The debate has raged since the 90's. Some misconceptions have stuck, some simply do not apply. Find the real answers here to keep you and your family informed.
01. Why a cable car? Have alternatives been considered?
In 2011 an endeavour was undertaken to identify and resolve the existing and long term forecast issues surrounding access and amenity on kunanyi/Mount Wellington. This study concluded that a commercial, private sector solution was more appropriate than a government funded exercise due to economic and social conditions. A terms of reference was established to look into every plausible transport technology that could scale the height of kunanyi/Mount Wellington.
Building on the 2009 Sustainable Transport Study commissioned by the Wellington Park Management Trust, consideration for a Funicular, Aerial Cable Car, Cog-Railway, Light-rail, Shuttle Buses and All-terrain vehicles were examined in closer detail. Lines of communication were opened with various operators and manufacturers of these systems to obtain factual and relevant technical limitations. The build costs, operating costs and maintenance of each system were forensically compared, as was the noise emissions, carbon emissions, system capacity, turn-around time, queue length and wait times each system offered. Ride comfort and tourism experience ratings were also determining factors.
Systematically, a process of elimination that tested the technical, economic and environmental factors of each transport option narrowed. Aerial cableway won this contest hands down when tested on all parameters and community expectations.
A Cable Car, done well, has been deemed appropriate for consideration and in principle is entirely consistent with the current Wellington Park Management Plan.
MORE ON: CABLE CARS
02. What facilities will be at the top?
MWCC's proposal includes a 'Pinnacle Centre' that will house a raft of public and commercial facilities. These include:
PUBLIC FACILITIES: •Visitor/interpretation centre, •Educational tour operator, • New observational platform • New, enclosed 24/7 accessible emergency shelter • New toilets and parenting rooms, • Park rangers office/storage • Rubbish & recycling bins • CCTV and overnight security
COMMERCIAL FACILITIES: • All day cafe •Restaurant / function venue • Tasmanian wine and whisky bar • Sports lockers & Gift Shop
Our proposal includes the cost of building and maintaining the public facilities. There is no entry fee into the Pinnacle Centre, and all visitors traveling by road to the summit will be welcome.
03. Where will it start?
Our proposal has been carefully crafted to minimise visual impact and disruption from crosswinds, whilst maximising environmental benefits and the visitor experience. After an in-depth study in 2012/13 assessing nine potential route alignments against climatic, geographic and social conditions given to us from our phase 1 public consultation process, the most optimal alignment from the summit runs East-West from South Hobart.
Our Base Station is proposed to sit just inside the boundary of Wellington Park, on an existing clearing along the Main Fire Trail. This spot allows for the most optimal alignment to have no more than a single tower near the summit, that also sits below the skyline when viewed from the city.
Two other frequently suggested starting locations have included The Springs and Tolosa. Our response to these is as follows:
- Our study concluded that The Springs route would require too many large towers across the face and on top of the mountain and would financially struggle without road use restrictions.
- The Glenorchy City Council have granted MWCC conditional landowner consent to further investigate Tolosa, and we also have private landowner options in the vicinity. Preliminary analysis suggests more towers visible on the skyline than our optimal route, and would overall be more susceptible to suspensions due to excessive exposure to the prevailing westerly winds.
04. How much will a ticket cost?
MWCC has formally announced that Tasmanians will benefit with special pricing, with a Family return ticket costing just $64 for 2 Adults and all dependant children under the age of 17.
Further ticket prices will be announced after planning approval, with a wide ticket choice available including one way, concessions and season passes for the outdoor enthusiast.
Standard tickes will be valid for 24 hours whilst season passes will be available to provide unlimited one-way or return access for outdoor enthusiasts during a valid season.
05. How fast will it be?
Our Skytrams can complete a one-way journey in just over 5.7 minutes at top speed. However, our planned operating schedule is to depart every 15 minutes which allows 2 minutes of loading time and 13 minutes of quiet, spectacular transit. This allows visitors to cherish the experience of their journey ascending the mountain, whilst learning some of its wonderful heritage from our friendly onboard cabin attendant.
