23 October 2018

Light Rail Stage 2 faces delays after report says National Capital Plan will have to be amended

| Ian Bushnell
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The Stage 2 preferred route will require changes to the National Capital Plan and heritage protections. File photo.

The ACT Government will press on with its preferred route for Stage 2 of light rail to Woden although it will mean negotiating changes to the National Capital Plan and delays to the project.

The report into Commonwealth and Parliamentary approvals for ACT light rail by the Joint Standing Committee on the National Capital and External Territories says Stage 2 is only partially consistent with the National Capital Plan, which already provided public transport corridors and serves to protect areas of cultural and heritage significance such as the Parliamentary Triangle.

It has recommended that if the ACT Government insists on its preferred route through Parkes and Barton it must submit to a two-stage process in which it negotiates with the National Capital Authority to amend the National Capital Plan to accommodate the route and then apply to the Commonwealth for approval.

Minister for Transport Meegan Fitzharris said the report provided clarity for the people of Canberra.

“The Committee clearly outlined a pathway to obtaining approvals for the project. We can now confidently continue the project’s development,” she said.

“The ACT Government will pursue its preferred route for light rail from the City to Woden via City West and Barton.”

Ms Fitzharris said the ACT Government would work with the NCA on any possible changes to the National Capital Plan and continue to finalise a referral under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act (EPBC Act) in the coming weeks which will commence formal approval for the planned alignment. Committee Chair, Ben Morton said the development of light rail must not come at the cost of the long-term character and heritage of the National Capital.

“We are not seeking to slow or hinder the approvals process, but rather to provide certainty for the ACT Government and the people of Canberra,” he said.

“The Light Rail Stage 2 project passes through and is adjacent to a number of key cultural and heritage sites. Like all projects and proposals in these areas, it must be consistent with the legal requirements imposed by the National Capital Plan.”

Mr Morton said that if the ACT Government were to use the routes provided for in the NCP the project could quickly and easily move forward through the other approval processes.

“‘However, should the ACT Government choose to pursue a route alignment that is only partially consistent with the National Capital Plan, this will unavoidably add further complexity, time, and cost to the project,” he said.

An alternative route would be along Constitution with a lake crossing at Kings Avenue but Ms Fitzharris said the preferred route was designed to provide a north-south light rail backbone for Canberra and would also enhance the public realm through the Parliamentary Triangle, as well as alleviate traffic and parking congestion.

“It will support the revitalisation of suburbs along the corridor, and create more vibrant, community-focused, active and modern precincts. The Barton route also incorporates as many of the key employment hubs and national institutions as possible in the Parliamentary Triangle,” she said.

The committee’s report has also recommended that Parliament require light rail stops, landscaping, and signage to be unobtrusive and complementary to the heritage value and the character of the Central National Area and Parliamentary Zone, as well as an appropriate replanting and landscaping strategy to remedy the removal of any significant trees, such as the Weston plantings.

It details certain areas that should be wire free – Commonwealth Avenue; Kings Avenue; State Circle; Brisbane Avenue; Sydney Avenue; Canberra Avenue (to Manuka Circle); Hobart Avenue; Melbourne Avenue; Adelaide Avenue (to Kent Street); and in the Parliamentary Zone.

Ms Fitzharris said the ACT Government was acutely aware of the national significance of many locations along the City to Woden route, particularly within the Parliamentary Zone.

“A formal assessment under the EPBC Act is a rigorous and well established Commonwealth process to manage heritage significance,” she said.

The ACT Government would consider the recommendations and encouraged the Federal Minister and the Parliament to respond to the Committee’s report in a timely way to ensure the ACT Government could deliver its commitment to the Canberra community.

The Public Transport Association of Canberra welcomed the report, saying it provided much-needed certainty.

Chair Damien Haas said the committee had a number of common-sense recommendations around the design and approvals processes.

“The timely release of the committee’s report means that the ACT Government can get on with the job of delivering the crucial next stage of Canberra’s city-shaping light rail network,” he said.

“Importantly the committee’s report means that the NCA and the ACT Government can resume working on a light rail route through the Parliamentary Zone that can serve the people of Canberra, service national institutions and satisfy heritage concerns.”

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It’s time to move to NSW. Oh, wait, that’s already happening.

The more time I spend out of Canberra the more I ask “why would I want to go back there?”. I’m just sick and tired of being milked to pay for things I’ll never use and make it so much more difficult to use the things I do.

I (like most of us here), want an effective and useable public transport system for all Canberrans, I have just never been sure that Light Rail model the ACT Government has adopted is a suitable and cost effective solution for a spread out city with one of the lowest population densities in the world.

Even based on the Governments own ‘cost estimates’ for a City wide system of multiple route Light Rail system through each town centre, seems unaffordable for Canberra.

At $10 Billion dollars for the full city wide system as they propose, it would mean it costs the ACT Government and its Taxpayers $1.3 million dollars a day, for every single day in the life of the Light Rail system.

Like Infrastructure Australia found, the cost benefit ratio is far too low for this kind of Light Rail solution in Canberra. There has to be a better and cheaper way than the current Light Rail solution. These trackless Trams at a tenth of the cost, really interest me as a better alternative.

