22 July 2021

Brace yourselves, light rail reality is about to hit home on the southside

| Ian Bushnell
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Light rail

Light rail in the city. Coming not so soon to Woden. Photo: File.

No train without the pain. The north had its share; now it’s the south’s turn.

That’s what Canberra drivers and commuters have to face up to now that construction of the next leg of the line is in sight.

We’re looking at possibly a decade of upheaval on the southside as first the city stage is built, and then the lengthier and much more complex Woden stage is rolled out through the parliamentary zone and down Adelaide Avenue.

It’s going to take four years from 2022 to complete the line to Commonwealth Park, mainly due to the major engineering feat of reconfiguring the London Circuit/Commonwealth Avenue overpass and cloverleaf arrangement to an at-grade intersection.

Stage 2B across the lake has multiple hoops to jump through and far greater engineering challenges – a new bridge, negotiating the parliamentary areas and Adelaide Avenue and Yarra Glen pedestrian bridges for starters.

Even if a start could be made before the city stage is completed, it’s going to take a fair swag of the Twenties to make it to Woden.

READ MORE Study to identify potential urban infill along light rail Stage 2B

After three elections, there is no doubt the Barr Government has a mandate to get the job done, but Transport Minister Chris Steel provided a dose of reality this week when outline just what will be required of us.

Lane closures, delays, diversions – for years.

Many of us stuck in gridlock on Parkes Way or Kings Avenue or held up by lollypop people on a much-reduced Commonwealth Avenue may rethink that vote for light rail.

Certainly, a few Liberals might be tempted to say I told you so.

READ ALSO Years of traffic chaos on the way as light rail construction nears

Transport spokesperson Mark Parton is already taking potshots at the government over the coming impacts on business and commuters, but he would do better to accept the reality of light rail, ensure that the new Disruption Taskforce lives up to its mission statement, and hold the government to account on how the project is managed.

After all, he might have to one day steer the project himself.

Mr Steel knows it is going to be tough. That’s why he is preparing Canberrans now, working with affected businesses and asking commuters to start rethinking their travel routines.

Getting people out of their cars and into buses will be part of the solution and an opportunity to transform commuting habits and increase public transport use permanently.

The pandemic has already opened the way to greater work flexibility. The plea for big employers to embrace staggered starting times could also lead to that strategy becoming part of the city’s traffic management landscape.

Communication will play a big part in getting Canberrans through this, but keep it real, Minister, forget the spin and be upfront with commuters.

READ ALSO Geocon changes tack with smaller, commercial proposal for Kingston site

We need to remember why the ACT is doing light rail, and that it is a big, long-term project that will improve the way Canberrans get around this city, take pressure off our roads, and eventually connect the city from end to end.

The alternative for a city growing to half a million is simply more congestion.

So there is a great opportunity, but let’s not kid ourselves that the process will be easy.

Living with a construction site in the city, at Woden and in between will be messy and frustrating.

There will be a lot that can go wrong, so the government, whatever the shade, will need to get a lot right.

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Capital Retro10:25 am 26 Jul 21

“I have sat on a bus, not moving on Commonwealth Avenue Bridge…….”

I wasn’t aware that there are exclusive lanes for busses on Commonwealth Bridge.

So glad that I live in the Tuggeranong Valley and work in Woden, although it seems that the Govt is going to make a mess of the roads around Woden Bus Station.

By the time this tram is finished, I will be retired and ready for the 2032 Olympics 🙂

HiddenDragon7:14 pm 23 Jul 21

“Brace” – so often the opening word of a media report about the latest gratuitous infliction from the ACT government.

In this case “assume the brace position” would be more apt – it’s like watching the Sorcerer’s Apprentice segment from Disney’s Fantasia, but without the striking music and with no sorcerer to clean up after the idiot apprentice(s).

thoughtsonthesubject3:32 pm 23 Jul 21

The construction of the light rail line was part of a deal struck between the Labor Party and the Greens following the 2012 Assembly election, when Labor required Greens support to form government. At that time it made some sense as trams were the only above-ground transport without C02 emissions. Recently there has been an important change. Electric buses are now considered a reliable alternative and Transport Canberra has ordered its first shipment of 90 battery operated buses. With that, the reason for the Greens’ demand that the light rail be an essential element of their conditions for Labor support has been removed. Since the new electric buses can provide faster and more flexible transport than the light rail, there is now no need to burden taxpayers with the two billion dollars the rail’s infrastructure will cost. Nor is there any need for commuters to put up with years of traffic chaos during the building phase. As the party claiming to protect the environment, the Greens must now answer the question of why the vast amount of CO2 generated by the establishment of the tram tracks plus importing 16 trains from Spain should unnecessarily be added to the greenhouse gases that hasten the effects of climate change. The tram, taking twice as long as express buses, will not take private cars of the road. Free public transport, however, will. And that, moreover, at a fraction of the cost.

Actually there is years of pain ahead lightrail or not. Bit surprising but seems only the ABC has picked up on the fact a lot of the disruption and reduction in traffic capacity on Commonwealth Ave is whilst they upgrade the road bridges. This is seperate from lightrail which at this stage is on stage 2A.

ChrisinTurner1:31 pm 23 Jul 21

The tram will divert $billions from hospitals, police, prisons, education and even sweeping the streets. The Business Case says the journey time to Woden will almost double, the frequency of service will halve and the number of seats will halve. This is not progress. The only benefit will be to developers as the horse paddocks are turned into high-rise apartments.