06. What are the proposed opening times?
MWCC is set to provide flexible operating hours to align with daylight hours, snowfall, public holidays and special events. For example, we expect to operate continuously through dawn on New Years Eve/Day. On average we anticipate the following schedule:
- 9 hours per weekday in winter,
- 10 hours per weekend day in winter,
- 13 hours per weekday in summer.
- 14 hours per weekend day in summer
07. How many people can it move per hour?
Whilst we only expect to carry 60-70 people per hour on average, our proposed system is designed to carry a maximum of 650 people per hour per direction (1300 people per hour if counting both directions). This limit provides ease of access on the mountain's busiest days, such as sporting events, two cruise ships are simultaneously docked in Hobart or when a large dump of fresh snow is followed by a weekend of sunny blue skies!
This capacity also allows two school classes to keep together with their teachers and minders, and offers flexibility to freight supplies and waste on and off the mountain.
08. How many towers will it need, and how high?
Cableway towers come in many shapes and sizes. We’ve designed our cable car system to achieve the lightest footprint on the Earth as possible.
From our Base Station just inside Wellington Park, we propose just 3 towers to reach the proposed Pinnacle Centre. Two towers are located close to the base in the lower foothills to lift the cabins above the forest canopy as quickly as possible. These towers will protrude above the forest canopy some 15 metres.
From there, our proposal features a 2.1km single span up the mountain face, providing zero footprint between tower 2 in the foothills and the final tower 3 near the top, just below the proposed Pinnacle Centre.
Tower heights vary according to the existing forest canopy and will generally decrease with height above sea level. Existing towers on and around the mountain include the Broadcast Australia 'stick' at 131 metres, WIN TV tower at 90metres, and the Chimney Pot Hill radio tower at 71 metres. Our highest tower will be just 36 metres tall. Importantly, this height keeps the tower BELOW the skyline when seen from the city. Other routes to the North or South would require several towers near the summit and other explored options would require these to be seen above the skyline.
Aesthetics of the towers will be considered in more detail as we progress further. Like other tourism cableways such as Skyrail in Queensland, it is envisaged that camouflage paint may be used to blend their appearance further with the natural environment.
09. What is the wind speed limit?
Wind direction is just as important as speed. Our proposal has been carefully designed to be predominately sheltered from the prevailing westerly winds. Whilst head-winds aren't a concern for the Skytram and the Gondola is reasonably sheltered below a ridge-line, it is the northerly cross-winds that we'll be actively monitoring. 40+ years of weather data suggest winds above our manufacturer's safety limit will occur at around 2.25% of our operating schedule.
We've established an operational limit of 80km/h N/NW as a comfort threshold and used the historical frequency of this occurring in our business model. This threshold is lower than the system manufacturer's limit and will be adjusted if required once operational.
10. Will there be a 'Scar'?
No. A corridor of cleared vegetation, similar to the requirements of high-voltage transmission lines, is not required under the cableway. The social conditions impressed upon MWCC by the Tasmanian public clearly state that for our project to be socially acceptable we must not clear swathes of vegetation up the mountain face. And why would we want that anyway?
In response, our proposal will carry visitors high above the forest canopy rather than through it. This requires taller towers but substantially reduces the overall visual impact from near or far. See question 8 above.
We have also employed the general manager responsible for delivering Skyrail, an global award-winning ecotourism attraction across a World Heritage rainforest near Cairns, Queensland. Mike rewrote the book on how to build cableways in sensitive environments and shares our ethos for showcasing - rather than exploiting - the environment we seek to protect.
Minimising our environmental footprint has been a very important factor and so our engineering team have come up with an impressive solution that not only floats above the forest canopy, but also has significantly reduced the number of towers required since the previous proponent. This optimal solution is technically possible on Mount Wellington specifically because of the steep vertical rise offered by the Organ Pipes.
