2 January 2022

Raising London Circuit shouldn't be assessed on its own, says council

| Ian Bushnell
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Light rail.

An artist’s impression of the intersection of London Circuit and Commonwealth Avenue on the light rail Stage 2A route to Commonwealth Park. Image: ACT Government.

The raising of London Circuit and the loss of the clover leaf southern gateway to Civic will increase travel times, result in reduced urban amenity and facilitate an inferior public transport option, according to a submission to the National Capital Authority consultation on the ACT Government proposal.

The Inner South Canberra Community Council questions most of the proposal’s assumptions and says it is part of a piecemeal approach to the light rail to Woden project.

Its says that if it is to facilitate the light rail stage 2A to Commonwealth Park, then it should be considered in light of the entire Stage 2 project, including across the lake to Woden.

“It is our view that light rail Stage 2A cannot be justified on its own, and statements by the Government (and the Auditor-General) appear to support that view,” the submission says.

“Stage 2A can only be justified if Stage 2B is approved. In the absence of Stage 2B, Stage 2A would be a ‘white elephant’.”

The council says the NCA should delay consideration of the proposal until documentation is available for all of Stage 2.

It says the Auditor-General has found that light rail 2A has very low benefit cost ratio and its calculation, presented in the business case, is dubious, and when the additional cost of raising London Circuit is taken into account ($9 million in 2021-22), the benefit cost ratio is even lower .

“In the light of the Auditor-General’s findings alone, the project cannot be justified and should not be approved,” the submission says.

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It says the NCA should not consider any part of the light rail project until the Government has responded to the Auditor-General’s report.

The council also says the works application makes a number of unsubstantiated claims about how the project is in line with the National Capital Plan vision, will align the road network with strategic transport and land use planning for the city and improve urban amenity and support the revitalisation of the city precinct.

It says these are just part of the Government’s marketing for the project.

“In our view, removing grade separation between London Circuit and Commonwealth Avenue will significantly reduce urban amenity and impede traffic flows between north and south Canberra,” it says.

“It is very difficult to see how the proposed new intersection with traffic lights will result in improved urban design. What it will do is to impede traffic flow between north and south Canberra.”

Claims that the light rail will future-proof the transport network should be rejected, the council says, pointing to inflexible routes, inability to provide express services, and high track construction costs with significant greenhouse gas emissions.

The council is also concerned that raising London Circuit will have a negative impact on the landscape and vistas that are an essential element of the Griffin design.

It criticises the NCA for its limited scope, saying it to should be taking a much deeper look at the rationale for the project than just the design, quality and traffic modelling.

“This project involves a large investment and would have significant adverse impacts in both the construction and operational phases,” the council says.

“All aspects of the project should therefore be thoroughly examined by the NCA to ensure that the NCA’s legislative responsibility for ensuring Canberra is planned and designed in accordance with its national significance is properly discharged.”

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vyt_vilkaitis7:20 am 09 Jan 22

A rail loop from the City to ANU, UC and back to gunners makes the most sense when spending money and looking at road congestion and maximising its use. I agree with the council – look beyond the design and revisit the need to create a 1-way backbone. It so much cheaper to improve the existing express bus network from woden. We can even use the cleared pathways on callum street for buses… so there is still a way forward without losing face.

The normal apologists are out. Usually the same ones who back the government on anything regardless of the facts.

Personally, I am really looking forward to the government wasting more money on light rail. The only debate is how much they can waste in the shortest amount of time possible. The one to Gungahlin cost a lot but I think they could go bigger.

Unlike some (many?) of the apologists here, I don’t care how much money the government spends if I like something. I suspect that many of the apologists don’t pay tax or at best, rarely. Buses are not good enough for them because they think in their minds it isn’t as cool, progressive or as shiny as the light rail.

They don’t pay tax, and so don’t care how much it costs and how other government services will suffer because of it.

Making up stories to justify your narrow view in life as per usual.

By I am one of you apologists and I pay tax. Lots of tax actually, about $45,000 last FY alone. That of course goes to the federal government so not sure what your rant about taxes has to do with anything except reinforce the view you like to whine and have no idea.

