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Infrastructure and Transport - Southern Outlet Fifth Lane

Cassy O'Connor MP  -  Tuesday, 7 September 2021

Tags: Roads, State Budget

Ms O'CONNOR - Minister, I want to talk to you about people who live in my electorate of Clark along the Southern Outlet who were informed by consultants, as I understand it, their properties would be compulsorily acquired to make room for a fifth lane on the Southern Outlet. Given your Government's failure to invest in twenty first century traffic solutions, how do you justify expanding a road without investing adequately in public transport, cycling transport and pedestrian infrastructure and how do you justify compulsorily acquiring these people's homes along the Southern Outlet?

Mr FERGUSON - Thank you, Ms O'Connor. I do acknowledge your concern for your voters in Dynnyrne Road. They are the group of people perhaps with a significant interest in this that is greater than your average person and I accept and understand it. The premise of the question though seems to be very misfounded that you say we are wanting to build infrastructure and demolish houses, but we are not investing in public transport.

Ms O'CONNOR - You are not investing adequately, I said.

Mr FERGUSON - In fact, what we are not doing is just proposing an extra lane on the Southern Outlet. This is an integrated end to end solution, which is currently out for public consultation. In your question you failed to mention the express services from the Huon that are now under trial. You failed to mention the 70 additional services from Kingston which will begin in the first part of next year. And you failed to mention there is an intention to provide the extra lane as a transit lane, which actually provides a public transport incentive.

We have been talking about public transport incentives for yonks in this place but no previous Government has actually got around to doing one. Now, if you are going to really want to encourage people to pick up public transport, you actually need to allow those buses to move much more freely. Now, that is not the case. We can put those new services on next year and we will, but they will be dealing with yesterday's infrastructure and it will not provide the genuine solution for public transport preferment. So, the intention of creating the extra lane from Olinda Grove into the city is to provide a much more reliable transport linkage for people to catch the bus from Kingston. That is what we would like to see.

Now, we are consulting on this at the moment. I will ask the CEO of Infrastructure Tasmania, Mr Blake, in a moment to add to my answer here, however, this is an integrated solution and while it is challenging for some residents of Dynnyrne Road -

Ms O'CONNOR - Devastating.

Mr FERGUSON - We understand that. Our people are working one on one with potentially affected residents and treating them decently and with an intention, if there were property impacts on an individual household they would be treated respectfully, decently with good information and generously. I will ask Mr Blake to respond further so we can actually get the complete picture.

Mr BLAKE - Would you like to talk about the impact on the residents or the nature of the solution?

Mr FERGUSON - The solution was the question.

Ms O'CONNOR - Perhaps, if we're talking about the solution, what the solution is to the actual bottleneck, which is the Macquarie and Davey Streets and also the roundabout at the top of the Outlet, and whether there are plans to compulsorily acquire any properties along there as well?

Mr FERGUSON - You mean Olinda Grove?

Ms O'CONNOR - Where the Southern Outlet meets Macquarie Street.

Mr FERGUSON - How is that a roundabout?

Ms O'CONNOR - Well, not a roundabout, the complex intersection at the top of the Southern Outlet.

Mr FERGUSON - I will ask Mr Blake to respond but he will be more delicate than I'm about to be. Ms O'Connor, you appear to have failed to have watched the video or looked at the consultation materials. It is proposed that there be an extra lane through the Macquarie/Davey link road, and that seems to have been lost on a number of people. A number of people are falsely claiming that the extra lane only makes the bottleneck worse.

Ms O'CONNOR - Perhaps it's a communication challenge on your part, minister.

Mr FERGUSON - Maybe you are part of the problem when you say things that aren't true.

Ms O'CONNOR - I'm not the one who want to compulsorily acquire a dozen homes or more.

Mr FERGUSON - If you're not prepared to read the book, watch the movie. There is a video which explains the documented proposals. There is an extra lane on the Southern Outlet starting at Olinda Grove but the extra lane is also added to that link road between Macquarie and Davey, so that's it's an integrated end-to-end, which rolls around into Macquarie Street -

Ms O'CONNOR - So more compulsory acquisitions?

Mr FERGUSON - I'd invite you to start letting people know about the genuine solution. Anybody who says that it just makes the bottleneck worse would be repeating something that's not correct.

Ms O'CONNOR - Tell us how to make it better?

Mr BLAKE - To properly answer this question, if we go back in time: we had the big congestion event, I think it was 2015, during Rene Hidding's tenure as infrastructure minister. It was caused by some roadworks happening on the junction between the Tasman Highway and the East Derwent Highway. There was a speed limit reduction which led to a queue going all the way back through town then impacting the Southern Outlet, which gridlocked the city. It brought a lot of attention to the congestion impact and really gave impetus to that whole discussion. As a result, under Allan Garcia, some work was done around the Hobart Transport Vision, which was the first time State Roads, for example, participated in a process where the answer wasn't simply building more stuff -.

Ms O'CONNOR - More roads, which is what we usually get.

