We have previously commented on this blog about the need for greater transparency and objectivity in government decision-making. The recently (and reluctantly) released Infrastructure Australia report on the Perth Freight Link is a case in point.
This report does provide some greater clarity, but Infrastructure Australia itself has not been able to get sufficient information to satisfy itself that the PFL is the best option for dealing with the land transport needs of WA's international container trade.
Indeed, IA 'damns with faint praise' when it concludes: "After accounting for these [risk and uncertainty] factors, Infrastructure Australia still has a high degree of confidence that the BCR is greater than 1.0:1 for the project".
According to IA, "Major risks for the project include costs, environmental approvals and community support", which doesn't leave much in the way of certainty.
IA does not state that the project is warranted because it did not have comparable information on alternatives and therefore could not assess whether other options would provide better value to the WA community.
"A rapid BCR was completed for the preferred option only, assessed against the Base Case. A rapid BCR was not completed for additional options to determine if the preferred option provided the greatest net benefits."
Infrastructure Australia says the Business Case lies (or at best misleads) about alignment with State Strategic Priorities:
"The Business Case outlines strong links between the Perth Freight Link Project and State priorities, policies and initiatives listed below. At the time of assessment (May 2015), the Perth Freight Link project is not directly mentioned in any of these State plans and policies:
• State Planning Strategy 2050 and Metropolitan Region Scheme;
• Directions 2031 and Beyond;
• Murdoch Specialised Activity Centre Structure;
• Draft Moving People Network Plan;
• WA Regional Freight Transport Network Plan;
• Draft Perth Freight Transport Network Plan;
• Draft State Port Strategic Plan; and
• Fremantle Port Inner Harbour Port Development Plan."
This appears to be yet another reason why 'Moving People' and 'Moving Freight' have abandoned by the Government and are now being rewritten to comply with the political narrative (http://sustainabletransportcoalitionofwa.blogspot.com.au/2015/06/wonderfully-horrifying-and-depressing.html).
IA also states that proposed project was selected from 12 possible ones on the basis of subjective criteria, with only the 'preferred' project being subject to full benefit-cost analysis. None of the 12 options included consideration of the Outer Harbour.
"The preferred option was selected from 12 shortlisted options. All 12 shortlisted options were assessed against selection criteria and assigned an achievability rating. Based on this qualitative assessment, the preferred option was selected from a list of 4 high rated options."
The options considered included pricing and efficiency using existing road infrastructure, investment or subsidisation of rail and a number of road investment options. The options did not include consideration of the Outer Harbour at Cockburn Sound South of Perth."
Transport Minister, Dean Nalder, says that Roe 8 is required even for Outer Harbour (see ABC report, below), but this does not consider other alternatives, including properly configured rail and peripheral road infrastructure.
The Infrastructure Australia Assessment Summary can be found at http://infrastructureaustralia.gov.au/projects/files/WA-Perth-Freight-Link.pdf.
Written and Posted by Ian Ker, Convenor, STCWA