29 June 2023

Liberals' bid to see costings of light rail stage 2B dismissed as 'radical disregard' for proper process

| Claire Fenwicke
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The Gungahlin Light Rail terminal

The business case has been released for light rail stage 1, but the Canberra Liberals wanted to see the numbers for the under-negotiation stage 2B. Photo: Damien Larkins.

The ACT Labor-Greens alliance has shot down a Canberra Liberals’ motion to provide a cost-benefit assessment of light rail stage 2B, stating it wouldn’t make sense while negotiations for the project were ongoing.

Shadow Minister for Transport Mark Parton brought forward the motion in the Legislative Assembly on Tuesday (27 June), calling on the ACT Government to stop proceeding with any works contracts or infrastructure procurements for stage 2B until a cost-benefit assessment had been provided.

He wanted the assessment to compare the proposed stage 2B capital and recurring cost with an electric bus option and “other options” to deliver passenger services between Civic and Woden, give forward budget estimates for each option, show the capital and operating cost differences, and omit estimates of land value uplift from the expected light rail route between Civic and Woden.

“The motion calls on the ACT Government … to press pause on the pursuit of at least stage 2B of this ‘white elephant’ right now, but to just come clean with exactly where we’re at,” Mr Parton said.

“Right now the details are not really forthcoming, and this government’s not keen to lay out the numbers because they know the numbers don’t stack up.”

Mr Parton said this stage would cost more than previous ones because of the engineering works, road works and bridge works required.

“Are we about to spend a very large and yet unknown sum of money to improve our public transport system, or are we just spending way too much to increase the price of land along the light rail corridor?” he asked.

“We are yet to be informed of the cost of stage 2B, even a ballpark figure … we shouldn’t be kept in the dark about what’s going on here.”

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Greens Transport spokesperson Jo Clay said while she was interested in some of the suggestions made in Mr Parton’s motion, it didn’t contain enough detail or scope for what could be investigated or debated as an alternative.

She also said it wasn’t a “good idea” to advertise the maximum amount you’d be able to spend when negotiating contracts.

“You don’t publish your upper [cost] limit while you’re negotiating a deal,” Ms Clay said.

“You’ll get charged that top rate if you tell people what it is.”

She pointed out that removing land value uplift from any cost-benefit reports would go against a request from the ACT Auditor General to provide economic analysis which, among other things, considered land value uplift, in light of his report on light rail stage 2A.

Minister for Transport Chris Steel introduced a number of amendments, including that the Assembly recognise the government had already committed to publishing the business case for light rail stage 2A and 2B, as well as their contracts once procurements had been finalised and contracts signed.

“However the release of costing details prior to signing contracts will not be provided where it may negatively impact the ACT Government’s ability to achieve value for money through the procurement,” it stated.

The government has also committed to publishing assessments of the ‘realisation of benefits’ of both stages after operations have commenced, as well as to update the Assembly on the benefits realised on stage 1 in 2024, including benefits from land value changes.

Mr Steel argued Mr Parton’s motion was “just another Liberal attack on a better public transport system for our city” because the party had no transport policy plan of its own.

He said the original motion had failed to recognise that the government had already committed to releasing a business case report about stage 2B, which would include an economic analysis in accordance with national guidelines, once a contract was signed and procurement was finalised.

It also couldn’t be developed until National Capital Authority and Federal Parliament approval processes had been completed.

“It’s very concerning to see this radical proposal, this radical disregard for using nationally accepted guidelines in the development of light rail stage 2 business case,” Mr Steel said.

“In this motion, the Liberals have called on the ACT Government to omit estimates of land value uplift from the public transport route between Woden and Civic.

“What they’re calling on the ACT Government to do is manipulate the business case to suit their agenda, and to go against recommendations made by the ACT Auditor General in their recent performance audit of the stage 2A business case.”

Mr Steel’s amended motion passed the Assembly, with no support from the Canberra Liberals.

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In response, Mr Parton promised he would be releasing a “comprehensive” transport policy in the lead-up to the 2024 election and warned he’d be watching closely to hold the government “to account”.

“I will be watching [Mr Steel’s] every step, I will be taking note of every failed promise, I will be recording every milestone that we fail to meet, every delay, every cost blow-out, every single time that something doesn’t go to plan,” he said.

“I will be there and I will shine a light on it.”

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Steel is a failed individual with no real world experience. In the real world any investment decision is weighed up against cost and benefits. But his inexperience is showing as he doesn’t have a clue. He’ll stumble and fumble along in life whilst the taxpayers get hit with the bills from the mess he is racking up.

When I first saw the signs that said “Light Rail to Woden is coming” Incouldnt believe it. When did I, a Canberra citizen agree to that? When was I even asked my opinion? No. We the Barr Dictators will tell you what is happening.

How about this – just because you have Labor Greens values (which I do) does NOT mean you should vote Labor Greens in the next election.

Canberra has the highest rate of homelessness per capita which has grown, the only state this has happened. Our hospital has the highest wait times. We have just 1 cardiac surgeon for the entire ACT catchment region.

They have been wissing our hard earned money up a wall in “negotiations “ and contracts. Meanwhile our teachers and our nurses and our social workers and our police force have not been adequately resourced. Things got a little too far when they stopped mowing and fixing roads. However the uproar from the public soon meant they quickly acted.

But as for the invisible issues. Our vulnerable people. Aged, sick, homeless, children, disabled. This government will only do what is visible at the time.

