Tasmanian Government logo
Department of
State Growth



PricewaterhouseCoopers Reports on Hobart Light Rail Proposal

In 2013, PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) was engaged to complete a Strategic Assessment, Preliminary Planning and an assessment of the Wider Economic Benefits & Funding and Financing Options for the Hobart Light Rail Proposal.  PwC concluded that:

Hobart's 'suburban sprawl' has created a situation of car dependency which impacts most significantly on the socially disadvantaged, including the increasingly aged population.

The development of dispersed suburban and peri-urban settlements has resulted in a polycentric city, with Hobart CBD lacking the scale and diversity necessary to support strong economic development.

Providing light rail services on the northern suburbs rail corridor has the potential to reduce car dependency by:

  • providing a high quality, frequent, reliable, fast public transport option; and
  • Supporting better value land use through high density and mixed use development along the northern suburbs corridor.

Light rail would also stimulate denser mixed use development along the corridor in the activity centres of Glenorchy and Moonah and provide stimulus for development in the Hobart CBD to increase its scale and diversity, thereby improving Hobart's and Tasmania's economy.

The PwC notes that the Stage 1 Light Rail Business Case - Hobart to Glenorchy 2013 indicates that providing light rail services between Hobart and Glenorchy (with a stop at Moonah) augmented by feeder bus services is capable of delivering a Benefit Cost Ratio of 1.12. However readers should be aware that  the  2013  Business Case which was prepared by ACIL-Tasman included a notation that the BCR  of 1.12 was based on some input assumptions that are 'non-standard'.   Adopting the "standard" value for the relevant parameter with greatest effect (the transfer penalty), produces a  benefit cost ratio of zero.  The Business Case further highlights that the results are very sensitive to the value of travel time used.

The PwC reports note that the extension of the service to the iconic Museum of Old and New (MONA) would be likely to provide additional patronage, and the service could be later extended along the rail corridor as far north as Brighton.

PwC notes that there is a risk that the Hobart Light Rail project will not address the identified problems if

  • Hobart's economic disadvantages such as lack of scale cannot be overcome by the initiative;
  • Extant conditions favouring car use (such as availability of free/cheap parking, lack of reliable, fast public transport options, low density urban form) persist.
  • Land use policies are not adjusted to encourage denser urban and mixed use development along the northern suburbs corridor.

In terms of generating wider economic benefits, a light rail service is not expected to directly deliver significant benefits over and above the benefits that may be generated by alternative approaches to fixing the identified problems. This is because the problems are not specifically related to capacity constraints on the public transport network and the current land use density in the northern corridor is not supportive of high capacity public transport. Over time, policy changes and long-term investment in the corridor could increase the potential for HLR to generate wider economic benefits subject to demand for travel and the attributes of competing mode choices.

Taking into account the risks outlined above and the relatively high cost of light rail, it is considered that in the short term (and as initial steps), the most cost effective way to begin to address the identified problems are to:

  • Implement strategies to reduce 'urban sprawl' and increase urban density, particularly on key corridors. This will make it more cost effective to deliver high quality public transport services to a greater proportion of the population, thereby increasing access and reducing car dependency.
  • Improve the quality of bus services on key corridors, which will increase public transport mode share.

Implementing these strategies (as set out more fully below) will create conditions that are more conducive to the financing and delivery of light rail and to the ultimate resolution of the problems of car dependency and Hobart's lack of economic scale.  Light rail has high potential as a means of addressing the identified problems.  Accordingly, it is strategically appropriate for the efforts of Government and other stakeholders to be focused on creating the right conditions for the successful implementation and ongoing success of light rail on the corridor.

Highest value short term (first step) options for addressing the identified problems are considered to be:

Land Use Planning Strategies

  • Implementation of an urban growth boundary to facilitate a more sustainable urban form (in place)
  • Encourage infill development (work completed to identify enablers and barriers) particularly along transit corridors, and with a high degree of focus on the northern suburbs corridor.
  • Encourage intensification of employment hubs in Hobart and along the northern suburbs corridor, requiring cooperation between state and local government to attract business into these centres.
  • Public Housing policies that focus on generating social and affordable housing close to employment opportunities, services and strong public transport corridors (in progress)
  • Streamlining the development approval process for infill housing, thus lowering barriers for developers by minimising delays, and increasing certainty about such developments.

Governance

  • Greater cooperation between the State and local governments in relation to land use planning to promote more sustainable land use (in progress).
  • Greater cooperation between the State Government, the Hobart City Council  and the University of Tasmania to bring a greater  UTAS presence into the CBD with a view to invigorating the CBD (in progress)

Public Transport

  • Develop and implement public transport service standards to support more efficient provision of high quality public transport.
  • Develop a simplified bus network to improve the quality of transport by focusing on high frequency corridor services, improved total journey times, reduced waiting times, and regular operation over a wide span of hours.
  • Improved bus frequency on key corridors.
  • Develop a 3-stop express bus service between Glenorchy/MONA and Hobart, including provision of bus priority measures, to provide a fast, reliable commuter service.

Development of Transit Corridors (high frequency bus services along corridors, with higher density mixed use development) to make it easier for people to use public transport to access services, employment and education.  In the northern suburbs this will assist in strengthening the corridor and building public transport demand, thus creating an environment for a genuinely effective investment in light rail.

The full PwC reports are attached below.