The Pinnacle Road
The Road is the nub and nettle of the project.
The MWCC wants it both ways. On the one hand, the MWCC argues that the road does not provide enough access because it is frequently closed—so build a cableway. On the other hand, the road provides too much access causing over-crowding, increasing the risk of accidents, and the only solution to that is road widening, which is ugly and expensive—so build a cableway, which will reduce road usage.
Closing the road is an idea that many—opponents and supporters—would support. Many never wanted it built and many more decried "Ogilvie's Scar" as, and after, it was built. Closing the road would suit both sides in some ways. To the cable car lobby it would grant a virtual monopoly on access. It would be one less headache for the local Council. It would also (apart from the cableway) restore the intrinsic value of the mountain as a pure mountain.
But the road is not closing anytime soon. For many reasons: public opposition would be intense, the roadway is heritage-listed and, last but not least, because contrary to what the MWCC argues, the road works well.
Snow and ice do cause traffic disruptions and occasional road closures. A heavy snow dump the night before a sunny, snowy public holiday creates great congestion. Thousands can be adversely effected, but rarely. "Snow can cause traffic disruptions between March and October (peaking over July and August) but the only month with consistent snowfall is July," says the Wellington Park Management Trust. As well, traffic numbers are increasing by 5% per year. The road is narrow—it was built in the 1930s—but widening it is financially prohibitive because the dolerite rock is so hard and the environmental impact of widening would be unacceptable.
What to do?
The roadway has concerned local authorities—arguably not as much (for the half million visitors it carries each year) as it deserves, because some Council officials regard roads through the bush as of secondary importance to those in town—nevertheless, the Pinnacle Road has been the subject of detailed reports, enormous effort and on-going upgrading.
The MWCC never refers to these reports because they demonstrate how infrequent closures are and how quickly access is restored, and that accidents are very few and far between.
Moreover, the future looks better, not worse. An all-wheel drive shuttle bus now ferries visitors to the summit four times a day. Bushwalkers and mountain-bikers can take one way trips (the bus accommodates bikes) and by winter a purpose-built bus will be capable of getting passengers up from wherever the road is closed to as high up the mountain as they wish to go. Way to go!
The barrier fencing is to be upgraded, arrow direction markings are to be painted on both side of the road.
In the farther future, if the mountain's popularity causes critical road access issues, the simplest solution is not a cable car, it is "management". Encouraging foot and cycle traffic is part of the solution. Restrictions on bus access or bus size during peak times is a possible solution. Tourists of goodwill will value our island more for the respect we grant it. We will be protecting the mountain for them, too. And if they bridle at restriction, they may travel elsewhere.
There is also a flip side. For all the problems, the very thing the MWCC promises—access when the road is closed—it admits it cannot deliver. The MWCC admits that heavy snow on a sunny, snowy public holiday would overwhelm their capacity to cope too.
Access to the mountain is a walnut for which the cable car is a sledgehammer.
Will the MWCC try to deny road access?
It is not only very tempting but it may become essential for the MWCC to ensure its commercial viability by monopolising access to the mountain; ideally, by becoming the sole vehicular means of reaching the Pinnacle. The company denies that it would ever seek to "close the road", but it has stated that the mountain top is "an exposed car park encircling the pinnacle like a shrine to the automobile". Their argument could be: "Don't close the road, but relocate the cars to, say, The Springs." True to their word, they would not be closing the road, they would be restoring the intrinsic value of the Pinnacle. It would be a mere side effect that all visitors to the Pinnacle would then have to pay the MWCC or walk.