The West

Airport rail  moves fewer people
Cash train: The proposed airport rail link. Illustration: Supplied

The Perth-Forrestfield airport rail link is the most expensive public transport project that will carry the fewest number of passengers per taxpayer dollar expended on infrastructure, an analysis by The Weekend West reveals.

The Barnett Government's centrepiece public transport project, an 8.5km twin-tunnelled rail line from Bayswater to High Wycombe, featuring three stations, will cost $2.2 billion and generate 14,500 passenger boardings per day by 2031.

This compares to its other major public transport project - the MAX light rail, shelved because of Budget constraints - which for $1.88 billion would generate 100,000 passenger boardings per day by 2031.

The Weekend West today begins a week-long series looking at ways to tackle growing congestion in Perth.

An analysis of various proposed public transport projects reveals big differences in up-front capital cost, and in passenger projections.

They range from the promised Aubin Grove station on the Mandurah line - which for $80 million, including $23 million to buy two new three car train sets, will generate 3900 boardings a day when it opens in 2016 - to the $2.2 billion airport line.

The analysis suggests projects other than the airport line - including a northern railway extension to Yanchep, Cockburn-to-Thornlie rail link, or Ellenbrook rail link or bus rapid transit - would all move more people per dollar invested.

The analysis is informed by information provided by Transport Minister Dean Nalder and other publicly released documents, including Public Transport Authority costings prepared before the 2013 State election and documents from Freedom of Information requests.


Mr Nalder last week heralded a benefit-cost ratio of 1.5 for the airport link, meaning there was $1.50 of benefit for every $1 spent on the project, as evidence it was a good project. He said public transport projects typically struggled to exceed BCRs of 1.

The Cockburn-Thornlie link, submitted to Infrastructure Australia last year, had a preliminary BCR of 1.6.

_The Weekend West _asked for BCRs for all of the proposed and committed-to public transport projects. But Mr Nalder's office said some had not been done, while others had been done but would not be released.

The Productivity Commission and the Chamber of Commerce and Industry are among bodies that have called for the Government to publish cost-benefit analysis for all proposed infrastructure projects, so priorities can be assessed and taxpayers' money used to best effect.

The Productivity Commission's review into public infrastructure, released last month, recommended that all governments should commit to subjecting all public infrastructure projects above $50 million to cost-benefit analysis.

Mr Nalder said cost-benefit analysis was the "primary tool" for determining value for money of infrastructure proposals, but was used in conjunction with other analysis that took into account social, environmental and economic impacts.

Shadow transport minister Ken Travers said the Government had to explain why it had chosen the "most expensive, gold-plated airport line", rather than other projects that would "get five times as many vehicles off the roads".

"When choosing which of their election promises to break and which to keep, it should be based on those which will ease congestion the most," he said.

The West Australian

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