Michael Pascoe writes:

There’s a touch of desperation in Premier
Dilemma’s attempts to claim the temporary price cut by Sydney’s Cross City
Tunnel as some sort of victory. It’s
only for three months and the election is much further away than that.

More importantly, halving the toll and
scrapping a couple of bus lanes doesn’t achieve anything to solve the main
problem – the gridlock the ill-considered deal has created on Sydney’s eastern
aside. None of the closed off roads are being re-opened, even the ones that are
controlled by the state government and would carry no financial penalty.

The joke about the cross-eyed tunnel is
that it seems everyone loses. Well, not quite everyone. It looks like Macquarie
Bank, the MTAA super fund and their fellow investors in the Eastern Distributor
are winners.

Motorists, the government and the investors
in the Cross City are all losers, but it looks like the changes for this disaster are
forcing more people to use the Eastern Distributor at $4.50 a pop heading
north. If time wasn’t crucial out of peak hours, there used to be a reasonable
alternative route to the Eastern Distributor from the airport to the harbour
bridge. Road closures for the Cross City have
wiped them out, forcing would-be rat-runners well out of their way up onto the
permanently clogged Macquarie
Street. Even such
notorious tight-ar*es as me are being forced to give Macquarie Infrastructure
Group money.

The latest traffic figures for MIG suggest
I’m not alone. January traffic for the Eastern Distributor was up 5.6 per cent
on the previous corresponding month. Most tellingly, weekend and public holiday
traffic – when time would appear least crucial – was up 6 per cent.

That increase is despite the toll being
boosted to $4.50, meaning average daily revenue is up a whopping 18 per cent.
With normal market forces, you might expect a higher cost to weaken supply.

While so much focus is on the Cross City
Tunnel, it should not be forgotten what a gold mine Bob Carr’s government
created for the Eastern Distributor owners. That toll increases by the greater
of the CPI, average weekly earnings or 1 per cent per quarter – the best of any
world. Yes, it’s much better to be in Macquarie Bank than on Macquarie Street.

Peter Fray

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