, , , ,

Billion dollar rail blowout a blessing in disguise

Southern Cross StationThe billion dollar blowout in the construction costs of the Regional Rail Link, reported in the Australian Financial Review today (3 February 2011), could provide the opportunity to revise the project and fix its worst problems, the Public Transport Users Association has said.

Secretary Tony Morton said that well-chosen experts for the proposed new Public Transport Authority could now be appointed to “do the homework” on the Link that had been neglected by the Department of Transport.

The PTUA has previously raised concerns that existing plans would make Geelong trains slower and cut connections to the City loop, the University precinct bus shuttle, and the Upfield, Craigieburn and Werribee suburban train lines. Passengers may have also overloaded the trains serving the proposed new stations.

Dr Morton said the blowout was therefore a “blessing in disguise”. He said a skilled team of planners could take the opportunity to publicly review the link’s configuration, including alternative route options, to see if the same goals could be achieved at a lower cost.

“The Department of Transport’s own reviewer, Ed Dotson, found that alternative options had not been properly tested [1]. On a then-$4.3 billion, now $5.3 billion project, that’s just not good enough.”

“Public transport users need to know we’re getting the best value for our dollar, especially when there are so many other pressing rail lines to build.”

“The billion dollar blowout on the most expensive rail project in the nation’s history again confirms its hasty planning. The Regional Rail Link was never shovel-ready, and appears to have gained Federal funding based on a sketch on the back of a napkin. It’s now time to do nation-building properly,” Dr Morton concluded.

[1] Dotson, Edward (2008) East West Link Needs Assessment Recommendations 1, 2, 3 & 6 – Review of the Assumptions, Data And Analysis – Final Report. August 26th 2008, p. 17.