Cameron Hepburn

6 March 2007

Brisbane Times – Striking, but today it might not be built bridge

Cameron Hepburn

SYDNEY might never have got its iconic bridge if public-private partnerships had come to NSW early last century.

Private firms would probably have scoffed at a tender to build and run the Harbour Bridge. Even if one had been found, it would have gone broke.

That is the conclusion of new economic modelling obtained by the Herald on the use of the bridge since it opened 75 years ago this month.

The bridge did not generate a positive cash flow until 28 years after construction began in 1924, the analysis, done for the NSW Business Chamber, found.

Many modern PPP road projects in NSW, including the troubled Cross City Tunnel, switch to public ownership after about 30 years.

Demand to cross the harbour in the 1930s was swamped by the huge capacity of the bridge. It carried just 10,900 users a day in 1932 compared with about 160,000 vehicles a day now.

Cameron Hepburn, an Oxford University economist and specialist in cost benefit analysis, said long-term non-monetary benefits of infrastructure projects are often overlooked.