Mr BLAKE - Yes, and looking at it from that purely traffic engineering point of view. It was quite revolutionary for the department to be starting to look at things in a way that was more akin to a contemporary city rather than the large town we had come from. There were some conclusions in that you couldn't keep pumping more private motor vehicles into the city. It had to be about moving people more efficiently in and out.

There are some downsides with the alternative, which is to create separate CBDs around the city, which is a different question again.

But, essentially, with the Southern Outlet, because of the topography, you are limited to one option in terms of more efficient transport of people, which was bus transport. We did a fair bit of work around growth rates in the southern area, particularly Kingborough, and what that would mean for increase in traffic. Once the road network -Macquarie Street, we're talking about here - gets to capacity, every single vehicle is just at the end of the queue.

It wasn't very difficult to conclude that with the current growth rates, we'd simply have a queue that went all the way back to Kingston if we kept doing what we were doing. So, it was really about public transport.

The problem with public transport in Tasmania was that we don’t have that history other cities have. It is going to be about behaviour change. When we started looking at behaviour change, we have a strategic macro-economic model which includes behaviour change based on international parameters of how people are making these choices. Essentially, what we had to do to get a public transport change was to set all the settings up to 10. In order to get that outcome, we have to look at more frequent services, we have to look at how we can ensure the bus trips are coming in as smoothly as possible. It will be quality of buses, it will be prices, it will be where the buses are terminating in the city, it will be the quality of the experience, it will be the quality of the bus shelters.

All those things are going to have to be where we will have to put all of our effort over the next 10 years or so, because, ultimately, in terms of that peak commuter problem, it is going to be the only way we can solve it.

After that initial work was done, we then looked at the Southern Outlet, in particular: what we could do to make sure that bus reliability was as good as possible, because we'd come off this period where an incident had gridlocked the city. Essentially, the conclusion to that was you need to somehow try and separate the bus system from the majority of the arterial network so it is running in parallel. It is almost running on its own infrastructure.

In doing that we looked at a variety of options. We looked at contra flow, we looked at cantilevering an extra lane on the eastern side. Of those, the widening of the Southern Outlet on the inside was really the only cost effective option. With the contra flow one, in particular, we were getting traffic backing up into the city because of slow vehicles, which you can imagine. With going on the eastern side, it seems to have had very similar property impacts. It was just different properties. So that was the genesis of it.

Before the election we went and spoke to some residents about it and I think what was said was, 'Your property may be potentially impacted', and that was the message to 17 landowners. There is no doubt that that could have been done a lot better, and we have said that to the residents. The minister himself said, in hindsight, if we were doing it again, we would have done that a lot differently. Since then, we are working with them all one on one. The very clear instruction to us has been that these people ought to be treated as reasonably as we possibly can, which we are doing.

We are dealing with them all one on one at the moment and those discussions are going as well as they can under the very difficult circumstances for those property owners, because some of them have been there since the 1970s and 1980s, and their children have grown up there and are still even living in the neighbourhood.

When the consultants originally looked at that widening, they were looking at it very much from a traffic engineering point of view and what you could do there, as if the traffic engineering outcomes were perhaps the predominant concern. In looking at it now, we can definitely do that a different way. That is what we have been talking about with the residents at the moment. We will be doing that in a way that minimises impacts on homes as much as possible, and I'm hoping to get that number down to a very, very small number.

That will depend on the detailed engineering outcomes because, as I think you can appreciate, in trying to do that as tightly as possible, it will come down to the rock and how the rock is secured, in terms of how far back we need to come.

But I have stood on those front decks with those residents and had a look at the properties, and I am pretty confident we can keep that number down. It is good rock. It is bluestone. I am pretty confident we can keep that number down to a very small number.

Ms O'CONNOR - I want to go back briefly to the fifth lane on the Southern Outlet and then I have another question about light rail. I listened very carefully to Mr Blake's answer and thank you for that comprehensive answer. What I took away from that is that the planning potentially will impact on a smaller number of houses than the original 17. Is that correct? Do you have a number of houses that may need to be compulsorily acquired or properties that may be?

Mr FERGUSON - We'll jointly answer this again. What Mr Blake has articulated, I support. We work very closely on this matter. It's been my position that we minimise impacts on properties. That has been the position for the entire year. The unfortunate reference is around 17 households receiving communications back in March and the incorrect assumption of a number of people that they were all going to lose their homes. That was never the case, but the way the letter was written might have been ambivalent or not clear enough on this. I'm aware of comments that have been made recently that the Government will demolish all 17 houses. Maps have been falsely produced which show a road through 17 houses. I dismiss that out of hand. That's completely wrong and reckless and not correct. It only serves to alarm people.

What Mr Blake, my department and I have been working on is how we can still secure a project scope that delivers the infrastructure needs that are desirable for the extra lane for public transport and vehicles that are full of people, not empty, and make informed decisions about whether the technical specifications require the sorts of widths that engineers would usually advise, given that there are social impacts to take into account. It's with that in mind that the current vision is out for consultation. I'm not prepared to put a number on it today. When I have advice I am prepared to release that. I look forward to doing so. My current advice, which I have been prepared to share with the parliament and again today, is that it is significantly fewer than 17 homes.