The Hills zone, traditionally a safe haven for the SA Liberals, has become politically problematic with Kavel MP Dan Cregan quitting the Government benches and seizing the Speakership as an independent.
His voice adds to that of federal Mayo MP Rebekha Sharkie as critics of the Government’s efforts to address transport woes in the Hills region, particularly after the Liberals abandoned their signature Globelink freight bypass plan.
Infrastructure Minister Corey Wingard told last week’s Adelaide Hills transport forum that his department had costed various passenger rail options that had been referred to the Government’s independent advisory body for further assessment.
But Infrastructure SA chief Jeremy Conway told InDaily the office had been asked to draw up a broader plan for public transport in the region.
“We’ve done a bit of work around trying to understand what the transport options were up to the Hills catchment,” he said.
“We’ve been asked to have a look at that and form an independent view as to the relative feasibility or viability of what the different transport solutions might be up in the Hills, and we’ll be undertaking that over the next couple of months.”
He said recommendations would be handed to Government “before the end of the year”, which would allow them to be incorporated into the Government’s platform ahead of the March state election.
That possibility has been given some urgency since Cregan’s defection, with the Kavel MP frequently citing the Government’s neglect of Hills transport problems – and Globelink’s demise – as major factors in his decision.
Conway said the request predated Cregan’s departure but “we only really started last week”.
“What we’re doing is making sure we really understand what the nature of the problems are – and we’ll look at the various options to try and address those, and form a view of the relative feasibility and viability of those options.”
Sharkie said she met with Infrastructure SA last week to canvass options, which she expected to include an extension of the passenger rail service – after much of the passenger line was closed off in the late-1980s – and an accompanying emphasis on new Park ‘n’ Rides, with the existing facility at Crafers already overloaded.
“I’m really pleased they’re doing the work,” she said.
“I can’t go to [federal Infrastructure Minister] Barnaby Joyce… and say ‘hey, can you please get us some money’ as we don’t have any costings [so] if Infrastructure SA is doing this work and puts forward these projects to Infrastructure Australia, it then makes my job much easier to talk to the Prime Minister about getting some of that project money onto our list.”
She said she had also raised the prospect of flexible lanes for Glen Osmond Rd to manage traffic flow at peak times.
Sharkie said she would expect the recommendations to be adopted by the State Government.
“They’d be silly not to… I think they recognise the worth of this – this is going to be a regional metropolis,” she said of the Mount Barker area, which has suffered “growing pains” since its controversial development plan was green-lit under the former Labor Government.
“This is work that should have been done some time ago – but at least they’re turning their mind to it,” she said.
“It’s been recognised we’re behind in infrastructure needs… at some point you can’t afford not to do that work.”
She said her job was “to go and fight for the money once its costed”.
“We’re one step closer to it being costed now,” she said.
Conway said he was “specifically looking at what the public transport needs are for the Hills and the growing catchment around there” but it was “too early to form a view yet”.
“We’ve done a bit of work looking at everything that’s been done [but] it’s too early to say any option is making its way to the top yet.”
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