Perhaps you should have read Maya’s earlier comment first before going on that diatribe….

The point ———->


The normal whingers are out. Usually the same ones who whing about everything.
I am really looking forward to more light rail. The only debate is the route. The one to Gungahlin is fantastic. Unlike some (many?) of the whingers I have actually used it, even if I don’t live north side.
I suspect that many of the whingers don’t use public transport, or at best, rarely. Buses are only great to them because they think in their minds they can use them to attack the light rail. Otherwise they would likely think of buses as they do light rail; waste of money! They drive, and so can everyone else.

Maya123 cannot see the rationale of those who oppose light rail, due to the blinkers that ensure narrow vision without a wider perspective. I’ve used and love the light rail even though the costs have been so much higher than the benefits. It’s an outdated rigid form of transport that can’t be re-routed as demographics change. Adelaide’s version would have been much better as theirs can travel on roads as well as rails, so is not restricted to a single route. It travels through all sorts of environments including parkland without the costs or the need to remove beautiful trees. It’s a much less expensive option to build and maintain, with many more opportunities to improve transport down the track. It’s faster than our light rail and more flexible, creating better travel from entry point to destination.

Hi Psycho, don’t know how familiar you are wth Canberra but the routes chosen for Stages 1 to 4 are based on routes that won’t change; for example, Parliament House isn’t going to be moved any time soon, nor is the airport. Interchanges and town centres have been pretty much fixed for decades. These are the types of routes more suited to light rail. Buses are more suited to the changing or winding types of routes and local area services. Both modes of transport have their uses. Adelaide has trains, buses and light rail. When building in the rail routes land has to be cleared, just as it does for roads and highways. This doesn’t change no matter what city you’re travelling in.

Adelaide’s light rail uses rails. Maybe you are thinking of their O-Bahn. Which was a good idea but does suffer immensely from being far too propitiatory and now being an almost orphan system. The problem with that is when the original Mercedes’ buses (which were high floor as was the norm at the time) Adelaide had a lot of trouble finding replacement buses. Mercedes’ (and MAN) who were the pioneers abandoned the technology so Adelaide has to spend heaps and reuse old parts to get replacement (Scania’s) working.

There are other guided busway systems that are not proprietary but Adelaide paid the price by being a trail blazer in the technology.

Sydney has a similar issue with their new light rail which uses a propitiatory ground power system for the Town hall to circular Quay section of the new line. It means only Alstom who own the technology can supply vehicles.

That said the supposed inflexibility of fixed rails can also be a benefit too when used as a trunk route. Which is how it is being used in Canberra on Stage 1 and planned for stage 2.

One of the advantages of rail is the inflexibility. Unlike bus routes, which can easily be taken away, it’s hard to remove a rail route. That gives people confidence that if they buy a home near to a rail route, they are unlikely to lose it, as happened to my bus route, which was taken away.
For many light rail haters, who maybe don’t use public transport, this is of no concern to them.

You make some good points astro2. My concern as a public transport user is the number of connections required to get from one place to another and the closeness of stops to destinations. Anyone who does not live on the tram line spends an inordinate amount of time between different forms of transport, often juggling shopping, children or luggage in all sorts of weather. If the ACT government put the transport user’s perspective central, they might provide better connections and thus better transport for all Canberrans.

We need good east-west transport options to the north-south spine but this seems to be ignored. We could also have night routes on circuits between various night-spots and entertainment options to prevent drunk / drugged driving, fights to get taxis and ubers etc. Public transport is a service to enable movement, work, education, health and commerce for all residents. In most cities it is not expected to pay for itself with fares as the benefits flow to all businesses, organisations and communities.

Good point, as long as you can afford to buy on the light rail route. Everyone else is left behind as bus routes are deleted to support tram use. Those most harmed are older or less mobile people who’ve bought their homes on a bus route and then lost their bus. Transition plans to ensure all can use public transport would be good, instead of just focussing on the young fit majority. Isn’t Canberra supposed to be ‘inclusive’?

