Another light rail election on track after Libs slam contract delays

Ian Bushnell 29 June 2020 65

The extension of light rail next year could hinge on the ACT election outcome. Photo: File.

The Canberra Liberals have thrown the future of Light Rail Stage 2 into doubt by refusing to commit fully to the project ahead of the October election and questioning the government’s approach.

The Opposition responded to news that the Stage 2A contract had been delayed by uncertainties associated with the coronavirus pandemic by claiming the government had mismanaged the entire process, and calling for the complete business case to be released so taxpayers could see the costs and benefits of the project for themselves.

Asked where he stood on Stage 2, Opposition Leader Alistair Coe said the Liberals supported the extension of light rail in principle but would not back the project as it is without knowing all the pros and cons.

”It’s very hard to make any commitment when the government refuses to reveal this information,” Mr Coe said.

The stance means Canberrans look like going into yet another election in which light rail will be a flashpoint, with Transport Minister Chris Steel hitting back by saying Liberals’ entrenched opposition to light rail should be a concern to Canberrans who want to see more investment in public transport.

He said the government had been advised not to show its hand during its negotiations with Canberra Metro, the consortium which delivered Stage 1 and was chosen to construct Stage 2.

”Letting them know how much we’re prepared to spend on light rail is not the best approach from a commercial contract negotiation point of view,” he said.

Mr Coe refuses to accept this explanation, saying the government has only itself to blame for picking a winner and not being able to get contracts signed and clinch a good deal.

He said the government should have put the project out to open tender instead of sticking with the same consortium.

”They didn’t open it up to transparency and scrutiny, and now they’re saying that despite them picking a winner, after offering a multi-billion contract to one consortium, despite them picking a winner, there are still stumbling blocks.”

Mr Coe would not answer questions about whether a Liberal Government would review the project, revert to an open tender process or not proceed at all.

All he would say is that the Liberals were committed to honouring any contracts signed before the election.

Transport Minister Chris Steel says he can’t reveal the full cost of Stage 2A while in negotiations with the Canberra Metro consortium.

But the prospect of the government doing any deals before the poll is looking dimmer after Mr Steel said the government would not be rushing to sign a contract before the election for political purposes.

The government was committed to getting the best value for money and it still hoped that construction would start in the first half of 2021.

”We are working with Canberra Metro and are well progressed in developing the project with environmental approvals underway, however we are being transparent with the community that there have been delays in signing the contracts due to the pandemic,” Mr Steel said.

Mr Steel said the pandemic had disrupted supply chains, including that for Austrian rails, and closed the light rail vehicle factory in Spain.

The closure of the Queensland border also created quarantine issues for workers having to travel back and forth between the two jurisdictions.

Mr Steel said a rail boom, both heavy and light, in Australia had led to a hot, competitive market for construction firms.

As a result, the government did not believe it to be the best time in this environment to be signing contracts.

But Mr Steel said the government was committed to taking light rail to the south side and only Labor could be trusted to do so.

”We’re happy for light rail to be front and centre of the election,” he said.

”The Canberra Liberals are not committed to this project despite the government continuing our unprecedented level of transparency by releasing the business case for 2A, and in 2018 releasing the cost guidance for Stage 2.

”What’s clear is they don’t support light rail, they never have.”

Asked whether the delay will push back Stage 2B to Woden, Mr Steel said it was subject to an extensive approvals process through the Commonwealth EPBC process, the NCA and approval by both houses of Parliament.

”Final control over time frames is with the Commonwealth,” he said.

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65 Responses to Another light rail election on track after Libs slam contract delays
Denise Bourke Denise Bourke 5:57 pm 01 Jul 20

the tram is a flop ... and no businesses and families need to be held ransom by all the development problems it brings.... money on busses so much more intelligent

Kerri Hallas Kerri Hallas 12:03 pm 30 Jun 20

OMG Liberal drama queens at it again...🥱

Margaret Dudley Margaret Dudley 9:35 am 30 Jun 20

I agree that the tax and ratepayers who help fund the project should be able to see the complete business case

Kimberley Lloyd Kimberley Lloyd 7:17 am 30 Jun 20

Make it Tuggeranong to Woden then let’s talk.

Vanessa Jones Vanessa Jones 10:51 pm 29 Jun 20

What's in it for Belco and West Belco? So far we have the ACT govt saying $12 mill plus $35 mill for the inner north, after the tram line has been built. Can we have a break down of funding promises per electorate?

    Rob Thomas Rob Thomas 12:19 am 30 Jun 20

    There's a stage 3 belco-city-airport in plan

    Vanessa Jones Vanessa Jones 12:48 am 30 Jun 20

    Rob Thomas Need 2020 -2024 promises only.

    Rob Thomas Rob Thomas 12:53 am 30 Jun 20

    New nurse-led walk-in centres in the Belconnen and Tuggeranong town centres - $15 million.

    Upgrade Belconnen High - $28 million. New library resources for public primary schools - $1 million

    Vanessa Jones Vanessa Jones 10:44 am 30 Jun 20

    I said "Need 2020 -2024 promises only." Belco nurse clinic not in 2020-2024, it's already been done.

    Rob Thomas Rob Thomas 3:06 pm 30 Jun 20

    And the other? Really you have the same Google I do.

Steve Wood Steve Wood 10:47 pm 29 Jun 20

Who are the independents running in the election?

Russell Nankervis Russell Nankervis 9:06 pm 29 Jun 20

Pathetic. By doing this the Liberals are harming recovery and blowing out costs!

Lyndon Zoukowski Lyndon Zoukowski 7:57 pm 29 Jun 20

Just saying, don't mention a hospital that needs to come down.

    Beth Mansfield Beth Mansfield 9:33 pm 29 Jun 20

    Lyndon Zoukowski or a stadium that needs to be regrassed.

