Public Works Committee: O-Bahn City Access Project

Ms SANDERSON (Adelaide) (11:22): I rise to speak on this very important piece of infrastructure. I support public transport and improvements to public transport, and the O-Bahn, being a good Liberal initiative, is a great piece of infrastructure for the greater public good. However, prior to the 2014 election, the government's transport priority was the electrification of the Gawler railway line, which it had already announced twice and abandoned. By cancelling the Gawler electrification project, we lost the commonwealth funding of $76 million and will pay an estimated cost penalty of $70 million to restart the project in the future.

The Auditor-General also wrote down the asset by $40 million—that is, the Gawler line that already had the poles put in—as an underutilised piece of infrastructure. Thus, $70 million, plus $76 million, plus $40 million equates to $186 million being lost by cancelling the Gawler electrification. The reason given for abandoning this project was a lack of funds, yet in the lead-up to the last election the government miraculously found $160 million to put the O-Bahn project on the agenda because there were some marginal seats in the north-eastern suburbs.

Yes, says the member for Newland, who benefits from this. The report claims a cost-benefit ratio of 1.6, but there is no detail on how this is calculated—no assumptions and no explanation. I believe it was Rod Hook who said that these cost benefits are pretty flexible, depending on what you include or do not include. Whether or not you want the project to go ahead, you can actually add in benefits. For example, going through the Parklands could have some health benefits that could be included. It is pretty flexible. Let's just say that it is not an economic rationale‑based cost-benefit analysis that you see with government projects.

I question whether a saving of two to four minutes of travel time by spending $160 million was the best use of taxpayers' money, particularly when it meant losing $186 million by not electrifying the Gawler line, which the department spent several years working on, engineering and gearing up ready to implement. Also from Rod Hook's statement, I believe, to the select committee, a project such as an O-Bahn tunnel should have been announced ready for the 2018 election because of the amount of time that the department really needed to do a good job with this.

Having seen the tunnel, they seem to have managed to pull together what looks to be quite an amazing project and, yes, I am sure that people will love the look of the tunnel. I do not think that residents in my electorate and the users of the Parklands will ever be happy with the fact that we lost so many of our beautiful significant trees in the Parklands and that it is not so much a tunnel but more a cut or a gouge that will be like a scar through the Parklands forever.

We also heard at the select committee hearing of many other ideas that would have sped up the time for users of the O-Bahn, which would have cost far less money. One of the ideas that is still very popular with the north-eastern suburbs and the users of the O-Bahn is a park-and-ride facility. I have spoken to some of my colleagues who have caught the O-Bahn to work because they live out that way. To get a car park in the morning, they have said that they have up to a five-minute walk from the car park to get on the bus. So, the two minutes that they just saved by speeding up the tunnel were lost because there is nowhere to park.

It also reduces the amenity to all the residents living in the area. For example, residents in North Adelaide have patients and staff parking in the streets due to the lack of high-rise car park availability at the Women's and Children's Hospital. I know that causes residents some disturbance and a lack of amenity to their area. So, I imagine the same thing happens in the north-eastern suburbs where you have workers parking in your street all day because there is inadequate parking.

It is also unsafe. If you park five to 10 minutes away from your bus, it is dark at 6 o'clock now in winter and it is completely dangerous for people to be walking back to their car. The government could have saved the $160 million, they could have built a park-and-ride, people would have been safer and it would have actually cut more time off their travel time. But, no, the government needed something big and shiny to try to win the marginal seats of the north-eastern suburbs.

Other ideas that could have sped up the O-Bahn that would have been less costly could include having gated stations on Grenfell Street to speed up validation and allow entry via both doors and modifying the buses to travel at 100 km/h on the existing O-Bahn track, as was originally intended. I believe it is only due to a lack of maintaining the track that the buses are reduced in speed to 80 km/h.

Perhaps repairing and maintaining the existing infrastructure—certainly you cannot get a big two-page spread in the paper for doing that as you can for a school or a new tunnel—would be more practical. It would be more valuable to our community to maintain what we have so that we do not have crumbling bridges, as we have seen, and we have several of those.

The government seems more concerned about getting something shiny that it can promote, rather than maintaining and doing the right thing. It could have extended the right-hand turn bus lane on Hackney Road for inbound traffic. It could have added a second left-hand turn lane from North Terrace into Hackney Road. It could also have managed the intersection at North Terrace, near the Botanic Hotel. You could have somebody watching the intersection during the peak hours, which is only two hours in the morning and an hour and a half or a maximum of two hours in the evening.

It would be very easy to have someone monitoring the intersection to make sure that the buses have priority and that they can all get through, which would be far cheaper and maybe give someone else a new job. There are also many practical issues. There are hundreds if not thousands of residents along Grenfell Street. There are 10 different residential driveways along Grenfell Street that currently the O-Bahn does not travel along, but it will.

It is 30 extra buses per hour along Grenfell Street. Many of the North Terrace stops will now be redirected to Grenfell Street and there will be far more traffic along Grenfell Street, where we have been encouraging people to move into. We have Garden East, which has been around for 20 years or more. I remember all the plans for that when I was at university in the eighties, so it is coming on to 30 years. There are a lot of people living in that area—

The Hon. T.R. Kenyon: That's not true; it can't be that long.

Ms SANDERSON: It can't be, I know, I feel far too young. A lot of residents who live in that area are very concerned about the safety of getting in and out of their driveways. They have been encouraged to move into the city for the amenity and then suddenly they are living on a busway, basically. Rymill Park is a wonderful park, probably one of the most beautiful parks in the Parklands, and it will now have a gouge right through the middle of it, which is certainly very upsetting to many people.

There are also other concerns; for example, people visiting the Botanic Garden and the Zoo, the new high school, and parking. There are 93 car parks along Hackney Road that have been reduced. I believe some have been reinstated around the National Wine Centre. I am not sure how that will work or what costs will be involved. There are certainly concerns expressed by St Peter's College about their students crossing the road. There will also be concerns about the new high school for many people who live north-east of the city who are now in the school zone; for example, Medindie, Walkerville, St Peters. Many of those will be using Hackney Road to access the school through the Botanic Gardens.

The extra traffic on Hackney Road, and the ability to get across Hackney Road, is a concern. I know that St Peter's College was requesting a footbridge over the road for safety. I guess we will see whether the government will find money for that when another 1,250 students are accessing that area. Lots of businesses along Hackney Road will be disadvantaged during the one or two years that this project will be going for.

There have been so many traffic concerns. It takes so long in the morning if you are trying to use Hackney Road. You wonder sometimes about the two minutes that some people will save. Thousands and thousands of car users and truck drivers will lose a lot of minutes because of the changes to Hackney Road, and I know that Hackney residents are also concerned about access to the city.