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Libs promise right-hand tram turn

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Steven Marshall says a Liberal Government would build a right-hand turn for trams onto North Terrace but the rest of his plan for the tram network will remain a mystery for a few more days.

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The Government has come under fire for building a tram intersection that doesn’t allow commuters to turn right from King William Street into North Terrace to access the East End.

Last year Labor rejected what was then, as InDaily revealed, a $20 million proposal to include the right-hand turn as part of its redevelopment of the intersection to accommodate the new tram along North Terrace.

Marshall told reporters at a press conference this morning that Labor rejected the right-hand turn because that would have pushed completion of the project out beyond the state election on March 17.

“It was in their original design but they pulled it out because they knew they couldn’t get it done in time for an election,” Marshall said.

“They were more concerned about getting this tram (running) before the election than doing the job right in the first instance.

“The Liberal Party is going to fix Labor’s tram mess and do it in the first term of a Liberal Government … in the first 12 months.”

 Marshall described the omission of a right-hand turn as an “embarrassment for South Australia” and that “there are plenty of tram systems that turn right around the world”.

The Labor Party wants to phase out all turning actions on the North Terrace/King William Street intersection – to maximise traffic flow for other vehicles.

The Government’s CityLINK consultation documents say there would be about 60 trams traversing the key intersection at peak periods, and that turning actions would impede the commute for the approximately 60,000 vehicles and several thousand pedestrians that cross it each day.

Asked whether he knew what impact his right-hand turn proposal would have on traffic flow, Marshall did not say.

He said he wouldn’t be relying on “any figures put out by the Labor Government”.

“I don’t trust any modelling that this government has ever done with regards to traffic flow,” he said.

“We’ve heard that they’ve said that it’s going to increase traffic congestion well let me tell you, trams turn right in cities right around the world – cities that are much larger than South Australia.”

Marshall said the Liberal Party’s policy had been “properly costed” at $37 million.

But the Parliamentary Budget Office costing document he relies on for that figure is of “low reliability”, the document itself says.

“This costing is considered to be of low reliability and detailed costing will need to be undertaken to deliver a better cost estimate,” the costing document, sought and released by the SA Greens, says.

In sending the document to Greens Leader Mark Parnell, Parliamentary Budget Officer John Hill gave the disclaimer that: “it would take considerable time and resources to produce a better estimate for the cost of this project, not least because of the significant risks associated with the geometry of the intersection”.

“In these circumstances I interpret my role as to provide the best estimate I can in a reasonable time and not to put Government agencies to a great deal time and expense in order to refine the estimate,” the email says.

“The attached estimate is therefore based on preliminary concepts and has a relatively low level of reliability. It contains a significant allowance for uncertainties.”

Parnell told InDaily he still believed the lack of a right hand turn to be a “missed opportunity” and that even if the tram tracks were laid for a right hand turn and it “was never used, we haven’t lost too much”.

“If we decide later we did need it it will cost a fortune to retrofit, not to mention the inconvenience.”

Asked whether he would provide any further detail on his plans for the tram network, Marshall told reporters this morning they would have to wait for a few days.

But: “It’s a good plan.”

“I know you’re all excited about our public transport plan,” he added.

“It’s a good plan, it’s a sensible plan and it starts today with fixing Labor’s tram mess.”

Marshall’s Transport spokesperson David Pisoni took a similar tack when asked to clarify whether the Liberal Party would build a grand junction – where trams can turn in all directions – at the key intersection as part of its policy.

“That will be clarified when we release that plan,” he said.

The interaction continued:

REPORTER: Today, making this announcement, you can’t say if you’re going to put tracks in every direction … around this intersection.

PISONI: We can say, but we’re not saying today.

REPORTER: Why are you holding a press conference?

PISONI: Well, we’re holding a press conference because we’re telling you that we’re putting the right-hand turn in … and we’ll be releasing further details of our public transport policy in the coming days.

Pisoni later clarified in a phone interview with InDaily that the Liberal Party would definitely not install a grand junction at the intersection.

He said a right-hand turn there would be important for commuters coming from Glenelg who want to access the east end of the city.

He acknowledged that the $37 million costing had “low-reliability”, but argued the costing was reliable because it came from the Parliamentary Budget Office.

Pisoni questioned why the Government had not put out its full $4 million business plan for its expanded tram network AdeLINK.

“There’s only nine days to the election and they still haven’t released the this document,” he said.

“They said they would release it.”

InDaily has asked Labor Transport Minister Stephen Mullighan’s office for a response.

Pisoni suggested the Government’s claims about impeded traffic flow as a result of tram turning actions on North Terrace could not be trusted because they hadn’t released the business case.

“They want to be able to make claims without being able to substantiate them,” he said.

He said South Australians could not have an informed debate without that business plan.

But the Liberal Party’s own plans were staying secret for a little while longer.

“We’ll be releasing our full public transport plan in the coming days,” he said.

Last week, the Government released several consultation documents for its own tram plans – one for a city tram loop, another for a tram to O’Connell Street and yet another for a tramline to Norwood (up The Parade, down Osmond Terrace and up Magill Road).

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