3 December 2018

Light rail Stage 2: Government set to dump Barton dog-leg

| Ian Bushnell
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The Government does not want the Woden leg held up because of Commonwealth approvals hurdles. File photo.

The ACT Government looks set to abandon its preferred route through Barton for Stage 2 of the light rail network to Woden, in order to win Commonwealth approval as soon as possible.

Chief Minister Andrew Barr suggested that the Government would not allow hurdles to be placed in the way of light rail by the Commonwealth to slow or block its progress, and that it was willing to look at a less onerous alternative that would be approved more quickly.

“We won’t allow the perfect to be the enemy of the good when it comes to getting on with the next stage of this important infrastructure project to bring light rail to Woden,” Mr Barr said in a mid-term speech on his Government’s progress at the Ainslie Arts Centre.

He said that in light of the federal parliamentary committee’s recent report outlining the range of criteria the project would need to meet if it deviated through Parkes and Barton, the Government was now looking at the best route alignment to achieve ‘timely approval’ from the Commonwealth.

Mr Barr said the committee had clearly indicated that the ACT should focus on State Circle and that this was the fast track to approval.

“What we’ll focus on once you’re over Commonwealth Avenue Bridge, and then to get around to Sydney Avenue the committee appears to have said continue up Commonwealth Avenue, and go around State Circle and behind Parliament House and then back up on to Adelaide Avenue,” Mr Barr said.

“That’s the identified public transport corridor, that in the end is the path of least resistance in terms of not needing to get changes to the intertown public transport route.”

He said this would shave some minutes off the journey.

The Government would make decision next year but would not go back to the Commonwealth until after the federal election in May.

With the Government already facing delays to Stage 1, with services now not due to start until some time in the first quarter of 2019, and possibly not until April when the new bus network will be launched, Mr Barr said that the Government did not want to wait long for Stage 2 to begin.

“We’re keeping up the momentum because Stage 2 is integral to our vision for a city-wide integrated public transport network,” he said.

The Barton dog-leg, as it has become known, has come under fire from many quarters including the Planning Institute and the Woden Valley Community Council, which prefer a direct route that maintains the integrity of the north-south spine and does not mean longer journeys than what the current Blue Rapid bus service provides.

Going through Barton would add 15-20 minutes to a Woden-City journey.

The Government pushed for the Barton route so as to capture patronage from the public service departments, national institutions and other employment centres in the Parliamentary Triangle.

But the federal parliamentary committee said in October that going though Barton would require changes to the National Capital Plan, heritage conditions and light rail vehicles to be wire-free on national land. This would add cost and complexity to the project, it said.

At the time, Transport Minister Meegan Fitzharris said the committee’s report provided a way forward for the ACT Government and that it would press on with the Barton route. Although she did later hint at being more flexible.

But now it appears that a pragmatic Chief Minister is prepared to revisit the route to ensure light rail gets to Woden sooner rather than later.

The Public Transport Association of Canberra (PTCBR) said the move was disappointing.
PTCBR Chair Damien Haas said the proposal to travel through Barton’s national institutions and workplaces had incredible potential to reduce car dependency, ease parking pressures and provide direct access to many national institutions by tourists and Canberrans working there.

“We agree this is the path of least resistance in attaining Commonwealth approvals for construction to occur, and trust this compromise is matched in spirit with a speedy approvals process to enable a business case to be prepared. We would like to see construction started as soon as possible,” he said.

 

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HiddenDragon7:09 pm 04 Dec 18

“PTCBR Chair Damien Haas said the proposal to travel through Barton’s national institutions and workplaces had incredible potential to reduce car dependency, ease parking pressures and provide direct access to many national institutions by tourists and Canberrans working there.”

This presumably has considerable bearing on the “business case” (ahem) and modelling for this project…… but who cares when it’s essentially a mega-election gimmick for 2020.

For those who say we need to pay for the whole Light Rail across Canberra. Just make sure you are fully across the ongoing costs for this method of transport.

By the ACT Governments own estimates. A 6 stage Canberra network would cost $1.4 million dollars a day in 2017 prices for the life of the system.

That’s a huge cost for Canberrans to pay, especially when experts said dedicated Bus Lanes across Canberra could be built for the price of Stage 1.

Surely people have an understanding that we should implement a financially sustainable public transport system, not one with the lowest ROI ever entered into in Australia.

Capital Retro2:37 pm 04 Dec 18

Given the parlous state of the ACT economy (and this doesn’t include the unfunded public service pension liability of about $7 billion) this government should be abandoning all grand visions like stage 2 of the trolley folly and instead, start a period of consolidation although I haven’t heard that word being used for some time so probably, no one knows what it means.

I doubt if many people read this in the Canberra Times last week but I wish everyone would:
https://www.canberratimes.com.au/politics/act/far-from-rosy-act-budget-at-its-weakest-in-a-long-time-20181128-p50iub.html

Not commenting on the contents of that article linked CR – there is plenty of reasonable comment within it, but I hope the irony is not lost about the role those two gentleman had in creating a substantial part of the problems associated with the ACT Budget as it currently stands…. both were in significant places of power to improve the lot when they were involved and did nothing, yet now see no issue with constantly throwing the boot in…. smells a bit like a whistling kettle and a clanging pot for mine.

But then its no different to Stanhope constantly whining (of course quite rightly) about the Labor Party having clubs with poker machines. Agree with his premise, but frustrating that only now is it a ‘priority’ for him to comment on, when he had an extended period in power where he could have done something about it…

Capital Retro6:18 pm 08 Dec 18

You are dead right about your comments on the authors of that article.

How could we forget the Rhodium Asset debacle which lost undisclosed millions of ratepayers dollars as did their foray into Transact.

The mother of them all though is that bottomless pit called the arboretum.

I wonder how much of the unfunded pension money is due to them?

Woden Valley Community Council11:48 pm 03 Dec 18

It is great to see the integrity of the inter town public transport back bone maintained. Now lets see stage 2 go to Mawson!

“We won’t allow the perfect to be the enemy of the good when it comes to getting on with the next stage of this important infrastructure project to bring light rail to Woden,” Mr Barr said

Haha, the Barton route was clearly inferior from a planning, transport and actual construction standpoint. To suggest it was anywhere near “perfect” is beyond laughable.

How’s that business case coming along Mr Barr?

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