11 October 2021

Probing the polls: a new railway station and a budget for hard times

| Genevieve Jacobs
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Sandford Street light rail stop

The 2021 ACT budget includes funding for the next stages of light rail. Photo: John Mikita.

Do we need a new railway station in the city centre? Canberra’s only interstate rail connection is in Kingston and transport advocates believe a new railway station in Civic could link up light rail, the airport and the main southern railway line that currently runs through Yass.

Plenty of you agreed: Sharon Cornthwaite wrote “As a regional passenger, I already have to take a 4-hour bus trip to Canberra to catch the train to Sydney. The timetable is very limited, and an upgrade would be most welcome”, while Ian Barndt wrote “and ‘down the track’ perhaps commuter services via light rail to Bungendore, Michelago and beyond, with stops at Jerrabomberra, Googong, Hume, and connections into the Tuggeranong valley.”

This week’s poll asked Do we need a new railway station in the city centre? 1667 readers voted. Your choices were No, that train has gone and it’s no longer a relevant idea. This received 34 per cent of the total, or 568 votes. Alternatively, you could vote Yes, it would need investment but I’d catch the train for sure. This was the winner, with 66 per cent of the total, or 1099 votes.

This week, our attention is focused on the ACT budget, delayed by COVID-19, but delivered last week.

The ACT Government unveiled a $5 billion pipeline of infrastructure projects, describing it as the largest program in the history of the ACT public sector.

Chief Minister and Treasurer Andrew Barr said the Government would be going full throttle to support the strongest possible economic recovery.

“We will be pumping hundreds of millions of dollars into the ACT economy over the coming years to support, create and protect thousands of good, secure local jobs in the public sector, the private sector and the community sector,” he said.

“Interest rates are the lowest since federation, providing a once-in-a-century opportunity for the Government to build sustainable, productivity-improving and growth-enabling infrastructure to prepare our city for the future.”

READ ALSO Pandemic Budget Barr’s shot in the arm for Canberra

There is $1.4 billion for the ACT’s transport system, including the first light rail stop for stage two of light rail to Woden, design and construction of the Sulwood Drive shared path and the duplication of William Hovell Drive, as well as upgrades to roads and paths and improvements to active travel routes across Canberra, in addition to the Canberra Hospital expansion, light rail stage 2A to Commonwealth Park and CIT Woden.

Where did all the money come from amid soaring pandemic costs? The ACT Budget shows a 3.75 per cent average increase in residential rates for both units and houses, but rises will vary widely across the Territory depending on the type, size and location of the property.

READ ALSO ACT Budget: Your rates and what you will pay

Many readers were not impressed. Nadine wrote “When will Barr realise that the average person can’t afford any more rates or rego increases. Our quality of life is decreasing because of having these continued increases. A tram from Civic to Woden will not in any way reduce the financial burden for the average person. But stopping these increases in rates and rego will help people. If Barr understood what the average person needed maybe he will put aside this tram project and minimise the financial cost to us.”

But Jazzy Dhooria wrote “A new hospital in tuggers would be amazing! It’s got a little economy of its own”, while Ted Oxenham wrote perhaps tongue in cheek, “I’m angry because rates are going up and at the source it all is really just my fear of change.”

In this week’s poll, we’re wondering whether the Government got the settings right.

Is the 2021 Budget on track to meet our needs in a tough economic climate?

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Richard Windsor2:33 pm 11 Oct 21

The pursuit of madness by expanding a tram unsupported by an adequate cost-benefit analysis will lead us all into terminal despair.

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