21 May 2019

Government determined to build light rail Stage 2 but timetable up in air

| Ian Bushnell
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Bill Shorten

Hopes dashed: Bill Shorten announcing the $200 million for light rail Stage 2 back in March, flanked by Chief Minister Andrew Barr and ACT Transport Minister Meegan Fitzharris. Photo: George Tsotsos.

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.

“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.”

It may be an even longer time before we see light rail on Adelaide Avenue.

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.

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When were those trees in the centre planted ?

Before committing the ACT to any further debt, the current light rail should be analysed to see how it performs in all seasons. The hot Canberra summer is likely to affect the steel rails and possibly cause overheating of the trams (things that happen in Melbourne and Adelaide). Any lessons learned could be applied to a possible Stage 2.

Stephen Saunders1:45 pm 22 May 19

The government went to Hanson’s idiotic rail-referendum, won handsomely, built it promptly and under budget, and it was an immediate sellout.

Meant nix to the haters, with their instant MIT urban-transit doctorates. At once they pivoted: the costs are wrong, the patronage is wrong, or the punters must have been forced on at gunpoint. Anything but the bleeding obvious.

Now they’ve won. Courtesy yet another timely miracle from God Bless Australia. Anyone for penny-farthings or landaus?

It still has a cost benefit of 1.3, which is so far below investment grade for infrastructure no sensible government would have gone anywhere near it. And even that low figure of 1.3 includes some heroic assumptions and benefits that are usually excluded from analysis because they are very difficult to quantify.

Infrastructure Australia assessed it and deemed it unworthy of any funding. It doesn’t even come close to making the grade for addition to the national infrastructure priority list.

“Anything but the bleeding obvious.”

Yes, the bleeding obvious that was pure election pork barreling and a way to keep the Greens happy.

Didn’t the ACT Government already commit to Woden stage 2 light rail long before Federal Labor threw in an extra $200 million?

The build has to stand on its own feet with a demonstrated cost benefit analysis. Just because Federal taxpayers instead of solely ACT taxpayers are footing part of the bill, doesn’t mean you start or stop the project.

It’s a lack of proper infrastructure project management by political parties that makes the public not trust them to deliver successful outcomes.

michael quirk9:32 am 22 May 19

No decision on light rail stage 2 should be made until an assessment is made of the most appropriate strategy for inter-town public transport between Civic and Woden. There is a strong possibility that a busway would be a superior option, being more flexible, less disruptive, less expensive while providing similar transport and city development objectives.

The refusal of the Barr-Rattenbury government to undertake an assessment demonstrates it is irresponsible, arrogant and lazy. The un-electability of the right wing Liberals requires the government to scrutinize proposals even more closely. Mr Barr demonstrate you are more than a tin pot dictator and undertake the analysis and demonstrate limited public funds are being used to maximize the welfare of the community.

Very convenient that the completely unfeasible and unaffordable light rail stage 2 will now be delayed because Barr didn’t get his slice of pork.

If it’s so important a project, perhaps he can put forward a robust business case to Infrastructure Australia for proper federal funding?

justin heywood7:57 pm 23 May 19

Now Chewy, you’re just being facetious. Remember, Stage 1 didn’t need a business case, and when forced to produce one, it was laughable.
For all the billions spent and to be spent, Light Rail isn’t about a return on investment for taxpayers, it’s about politics.
Who would have thought that a ‘progressive’ government would choose to demonstrate its dominance by forcing a 19th century transport system on its populace. Strange times indeed.

HiddenDragon7:04 pm 21 May 19

With PJK recently back on the airwaves, let’s “flick the switch to vaudeville”, so to speak –

The London Circuit Repertory Co. proudly announces its Spring 2020 season, headlined by ‘A Streetcar Named Expire’ – the torrid tale of Blanche (“I have always depended on the rates payments of strangers”) DuBarr and Stanley Coewalski.

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