By TONY FOSTER
Mayor of Brighton
ANY consideration of public transport options along the disused rail corridor on Hobart’s western shore must include Brighton.
While a recent Infrastructure Tasmania report into the viability of a light rail system along the route, which took in all previous feasibility reports, found a system would run at an operational loss, its future has not been ruled out and the State Government has at least agreed to keep the corridor open.The Hobart and Glenorchy City Councils have now formed a working party to look at areas around both cities that could benefit from development within the catchments of proposed stopping points for a public transit system. The working party’s deliberations flow from the original proposal for a light rail service connecting Claremont to central Hobart.
However, if light rail, or any other public transport options are to be considered for the corridor, it makes good sense to extend it to the Brighton Municipality, as was originally proposed when the initiative was first seriously investigated in 2010.
Certainly, extending any service to Brighton would significantly increase its passenger catchment and revenue expectations. And while Infrastructure Tasmania points to potential financial losses, public bus services operated by Metro also run at substantial losses, so this should not be the defining consideration.
The significant benefits of reducing traffic on our roads, congestion in central Hobart, which the Lord Mayor has described as ‘a nightmare’ and the isolation and needs of people living in outer suburban areas must also be taken into account.
In the original proposal, the plan was for a light rail service running from the Brighton township to Mawson’s Place in Hobart. The section from Claremont north was then ruled out because of the additional high cost of establishing the link to Brighton.
However, if a ‘park and ride’ facility could be established on available land just north of Bridgewater and passengers could catch the train there, it would seriously reduce costs and still provide the increased catchment area to enhance the viability of the service. It would open up another transport option for the people of the Brighton and Southern Midlands municipalities and provide a comfortable and efficient transport service to Hobart for potentially thousands of people daily. From Bridgewater, the service could proceed to Claremont and then onto Hobart with the stops as originally proposed by the Hobart Northern Suburbs Rail Action Group.
While the proposal currently may not stack up on pure economic grounds, we should not close our minds to it. The social benefits must also be taken into account and because of the congestion, parking and other issues I have mentioned, it will certainly become more attractive in the future. As well. Brighton is experiencing significant growth and this will continue in the years ahead, further increasing the passenger potential and need.
Extending any consideration of the future public transport use of the rail corridor to Brighton will not adversely impact on the efforts of the joint Hobart – Glenorchy working group, in fact it should strengthen the case, particularly as it wants to secure Federal Government funding support.
I have already had discussions with the president of the Hobart Northern Suburbs Rail Action Group Ben Johnston to push Brighton’s case and he agrees the park and ride concept is a ‘no brainer’. I will also raise this with my counterparts at the Hobart and Glenorchy City Councils.
The availability and frequency of public transport has long been a concern for Brighton Council and our community. Light rail or any other transport options along the disused rail corridor offer a potential solution and Brighton must be part of any and all considerations.