In response to rock-climber concerns, and adopting the advice from other seasoned operators, MWCC does not intend to apply lubricant to the system cables. Whilst this shortens the life-cycle of our cables it negates any chance of oil dripping on climbing routes directly below the system. This ensures our environmental and recreational impact is benign.
11. What about the skyline?
We aim to not just protect it, but restore it where possible. This issue is so important for us that we took the extraordinary step of requesting an amendment to the Wellington Park Management Plan in 2014 to adjust the boundary of the Pinnacle Zone. This was to ensure the planning scheme properly aligned with what the community have told us they want and was successfully ratified on the 4th Nov 2015.
In addition, it is worth remembering that even prior to 1st January 2014 when there were no planning guidelines in place, MWCC adopted a challenge given to us by the community: - Ensure the summit facility won’t impose on the skyline when looking at the mountain from the city. We pushed ourselves further; to find a way to ensure the facility doesn’t restrict the view when looking at the city from the top of the mountain.
MORE ON:VISUAL IMPACT
12. Will the road need to be closed or restricted?
No. Our phase 1 and 2 public consultation activities clearly asked us to ensure our business model required no changes to the management of Pinnacle Road. This key criteria played an important role in our assessments of alternative transport systems and is a key reason why, through a process of elimination to determine which transport method could co-exist with the road, that an Aerial Cableway system was ultimately chosen to complement our project.
Together, the road and our cableway provide an improved reliability of access to the pinnacle year round. Furthermore, for the economics of our overall project we would want to ensure the maximum number of people can dine at our Pinnacle Centre, and this can only be achieved by ensuring road access remains free and open to all.
13. How does it compare to 'doing nothing'?
In times of peak demand/visitation to the mountain, the cableway can excel at offering comparable hassle-free transport without the congestion, emissions or queues currently experienced on the road. At a maximum capacity of 650per hour, our Preliminary Proposal is designed to cater for twice the record daily number of visitors. (August 2010).
Environmentally, the inclusion of a cable car on kunanyi / Mount Wellington is set to reduce the road vehicle count significantly year round. Our projections estimate up to 60% fewer cars and buses in Wellington Park once operational. For every vehicle removed from the road, the net environmental impact is a reduction on the 1100 tonnes of carbon currently emitted transporting people to and from the top.
We are already in positive talks with many tour bus operators who are likely to abandon driving to the summit in favour of servicing the base terminal. The positive impact here is safer, quieter road use for cyclists, other motorists and residents along Huon Road and Pillinger Drive.
Less traffic also reduces the risk of wildlife ending up as roadkill, especially after dark.
There is little to consider as a status quo. Pinnacle Drive was built in an era where motorised traffic volumes & future growth were not a key concern. To upgrade this road to modern AusRoads standards to add another 75 years lifespan would require significant widening at government expense. Cut & fill civil earthworks all along the 12km length to the summit, predominately on the visible mountain face, would ultimately result in a great deal of disturbance to the natural environment (and severely limit access during its reconstruction). It took decades of natural vegetation to regrow and hide 'Ogilvie’s Scar'; and it would take several more to hide any new such works. Upgrades to Pinnacle Drive (to improve its safety, accessibility and/or lifespan) would be a direct impost on public funds and would take away much needed funds from other (more) high-priority government expenditure.
14. How much will it cost to build?
The total calculated cost for the entire proposal including the cable cars and facilities at the pinnacle centre, mid-station park and brewery site upgrades is in excess of $50 million. Included is a $6 million budget for public infrastructure upgrades such as new, safer and compliant boardwalks at the pinnacle.
