3/1/2006Australia: Parliament Report Calls for Toll Tunnel Discount
Parliamentary report in Sydney, Australia identifies fatal flaws in Cross City Tunnel toll road project.
A parliamentary report released yesterday called for major reforms in Sydney, Australia's Cross City Tunnel toll road -- including an immediate reduction in the charge to use the tunnel and the re-opening of nearby streets. The New South Wales Joint Select Committee outlined a series of missteps that led up to the tunnel's August 2005 opening and the subsequent closing of adjacent roads in an attempt to force frustrated motorists onto the pay route. The result, as the the special committee's chairman Reverend Fred Nile put it, was "chaos."
"There has been considerable community anger about the disruption caused by changes to local streets in the Central Sydney area, from the narrowing of William Street to the removal of free direct access to the Harbour crossings," Nile wrote in the report's introduction. "There has been anger, too, over the level of the toll to use the tunnel, which at the current level of $3.56 each way is not seen by road users as offering value for money."
The primary motivation for the tunnel was to secure the best possible "no cost" deal for the government to build the tunnel. "The value for money to those paying for the project, that is, the tunnel users, was not adequately considered," the report stated. "it has resulted in significant cost to the community, through higher than anticipated tolls and added inconvenience for the users of local roads in the area between the East and West tunnel portals, leading to considerable frustration and anger and potentially leading to a political cost to government."
The report also criticized the lack of public input into the project and for withholding a number of details from public discussion. Hearings continue this week. The committee is expected to release a second report later in the year that will consider specific guidelines and procedures to avoid similar problems in the future.
A full copy of the report is available at the source link below in a 3.4mb PDF file.