Peter Whitelaw passes this along this piece from the Guardian Australia on the East West Link – “the most contentious, emotionally charged flashpoint in next month’s Victorian election.”
It’s a textbook case on how, after the failure of other road projects like Brisbane’s Clem7 and Sydney’s tunnels, Australian governments seem to have learned nothing, even as the momentum of Motordom overrides evidence and common sense.
… Swirling around the politics, the court challenges and the price tag is a question: is this 18km toll road a good idea? And even if it does have merit, are there better ideas that would ease Melbourne’s gridlock more cheaply?
The expert view is consistent – the East West Link may bring some benefits, but it should not be the top priority for a city expected to be home to nearly 8 million people by mid-century.
All are sceptical of the finances, dismayed by the secrecy surrounding the project, and convinced that the state needs a big shift in thinking if it’s going to cope well with a surging population. They say what’s needed is a tilt towards a mass public transport system.
Those against all new major road projects may not care about the figures one way or the other, but those who follow these things closely say the project is unprecedented for its lack of transparency. …
“This is new for Australia,” says John Stone. “The fact that through all these court cases and all this political focus the government has never released its business plan – it released a back of envelope estimate – means probably there’s nothing to back it up. If they had a better number they would have put it out there.”
The government released a 10-page executive summary business case in June last year justifying the project. Included was the benefit cost analysis (BCA) of 1.4, which means that for every dollar invested, there was an expected return of $1.40. That single number isn’t the only reason projects are approved, but it is considered critical in allowing a comparison of projects to ensure public money is well spent.
The experts, too, know that they’re losing the political argument, at least most of the time. The public is warming to the public transport argument, but governments still love roads. Tony Abbott has prioritised road funding, saying the commonwealth will not fund urban rail.
Says Tim Barton:
Wow! $17b. That’s gotta be a few light rails lines worth.It will encourage new trips (induced demand) and clog up the streets at either end. Always dubious of cost benefit analysis based on reducing congestion as well.