15. What about Maintenance?
Maintenance, Safety and associated funding will be managed in accordance with best practice protocols established by the Swiss Federal Office of Transport; Bundesamt für Verkehr BAV and as adopted in Australia. AS per comparable operators in Australia, New Zealand and South Africa, MWCC will set aside and deposit a percentage of revenue each year into a Capital Reserve Trust Fund (CRTF) as a way to amortize the cost of maintenance over the long term.
Our CRTF account then covers all minor annual maintenance, major 12 to 15 year rolling maintenance and upgrades as well as refurbishments, ensuring a sustainable business practice.
It is likely that annual maintenance on the entire system will occur across a few days in late May to coincide with historically lower visitor numbers, and before popular winter festivals commence.
16. How is the project financed?
The project is privately funded by its founders and predominantly Tasmanian shareholders and share option holders. They consist of a number of high net worth individuals, family trusts and private sector companies.
Our most recent Capital Raise in September 2016 achieved a fantastic 32% oversubscribed result, expanding upon our first raise in October 2015. Additional shares will be offered for sale in future funding rounds upon project milestones. There is currently a waiting list of Australian investors.
17. Can anyone buy shares?
Not at this stage. Mount Wellington Cableway Company Pty Limited (MWCC) is a privately held enterprise. As we are not a publicly-listed company on the ASX, shares are not for sale to the general public..
Anyone genuinely interested in joining our investment waiting list or making a bequest is more than welcome to contact our CFO and Compliance Director.
18. Is the Government expected to pay for this?
No. MWCC is not seeking government assistance to pay for any component of the commercial venture.
Furthermore, our adoption of the highest maintenance, standards and safety protocols set by the Swiss Federal Office of Transport; Bundesamt für Verkehr (BAV) will ensure our business model is self-sustainable for the long term (as do our comparable operators who have been in business for decades). This means Tasmanian taxpayers will not be left with a liability.
19. Is it viable?
Comprehensive feasibility initially conducted by Riser + Gain has been analysed by several business analysts as well as tourism, cableway and construction industry experts - all without fault. In October 2016 the Tasmanian Development Board conducted an independent and comprehensive analysis of the business case for the State Government.
Furthermore, financial due diligence has been performed by several seasoned investors and their financial advisers before purchasing shares in MWCC (some of these financial advisers have even bought shares).
Noteworthy is the fact the feasibility study strictly used current and historical tourism visitation data in Hobart & Tasmania only, not projected forecasts, along with a variety of other overly conservative cost measures and worst case scenarios.
Research data, financial modelling, breakeven analysis and the business plan are considered core Intellectual Property (IP) of MWCC and will not be publicly disclosed for commercial reasons.
20. What happens if it fails financially?
If this venture fails to provide an adequate return on investment for our shareholders, several options can be actioned. As a last resort, the system will be decommissioned and dismantled with costs paid for by our Capital Reserve Trust Fund (CRTF). Parts will be sold on the global second-hand ski-lift market.
Nonetheless, it is incredibly rare for a cable car system to shut-down due to economic factors. Most decommissioning occurs where cable cars have been installed as a temporary attraction for sporting events, festivals or international exhibitions. Members of our project team have been involved in a number of installations and relocations for these purposes and understand the process well.
21. How does the rest of Hobart benefit?
Respected economist Saul Eslake has endorsed a robust macro-economic impact report written by 42 South Consulting, which points to MWCC boosting the broader economy by $79-99 million per annum. Notably, MWCC can reduce seasonality of the tourism industry, which helps drive more resilient market appeal and fills hotel rooms through Hobart's slower winter months.
Historical visitation data for the mountain shows a 2nd peak period in late winter/early spring due to the onset of snow. This second peak is sporadic due to road closures but much broader and potentially stronger than the Christmas/New Year tourism peak.
Tickets will be valid for 24 hours so passengers can defer their trip should they choose not to travel during inclement weather. This deferral may even extend a visitor's time spent in Hobart along with their expenditure at other businesses.
