The way the state budget has been framed in terms of transport was almost inevitable: the East-West motorway (stage 1) vs the Metro Rail Tunnel, with the motorway winning this round.
While they are quite different projects, serving (mostly) different markets and (attempting to be) solving different problems, I thought it might be interesting to look at them side-by-side them, based on known facts and some slightly shaky estimates, and using some doubtful metrics to compare.
|Project||Metro rail tunnel||East-west motorway tunnel (stage 1)|
|Where||South Kensington to South Yarra||Clifton Hill to Flemington|
|Estimated cost||$5-9 billion||$6-8 billion [cite]|
|Length||9 km [cite]||8 km [cite]|
|Cost per km||$0.56 – 1 billion per km||$0.75 – 1 billion per km|
|Theoretical capacity per hour||30 trains
x 1000 people per train
x 2 directions
= 60,000 [cite]
x 2000 vehicles per hour
x 1.2 people per vehicle
x 2 directions
(or some capacity for freight)
|Approx cost per person capacity per hour||$83,000 – $150,000 per person||$416,000 – $555,000 per person|
|Stations/interchanges||Arden (North Melbourne)
(Unfortunately it appears the tunnel will not include an interchange station at South Yarra.)
Flemington Road citybound
|Main trips/destinations served
(excluding future extensions)
St Kilda Road
Tram connections to inner suburbs
|Between Eastlink/Eastern freeway corridors and:
CBD and University/hospital precinct via Flemington Road
|Construction funding||Zilch so far, only planning money
|$0.293 billion from the state government
(about 4% of total cost, though it’s suspected some of this is planning money)
As I said, they are different projects serving different markets, and probably shouldn’t be directly compared like this. But there are some points to be made by doing so.
For both, reaching the theoretical capacity depends on removing other bottlenecks, and making sure feeder routes (whether PT or road) are completely optimised. But if you can do it, even the huge cost of underground rail is still many many times cheaper for the capacity brought than underground roads.
The government is talking of the road in terms of “city-shaping”. The problem is it’s city-shaping towards more car dependence, with all its problems and inefficiencies. As some have pointed out, the Eastern Freeway already gets clogged in the Box Hill area — inducing more traffic (motorists heading west from Clifton Hill) is not going to help this; nor is it going to help motorists heading south down Hoddle Street towards the inner-city.
If they were serious about ensuring the efficient movement of the city’s growing population, they’d be investing heavily in the most efficient mode, and helping more people get around more often leaving the car at home (or even ditching one of the cars in their household).
That would be city-shaping, in a good way.
- Marcus Wong recently wrote up an excellent summary of what’s known about the Metro rail tunnel
9am: updated with higher $9b rail tunnel cost estimate.
“We spoke to Infrastructure Australia and their advice was that the most pressing road priority in Melbourne was the east-west link,” Mr Abbott told reporters in Frankston on Thursday.
“Now the Commonwealth government has a long history of funding roads. We have no history of funding urban rail and I think it’s important that we stick to our knitting, and the Commonwealth’s knitting when it comes to funding infrastructure is roads.”
– The Age
Perhaps the Federal Coalition has no history of funding urban rail, but the Commonwealth most certainly does.
Several urban rail projects are currently being built with Commonwealth funding:
Moreton Bay rail link (Qld) — $742m from the Commonwealth, $300m plus land from the Queensland government, and $105m from the local council.
Regional Rail Link (Vic) — which despite its name, is entirely within Melbourne, and will serve two new suburban stations at Tarneit and Wyndham Vale. $3.225 billion from the Commonwealth government, and about a billion from the state.
Perth City Link — is a sinking of one rail line in inner-city Perth, with $236 million of Commonwealth funding for rail infrastructure.
Not heavy rail, but certainly urban: the Gold Coast light rail project includes Commonwealth funding.
