessary before any potential passenger rail services are considered.

Currently a significant amount of Government and business activity between Hobart and Launceston involves regular travel in private vehicles. The possibility of a fast and regular railcar service should be investigated. It would be essential for such a service to be much faster than it currently takes to travel by road between Hobart and Launceston.

As an example, a service operating four times per day, each way, would enable people to travel from Hobart to Launceston and return the same day. The train would have an on-board café, and business seats with internet and telephone connections.

A new railway station would obviously be required in both Hobart and Launceston.

Fully integrated bus connections would be established to various critical centres throughout Hobart and Launceston, including airports.

The railcars should be constructed to a similar standard as that of the Queensland Rail diesel tilt train (investigation into the viability of Tilt technology should also take place), and be able to travel at speeds of up to 140-160 km/h or more in regular service.

The principle advantage of the new service would therefore be its ability to be faster from Hobart to Launceston than travel by bus or car. Secondly, business people would be able to continue to conduct business whilst travelling.

Business could be encouraged to establish a convention centre in towns where the trains from Hobart and Launceston crossed. This would have the added benefit of cutting travelling times to meetings, and increasing the available time for such meetings.

It would also have the added benefit of promoting business activity in these towns.

Please do not hesitate to contact us if you have any questions or comments on the above.


Contacting Future Transport Tasmania

For further information:
Toby Rowallan (secretary) 0418 997 069

Mailing address:
Future Transport Tasmania
Bathurst St. Post Office
PO Box 4515
Hobart 7000