Tasmania

Tasmanian Government releases 'discouraging' Hobart light rail report

NEW and improved bus services and updated planning controls and policies including measures to encourage infill development and increase density have been identified as key actions necessary to support the future development of a light rail system in Hobart.

The findings are contained in three reports prepared by PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) after the firm was engaged to complete a Strategic Assessment, Preliminary Planning and an assessment of the Wider Economic Benefits & Funding and Financing Options for the proposed 'Riverline' light rail service between Hobart's CBD and the northern suburbs.

In a statement released at the end of May, Tasmanian Infrastructure Minister Rene Hidding said the report expresses concern over the potential viability of light rail, and finds that a more cost-effective alternative is to improve the current public bus services.

"While the PwC report is not encouraging, consistent with our election commitment, the proposal will be referred to Infrastructure Tasmania to consider after it is established later this year," Mr Hidding said.

The Strategic Assessment report acknowledges that the provision of a light rail service has the potential to reduce car dependency by providing a frequent and reliable public transport option and supporting better value land use through high density and mixed use development along the northern suburbs corridor in the activity centres of Glenorchy and Moonah. It also states that the project would act as a stimulus for development in the Hobart CBD to increase its scale and diversity.

However, the report finds there is a risk that the light rail project will not address the identified problems if:

  • Hobart's economic disadvantages such as lack of scale cannot be overcome by the initiative;
  • Extant conditions favouring car use (such as availability of free/cheap parking, lack of reliable, fast public transport options, low density urban form) persist; and
  • Land use policies are not adjusted to encourage denser urban and mixed use development along the northern suburbs corridor.

In response to the risks and the relatively high cost of the project, the report outlines a number of other actions that have the potential to address the identified problems. These include:

Land Use Planning Strategies

  • Implementation of an urban growth boundary to facilitate a more sustainable urban form (in place);
  • Encourage infill development, particularly along transit corridors, and with a high degree of focus on the northern suburbs corridor;
  • Encourage intensification of employment hubs in Hobart and along the northern suburbs corridor;
  • Public housing policies that focus on generating social and affordable housing close to employment opportunities, services and strong public transport corridors (in progress); and
  • Streamlining the development approval process for infill housing.

Governance

  • Greater cooperation between the State and local governments in relation to land use planning to promote more sustainable land use (in progress); and
  • Greater cooperation between the State Government, the Hobart City Council and the University of Tasmania to bring a greater UTAS presence into the CBD with a view to invigorating the CBD (in progress).

Public Transport

  • Develop and implement public transport service standards to support more efficient provision of high quality public transport;
  • Develop a simplified bus network to improve the quality of transport by focusing on high frequency corridor services, improved total journey times, reduced waiting times, and regular operation over a wide span of hours;
  • Improved bus frequency on key corridors;
  • Develop a 3-stop express bus service between Glenorchy/MONA and Hobart, including provision of bus priority measures, to provide a fast, reliable commuter service; and
  • Development of Transit Corridors (high frequency bus services along corridors, with higher density mixed use development)to make it easier for people to use public transport to access services, employment and education.

The report states that implementing these actions "will create conditions that are more conducive to the financing and delivery of light rail and to the ultimate resolution of the problems of car dependency and Hobart's lack of economic scale."

The three reports are available from the Department of Infrastructure, Energy and Resources website at <http://www.dier.tas.gov.au/passenger/rail>.

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