Barnett Gov’t Rediscovers Passion For Buses, Light Rail Still In Limbo

Words by: Sinead McKeough

The metro area express (MAX) light rail system originally proposed by former Transport Minister Troy Buswell in 2012 hangs in limbo at present, with the state government announcing a three year deferral on the project.

The project now has a predicted completion date of late 2022.

While the Public Transport Authority website features a claim of the government’s commitment to delivering in full, Premier Colin Barnett has refused to guarantee the MAX project will be built by the promised date.

Budget concerns brought about by increasing costs, rising state debt and declining mining royalties have lead to the apparent shelving of the $2 billion light rail system.

In turn, Transport Minister Dean Nalder has suggested a cheaper alternative – rapid bus transit.

Nalder’s plan, involving high capacity buses running along dedicated bus lanes, is something he believes it would be “irresponsible” not to seriously consider. However, the proposal has already come under fire from multiple sources.

City of Vincent Mayor John Carey has said buses “just won’t cut it” as an alternative, and state opposition leader Mark McGowan argues that a light rail system is integral to the success of ‘metro hubs’ in Perth.

Possibly the most outspoken critic is Shadow Minister for Transport Ken Travers.

Skeptical amidst talks of the turnaround on the MAX proposal and of a potential north-eastern train line, Travers has also been quick to chastise this latest idea.

“Sometimes I think it’s just about not doing anything,” he says. “If they keep talking about plans they don’t have to actually deliver any of the things they promised.”

Though there are many conflicting opinions, the one thing clear in all of this seems to be that Perth in fact does need MAX – or something equally efficient – in order to continue expanding and ultimately become a more liveable city.