    Lyndon Zoukowski Lyndon Zoukowski 9:38 pm 29 Jun 20

    Beth Mansfield let's get the cheap grass from Brisbane. That'll work. 🤭🤭

    Larry Appley Larry Appley 10:00 pm 29 Jun 20

    Beth Mansfield...a coat of paint and she'll be fine 🤣

    Beth Mansfield Beth Mansfield 10:09 pm 29 Jun 20

    Oh god, I'd forgotten that they'd painted it. Where did they get that idea, Alice in wonderland?

Peter McDonald Peter McDonald 7:34 pm 29 Jun 20

So what are they planning on doing about jobs.

Greg Miller Greg Miller 7:00 pm 29 Jun 20

Isn't this the third election in a row with the Liberals running on "Rates & Rail"?

It's said doing the same thing again and expecting a different outcome is the definition of insanity

Boweavil Kat Boweavil Kat 6:51 pm 29 Jun 20

The libs we're totally against the light rail, now they are making out they are into it. Sounds legit.

Michael Stachow Michael Stachow 6:45 pm 29 Jun 20

20c ROI per $1 spent.

    Zac Norman Zac Norman 7:04 pm 29 Jun 20

    Michael Stachow that doesn't make any sense

    Zac Norman Zac Norman 7:05 pm 29 Jun 20

    Michael Stachow no, where did you get that figure from? You don't make sense.

    Zac Norman Zac Norman 7:07 pm 29 Jun 20

    Michael Stachow they haven't released any information on the budget, which is fair enough they are negotiating contracts atm and it would be against the public interest to make information like budgets public.. where did you get that 5:1 ROI?

    Elroy Jones Elroy Jones 7:14 pm 29 Jun 20

    Michael Stachow it’s not a money making venture Mick you egg. What’s the ROI in Canberra Hospital? Should we can it too?

    Mazzie Woodward Mazzie Woodward 7:23 pm 29 Jun 20

    Zac Norman and maybe you’ll accept the financial summary not just of Light Rail but the ACT Budget as a whole provided by a former Labor Chief Minister -

    Justin Watson Justin Watson 7:41 pm 29 Jun 20

    Mazzie Woodward Many liberal treasurers said the ACT rates policy is a good policy also, one they'd want to implement, but they would lose their job. This is is just another persons opinion and he is writing for a known source of constant whining about Canberra, which is really sad for a Canberra publication to just continually complain.

    Mazzie Woodward Mazzie Woodward 8:03 pm 29 Jun 20

    Justin Watson you should go into comedy

    Lily Mulholland Lily Mulholland 8:11 pm 29 Jun 20

    Michael Stachow that’s for stage 2A to Commonwealth Bridge. The ROI is positive by the time 2B is built through to Woden.

    Greg Garth Greg Garth 8:19 pm 29 Jun 20

    Michael Stachow Will the Libs reduce the high rates they complain about?

    Ashley Wright Ashley Wright 8:55 pm 29 Jun 20

    Zac Norman that is the correct figure for JUST stage 2A which is why the figure is poor.

    But when you consider stage 2 in its entirety it is far better. And that’s the thing 2A on its own is useless but the idea of splitting stage 2 into two parts was to get work moving whilst the issues with the triangle are sorted then move into 2B.

    Colin Vivian Colin Vivian 10:24 pm 29 Jun 20

    Lily Mulholland Rubbish, it’ll will be far more expensive per km than Gungahlin (6 bridges required for starters) and the auditor has already reported that the transport benefits for stage 1 amounted to just 49 cents for every $1 spent.

    Colin Vivian Colin Vivian 10:34 pm 29 Jun 20

    Zac Norman City News “Gossip emanating from within the ACT government is that the BCR for stage 2a is in the order of 0.20 or, in other words, for every dollar spent the economic return will be 20 cents.” Not releasing the business case because they’re negotiating contracts is more smoke and mirrors. They’ve restricted the tenders to one supplier - the incumbent - who no doubt has a better handle on the figures than the Government.

    Zac Norman Zac Norman 10:37 pm 29 Jun 20

    Colin Vivian ok, so the only thing you're basing this off is a rumour? 😆 Also who is city news. Canberra is doing well under Labor mate. Relax.

    Colin Vivian Colin Vivian 10:52 pm 29 Jun 20

    Zac Norman City News is a widely distributed newspaper (remember those?). Since the government refuses to release a business case, rumour is all we’ve got.

    So you think increasing net debt from negative $736 million to $3.1 billion this year (ie, an increase of $3.8 billion or $35,000 per household) is doing well?

    Zac Norman Zac Norman 10:56 pm 29 Jun 20

    Colin Vivian much better than everyone else ATM.. look what the liberals have done in 12 years...

    Colin Vivian Colin Vivian 11:04 pm 29 Jun 20

    Zac Norman Just because Libs are hopeless doesn’t mean Labor is doing a good job. But since you’re young at least you’ll have plenty of time to pay their debt off.

    Rob Thomas Rob Thomas 12:21 am 30 Jun 20

    It gives citations for its claim or else it gets the hose again

Monty Ki Monty Ki 6:28 pm 29 Jun 20

Bye Liberals. We don't want or need your petty bs.

James Kozanecki James Kozanecki 6:14 pm 29 Jun 20

If losing elections was a game, the ACT LIberals might finally win something

Bill Gemmell Bill Gemmell 6:10 pm 29 Jun 20

The article should read "The Canberra Liberals have thrown their own future in doubt by not having transport policies in place before the forthcoming election".

    Rod Riguez Rod Riguez 10:19 pm 29 Jun 20

    Bill Gemmell *correction. by not having ‘any’ policies in place......

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