Armed with their legions of loyal political party allies, and your dollars, they will create their dystopian dysfunctional iron and concrete capital of Canberra.

LaborGreens & Barr vision of our city is for the fit , young, prosperous and healthy. Skyscrapers over green spaces. Trams over the wild Curtin corridors. Bulldoze the green spaces, full of hundreds of native birds and blue wrens. Steamroll the public, shut them up. LaborGreens – they can do what they want with developers and the CEO of the NCA backing them. It’s all good, they’re friends with the Board.

They can build our airport alliances so we can fly in the healthy, strong tourists, and bring in more of their dollars. Boost Canberra’s “nightlife economy”. Expand the Phillip brothels which are flourishing.

While meanwhile, the old and sick and dying will be left further behind – perhaps join their new euthanasia model.

Citizens of Canberra: say NO.

No. Do NOT allow this to continue. We may have Labor Green values but we will NOT stand to have a mutated toxic political party that does NOT represent Labor Green values. No – it has morphed into a tyrannical set of leaders who do not ask the people for views. They do not.

Vote for Libs – NOT because you’re a “liberal “ or a conservative, but because you know that a change of government is very important for bringing power back to the people.
Oust Barr labor greens in ACT.

The people of Canberra have had absolutely enough of the Barr Labor Greens propaganda, and money waste.

Vote differently to bring back power to the people.

HiddenDragon8:08 pm 01 Jul 23

“The ACT Labor-Greens alliance has shot down a Canberra Liberals’ motion to provide a cost-benefit assessment of light rail stage 2B, stating it wouldn’t make sense while negotiations for the project were ongoing.”

In other words, we haven’t got a clue about exactly how it will happen or when it will happen so how the hell can we guesstimate how much it might cost and compare that to alternatives – but pretending that it’s really about hush-hush negotiations and other mysterious high-powered stuff (that the tax paying public and opposition politicians couldn’t possibly understand or be trusted with) sounds so much better.

Felix the Cat8:33 am 01 Jul 23

Public transport (along with most govt services) are not meant to be run at a profit.
ACTION buses have run at a multi million dollar loss pretty much since their inception.
They are there to provide a service for the public.

You’re right, public transport is not typically run at a profit.

So, if it’s only to provide a service to the public, wouldn’t it be sensible to choose the most cost efficient way of delivering that service?

Which would mean that light rail would be discounted early on due to the enormous price tag when far cheaper, equivalent alternatives exist.

Linda Seaniger9:58 pm 30 Jun 23

Of course, we want to see the business case and cost of the light rail project in its entirety, and also with the timeline for project completion. But green labor’s ability to deliver projects in a timely manner has never been demonstrated. So for how many decades are we expected to put up with road closures? Canberra does not have a grid pattern of road it was designed around a Y plan. The addition of Majura Drive helps traffic move north to south to the east, but we are still waiting for an additional Road on the west side of the city. We have an old weir over the Molonglo river. I know a bridge is promised but they still haven’t started with the delivery. If we are going to implement a light rail down Adelaide Avenue, then show us what it’s going to look like because I can see it becoming a parking area for most of the day because trams don’t flow with the traffic. They bring it to a halt.

GrumpyGrandpa7:02 pm 30 Jun 23

The NCA have now deemed LR via State Circle too have too many technical difficulties.
The NCA had discounted the route via OHP and Barton, so unless they revisit that option, there doesn’t appear to be a viable route Woden to the City, but that’s going to add even more commute time!

Buses are looking pretty good.

Hilarious for Steele to talk about a disregard for nationally accepted guidelines when those same guidelines include thorough options assessments, something that the government has completely ignored because they’ve already decided on the solution and won’t even consider alternatives.

Also this:
“What they’re calling on the ACT Government to do is manipulate the business case to suit their agenda, and to go against recommendations made by the ACT Auditor General in their recent performance audit of the stage 2A business case.”

The irony is burning when the government itself has ignored and gone against the recommendations of the Auditor General countless times with the ideological pursuit of Light Rail no matter the facts. Not to mention their own deliberate manipulation of the previous business cases to suit their predetermined answer.

You honestly can’t make this stuff up, where’s the accountability?

How dare anyone question the Labor government.

Steel must be too embarrassed to reveal that the benefit is less than 5 cents in the dollar. Come on Chris prove me wrong and release the figures.

It’s a bit rich for Mr Steel to claim it’s just another attack by the Canberra Liberals on Public Transport.

Light rail to Woden will be almost twice as slow as the existing bus transit service. Any knowledgeable public transport expert will tell you that providing slower solutions is not good design.

Mr Steel has reduced public transport services over recent years and he’s also failed to live up to his promises for better weekend bus services and better evening bus services. He needs to fix the issues he’s created in public transport, NOT endlessly worry about Mr Partons comments on never to be realised ACT Liberal plans.

John Koundouzis3:29 pm 30 Jun 23

It would be nice to see some accountability from Chris Steel.
Under his ministry Bus services during the day and night have been reduced, weekend services are non existent. What exactly has he done in 3 years other than ruin public transport in Canberra?

No cost benefit analysis, no timeframes, no dollar figures… just trust us.

You have to be kidding surely? Prepare for your land rates to double or more to pay for this garbage. If they were using the money to address roads, schools, homelessness, food insecurity etc it could be defensible but a pet project that will cost in the billions and even after it’s completed will have cost far more and be far slower than the alternative… just wow.

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