The Barnett Government has been caught out using inflated patronage projections for its airport-Forrestfield rail link relative to previously published patronage projections for other rail projects.
Transport Minister Dean Nalder last week released a summary of the airport rail project that contained projections that the line’s three stations would have 20,000 “daily trips generated” when it opened in 2020 and 29,000 “daily trips generated” by 2031.
But all previous projections for public transport projects in Perth – including for the Government’s MAX light rail project – have been on the basis of “daily passengers boardings”.
The Opposition argues the “daily trips generated” is effectively a double count of “daily passenger boardings” – an argument this is supported by fresh data on the airport-Forrestfield line tabled in State Parliament this week.
Last week in question time, Premier Colin Barnett, while arguing in favour of the airport link, compared patronage figures with the Ellenbrook line, but used differing measures.
“There will be 20,000 patrons using the (airport) rail line every day as of 2020, and 30,000 patrons using it by 2030. That is compared with the much-debated Ellenbrook rail line, which would have 10,000 patrons.”
Mr Nalder told Parliament today the 10,000 figure by 2030 for the Ellenbrook line was in fact “daily passenger boardings”.
Opposition Leader Mark McGowan said the Government was comparing apples with oranges and had misled the public in an attempt to justify its infrastructure choices.
“The Premier has been caught out dodgying up the figures,” Mr McGowan said. “He’s been caught red-handed misleading the people of WA in relation to the patronage figures on the most expensive project in the history of the State.”
Mr Barnett told Parliament the distinction between the measures was “a trite point”.
“There can be different ways counting passenger numbers and the like,” he said. “But at the end of the day it is the number that counts, and it is a projection into the future.
“No one finally knows until the railway is built – which it will be -- what the passengers are.”
The Opposition also highlighted passenger catchment assumptions for the airport-Forrestfield line that include residential areas within walking distance of existing Midland line stations Guildford, East Guildford, Woodbridge and Midland.
Mr McGowan said it was ridiculous to assume these people would drive 5km to an airport line station rather than walk to their nearest station on the Midland line.
The passenger catchment area for the Forrestfield station includes suburbs as far away as Pickering Brook, 15km away.
Mr Nalder claimed he had tried to be consistent with his use of terminology and methodology, but then said the latest work on Ellenbrook patronage was for 10,000 “daily passenger boardings” in 2030.
“This is a fantastic project and we really look forward to delivering it to the people of WA,” he said.