Saturday, February 5, 2011

Tunnel Vision

...and $1.3b in debt!
When even the pro-car Courier Mail runs an article entitled "Clem7 would never have been built based on traffic numbers" then you cannot help thinking that transport planning in Brisbane has most definitely lost the plot. The figures in the article are startling. The number of vehicles using the tunnel are just over 22,000 a day, when the forecast was 90,000. The numbers of cars expecting to be using the tunnel per day in 2020/1 has been revised down from 128,000 to 40,435. Yet, only last week, the vital Cross River Rail tunnel's opening was delayed to at least 2020 due to "lack of Government money" post floods. With 31 trains per hour, loaded with 650 passengers heading into Brisbane in the am peak, Cross River Rail would move nearly as many passengers in just one hour than the Clem7 is currently used by in a whole day!

RiverCity Motorway's latest forecast by IMIS even has forecasts of 55,163 in 2030, 69,787 in 2040, and 85,801 in 2050. Have the forecasters heard of "peak oil"? Whilst cars can be powered by fuel other than oil, such as hydrogen, solar, or mains electricity, BrizCommuter doubts that a peak oil crisis was seriously considered in this forecast.  Despite RiverCity Motorway being $1.3billion in debt, and writing down more than a billion in assets last year, Brisbane City Council still appear to be pressing ahead with more toll roads including the Northern Link/Legacy Way, and the Kingsford Smith Drive "upgrade". Construction of Airport Link is now quite advanced. A toll road that can pay for it's own construction is all well and good, but not when it's making a loss as per Clem7. But isn't it just the shareholders that will suffer due to the wiped out $690 million? BrizCommuter hopes that his superannuation fund didn't have shares in RiverCity Motorway!

Before it is argued that Brisbane's politicians need to remove their "road tinted glasses", and look towards more  efficient and sustainable forms of transportation than cars, how can rail projects such as Cross River Rail pay their way? According to the Inner City Rail Capacity Study - Pre Feasibility Report, Cross River Rail estimated net present value is $35 billion, which makes the construction cost of $8 billion seem like small change! Most of the economic benefits are from travel time savings. The rest of the economic benefits are from travel cost savings, land use, reduction of road trauma and fatalities, plus of course the reduction in carbon emissions. So even while most public transport projects provide a negative return, the economic, social, and environmental advantages far outweigh the costs of construction and operation. Just when are our politicians going to see the advantages of rail tunnels over road tunnels, and stop this road obsession?

Update 12/02/2011

This article on Brisbane Times website hits the nail on the head, with Brisbane's leading developers having serious concerns about the delay to Cross River Rail.

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