In recent times, other projects have gained Commonwealth funding. In Victoria alone there’s been $95 million from the Feds for inner-Melbourne rail freight upgrades, $30 million for level crossing upgrades (some in regional areas, some metropolitan), and $40 million for planning work for the Metro rail tunnel… with rumours today that the tunnel will get more funding, presumably if Federal Labor is re-elected.
Going back a few years, Melbourne’s Cranbourne line was upgraded and electrified in the 90s with money from the Commonwealth’s Building Better Cities scheme.
Commonwealth funding was also used for the “4D” double-deck development train.
These are just the projects I found during a quick search around on Google last night. No doubt there are others.
Despite what Abbott thinks, the real distinction (which is more relevant to PT than to roads) is that the Commonwealth gives once-off funding. What they don’t generally do is recurrent funding — required to actually run public transport, but also required to maintain roads — in fact people often forget that the rough cost of roads maintenance is about 1% of the construction cost per year.
The Commonwealth can fund what they like
It might be convention for conservatives not to fund urban rail, but there’s no reason they can’t. It’s entirely up to them.
I think all but the most car-centric person would see that in modern growing cities, you can’t move everybody around by road — that rail, particularly in inner-city areas, is much more efficient.
Unfortunately unlike some of his Liberal colleagues (and unlike conservatives in such places as the UK), Tony Abbott does appear to be the most car-centric person.
It comes down to this: if you want more people on public transport, provide more public transport. If you want more people on the roads, build more roads. Abbott is clearly backing the latter.
In the 21st century, with car use waning and urban public transport booming, this is a regressive stance, and should make people think twice about voting for the Coalition in September.
Because I’m interested in politics, I make it my practice to follow various politicians on Twitter, whether I agree with them or not, including all the local ones I can find.
My local federal MP Andrew Robb would have to have the single most relentlessly negative Twitter feed of any of them.
Here’s all his Tweets for the past week (excluding retweets and also those addressed to other people, therefore not showing up in most users’ timelines).
- I see Wayne Swan has a juvenile petition out on cruel cuts, I presume he’s referring to his cruel cuts to community grants. #hypocrite.
- Swan and Wong need to stop the spin and explain Labor’s $120 BILLION BLACK HOLE.
- Labor has reached the dangerous stage, saying and promising anything to save political skin. #Labor’s$120billionblackhole.
- Chickens come home to roost – Labor’s $120 billion budget black hole revealed in Fin Review.
- Financial Review reveals Labor’s $120 billion black hole.
- Is there a policy Labor has implemented without botching it?? Think pink batts, NBN, mining tax, carbon tax, live cattle, border protection.
- Let’s judge Labor’s record debt by Australian standards, rather than against the basket cases of the world. It leaves us vulnerable.
- If Labor is returning to surplus why in budget did they raise the Commonwealth debt ceiling to an unprecedented $250 BILLION??
- Why did Labor tell us net debt would peak at $94.4 billion two years ago, but now it’s $145 billion? Only $50 BILLION out!
- $4.1 billion unfunded dental promise, part of Labor’s $100 BILLION BLACK HOLE of unfunded or hidden budget liabilities.
- Labor promises $4.1 billion for dental scheme but can’t say how it will be funded. That means higher taxes or more record debt.
- Labor has reached the dangerous stage. $100 billion worth of commitments either hidden or unfunded. #Laborblackhole
- Penny Wong’s credibility through the ‘floor’, see what she said before & after Labor’s carbon tax floor price backdown.
- Labor told us the carbon tax floor price was needed for certainty, now they tell us the opposite. They are a shambles.
- Labor’s carbon tax chaos recipe for budget black hole but Combet says trust our modelling!!!
- At last election Penny Wong said net debt would peak at $94.4 billion; now that figure is $145 billion. A $50 BILLION blow-out in 2 years!
- Penny Wong fails to lock in prosperity as under Labor Australia has become a less attractive place to do business. [link]
- Penny Wong in denial. BHP has warned for months investment climate is being crippled by carbon & mining taxes & other sovereign risk issues.
It’s all attacking Labor. EVERY. SINGLE. TWEET.