Actually, the spend on roads and parking spaces divert $billions from hospitals (and increases the number of people needing hospital services) police, prisons, education etc. But I guess as you use a private motor vehicle then the $billions is just fine and dandy. No need for a business case is there?

Looks to me like the really spirited, albeit fact free, opposition to light rail has gone. Has the Can the Tram foamers group departed this earthly abode?

notalwaysright11:50 am 23 Jul 21

Hi. One error in your article. There is no mandate for the tram. The ruling party received around 40% of the vote and neither they or the greens got a majority of the vote. There was never a mandate for the tram, one of Canberra’s biggest follies.

No, “not always right” you are right in that you are “not always right”. There is a mandate because the ALP and the Greens won enough votes to form government. That’s how the system works here. And btw the ACT Liberals also support light rail. As do the Federal Liberals (with financial support), the Federal Opposition ALP and the Greens. So, basically, all the major parties both locally and federally. You’re still entitled to your opinion of course, however you’re not in the majority.

Astro,
You are entitled to your opinion but not your own facts.

The local Liberals only support the project once a detailed and robust business case is prepared. And as we both know, no such document could ever be prepared due to the project not being feasible from any structured planning assessment. Their election position was pure trickery to fool the ignorant. Seems like you’ve bought into it.

And no, the Federal government doesn’t support it either as no objective assessment has found the project worthy of funding under Infrastrucutre Australia’s priority infrastructure list. They have provided a small amount of funding for Stage 2A but that is more related to how it interacts with national institutions in the Parliamentary triangle rather than any support for it as a project on its own.

Interesting though that some of the same people who constantly whinge about pork barrelling and wasteful spending outside of standard processes at a Federal level are perfectly fine with it on projects they like at a local level. Hardly surprised at the hypocrisy though, it’s standard practice.

Well you certainly have an interesting interpretation of facts. The fact is that the Australian Government has supported light rail in the ACT with funding of over $130 million so far. Secondly the ACT liberals support light rail and did so in the most recent election. You can dress it up with your personal interpretation of why they did this but the fact is that they did. These are both facts. Your views on pork barrelling are, in this instance, irrelevant.

Astro,
No you can dress it up how you like but you’re still wrong.

Unless you can provide a link to the detailed business case that was the proviso on the Liberals support?

I also support light rail if it is shown to make sense in a detailed options study and business case.

I know you like blank cheque books but in this case the context is clearly important.

The fact is that the Liberals have supported light rail. You are then jumping to your own assumptions about why they should or shouldn’t but it’s not up to you to decide the basis upon which they support it. The fact is that they do. Again you try to add you own wording to other people’s posts, i.e. “I know you like a blank cheque…” making up words you think other people say when they don’t is called misquoting and doesn’t add to your argument.

Astro,
Except they don’t “support light rail”, they clearly prefaced their support with the need for a robust business case. And anyone that actually didn’t support light rail if such a solid business case existed would be an imbecile. But it doesn’t. So here we are.

And so yes, if you claim they “support light rail” without acknowledging the caveat they gave, it can only be because of your own support for the project no matter the evidence or the cost.

I don’t need to put words into your mouth, when you’ve shown through your own arguments over many threads that you don’t care what it costs.

If that isn’t correct, perhaps you would like to provide the exact metrics that would make you drop your support. Not feel good statements, not buzzwords. Numbers.

Stephen Saunders11:38 am 23 Jul 21

In news just to hand, the Woden light-rail budget has been augmented with an extra $50m, to pay for the anti-railers support group and head off their late-night sabotage forays.

“We need to remember why the ACT is doing light rail, and that it is a big, long-term project that will improve the way Canberrans get around this city, take pressure off our roads, and eventually connect the city from end to end.
The alternative for a city growing to half a million is simply more congestion.”

It’s this kind of false narrative that supporters of light rail keep trotting out to justify the entire wasteful scheme, when there ?is nothing further from the truth.

Light Rail is not a transport project, it’s a land development one.

The alternative to light rail is not “do nothing”, there are plenty of other far cheaper public transport alternatives right now or even the potential to engage in some long term transport planning that involves the construction of light rail (or other high capacity systems) at a later date when it’s actually needed.

Although it is ironic that the author doesn’t think there are alternatives. Neither did the government because they haven’t even bothered to assess other options to develop a business case.

This is all about the politics.

Hmm, didn’t the author write an article recently bemoaning the fact that no politicians are willing to be honest with the electorate and act in the public interest. Strange.

You say that like it’s a bad thing.

If you can develop land and put in lightrail mostly funded by that development then what’s the problem exactly?

JC,
“Mostly funded”.

Where are you pulling that from? Not the government’s business case obviously.

And there’s a couple of fundamental things wrong with your statement.

Light Rail is not a “good thing” on its own. It should have a clear benefit that far outweighs the costs, otherwise why would you do it? Just because it’s pretty or trendy doesn’t make it a good idea.

Secondly, who says you can’t develop the land without the light rail? Then the government can take the windfall benefits and invest it into future tranport improvements making the best of both worlds.

Also, who says light rail is the best option for transport along the corridor? Or at least the best option right now? The government didn’t even bother to investigate it. You think for $2billion+ that might be a good idea yeah? The existing buses are also already superior to the proposed system from a transport perspective, so Light Rail is a solution looking for a non existent problem.

And lastly if you want to talk about future needs, it would be far superior to stage the delivery of transport upgrades for when that need is realised, which won’t be at least for 10-20 years.

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