I for one never need to travel between town centres. Can’t remember the last time I needed to go to Civic or Woden or Tuggeranong or Weston Creek or Gungahlin or Kingston, but when I did I drove. That’s how it’s supposed to be for most because that’s how Canberra was designed.

It must be getting increasingly tough for those who actually need to drive anywhere to earn a living.

michael quirk4:39 pm 24 Oct 18

The ACT government has yet to provide a justification of why light rail should be the technology for the inter-town public transport between Civic and Woden.

Alternatives including a bus way and the trackless tram ( a high capacity electric bus) need to be evaluated. They are more flexible, adaptable and less expensive and like light rail provide urban renewal benefits. Unfortunately the government is unwilling or unable to explain why such alternatives are not being explored. The ACT has many activities that need funding and many have concerns about the level of rates. A responsible government would consider alternatives to the extremely expensive light rail. The aim to reduce car dependency and associated greenhouse emissions could be better served by abandoning LR stage 2 , and using the funds saved to increase the coverage and frequency of the bus network and to influence employment location

Capital Retro12:43 pm 24 Oct 18

“…..the trams are going where Griffen planned them to go.”

I don’t think so as W B Griffen wanted heavy rail and trams run on light rail.

Woden Valley Community Council11:31 pm 23 Oct 18

Will the south siders lose their intertown rapid transport service? The Report says that the ACT Government has undertaken extensive traffic modelling so is the forecast demand enough to retain the blue rapid should the light rail with a dogleg be built?

Belconnen lost their rapid service years ago when the 333 and later 300 series buses went via College Street rather than eastern valley way. The reason it provided a better service to UC, CIT, AIS and the hospital. It is now 10 minutes slower in peak than the 333’s of the early 1990’s. Yet it is still one of the busiest bus routes in Canberra.

My pint the diversion though the triangle will add a similar time penalty but provide a lot more opportunities for passengers.

You keep repeating this example but it’s not comparable in the slightest.

The diversion through the parliamentary triangle with light rail increases the travel time significantly, at a far greater cost for zero benefit in opportunity for passengers. It will actively drive people away from using it unless they work in the parliamentary triangle. It ruins the entire future functionality of the light rail network.

The passengers would have almost identical system functionality through a direct woden-city light rail link with a loop bus servicing the parliamentary triangle. A light rail spur line through the triangle could have been created later when (more likely if) it ever became viable.

The fact is however, the light rail itself would be unlikely to match the service provided by buses until the population density along Adelaide Avenue is monstrously higher than it is now. It’s not going to be remotely viable for decades. Which is why no business case has been sighted, yet detailed planning is already occurring.

Agree Chewy14 (and we rarely agree) – I don’t see the comparison either. The 333 route change from the old days was pretty slight and it has maybe lost some time around Belconnen, but also made up time with dedicated Bus lanes and zones in the Barry drive area.

Although I note JC didn’t see an issue for Kambah Park and Ride users who currently have a 1 stop to Woden up the Parkway, now under the Bus proposal to 13 Stops and a Bus change at Cooleman Court, more than doubling the journey time.

He also reckoned it was only 8 Stops (but that was also wrong when you checked the map) so evidence is not always his thing – either way, any Rapid Transport options that meanders around Suburbs are departing from the optimal design for fast commuting.

Pretty slight? Old time was 15 minutes just like existing Woden to City route. New time closer to 25 just like what is being mentioned for the slight detour via Barton.

And the comparison is it was diverted to go via an area where they thought there was demand at a cost penality of 10 minutes. Same with Woden to the city and there is demand there. Well weekdays anyway but same with the Bruce diversion to Belconnen.

Oh and that extra 10 minutes for Belconnen 5 of that was the diversion and 5 the extra traffic over the years.

As for these bus lane works that have made up for it which ones are these? One piddly bit at the lights under Caswell Drive which does nothing much and another near the ANU where any time saving is eaten up by the wait to turn right across all the lanes to divert through the ANU only to get stopped by another set of lights.

The one bit of bus lane that works is over black mountain that’s been there as long as I can remember.

And sorry it was 9 stops to Kambah and a faster trip to the city for you as you won’t have to go to Woden and get light rail!

You’ve forgot the couple of billion dollars for the light rail for no actual benefit. If your example is correct, you’re actually promoting more flexible bus routes, which I wouldn’t disagree with.

As for BJ’s Kambah comment, it’s still almost doubling the travel time for most of Kambah to Woden.

Lucky that they aren’t spending a billion dollars on it, you could almost make an argument that it was sensible on cost grounds.

Didn’t you say you didn’t support light rail stage 2 though?

You are wrong and just making it up in the fly.

Just for JC’s benefit, I previously provided an image showing all the stops between Kambah Park and Ride and Cooleman Court, before heading off to Woden. He chose to ignore it.

It currently only takes about 10 minutes to go from Belconnen Dr/Hayden drive intersection to Belco interchange. He needs to pass on to ACT transport the tip on how his old 333 route used to get from this point to the Belconnen interchange quicker than Mark Webber in a Red Bull F1.

Still not even the slightest hint of a business case and still pushing the illogical and poorly thought out Barton route.

It’s almost like they don’t want to have to build stage 2 and are looking for ways to can the project.

Oh wait…….

Capital Retro10:09 am 23 Oct 18

Who cares where it goes. The vanity of our Chief Minister has no limits.

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