long after the rain stopped on Christmas Day, the office bell rang.
It was, as I expected, Old Possum.
Christmas, you clapped-out old marsupial! Come up and have a cider",
I said. He chuckled to himself as he hobbled slowly up the stairs.
café was closed and Joadja had laid out some Christmas cheer
on a nice old batik tablecloth spread over the desk.
stopped for a while to watch the traffic on the Eastern Distributor.
Very interesting, very interesting", Old Possum said. "I'd
say southbound traffic has already reached capacity, but the toll-paying
traffic going north is another question altogether".
I helped with 'The Peoples' Count' the other day", Jo said, pulling
up the comfy office chair for Old Possum. "We counted 23,494 vehicles
and the next day the Airport Motorway spokesman said they had 23,280,
so we were conservatively correct.
you factor in weekends and public holidays, I reckon that'd be a weekly
average of less than 20,000 vehicles a day, which is income of $60,000
a day. That's about $22 million a year. That'd be pretty healthy if
it was a small chain of coffee-and-muffin shops, but this is a $700
million project with $500 million worth of debt. Just the interest payments
would be costing them $40 million a year. Then there's over $9 million
a year to Leightons for operating the road. That's already $50 million
and we haven't said anything about repaying the loan itself. How are
they ever going to give anything to the investors?"
poured herself another bubbly and Old possum took a swig of his cider.
might take years to get to average daily toll-paying traffic of 40,000",
Joadja went on. "The traffic going south is almost twice the volume
of the traffic going north through the toll-booths, which gives you
an idea how resistant motorists are to paying the $3 toll. But okay,
let's assume that toll-paying traffic doubles to 40,000 a day, that's
revenue of $44 million, but at that point the bugger will be gridlocked
in the peak hour. You should have seen the toll-booth queues at eight
and I mean, if you were driving to the city from the airport, you'd
be halfway there via O'Riordan Street in the time it took you to get
onto the Distributor, lights or no lights or you could go through Newtown,
which is much more interesting", I mused, dipping a rice cracker
in some basil pesto.
when they open the William Street exit in May next year, things might
get worse rather than better. A few motorists entering at Moore Park
Road will cross the stream of traffic to exit at William Street. You
only get a few seconds to do that and I reckon it'll be dangerous to
do at speed, and in peak hour they'll be crawling along asking other
motorists to let them cross over. That'll slow the traffic down even
laughed. "And what about the Telegraph's campaign to make motorists
who don't use the thing look like dole cheats!" That'll come undone
as soon as they bludgeon a few thousand quote-unquote toll avoiders
onto the motorway. The north-bound lanes will congest immediately. I
can't wait until people come back to work in February and traffic builds
what do you reckon the Airport Motorway mob will do?"
Possum twisted the top off another cider. "Well, they've got a
few options", he said. "They could go back to the government
and ask for a handout of about $30 million a year, or they could ask
for tolls on southbound traffic, or the government might pay them shadow
tolls but any of those would be political dynamite. No, whichever way
you look at it, I reckon it'll be a political debacle."