CPDS Home Contact Professionalism: Chronological Summary  Brisbane's Transport Monster (2008)

11 October 2006

Mr Des Houghton

'Newman digs in to save a city' - but who is going to save the city from Newman?

I would like to comment on your enthusiastic endorsement of Lord Mayor Campbell Newman's multi-billion-$ tunnelling solution to Brisbane's transport woes.

Individual elements of a transport network (such as the North South Tunnel) can not be a solution to anything - because the development of the network as a whole is critical to the benefits of any specific link (ie without interconnecting roads of adequate capacity, the proposed tunnels (or any other specific links) might simply become sources of congestion by attracting traffic which other roads can't handle).

Thus to really solve the transport problem, surely it is more important for political leaders to concentrate on creating institutions which year-in-year-out can effectively identify and implement hundreds of inter-related initiatives? 'Heroic' political efforts to push individual 'projects' along dubious new channels to bypass dysfunctional institutions seems a naive approach to developing infrastructure. This point is developed in more detail on Focusing on projects is a bad way of developing infrastructure or the public sector . Furthermore the Public Private Partnership model (which is the mechanism proposed for these various tunnels) apparently introduces traps for novices - including making further development of the transport network more difficult (see Public-Private Partnerships for Infrastructure ).

Moreover the fact that politicians believe that it is their responsibility to champion particular 'projects' means that possibly better alternatives get little attention. For example, RACQ proposals for congestion charging should presumably be considered as a serious option for easing transport problems, because by applying such charges some cities have apparently found that (a) traffic volumes are signifcantly reduced (b) public transport use increases - making better services more economical (c) air pollution can be reduced and (d) net savings can be achieved.

An earlier email, 'Better Leadership of Queensland is Impossible without Administrative Renewal', offers more general observations about the need for renewal of administrative machinery and for less political 'heroics' if the dysfunctions currently afflicting government in Queensland are to be corrected


John Craig