Not a single comment about what he would do in government.
Not even a single comment on what he thinks Labor should do.
Even Tony Abbott, derided by Labor as “Doctor No”, often tweets about the people he meets and the events he attends.
As the next generation of voters increasingly get their information from social media rather than mainstream media, it’s going to become important for politicians to represent themselves better through avenues like Twitter. With a growing and changing population, even Goldstein won’t be blue-ribbon Liberal forever.
C’mon Andrew, surely you can do better than this. Just for a moment, stop telling us why you think the other guys are idiots, and instead tell us why we should vote for you.
The first Tuesday of May is Victorian State Budget day.
On Budget day, journalists and some interest groups (well, those that have the resources) attend the Budget Lockup, where from about midday to the 3pm public release, they get to peruse the budget papers, but can’t communicate what they find with the outside world.
They are let loose at around 3pm, and often gather in the grounds of Parliament House, where representatives from the interest groups will form a (reasonably orderly) queue up to give their comments to the waiting media.
On a rainy day, they might all huddle under the small shelter at the back door to Parliament. Otherwise, they might head for the garden.
This year there was an added bonus in the garden: Trades Hall had come along with a multitude of jellybabies, representing the 43,000 jobs lost in Victoria in the past 12 months.
- Video: Budget blues strike public sector (7pm TV News VIC)
- Bonus pic of yours truly taken by Adrian Lowe from The Age
And the budget in summary? Well for PT, apart from extra V/Line carriages, confirmation that the very successful 601 Huntingdale to Monash Uni shuttle has got recurrent funding, and three grade separations, not much else. Certainly it was a tight budget, but roads seem to have got more new money yet again.
Happy Australia Day.
2. I was a Flag Monitor in grade 6. Along with my mate Mark, we put the flag up on the school flag pole. Apart from a minor hitch on the first day when it went up upside down for a short time, there were no issues, though I’d imagine doing the same job for the Elizabeth Street roundabout would be somewhat more time consuming:
(I’m probably safe in assuming they go up and stay up.)
3. I was pondering, as debate about immigration and asylum seekers rages, if our Federal politicians are familiar with the second verse of our national anthem. (It was originally the third verse. There were originally more in the song, but the national anthem only incorporates the original first and third. We used to sing both in high school, at assemblies and so on.)
Obviously one should be wary about determining policy from lyrics written circa 1901 (much of the song was written before 1878, but this verse was added for Federation), but still, I’d love to hear Ms Gillard and Mr Abbott’s interpretation of them.
Beneath our radiant Southern Cross
We’ll toil with hearts and hands;
To make this Commonwealth of ours
Renowned of all the lands;
For those who’ve come across the seas
We’ve boundless plains to share;
With courage let us all combine
To Advance Australia Fair.
In joyful strains then let us sing,
Advance Australia Fair.
Sometimes when the media or politicians want to highlight what they see as massive government waste (particularly in the transport arena, but also in other areas), they compare it to how many extra trains could have been bought instead.
While it may seem a little myopic, I think overall it’s a good thing. It’s a sign that public transport is at the forefront of what’s seen as important for the state government to invest in (even if, as we know, there’s a lot to PT beyond trains).
For some time I’ve struggled to find a good reliable solid figure on just how much a train costs, because often the figures for new trains have associated infrastructure such as power upgrades (you need more juice to run more trains) and stabling (you’ve got to store them somewhere) included.
Thanks to the Auditor-General’s report into the state’s finances (page 38) we now have a figure: it’s about $15 million per six-carriage train. (Happily, that’s what I’ve been guessing when asked.)
The same document also has a price on the new trams: $272 million for 50, or about $5 million per tram. … Given these trams will have the capacity of about a quarter of a train, at first glance it appears that the cost is higher per passenger than a train, though the contract in this case includes design, whereas the trains are an existing more-or-less off-the-shelf design.
