A light rail system is essential to securing Perth’s future economic growth. Our road network is, and will remain, an essential part of the urban fabric of our capital city and state. But, the reality is the road network can no longer handle the demands being placed on it.

Infrastructure Australia’s 2015 Infrastructure Audit estimates that road congestion will cost Perth more than $16 billion a year by 2031. The independent body also estimated that in just 15 years, seven of the 10 most congested roads in Australia will be in Perth.

This is why RAC believes the MAX Light Rail Transit project, proposed by the state government, is critical for the future of Perth. It would provide a high-quality mass transit option along
corridors that experience heavy traffic congestion and would connect people residing in Perth’s central northern corridor to employment in the city’s central area. In addition, it would release new economic opportunities by enabling much higher density and more viable development in an area that is currently constrained by limited transport options.

It is a transformational project that will significantly improve our state’s economic productivity and as such the federal government should also have a role in its delivery. Perth’s central northern corridor, where MAX is proposed, lacks the public transport services of other sub-regions as it operates without a heavy rail line or rapid transit link.

Despite being committed to the MAX Light Rail project and promoting its benefits, the state government has deferred the project. In our 2015 State Budget submission, RAC asked the government to reinstate the $2 billion MAX Light Rail, running from Mirrabooka to the CBD and on to Victoria Park Transfer Station and QEII Medical Centre, and to allocate funding to the light rail connection from Victoria Park Transfer Station to Curtin University.perth-train

While RAC supports alternate systems such as Bus Rapid Transit (BRT), which would add a new dimension to our public transport system, we believe that, for the Central Northern Corridor, the transport and land use benefits that would be brought about by a light rail system greatly outweigh the possible cost savings from substituting it with a solution that uses buses.

Specifically, the permanence of light rail would offer more potential in unlocking development opportunities and driving up patronage levels. Light rail can also move more people than buses and typically, light rail schemes operate at faster speeds.

This results in reduced waiting and journey times and drives economic benefits for cities.

If MAX went ahead, RAC expects a mode shift would occur and the perception of the general public would change to favour light rail because it provides a better journey experience.

These benefits are highlighted by Queensland’s new light-rail scheme. In May 2015, it was reported more than five million commuters had used the Gold Coast Light Rail since the service began operating on 21 July 2014 – an average of 17,800 commuters each day. This is well over the forecast figure of 16,000 commuters a day, which was expected two years after the service began.

perth-congestionReports indicate benefits have also extended beyond the light rail line itself, with a 22 per cent increase in the number of public transport trips across the Gold Coast, primarily because light rail has allowed the reorganisation of buses in the region. A second-stage project is being discussed.

It has been suggested that if a Bus Rapid Transit scheme were to be progressed for the proposed corridor in Perth, it would be an interim solution and would be designed to facilitate an upgrade to future light rail. However, a shortterm solution for safeguarding the corridor in this way would likely increase the cost of a BRT solution.

Further, it seems unlikely that once implemented, it would be easy to make an economic case to replace a relatively new and fully operational BRT system with light rail.

In supporting the state government’s proposed light-rail scheme, RAC believes the federal government has a role in funding public transport projects. Australian cities make a critical  contribution to the national GDP. One of the main GDP drivers is the professional services industry, which is underpinned by access to the labour force and reliant on an established
and reliable transport system that connects people to jobs and services.

For this reason, in the Australian Automobile Association’s and RAC’s Federal Priorities document, RAC has identified MAX Light Rail as Western Australia’s number one transport priority.
Given the long lead-in and delivery time of major public transport projects, decisions we make now are crucial.

RAC stands by the light rail proposal as the preferred solution for Perth’s central northern corridor and believes this should be prioritised from the outset.

RAC’s top five federaltransport priorities

Over the past decade, rapid population growth coupled with a resource-driven economy have created enormous change in Western Australia. The challenges we face as a state will require a range of solutions.

Today, population numbers continue to grow, with the Australian Bureau of Statistics forecasting that by 2028 Perth will be the third largest city in Australia, after Sydney and Melbourne.
An increasing number of vehicles, combined with an annual projected growth in freight of five per cent and significant developments in and around the Perth CBD, is adding significant
pressure on existing infrastructure and services.

In response, there is an unrivalled opportunity for the federal government to fund and support projects that will ensure the nation and our state can support and drive economic growth.

Connecting people to jobs and services will be vital in ensuring Perth, and Australia, remain productive and liveable. Safer and more efficient roads are critical, as is the funding of major projects to deliver a comprehensive and reliable public transport system. Additionally, funding for the timely development and implementation of technology solutions in our road network is needed to ensure we extract maximum value from investment that has already been made.

To assist the federal government to identify projects that will deliver maximum returns, RAC calls on the government to support and fund five key infrastructure projects:

  1. MAX Light Rail
  2. Road network management technologies
  3. Major highway grade separations and upgrades
  4. Thornlie rail line extension
  5. Bunbury Outer Ring Road