I understand your concern here. Good connections between main lines and other local area services is very important as is connections between east/west and north/south. However that situation exists with the current express service connections to local area services (and has existed for many years) so, whilst it is important to consider any future improvements to connections, it isn’t a problem exclusive to a light rail system as such.
Regarding your query about night services, there have been various trials over the years of night services between central precinct areas and suburbs. Again, that isn’t a problem exclusive to a light rail network.

The roundabout tram is the bus-route disaster made permanent in cement and steel.
Every ride comes with a free tour of 5 suburbs you weren’t interested in.

Talk about putting the cart in front of the horse.
Anyone who has been to Woden lately will see that the Government has been cutting down trees, ripping up roads, laying underground drainage etc for the new Bus/LR Interchange and Bus Layover areas. It’s a construction nightmare with sections of Callum Street permanently closed.
If LR doesn’t get over the lake, it’s going to stupid having a LR station for a train that never arrives.

Colin Trinder4:53 pm 03 Jan 22

Bore a tunnel under City hill and the lake to Parliament house and emerge on Adelaide avenue past the lodge and be done with it. Might as well have a sensible big vision for 22nd century investment in future city infrastructure.

Well let us start with asking how you know you are accurately representing the community view on this project?

The Inner South Community Council represents far more people than the major political parties have financial members.

How relevant are they really? And how many people do they actually represent? I’ve lived Southside over 20 years and I rarely hear about them and have never heard about elections, public meetings or any form of public consultation – and I am very active in the local community.

Leon Arundell3:37 pm 03 Jan 22

Over the next five years, the ACT Government plans to commit an extra $10,000 per Canberra household to transport projects.

$10,000 per household will enable the government to replace all fossil-fuelled buses between Woden and Civic with zero-emissions buses, that will make the trip in fifteen to twenty minutes.

It will also enable the government to extend the Adelaide Avenue transit lanes, to further reduce travel times, traffic congestion and transport emissions.

The remaining funds can provide every Canberra household with a $9,000 subsidy towards purchases of public transport tickets, electric cars, and electric or non-electric bicycles that are equipped to carry groceries, to travel at night, and to travel on wet roads.

Alternatively the entire $10,000 could be used to replace all fossil-fueled buses between Woden and Civic with zero-emissions trams, that would take twenty-five to thirty minutes to make the trip.

thoughtsonthesubject2:24 pm 03 Jan 22

Today’s Canberra Times questions a rapid economic recovery with the spread of Omicron. Some of those who have suffered most are Civic’s retailers and restaurants. Raising London Circuit will strangle access to Civic from the South of Canberra for a minimum of two years and once the construction of the light rail infrastructure starts for many more. Part of the $9 million cost of the project should be used to keep Civic businesses and restaurants alive and not to endanger their survival even further. Express bus routes from the new suburbs to Civic would also be a good investment of some of these funds. The light rail (at $2 or some say 3 billion plus) will not go there and expects residents to take local buses to light rail stations. In this way, many in the North found their commuting time increased to such an extent that they had to buy a car.
Finally, there is already good access to the lake by means of a bridge spanning Parkes Way for pedestrians and bicycles. No waiting times at traffic lights there.

Linda Seaniger2:24 pm 03 Jan 22

Of course we should look at the total cost of all tram stages. It’s extremely expensive and a obsolete ineffective Method of transport which will create heaps of other additional expenses Like modifications to Commonwealth bridge landscaping plus lots more traffic lights and pedestrian access bridges down Adelaide Avenue so that people can access the tram. The whole thing will look ugly. There’s at least nine people for every 10 that are against the tram so why
Proceed with later stages? Yes it is Politically motivated decision because labour will not admit it was a bed decision in the first place.

Not obsolete as it’s being used in most Australian states very effectively. Don’t worry about it looking ugly as we’ve already reached peak ugliness with multiple lanes of toy cars carving up the city along Northbourne. But i guess if toy cars are your thing then you don’t mind that type of ugliness. Surveys and elections don’t agree with your opinion about light rail.

