The Federal election result may be a setback for light rail stage 2 to Woden but the ACT Government has reaffirmed its commitment to the project, saying all options are on the table to fund the project.
If Labor had won, the ACT would have looked forward to a smoother approvals process and an initial $200 million in Federal money to help pay for the $1.6 billion or more project but now the Barr Government expects the Territory will have to do the heavy lifting.
Chief Minister Andrew Barr suggested that ACT residents may now not ride the Stage 2 rails until 2025 but a spokesperson for Transport Minister Meegan Fitzharris says further announcements about the development of the project will be made shortly, and that the ACT will be proceeding this year as planned with the federal environmental approvals under the EPBC Act.
Asked whether the Government had a Plan B if Labor lost, the spokesperson said the ACT Government needed a clearer picture post-election before it could tell Canberrans how it would deliver the project.
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“The $200 million commitment that Labor made towards project would have enabled the Government to move much more quickly on the project,” the spokesperson said.
“We now have to be realistic that the planning and approvals process is likely to take longer with a Federal Liberal Government. We don’t know who the ministers responsible will be, or how the project approvals will fit into the priorities of the Parliament.”
The spokesperson said that given the popularity of Stage 1, Canberrans were keen for a light rail service to Woden, and creating the north-south spine would continue to be a priority for the Government.
But given the unwillingness of the Federal Liberals to invest in any infrastructure projects for Canberra, the heavy lifting to support the growing city would continue to rest with the ACT Government.
The spokesperson said however that the Commonwealth had a key role to play in the project, financial or otherwise, with the project to travel over Commonwealth land and requiring National Capital Authority approval and federal parliamentary approval.
NCA concerns and a federal parliamentary inquiry report had already forced the ACT Government to abandon its preferred route, the so-called Barton dogleg through the Parliamentary Zone, in favour of a more direct State Circle approach to Woden.
Despite the uncertainty, the spokesperson said the planned makeover for the Woden bus station in preparation for light rail would proceed.
Light rail has become a marketing tool for developers building apartment blocks in the Woden Town Centre but the spokesperson said the Government would not be asking them to tone down their advertising in light of the possible delays.
“This is a matter for the developers,” the spokesperson said.
Opposition Leader Alistair Coe has said it was up to the Government to present a business case for the project that stacked up.