12 March 2019

Barr hints at route compromise as Federal Labor pledges $200 million to light rail Stage 2

| Ian Bushnell
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Bill Shorten arrives in the city with Chief Minister Andrew Barr. Photos: George Tsotsos.

“Everything has changed,” says an exultant Chief Minister Andrew Barr, welcoming Federal Labor’s $200 million commitment towards the construction of Stage 2 of the light rail network to Woden, should Bill Shorten win government at the Federal election in May.

Whether it will be enough to breathe new life into the Barton dog-leg is debatable but the Chief Minister obviously has a plan B.

The focus, he says is on not so much the alignment but where the stops will be.

“Clearly, a different route to State Circle would require changes to the National Capital Plan which would be a longer process,” he said at a press conference in the city with Mr Shorten, Transport Minister Meegan Fitzharris and ALP candidate for Canberra, Alicia Payne.

But taking that path of least resistance doesn’t rule out some sort of compromise that allows the route to service those parliamentary zone hubs.

“We’ve got to be able to service the people who live and work in and around those precincts,” he said.

Mr Barr said Cabinet was still considering the route alignment and the business case but Federal Labor’s commitment was timely and significant.

“We could have spent millions and millions of dollars going down various paths that the Commonwealth wouldn’t ultimately support because in the end they had no interest in supporting the project,” he said.

“It’s a very clear statement that the Shorten Government would work with the ACT Government to deliver the project that will meet our city’s future transport needs.”

This made a massive difference and having a cooperative Federal Government could help reduce the cost of the project, touted to be $1.3-1.6 billion, by the smoothing out the parliamentary approvals process and not forcing the ACT Government to jump through unnecessary hoops.

From left, Bill Shorten, Transport Minister Meegan Fitzharris, ALP candidate for Canberra Alicia Payne and Chief Minister Andrew Barr inspect light rail plans.

Mr Barr reasserted the public transport aims of the project, calling it a congestion buster that intended to cater for the travel needs of Canberrans, particularly the people working in the parliamentary triangle, well into the future.

He said the city was growing by 10,000 a year. “You think congestion is bad now, if we don’t make this investment now we will go down the path of Sydney,” he said.

Mr Shorten said the ACT’s light rail project was the way infrastructure should be built in Australia, saying it would be great if the ACT could roll seamlessly from Stage 1 into Stage 2.

He said the commitment ensured the ACT Government could continue planning the project knowing it would attract federal support.

Mr Shorten said the project was an example of Federal Labor’s determination to work with states and territories to tackle traffic congestion and create jobs in Australian cities.

“Labor will invest in public transport projects that will make a real difference to people’s daily lives in Canberra and create secure, local jobs,” he said.

Mr Shorten said that on current population projections, 210,000 people will live within a kilometre of the Woden corridor by 2041.

“Canberra is our nation’s proud capital and we will make sure this beautiful city shines and has the right infrastructure to attract new tourism and economic opportunities,” he said.

“Better public transport takes cars off our roads and makes our transport system more efficient, which in turn sets the scene for stronger economic growth and job creation.”

Mr Barr relished the prospect of having a Federal Government actually interested in the national capital. “We have all had a gutful of being told we live in a bubble, that this place is not real,” he said.

Meanwhile, Canberra Liberals transport spokesperson Candice Burch said Federal Labor’s commitment was premature, given the lack of a business case or a cost-benefit study for the proposed route.

“The Labor-Greens Government is yet to release a business case or any kind of analysis into different route options. Given the loss of the Barton dog-leg, and increased travel time between Woden and the City when compared to current buses, the benefits of Stage 2 are still unknown,” she said

“The Labor-Greens Government must release a business case as soon as possible, so that Canberrans have full transparency of this proposed project.”



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Could Stage II please have a better gender balance than the 90+ per cent male workforce that worked on Stage 1? Why aren’t women being given jobs out of this billion-dollar expenditure? Where’s Labor’s “strong record on gender”?

Management team was mostly female so that’s a very positive step.

The Stage 2 project will do better with support from both levels of government, which appears to be inevitable now. Will also remove some bureaucratic hurdles previously put up by Feds. I find the shock-horror light rail near Parliament House argument hilarious. Cars all over the place there not affecting heritage values but light rail….nooo never. Caught a Melbourne tram past their Parliament House last week – heritage still ok there.

All for it. The sooner they get it underway the sooner they can get onto the main money line – Stage III Belconnen.

As I have said on other related posts though, the solution is not to go through, but UNDER the lake and the triangle, coming up wherever they want along Adelaide Avenue.

Given its within our power to drain the lake while the construction and waterproofing is underway, it’d be a good opportunity to go and retrieve all my fishing lures I have lost along the Black Mountain Peninsula as well 🙂

Ah, the smell of election pork is already in the air.

HiddenDragon5:25 pm 12 Mar 19

So if we get the southside white elephant, a federal Labor government will kick in for a nice howdah – yippee! – and Canberrans will pay for all the other upfront and ongoing costs through rates, rent (land tax), hidden taxes in utility charges etc. etc. etc. and, no doubt, further additions to our growing public debt –


michael quirk2:19 pm 12 Mar 19

There needs to be an assessment of light rail and alternatives such as a busway. The Barr-Rattenbury government’s unwillingness to do such analysis suggests it fears the analysis would indicate light rail does not perform well. Mr Barr show your government is competent and responsible and do the assessment. We need to use funds as wisely as possible given the many unmet needs in the community

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