Date: June 29 2012
INVESTORS expect BrisConnections' $5.6 billion Airport Link to ''miss by a long way'' its traffic forecasts despite it tempting motorists by extending the toll-free period for the Brisbane road.
BrisConnections, the listed operator of the 6.7-kilometre toll road, has released details of its charges for the first 15 months, highlighting the importance of longer toll-free periods and smaller increases in charges during the ramp-up phase.
The decision to extend the discounting will cost BrisConnections millions of dollars in revenue in the first 15 months. Once it opens late next month, motorists will be able to use the road free for the first three months provided they have a valid toll-road account. The introductory tolls for cars during the first six months will range from $2 to $2.50, and it will offer other discounts until October next year.
Andrew Chambers, a research analyst at Legg Mason, said BrisConnections' discounting strategy, aimed at allowing motorists to become familiar with the road, was sensible because the biggest errors made by new toll-road operators had been during the introductory phase. But he said investors still expected it to struggle to meet traffic forecasts.
BrisConnections, through its traffic forecaster Arup, has predicted the Airport Link will attract about 135,000 vehicles a day just a month after it opens, rising to 291,000 vehicles in 2026.
BrisConnections is sticking to forecasts for the Airport Link, which includes reaching about 165,000 vehicles a day by the end of the ramp-up period.
Chief executive Ray Wilson said yesterday the forecasts were ''eminently achievable given the economic characteristics of this road'', which was more like Melbourne's CityLink and Sydney's Eastern Distributor than Brisbane's failed Clem7 tunnel.
Airport Link was due to be completed by the end of this month but under the latest schedule from Leighton Holdings, whose subsidiary is building the tunnel and road, it will not hand over the project until July 27 at the earliest. It will then be a day or two before BrisConnections opens it to motorists.
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