RAILWAY NOT SO COSTLY BY COMPARISON
Light rail business case fails to show rail is cheapest option
Community-based public transport advocacy group, Future Transport Tasmania (FTT), today criticized the final report of the Light Rail Business case as it does not demonstrate the cost effectiveness of rail versus other transport options in Hobart. Key elements of comparison with the cost of other transport options have been missed, thus failing to illustrate the full benefits of the proposal. FTT supports the Hobart Northern Suburbs Rail Action Group’s assertions that many of the benefits of the railway are not quantified in the report and therefore do not count in the benefit cost ratio, thus decreasing the report’s validity.
Future Transport Tasmania spokesperson Toby Rowallan said: “The railway proposal is about improving our transport options here in Hobart. At the moment people can only drive their car or catch a bus which can just as easily get caught up in any congestion along with the cars. What we now know is that the cost of a commuter rail service is far cheaper than any other option. We know that a busway will cost at least $120 million simply to pull up the railway track and put concrete down. To retain the railway along with a busway would cost even more. Alternatively, putting an extra two lanes on the Brooker Highway will also carry an astronomically higher cost.”
“The Light Rail has to have a business case to justify its potential existence and yet there have not been any economic studies into the net cost versus benefit ratios of any of the recent major highway projects, the total cost of which is already over $300 million. We can be confident that putting an extra two lanes on the Brooker Highway would not only fail to significantly ease congestion but would certainly fail to get any return. It is extraordinary that the Department of Infrastructure can justify nearly $200 million for the Brighton Bypass, which does not have people paying a fare every time they use it, and does not provide a return on investment. Yet a commuter railway with paying passengers is somehow less acceptable and must justify itself, even though it will provide a much more tangible set of returns and will cost far less to construct.
“We acknowledge and thank Minister McKim for inviting us on to the Community Advisory Panel and we hope that he not only continues to support this proposal but sees it through to construction. If he wants to ensure that Hobart has a sustainable transport future, there is no doubt that this proposal is the most cost effective of all of the options. It is greatly disappointing to us that the report does not reflect this and that people are focussing on the capital cost. But by comparison with other light rail projects in Australia it is cheap, and even in the context of the Tasmanian State budget it is not unaffordable. The State Government may not want to go into debt but in terms of a positive capital investment we believe this is a justifiable case to do so.”
“If we had to choose which option should we pursue for transport in the Northern Suburbs we have the choice of more highway, a busway or a railway. The railway is already there and is the cheapest and most cost effective, efficient and safe option. It is not nearly so high risk as the other options. Whatever Mr McKim decides, FTT believes it should be in terms of how to secure funding, not whether or not the project should proceed,” finished Mr Rowallan.