Wednesday, 14 August 2013

Taken to the MAX

Perth Town Hall

Perth had a north-south tram line along Beaufort Street terminating at the Barrack Street ferry wharf and a east-west tram line along Hay Street. I used to catch the Beaufort Street tram alighting on the tarmac of Barrack Street at the Perth town hall, then transfer to the Hay Street tram to get to my school in West Perth.

The Max light rail returns trams to Hay Street from the Causeway to Subiaco then turns south to Nedlands. There is a north-south line along Fitzgerald Street to the west of Beaufort Street terminating around the Perth railway station where the rail lines are being sunken, causing great disruption. A map of the proposed route can be downloaded at www.max.wa.gov.au.

Troy Buswell is Minister for Transport as well as Treasurer, and a world renowned seat sniffer. He favoured twin tram lines through the Hay Street Mall, others argued for tram lines split between Murray and Hay Streets, and Perth City Council wants trams along St Georges Terrace which has never carried trams and is the main bus route through the Perth CBD. An expert committee has been set up to recommend the best route through the CBD. This is, of course, what we have been imploring the O'Farrell Government to do in the Sydney CBD.
Fitzgerald Street, Perth

Fitzgerald Street has never been an arterial road, since it terminated at the railway lines. Before the Narrows Bridge was built the main north-south roads were Beaufort and William Street, which passed over the rail-lines to the Esplanade and the South Perth ferries, and Charles Street which gave access to Nedlands. Now the Narrows bridge between South Perth and Mounts Bay has been duplicated and has a suburban rail system down the centre lanes. This is the main north-south traffic artery stretching from Bunbury to ever expanding destinations in the north of Perth. The MAX light rail will not cause major disruption to north-south traffic movements though Perth.

Fitzgerald Street feeds into Alexander Drive which has expansive traffic islands and is not built up to the street frontages. Perth did not have much of a tradition of Public Transport, and the Liberal Government tried to close down the Perth/Fremantle rail line and sell off the land to developers but were defeated by Brian Burke. The Liberals opposed the north-south rail over the Narrows Bridge to Mandurah which has transformed urban transport in Perth. A well designed light rail would also attract extra passengers to public transport from private cars. Perth was arguably the most car oriented city in the world.

There are hardly any similarities between the Perth Max light rail and the South-Eastern Suburbs light rail except the cost. The major engineering cost in Perth would be the sinking of the rail lines in the CBD and this has already been accounted for. WA Treasury does not foresee any reduction of the debt in its 10 year forward estimates, and taxes and charges are being increased in an effort to avoid rating agencies lowering WA's credit rating.

When O'Farrell eventually floats into the Prime Minister's office and asks for $1.7 billion plus he may get a completely different answer to that given to Barnett. He will be able to explain that he has no idea how many extra passengers might conceivably be transferred from private cars because he has not allowed the RTA to conduct origin/destination surveys.

On the other hand Tony Abbott may have had his NSW colleague in mind when he said: "Politicians are not the suppository of all wisdom."

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