MAX Light Rail not funded
What they promised
A Liberal Government...[will build] the Metro Area Express (MAX), a new light rail system connecting Mirrabooka with the CBD and across to Nedlands and Victoria Park, with commuters able to use the new rail by 2018- Colin Barnett, 2/9/12
What they say now
Max light rail, that project is going to be complex... my instinct tells me is that if any of the projects are going to slip out, it’ll be that one- Colin Barnett, 15/5/13, on ABC 720
31 Jul 2013 - Both the funding and time frame of Colin Barnett's MAX Light Rail project are now uncertain - with the Premier refusing to reiterate his promise that it would be operational by 2018 and Tony Abbott refusing to provide the required Federal funding for the project if the Liberals win the 2013 Federal Election.
In September 2012 the Premier and Treasurer announced plans for Metro Area Express (MAX), a light rail system to connect the northern suburbs corridor to the CBD, out to both QEII and Victoria Park. MAX was to be operational be 2018.
This same plan was released as part of the Liberal Party Policy during the election campaign - ‘Our Plan for Transport'. They committed to invest $1.8 billion dollars to deliver the project.
The plan was widely promoted in the Liberal party advertising as being ‘Fully Funded - Fully Costed'.
Two days before the election the Under Treasurer Tim Marney released the ‘2013 State Election Policy Costing - Impact of Liberal Party Commitments on State Finances'.
In this document it was revealed that the Liberal Party had assumed that the Commonwealth Government would fund 50% of the project and noted that the Commonwealth Government had not committed to this funding. The Under Treasurer further noted that if they did not provide the funding there would be a $941 million impact on WAs net debt.
In addition to MAX the Barnett Government also announced a rail line to the airport. In the same document from the Under Treasurer it was revealed that the Liberal Party had assumed that 80% or $1.6 billion of the cost of this project would also be funded by the Commonwealth Government.
Despite indicating that both of the projects were ‘Fully Funded - Fully Costed' the combined amount of unfunded costs for the two projects that the Liberal Party was seeking was $2.541 billion. In May this year as part of the Federal Budget, the Commonwealth Government provided $500 million over the next 10 years to assist with the two projects. This leaves a shortfall of $2 billion that the Liberal Party has failed to fund.
Following this announcement the Premier began to lower expectation that Max Light Rail would be delivered on time and when questioned in Parliament by Mark McGowan the Leader of the Opposition on the 16 May 2013 Colin Barnett would not confirm the 2018 completion date.
In July 2013 Tony Abbott indicated that he did not support any Federal funding being provided for State rail projects saying that they were fundamentally a State responsibility. He also indicated that he would only honour projects that had already begun such as the Gateway interchange project near Perth Airport. (The West Australian p11 5/7/2013)
At this point, both the funding and timeframe of MAX remain uncertain.
Update: At the August State budget, it was revealed that the completion date had officially been delayed by one year to 2019. However with the subsequent loss of the states Triple A credit rating in September, Premier Colin Barnett hinted that the project may be delayed further or its route altered.
In the Mid-Year Review, released on 18 December 2013, it was confirmed that the project had been pushed back even further, with a new completion date of 2022, four years later than initially
Update March 2015
The Barnett Government has confirmed that they are now considering using buses instead of building MAX Light Rail.
Minster for Transport Dean Nalder has commissioned a study to look at replacing light rail with a rapid bus system. West Australian 11/3/15
The decision has been criticised by Curtin University transport expert Jemma Green. Ms Green was reported as saying “pursuing buses in lieu of light rail shows a lack of understanding about light rail. It’s not just about bang for buck as a people-moving exercise. Light rail, critically and distinctly, catalyses development around it – density and urban village centres. Buses can never do that.” Sunday Times 8/3/15
The Property Council has also been scathing of the uncertainty caused by this situation. Mr Lenzo form the Property council is reported as saying
“The deferral is becoming a nonsense. It’s a deferral with no end date of any kind and a deferral with no certainty of what we are going to have.
“This is a bad outcome and let’s face it, because of congestion, public transport is one of the most crucial areas we need to look at”, he said. West Australian 11/3/15
The future of Max Light Rail is now more uncertain.