Northern Suburbs Light Rail A Bad Idea

Northern suburbs Light Rail
Artist Impression of Light Rail

Andrew Wilkie Is Wrong On The Northern Suburbs Light Rail

I am a big fan of Andrew Wilkie and agree with most things he says. But the one thing I strongly disagree with Andrew on is the Northern Suburbs Light Rail Project.

With all due respect to Andrew he has not lived in Tasmania that long. I doubt if he uses public transport himself. He does not really know how the people of the Northern Suburbs of Hobart that use public transport get around.

The problem with The Northern Suburbs Light Rail Project is the very thing that people in favor of the project think is the one big positive for the project which is the existing rail corridor.

This rail corridor is already very well patronised by cyclists on the intra city cycleway. If the Northern Suburbs Light Rails was built it would force many cyclists back on the streets.

The problem with the existing rail corridor is that it runs around the back of the Queens Domain. Due to Hobart’s hilly terrain the rail corridor must run around the water side of the Queens Domain. Therefore missing large amounts of the Northern Suburbs high population suburbs of Newtown and North Hobart.

I have lived in Hobart’s Northern Suburbs all my life and used public transport frequently. I understand that if you live at the top of Chapel Street or the top of Box Hill Rd and you want to go to North Hobart it would be very problematic. You would have to catch a bus from the top of Chapel St to the nearest train station. Then catch the Northern Suburbs Light Rail and get off the train near the Newtown Station Nursery and then catch another  bus to North Hobart.

The Northern Suburbs Light Rail service would only be used by commuters traveling to the City to work or shopping. It might also be used by some tourists to go to Mona but Mona is already well serviced by bus and ferry.

The other big problem with the Northern Suburbs Light Rail is that it would only service out to possibly Claremont at most. Feasibility studies have concluded that taking the rail line out to Bridgewater and Brighton would be unviable.

I just believe the Northern Suburbs Light Rail would be very expensive and would not be well patronised.

Alternatives To Light Rail

The reason why the bus service is not used very much is due to a very infrequent service and very few express services. When Nick McKim was transport minister he introduced Turn Up And Go along the Main Allstops corridor. This ensured a bus every 10 minutes during most of the day and even more frequently during peak hour. This improved service saw patronage increase by 8%.

Another issue is a very infrequent and disconnected service. When I lived in Moonah and I wanted to go to the cricket at Bellerive for a Sheffield Shield Match I would have to catch a bus into the city that would take 20 minutes. You then have to wait around in the City for an Eastern Shore Bus at least another 20 to 30 minutes. Then take the bus through the Rosny Bus Mall to Bellerive, another 20 minutes. Total 1 hour on weekdays and even longer on Saturday and virtually all day on Sunday. It would only take me 10 to 15 minutes in my car. Why would use catch a bus unless you had to?

Yes it does take at least an hour to get to the City from the outer suburbs of Bridgewater and Brighton by bus which is totally unacceptable. But the problem is Metro use infrequent articulated buses instead of using more frequent smaller buses. Instead of using articulated buses every 20 minutes that drop into Glenorchy and Metro Springfield, buses should be smaller, run every 10 minutes in peak hour with every second bus running direct into the City without stopping off at Glenorchy or Springfield.

Yes this would cost more because it would require more drivers. I believe a tax should be put on petrol to subsidise public transport and public transport should be made free for everyone. If public transport was made free and everyone used it  far more buses would be needed and so a better more frequent service would become available. Some will argue that this will add an extra cost to business especially those business’ that use a lot of petrol. So to offset this extra cost to business payroll tax could be cut or at least reduced to be revenue neutral. This would be another positive to the State economy as many in business argue that payroll tax is a tax on jobs.

Another issue that is very annoying with the Metro bus service is the unreliability of the drivers to be on time. When I worked in the City I would have to arrive at the bus stop at least five minutes early every day to ensure the bus did not come early. It is very frustrating when buses come early and you miss them. Why can’t buses be fitted with GPS and Metro Tas provide a smart phone app so you can see where your bus is in real time. That way you could see where your bus is and walk to the bus stop when it is getting close to your stop instead of having to wait in the freezing cold on cold winter mornings.

A free, frequent bus service that is connected to other bus services running south to Kingston and East could revolutionise the way Hobartians travel. It is ridiculous that traffic is backed up to Risdon Road trying to get into the City when Dark Mofo is on. Or everyone drives their car to the Huon Show when free buses could run and drop them off at the gate.

I have caught free buses to major cricket matches which is good thing but again they are used by only about 10% of people going to the match. People would rather drive and have to park a mile from the ground and then get stuck in a massive traffic jam instead of being dropped off at the gate.

Cricket Tasmania have good intentions with the free buses but it is badly managed. They have tried several different pick up points after the game but they have trouble getting out. The last time I caught the bus they were only loading one bus at a time with very long ques to get on.

Now there is traffic lights at the intersection of Cambridge Rd and Alma St buses should go back to loading in Church St. They should have police on every intersection and give buses priority to go up Beach St and down Alma St. The police should give buses priority and hold up all cars for the buses until they get out. This would give the clear message to car uses you are better off on the free bus.

It is a matter of changing our habits which can be done. With education the vast majority of people embraced recycling and the same can be done with public transport.

Ferries On The Derwent River Could Be Another Alternative

Another better alternative to light rail could be a ferry service on the Derwent River. The light rail will only service from the City to Claremont at best with little prospect of getting to Brighton.

A ferry service on the Derwent River could service all of Hobart from Blackmans Bay / Kingston to New Norfolk as well as the Eastern Shore, Bridgewater, Old Beach, Lindisfarne, Bellerive, Tranmere down to Lauderdale and South Arm. If the Lauderdale canal was reopened Dodges Ferry and Sorrel could have a ferry service also.

An article in The Mercury Newspaper in September 2016 stated that the State Government supported a ferry service proposed by Incat boss Bob Clifford. The cost in 2009 was $3.7 million for the cost of infrustructure and $1.7 million running costs. The cost of the Northern Suburbs Light Rails is estimated at $100 million.

The Ferries could be built in Hobart and create jobs. We already build ferries for Sydney Harbour. If the Government supports why doesn’t it do something about it and get it up and running?