Victoria Shadow Minister for Public Transport Terry Mulder
After A Decade, Rail Projects Still Botched And Inadequately Justified
Victor P Taffa
The Auditor General’s Report into the Management of Major Rail Projects shows that after more than a decade of office and despite the $839 Million cost blowout with Regional Fast Rail, Premier John Brumby is still unable to assure Victorians that rail projects provide value-for-money, Shadow Minister for Public Transport, Terry Mulder said today.
Mr. Mulder said that the Auditor General found that the business cases developed for rail projects failed to adequately set out the ‘base case’ for the project, failed to estimate operating costs, develop demand forecasts, estimate the benefit to rail users or motorists, assess risk or uncertainty or conclude the business case by recommending the preferred option, while capital cost estimates and safety and environment benefits were only partly stated.
“It is no surprise that a relatively small project such as the VicRoads-managed 2007 Middleborough Road, Box Hill Grade Separation cost $11.5 Million more than its originally estimated budget of $61.2 Million given the numerous failings of the Department of Transport in preparing business cases.”
Mr. Mulder said that the cost of one rail project not examined by the Auditor General, the Regional Rail Link between Werribee West, Deer Park West and Melbourne’s Southern Cross Station would be at least $86 Million for each kilometre of a single rail track, but Western Australia had managed to construct its 70 kilometre Perth to Mandurah line (completed in 2007) for about $12 Million a track kilometre based on its estimated cost of $1.66 Billion.
“On a per track kilometre basis, Perth can build new rail lines for one seventh the cost of the proposed Regional Rail Link despite the relatively flat country between Werribee West and Deer Park West through which RRL will pass.” Mr. Mulder said.
“The Auditor General says that the cost of the Epping to South Morang Rail project will be more than $650 Million which includes track duplication from Keon Park to Epping, some grade separations and Hurstbridge line signalling and stabling facilities.”
“At $54.2 Million for each of the 12 single track kilometres of new construction, this remains 350 % above the Western Australian Mandurah line with its kilometre of expensive tunnelling in Perth’s CBD, 11 new stations, two major water crossings and extensive Park and Ride facilities.” Mr. Mulder said.
“While the Mandurah line project was beset by industrial relations problems, John Brumby and Minister Pakula need to explain why the costs in Melbourne for new rail lines are so much higher than in Perth.”
Mr. Mulder said that the Auditor General’s report was silent on some major design deficiencies of current railway station projects.
“The Auditor General examined the new Coolaroo Railway Station project. As with other new stations at Williams Landing (near Point Cook) and refurbished stations at Footscray and Laverton, the lack of DDA-compliant ramps or subways and the constant failure of newly installed lifts is a major design fault.”
“The Laverton lifts are especially unreliable, with disabled and other passengers regularly trapped on platforms if they are unable to use the steep stairs.”
Mr. Mulder said he was concerned that VicRoads had not documented a plan to measure the benefits arising from the Middleborough Road grade separation.
Mr. Mulder said that the Auditor General’s finding that Major Rail projects such as the proposed Watergardens to Sunbury Electrification ($270 Million) and the Epping to South Morang new rail line ($650 Million including some other works) lacked any analysis of how they might attract motorists to use trains was concerning.
“John Brumby should ensure that these claimed benefits are publicly stated so that the result of these rail projects can be measured.” Mr. Mulder said.
Editor Victor P Taffa supports Railway expansion and upgrades as both are long overdue. Costing of projects must be as accurate as possible in the face of opposition from the roads lobby.
The Railway Industry needs people who are able to best sell the argument so as to secure money from Treasury to finance projects. The Light Rail lobby in New South Wales should support Heavy Rail expansion if it is ever to win the debate with the road lobby.