Can the Tram protesters gatecrashed a media event yesterday to mark the signing of contracts between the ACT Government and the successful light rail consortium, Canberra Metro.
The protesters held a large anti-tram banner behind Capital Metro Minister Simon Corbell as he made the announcement that paves the way for the start of construction on Canberra’s first light rail project.
Can the Tram president John Smith (pictured below) told RiotACT his organisation learnt of the event via a media report earlier yesterday morning.
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“We’ve been battling for about 18 months to try and bring some sense to what public transport developments should be in Canberra,” Mr Smith said.
“We definitely want to see strong investment in public transport … we think that the street level tram network is not going to serve the Canberra of the future very well.
He said it was “the wrong sort of network”.
The Woden Valley resident said he had some experience in research in transport, mostly into the application of information technology in transport – “the sort of things that are leading to Uber and which will lead to networks of driverless cars”.
He was not, however, suggesting the ACT Government should invest in such programs at this time.
“I think the investment today can only be in terms of transit,” he said.
“It has to be in technology that’s proven. The proven technology would be busways or it’s conceivable that elevated light rail would be a possibility.
“What we would argue in Can the Tram is that there needs to be a thorough analysis by impartial experts on what the best development for Canberra is.”
Asked whether the organization would continue its protests after the election should Labor win in October, he said they would not.
“If the Government gets a proper mandate, we have to accept the word of the people. I think what would happen though is in the life of the next government, there would only be a Gungahlin-Civic light rail, and I think the reality of that development will prove to be light rail on the street is a bad technology for Canberra and there may be a rethink in terms of the Canberra network.
“It’s too slow, and it will have a major impact on traffic when they try to increase the capacity, or the frequency, of the trams. We need rapid transit, and street level trams are not going to deliver rapid transit in the long run, so let’s invest properly.
“We’re not against public transport.”
While media advisers to Mr Corbell were clearly thrown by the protesters setting up alongside government banners, the Minister himself was good humoured about the protest, acknowledging Can the Tram had a right to be there.
There was much discussion among attendees at the event about how the protesters learned of the venue as journalists compared notes and agreed they had not published details of where the event would be held.
ACT Opposition Leader Jeremy Hanson said afterwards that he had not personally alerted Can the Tram to the event details, but did not rule out the possibility a member of the Canberra Liberals’ staff had done so.