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Rail under fire again

ON the eve of signing key contracts for the $1.5 billion Mandurah rail project, the Western Australian Government’s plans have received further criticism.

Revenue from the rail project will cover only about 10 to 15 per cent of the Government’s costs, according to Perth engineer John Cochrane.

He also claims the adverse impact of the project on existing public transport users will offset the expected gains.

“The limited patronage gain arising from the much proclaimed 12-minute travel time benefit of the freeway alignment is more than offset by other patronage loss across the network,” Mr Cochrane said.

The losses would arise “directly through adverse impacts of the freeway alignment”.

Mr Cochrane’s research, focussing on the patronage and social impact of the rail project, has widened the critique.

It follows a campaign by a number of other Perth professionals, led by fund manager Willy Packer and engineer Peter Bruechle, to try and derail the project.

However, the Government is adamant the project will proceed.

This week it is due to sign a $320 million contract with a Leighton Kumagai Gumi consortium to build the city section of the project, which includes a tunnel under William Street.

It has already signed a $99 million contract with Leighton for the construction of new bridges.

Mr Cochrane compared the Government’s preferred freeway route with the alternative Kenwick route.

“In overview, there is no aspect in which the freeway route has merit,” he said.

The benefits from the 12-minute saving in travel time, between the freeway route and the Kenwick route, were found to be “limited in impact and reducing in size”.

“The number of patrons that gain that advantage is offset by as many who withdraw from public transport use.”

Planning and Infrastructure Minister Alannah MacTiernan rejected Mr Cochrane’s claims, saying he had a history of “extravagant claims based on abnormal assumptions”.

“This project has been subjected to vigorous economic, environmental and social scrutiny and we stand by the measurable benefits identified by those studies,” Ms MacTiernan said.

Specifically, Ms MacTiernan disputed Mr Cochrane’s estimate of likely cost recovery.

“We think 25 per cent would be good and will target 30 per cent,” she said.

The Government has emphasized that the southern suburbs railway will carry 25,000 people each weekday (while the Thornlie spur will carry 3,500 people).

This is equivalent to 2.5 lanes of traffic.

Mr Cochrane said most of these people were already serviced by buses travelling along the freeway.

“The effective freeway offloading is unlikely to be above 33 per cent of the 2.5 lane claim,” Mr Cochrane said.

He also estimated that the number of people who would regularly commute from Mandurah to the CBD would be only about 600.

 

“In overview, there is no aspect in which the freeway route has merit.”

-       John Cochrane

 

 

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