5 December 2022

Probing the polls: seaplanes, Spilt Milk and getting Canberra's transport systems right

| Genevieve Jacobs
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The Gungahlin Light Rail terminal

Is light rail fit for purpose if it can’t cope with a crowd? Photo: File.

Not all Canberrans are on board with plans for seaplanes to land on the lake according to last week’s poll.

The proposal has in-principle approval from the National Capital Authority, but plans for up to four flights per day from Sydney and the South Coast have met with opposition from local business owners and others who say current lake users shouldn’t be disrupted by the commercial activity.

We asked: Should seaplanes be allowed to land on West Basin? A total of 766 readers voted.

Your voting choices were: No, the lake belongs to us all, elite frolics don’t take precedence. This attracted 67 per cent of the total, or 514 votes. Alternatively, you could have chosen: Yes, it’s a big lake and people should get over themselves. This attracted 33 per cent of the total (252 votes).

This week, we’re wondering whether the ACT’s light rail system is fit for purpose, following the experience at the Spilt Milk festival. Crowded light rail vehicles stopped running completely as 45,000 festival goers attempted to leave EPIC, creating plenty of frustration.

READ ALSO Spilt Milk public transport issues now ‘learnings’ for future large events

The Liberals have criticised the system’s planning and capacity. Transport spokesman Mark Parton asked in the Assembly why this had happened and what the point of light rail was if it wasn’t able to “cope” with major events.

Transport Minister Chris Steel defended the Territory’s public transport system and its capacity to manage crowds, saying that light rail services were merely suspended for 20 minutes, due to large numbers of people deciding to ignore safety barriers and walk on the light rail corridor.

“Whatever happened last weekend after the Spilt Milk music festival ended, it wasn’t a good advertisement for Canberra’s public transport system and the vaunted people-moving capabilities of light rail,” Ian Bushnell wrote.

“But privately he should be asking some serious questions of Transport Canberra and how it managed to underestimate the resources needed to marshal the crowd and get them away from EPIC in as orderly a fashion as possible.”

“I’d have thought whatever lessons there were from this should have been learnt from numerous previous events over the years,” adding, “Also, can anyone who uses ‘learning’ in any statement, document or whatever, be immediately fired?”

Mel Smith said, “I caught the light rail from MacArthur into the city at 4 pm. My observation was at that time they were already struggling. Trams going towards EPIC were full and very intoxicated festivalgoers were not listening to instructions about not boarding full carriages.

“There was one security/organiser at the station trying to manage hundreds of patrons both on the road and the tram stop. It is not a surprise that eight hours later – after more alcohol and whatever else – people got frustrated with lining up and what I’m assuming was a lack of info or direction, so started walking.”

Our poll question this week:

Is the light rail system fit for purpose?

View Results

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Scott Anthony10:24 pm 05 Dec 22

Light rail is last centuries transport failure, its heavy and inflexible and energy hungry no matter the source… A dedicated busway or trackless tram would have been much cheaper and with bio-diesel we could have zero carbon busses on our roads right now… but tram, or the ‘red loser cruise’ was a vote winner for the Labor / Green voter base who want others to pay for their subsidized lifestyle of hi-rise chicken coop apartments…!!

As for the transport stuff up, what else would you expect from this government? Transport has been consistently badly planned, to the extent that many previous public transport users have stopped using the ‘services’ due to their inadequacy on every possible measure for most people.

The ACT government doesn’t listen to critics or those who highlight risks, only paying attention to their supporters and what suits them, ignoring other comments and stakeholders.

Why wouldn’t you put on buses to get people to Civic? It doesn’t take a genius to recognise this would be needed when the event finished, but clearly Transport Canberra didn’t think of it.

The people walking in the corridor are probably from the trams that got suspended, rather than the reason the trams got cancelled.

How can one ask if the light rail is fit for purpose? What is the intended purpose? Development tool or transport option. It only does the 1st with creative accounting.

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