Of course, this type of thinking entirely about fleet size ignores that a lot more could be done with the fleet we already have, particularly getting more services running more often outside peak hours, when waiting times are generally long, and crowding is sometimes almost as bad as peak hour. (And of course funding is needed to use any extras you add to the fleet.)
Oh, and… how much does a bus cost?
(The pic — yes, I went back to Flinders & Market Sts and got a better shot.)
PS. See, I said sometimes they’d compare government waste to trains: here’s the Ombudsman’s report into ICT projects (including Myki):
“The overall figures quoted above are significant. They represent many foregone hospital beds, trains, teachers, police and child protection workers.”
This might not be everybody’s cup of tea, but there was some fascinating reading on economics and politics in last week’s media, and since I have nothing else for you, here it is in my blog:
Then there was Access’s early 2009 warning that it would be “impossible to avoid a recession“. The Rudd government promptly did exactly that.
The immediate test of whether a party is fit to govern is the minerals resources rent tax (MRRT). In economic terms, it’s a no-brainer, which is why the opposition’s stance is such a worry. Either there are no brains, or the leadership is so pathetically shallow that they are prepared to damage the country to get the keys to the Lodge.
Pointing to Australia’s Budget deficit, the Opposition Leader thundered: “Why is the Government planning to provide money it does not have to prop up the eurozone, which is the world’s biggest economy?”
ABBOTT knew – or should have known – that Australia’s contribution to the IMF would be in the form of a loan, with no impact on the Budget bottom line. In fact, it will earn interest.
Please note that as always, the views expressed on my blog are my own, and are not necessarily a PTUA position.
The state election’s about six weeks away.
The Opposition has been criticised for not having a transport policy, but it’s important to note that Labor hasn’t said much about what they’d do, either.
Sure, they’re launching lots of things like new train timetables this week, new Smartbuses last week, and new tram timetables next week. Lots of colour and movement to keep us all distracted.
But I’m generally of the view that judging past performance is of limited use, particularly as the whole debate in PT has moved on from the cost-cutting of the early 90s to the mid 2000s, when both sides sought to minimise investment. (And it should be noted that Kennett in 1999 introduced one of the biggest positive changes — the upgrade of most Sunday tram and train services to Saturday levels).
Yes, Labor has the Victorian Transport Plan, which is a blueprint for further developments. But that doesn’t really count unless the items in it are funded. Until something is funded, it may never happen (eg the Blue Orbital Smartbus in the previous MOTC plan from 2006).
The important thing for voters to know is what would the parties do differently from one another.
There are lots of VTP projects already funded, already underway. Unless we are told different, we must assume that these would happen no matter who gets power: Regional Rail Link, Sunbury electrification, completion of Myki, South Morang rail, 50 new trams and an upgraded tram depot, Bumblebee trams kept, various new outer-suburban stations.
What’s different between the big two parties? Here’s what they’ve announced so far which is not already funded and underway:
The Opposition: Rowville/Monash rail feasibility study; Eltham North station feasibility; armed Protective Service Officers on Metro stations after 6pm; increase transit police numbers; $1 million competition for a plan to renovate Flinders Street (not really a public transport issue per se, as long as whatever’s built doesn’t adversely affect station operation — really a heritage and planning issue)
Labor: Balaclava Station upgrade; increase transit police and Authorised Officer numbers.
(The Greens have a lot more in their policy, but I’m just looking at the big two for now. Let me know if I’ve missed anything.)
So in fact, while the Opposition gets the flak, in fact Labor are also keeping their cards close for now. They’re both pretty light-on for detail in such a key issue, no doubt wanting to avoid being trumped by the other side.
Who’s going to pledge not just South Morang, but Mernda? Who’s going to build Southland Station? Who’s going to duplicate and electrify to Melton? How about 7 day 10 minute trains/trams/Smartbuses? Half-hourly V/Line services? And the next lot of Smartbus routes, for that matter?
Only once we know these answers (and provided one has some confidence in their promises) will people know which side is going to do more in public transport.