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RiotACT Face Off: A mandate for light rail?

By Charlotte Harper 10 February 2016 146

Corbell vs Coe

Our occasional Face-off series is back to look at one of the most-debated issues around town right now. Plenty of RiotACT readers already have a view on this question, but we decided to give Simon Corbell and Alistair Coe the opportunity to set out their opposing views on what has become a key issue leading into the ACT election later this year:

Does the ACT Government have a mandate to commence construction of its planned light rail network in June?

Simon Corbell, Minister for Capital Metro:

When construction starts on the first stage of light rail in Canberra in June it will be the culmination of nearly four years of work that started with an ACT Labor election commitment prior to the last ACT election.

On 21 September 2012 I stood on Northbourne Avenue with then chief minister Katy Gallagher and made a commitment that if we won the election we would proceed with light rail from Gungahlin to City during our next term.

Our official, publicly released policy document stated that we committed to “establish the ACT’s first large-scale private sector partnership to plan, finance and develop the first stage of a Light Rail Network” with “construction estimated to commence in 2016”.

We provided an estimate for the capital cost of the project, which would be delivered as a PPP and therefore not paid for until after the forward estimates period.

The commitment was clear, we would sign a PPP to start construction in 2016, which is exactly what we are doing.

Any argument to the contrary by the opposition is either mischievous or misinformed.

Meanwhile the Liberals are trying desperately to make this year’s election one about light rail, maybe because they have very little else to offer the people of Canberra.

They ignorantly claim that it is the government’s only priority. In reality the government’s priorities rightly lie in health and education, where we spend more than half of the ACT’s budget every year. In terms of expenditure, light rail is only a small part of the government’s plans. Over the life of the light rail contract, which includes design and construction as well as maintenance and operation for 20 years, the government will spend less than 1 percent of total expenditure on light rail. In the same time we will spend 35 times as much on health and 25 times as much on education.

Alistair Coe, Shadow Minister for Transport:

It’s absolute folly that the ACT Government has a mandate to proceed with light rail before this year’s ACT Election. Prior to the 2012 ACT Election the Labor Party took a $30 million commitment to Canberrans for concept and design work on light rail. That’s all.

The only reason we are in the position we are today, on the cusp of burdening generations of Canberrans with paying back hundreds of millions of dollars for a project that doesn’t stack up, is because after the 2012 Election, Labor slapped together a deal with the sole Greens MLA Shane Rattenbury to build light rail. In return he guaranteed his support for a Labor government.

Since then and with no mandate, the Government has run a spending spree on light rail, not because it’s the best thing for Canberra, but simply to stay in power.

Last week the Labor Party and the Greens confirmed they will hold Canberrans for ransom, by choosing an international consortium to whom Canberra will have a 25-year debt. This is completely unfair and undemocratic. Given how unpopular light rail is in Canberra, the only fair thing for the government to do is take the issue to the 2016 Election. Let Canberrans decide.

This is the biggest infrastructure project in the history of the ACT yet very few will benefit. The Government did not get a mandate to build this project at the 2012 Election, and, we are only months away from the 2016 Election.

Only the Canberra Liberals are giving Canberrans a choice on light rail. The Labor Party and Greens are dictating that it must happen and are preparing to waste hundreds of millions of dollars on their back-room deal.

If you have a suggestion for a Face-off topic or participant, please let us know in the comments below.


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146 Responses to
RiotACT Face Off: A mandate for light rail?
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OpenYourMind 7:28 pm 04 Mar 16

rubaiyat said :

pajs said :

Leon said :

Did the Government wait until after the 2012 election to inform the public that it had found that the extra costs of light rail exceeded its extra benefits by more than $230 million, compared with bus rapid transit?

This information was available in the ACT Government’s August 2012 submission to Infrastructure Australia. I for one did not become aware of it until much later.

Personally, I’d prefer a good network of o-bahn-ish dedicated lanes for bus rapid transport, rather than light rail, but the Libs killed off the Belconnen Busway project and there needs to be consequences for such decisions. Play silly buggers with sensible proposals like that and you reap the consequences of Plan B’s that you might like less. Let’s get the light rail built and have done with it.

Squeezed in a run up the O-Bahn.

It is well patronised as it is the fastest way of getting up the north eastern Adelaide suburbs.

It is quite a bit of engineering, the concrete tracks are elevated off the ground in a fenced off right of way about 60 – 80 metres wide. They have mostly excavated down so the tracks don’t intrude too much although the noise must be considerable for a lot of the neighbourhoods where it runs out in the open. It is certainly a noisy teeth rattling ride for the passengers.

It is fast because there are so few stops and it is not using the roads for most of its length. Each of the interchanges have large flanking car parks but don’t seem to attract any commercial developments, except for the rather ugly Westfields at the Tea Tree Plaza terminus, which whilst not as ugly and unpleasant as canberra’s bus terminuses is still pretty grim, and tacked on at the backside of the shops.

The buses are very frequent but as they are heading off in all directions and nothing along the O-Bahn is really a destination or attraction, makes that less useful than would seem at first.

It is purely a mechanical means of getting from outer Adelaide to the CBD. It does nothing beyond that and given the nature of buses I can see no design improvement that would fix that. If it had been the originally planned light rail extension to the Glenelg tram it would have done much more and I suspect would have created neighbourhoods en route.

Curiously one of the objections to the light rail by the public along the route was supposedly the issue of “noise”. Why they chose something noisier remains a mystery.

I also rode the Glenelg tram and didn’t see any of the claimed fare evasion. People were tapping on as required. Seems to be a lot of this in this forum. Claims of crimes, stabbings, diseases and untold (non-existent) horrors to frighten off the impressionable ignorant.

So what you are saying is that you are completely tram eyed. Even when a bus has a dedicated thoroughfare and runs on rails it still isn’t the magic machine a tram is. Can you please assure me you aren’t on the payroll of the tram money machine?? You tell us you have kids at grammar and you had a ski lodge, so obviously money is not a big issue, yet you spruik trams every opportunity.

Just out of curiosity, I took the tram on the Gold Coast. It was ok but nothing special and it hadn’t performed any magic around the stations I stopped at – if it was my 1.6billion or whatever, I wouldn’t pay for it. Fortunately it was quiet so we go seats, but I was painfully aware of the few seats and many standing options. For Canberra, the odd peak time a tram would be an unpleasant place to be, and like our buses, the rest of the time it will run unprofitable and empty. Our roads are like that, we have a ‘peak 5minutes’ then transit is clear. It’s been like that for the last 40 odd years – apart from around Gunghalin (bad planning) and Airport (which is fixed up) and Parkes Way (just needs a few design improvements). The only difference is if you are stuck in traffic for a few minutes you at least don’t have someone sneezing all over you (except if you have a small person!).

As for noise, electric is almost certain, be it buses, trams or cars. Better still, take a look at capacitor buses – they are new tech and still a little expensive but already make the tram wires look like a nasty and unnecessary addition to our fair city.

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