NEWCASTLE’S light rail project failed most of the criteria used to assess it in a secret business case the Baird government is refusing to release.
The government has not denied the $510 million project was given a ‘‘green flag’’ for only two of nine criteria against which it was considered, and says light rail is part of a ‘‘broader vision’’ to improve the city and ‘‘can’t be looked at in isolation’’.
Greens MP David Shoebridge has questioned the government on information provided to him on a ‘‘reliable basis’’ about the September 2014 report, titled the ‘‘Newcastle Urban Renewal and Transport Program Stage 2 Final Business Case Urban Renewal and Light Rail Assurance Review Report’’.
The same business case, and a version dated November 2014, was among documents listed as relevant to a recent Newcastle Herald freedom of information request.
But the department has refused several requests for access to the report on the basis of cabinet confidentiality.
According to Mr Shoebridge, the document was prepared by Angus Dawson, Danny Graham and James McIntosh.
The project failed against the ‘value for money’ criteria and got a yellow flag for a string of others.
Mr Dawson was previously the general manager of the former Honeysuckle Development Corporation.
Mr Graham is an academic and former NSW Treasury director of public-private partnerships.
Mr McIntosh is a land-use and transport planner.
Asked if the business case for the project stacked up, a spokesman for Transport minister Andrew Constance said: ‘‘light rail is key to the revitalisation of Newcastle and we’re absolutely committed to getting it built’’.
“However, the project can’t be looked at in isolation.”
‘‘It’s part of a broader vision designed to make the state’s second city an even better place to live, visit and do business with more employment opportunities, more housing, more public space.’’
Mr Shoebridge said that response was an ‘‘admission that there’s been a comprehensive fail on the business case’’.
The government has released business cases for the $16.8 billion Westconnex road and $2 billion Sydney light rail projects.
Meanwhile, the government is pushing ahead with the removal of the existing heavy rail line.