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Emergency Public Transport Planning – Submission to the Inquiry of the Sydney Morning Herald

The Sydney Morning Herald is conducting an inquiry into public transport in Sydney.

This is the summary of my submission:

The 1st phase of peak oil, which started in 2005 at around 74 mb/d and which triggered the GFC in the 2008 oil crunch, has resulted in a demand destruction of 5 mb/d in OECD countries. We are now in a post peak oil world with struggling airlines, downsizing car factories, tight credit markets (peak oil = peak credit) and sovereign debt failures. Only in a growing economy can debts be paid back but an oil dependent economy cannot grow if oil production does not grow. With underlying decline rates of 4% pa in existing, maturing fields the next oil crunch is predicted by 2012 Australia’s crude oil production will decline by 80% over the next 10 years, requiring increasing imports while global oil export markets are shrinking. We are therefore in an emergency situation.

Net capacity additions turn negative in 2012

Instead of a 30 year public transport plan we need a 5-10 year emergency plan which manages to replace long distance car commuting by public transport in the whole Sydney metropolitan region. The task at hand is not a perfect transport plan to accommodate a 6 million city in 30 years but to prepare for the period of declining oil production within the next 5 years, which will entail petrol rationing, car pooling and diesel shortages.

There is no more time and money for expensive rail tunnels, whether heavy rail or metro. The next best solution is electric rail on all freeways/tollways (funded by superannuation) and light rail on all arterial roads (funded by Federal/State governments). But even for this solution time is running out while the NSW government is still going in the wrong direction by planning a 3rd lane on the M2, an extension of the M5 and other road tunnels.

The above requires a completely different time schedule than the one proposed in chapter 2 of the report.

The last defensive line are buses. Immediate decisions are necessary on which fuels/energies Sydney buses will run on, either CNG or electricity from overhead wires, or both, depending on operating conditions in different parts of the city.

A pre-condition for such plans is the acknowledgement by governments of peak oil since 2005, the acceptance that peak oil means the end of our car culture in this coming decade and the realization that we are under time pressure to implement solutions. It is unlikely that governments will come to these conclusions until there is a dramatic, external event like an oil war in the Middle East, another oil price shock or physical oil shortages which can no longer be covered up. The probability of this happening is increasing by the month. At that moment it will be too late.

Download the full submission as PDF file: [download id="26"]

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