Thirdly, our focus on establishing Hobart as a key mountain bike tourism destination in the Southern Hemisphere is projected to increase the number of travelling mountain bike tourists by 20,000 per annum. Our report by consultants Dirt Art also projects a relatively high daily spend accustomed to this target market, equating to an economic boost of $10million per annum to the wider community.
Additionally, a large percentage of anticipated passengers will be encouraged to pre-purchase tickets online before embarking on their trip to Hobart or Tasmania. By removing this expenditure from a tourist' daily budget, it reduces the prospect of cannibalising the benefit to other local businesses whilst tourists are in town.
Lastly, our preferred leasing arrangement would ensure that the more passengers we attract onto the cable car, the more funds are directed back into park management, maintenance of facilities and conservation efforts.
22. What is the likely traffic impact?
The road to the summit will remain open and free with our proposal, but we seek to reduce the vehicle traffic on the wholly residential and rural zoning of Pinnacle Road, Pillanger Drive and Huon Road as much as possible. This is to the benefit of Fern Tree & Neika residents, native wildlife and our city's carbon reduction goals.
Our Traffic Impact Assessment suggests up to 60% fewer cars and buses accessing Wellington Park once operational. (42% min - 60% max)
This is offset by a forecast increase of 2.84% in vehicles each way (5.68% total) on Upper Macquarie St and Cascade Road; an arterial road currently servicing over 3 million vehicle trips each year. At peak times, Cascade Road is only at half its built capacity and serves a mixed urban zone including the municpality tip, hospitals, schools, churches, aged care and childcare facilities, heavy industries, tourism attractions and sporting venues.
The marginal annual average increase of our operation on Cascade Road is 1 additional vehicle every 79 seconds during our operating hours.
The net difference in annual carbon emissions between accessing the summit and the Cascade precinct is 1100 tonnes per annum. The more we can incentive mountain visitors to use the cableway instead of the road, the more we can help reduce carbon emissions.
23. Will this project privatise the mountain?
No. The State Government has legislated to purchase land from Local Government if and when our Development Application is approved. It will remain public land.
It is our understanding that we will lease the land from the Tasmanian Parks & Wildlife Service, and we hope that this new revenue stream is invested directly back into the upkeep and preservation of Wellington Park. We have no intention to fence off our lease boundary so public access will remain largely 'as is'.
Current commercial leases exist on the mountain with both Broadcast Australia and WIN Television leasing land for their transmission facilities from the Hobart City Council.
24. How many jobs will this create?
- 200 jobs during an 18 month construction phase,
- 80 operational jobs.
25. Can it avoid the Organ Pipes?
Fortuitously, the mountain geography is almost tailor-made for a well-designed cableway system which can minimise the quantity and frequency of support towers.
- The pinnacle sits on the eastern/city side of the Wellington plateau. This shortens access considerations, reduces construction footprint and avoids all water catchment zones.
- Whilst the mountain's contours slope gently away from the pinnacle in all other directions, the eastern side of the pinnacle facing the city offers a series of flat, natural benches to discretely position a visitor centre. Using this location maximises the chance a visitor centre can best sit below the skyline.
- Circling the eastern city-facing pinnacle is a 800metre wide cliff (the Organ Pipes). Not only are they spectacular to see up close, the vertical drop can significantly reduce the number of towers for a cableway. Reducing quantity and frequency of towers directly improves any potential visual impact.
In short, an alignment that avoids the Organ Pipes can require dozens of towers and an upper terminal location sitting above the skyline.
For comparison to our 3 tower solution, 34 towers are needed for an alignment to the quarry at the top end of Giblin St. Alignments to Tolosa require a dozen with three towers above the summit skyline. An alignment to the Springs requires two above the skyline. Additionally, alignments either north to Tolosa or south to The Springs would prove difficult to avoid the dangerous ice-fall risk zone of the existing transmission towers.
Our preferred alignment traversing the northern end of the Organ Pipes only requires one tower near the summit, which can sit well below the skyline from the iconic city view.
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