James Thomson Editor

James Thomson is the editor of BRW. Previously he was editor and publisher of SmartCompany and a senior editor at Business Spectator. He writes regularly on Australia's wealthiest entrepreneurs and has deep expertise in small business and the mid market.

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What’s driving Queensland? Answers needed after another toll road collapse

Published 20 February 2013 07:31, Updated 21 February 2013 07:27

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What’s driving Queensland? Answers needed after another toll road collapse

Brisbane’s Airport Link toll road has been placed into administration after just seven months. Photo: Glenn Hunt

Don’t the good drivers of Brisbane get it? Do they not understand the incredible infrastructure that has been put in front of them?

Do they not want to feel the unique sensation of speeding along on a new road? Do they like getting stuck in traffic jams?

These are the only conclusions to be reached from the collapse of toll road operator BrisConnections, which has been placed in the hands of administrators and now receivers after it failed to generate the traffic needed on Brisbane’s new Airport Link toll road to pay its interest bill on debts of $3 billion.

Incredibly, the road has only been open for seven months. And the collapse of BrisConnections comes after Brisbane’s first major tunnel project, the Clem Jones Tunnel, was placed into receivership after missing its traffic forecasts by a county (or even tollway) mile.

Investors in the Clem Jones Tunnel, which was like Airport Link a private-public partnership, have already taken legal action against the company that made the traffic projections for the tunnel.

A similar fate could await Arup, the company behind the projections for Airport Link.

That gap between the dream and the reality is large. Arup’s original traffic numbers predicted traffic would steadily increase to 179,276 a day after six months, 186,117 after 12 months and 195,378 after 15 months.

But traffic figures for December showed an average of 47,102, down from 53,313 in November.

Even allowing for the fact that Christmas holidays would have dragged traffic numbers down, this is well short of the 135,000 target set by BrisConnections and the ones that form the basis of the company’s business plan.

Are the toll roads too expensive? Are drivers refusing to change their habits? Are the traffic problems on alternative roads not as bad as first thought?

Whatever the case, one thing is for sure – investors and potentially the courts may demand to know a lot more about the driving habits of Queenslanders.

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