THE war of words between the Liberal Government and the Opposition over a broken election promise to build a rail line to Ellenbrook has left the community wondering who is to blame and why the service won’t be built – in the short term anyway.
The long-term blame game of truth, innuendo and statistics has its origins in September of 2008, when then Opposition Leader Colin Barnett matched Labor’s commitment to build an $850 million rail link to Ellenbrook during the State election campaign,
However, after it was elected, the Liberals claimed the railway link had not been included in the Labor budget and there was no funding for the project.
Still, it committed to preliminary planning in its current term of office, with construction to start in its second term.
But in April 2009, the Liberals backed away from that plan too, scrapping a Carpenter Government-ordered feasibility study into the rail link.
The Liberals later included an investigation into the Ellenbrook line in its overall Public Transport in Perth in 2031 plan.
That study – undertaken by transportation consultants Parsons Brinkerhoff and released in October 2009 – showed an Ellenbrook rail link was never a viable option, and instead made a recommendation for the implementation of a rapid transit bus service.
Alyssa Hayden, Liberal Member for the East Metropolitan Region, revealed in State Parliament last month detailed figures to back up the Government’s decision.
She told the House expenditure on the Ellenbrook rail link could not be justified – neither on existing population numbers, nor estimated growth forecasts.
Ms Hayden said the 2031 study revealed two possible routes for the rail link to Ellenbrook.
The first was an eastern route along Lord Street to Reid Highway to the Bassendean train station.
The second option was a western route, which would run beside Lord Street to Reid Highway, along Reid Highway to Tonkin Highway and along Tonkin Highway to the Bayswater station.
The study forecasts the eastern route would serve a population of 59,000 by 2031 and the western route would serve a population of 90,000.
Based on those numbers, it was estimated that by 2031, 1400 daily train commuters would use the eastern route and 2000 people would use the western route.
That compares with the 8000 people who use the Joondalup line daily and estimated growth to 12,000 commuters by 2031.
The study projected a cost for the eastern route at between $630 million and $950 million and the western route at between $720 million and $1.1 billion.
With just 1400-2000 commuters forecast each day, the train link from Ellenbrook would cost WA taxpayers about $550,000 each.
“I believe the general public should be aware of this report, and that the report’s findings and facts behind the decision not to build a rail link to Ellenbrook…” Ms Hayden said.
She believed if the cost and patronage figures were explained to Ellenbrook residents, “they too would come up with the same scenario as this report has and as we in Government have.”
But Rita Saffioti, Labor’s MLA for West Swan, disputes the 2031 study’s population projections that form a cornerstone of the Government’s decision not to proceed with the rail link.
She told State Parliament last October the forecast for 60,000 residents to be living in the Ellenbrook rail catchment area in 2031 – assuming full development of suburbs including Henley Brook, Caversham, Whiteman, Lockridge and Eden Hill – was flawed.
Ms Saffiotti said the City of Swan had forecast 47,000 people would live in Ellenbrook alone by 2031.
Together with surrounding areas, including Altone, Swan Valley and the urban growth corridor, more than 100,000 people would reside in the region.
And if Bullsbrook’s population grew to 21,000 – as was forecast by the Government – and Ballajura was added into the mix, the catchment area for the Ellenbrook rail line would approach 140,000.
Even then, both the Labor and Liberal population forecasts may fall way short of the mark.
According to the 2011 Census, Perth’s population grew 14.3 per cent between 2006 and 2011.
The city is expected to more than double in size to 3.4 million people by 2056.
The Public Transport in Perth in 2031 plan states over the past 10 years, public transport usage in Perth increased by a massive 67 per cent – three times the population growth in the same period.
So, does Ellenbrook still need a new rail line – now, in the medium term, or sometime in the future? Or would the link just be way too expensive?
You be the judge.