Why we need the Hobart Northern Suburbs Railway
Some would have us believe that cars, cars and more cars are
’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
’s key arterial
roads. Money will then have to be spent
on those roads, in particular the Hobart 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 . 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. Australia
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. Hobart
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.