Astro too right about people ignoring the ugliness of the roads. I see people complain about the visual portion of the overhead wire and support poles. But if you stand on Northborne and look down you struggle to see the wire except right next to you and as for the poles there are far more light poles that are far more obtrusive.

As for the plantings whilst not everyone’s cup of teas I actually don’t mind them actually. And the claim the platings are not maintained is false. They have a team who constantly maintains it getting rid of the real weeds. But like any Canberra Gardner would attest new weeds grow as quickly as you remove old. So it’s a never needing job.

I personally would rather more plantings in road medians like light rails or NSW main roads over the grass/weed medians we have in Canberra. At least plantings look better than weeds which are impossible to control or mow in peak growing times.

ChrisinTurner2:13 pm 03 Jan 22

Diverting $billions away from hospitals, schools, police and city services was never a smart idea.

On behalf of how many members does this “Council” speak?

InnerSouthACT1:38 pm 03 Jan 22

The Inner South Canberra Community Council is a federation of 8 residents groups in inner south Canberra. We work hard to represent our communities through a range of public forums, newsletters and each group has an annual general meeting to which all residents of their suburb are invited. You will find more information about us here: https://www.isccc.org.au/about-us-2

Gary Kent

well over 1000

Yeah never hear about you guys. And I’ve been in the community over 20 years.

Unfortunately their newsletters don’t reach everyone, especially those in apartments.

A lot of words used up to say “we are a handful of older folk who will never catch light rail, and therefore, neither should you”.

Barr has to start having a good look at some of these Council’s, their representativeness and their governance. After all, they do run on taxpayer funds.

InnerSouthACT1:42 pm 03 Jan 22

Bigred, here is some information about our governance. Happy for any constructive feedback. What are your specific concerns?


Gary Kent
Inner South Canberra Community Council

consumeradvocatecanberra1:58 pm 03 Jan 22

I think you have missed the point Big Red. KGallagher offered a light rail Stage 1 just over $600m-the Auditor General said no, try $1.8 which it was. Measuring the 70 odd km of track from the routes espoused by the govt website, and its costings, the total project will blow out beyond the $70B estimated. Getting to Woden by Light rail will add double travel time. That on its own is a dumb idea and only benefits the construction sector, not the 30 year public transport route patronage and fair box revenue failure. We need to get Min Rattenbury to be open to other ideas like Brisbane Metro-tram bus if you like, not the developer’s golden goose. At least Inner North has spoken out. What about the rest of the population-39000 on the breadline, not enough police and all the other municipal services being squeezed so we can have a gold plated tram, which is apublic transport con and a fraudulent use of public (OUR) FUNDS.

I’d suggest the major concern is the majority of the people you claim to represent don’t you exist and are too busy actually working to be more heavily involved.

The problem with “community councils” is that the people involved are almost never actually representative of their areas and push a very narrow view.

The Brisbane Metro system connects with their rail system and is advertised as such on their website.

The ANU School of Demography identifies that Canberra’s population is on track to increase from 432,000 to 700,000 within 40 years. When Canberra was designed, its newly created broad avenues were created for a future population, not for the existing one. We lament that when new suburbs are created that the existing transport infrastructure doesn’t support them. Why is it so hard to see that the government is building for the future.

thatsnotmyname1:23 pm 03 Jan 22

Couldn’t agree more. The government isn’t building for the next few years but for the generations to come long after we are gone. It’s important to keep this city growing and expanding to meet the demands for the future.

Linda Seaniger2:08 pm 03 Jan 22

I wholeheartedly agree there’s no future planning for expansion just spend spend spend now and use every square inch of land and build on it to collect rates but then we are not reducing our debt. Where is the money going?

“Why is it so hard to see that the government is building for the future.”

Probably because the government’s own figures show it isn’t viable yet?

There is a big difference between planning for the future and building.

The opportunity costs of constructing unnecessary infrastructure before it’s needed are huge.

Scary isn’t it, that the Government would commit so much of our money to build an inflexible, fixed line, transport system to cater for the needs of people over the next 40 years (and beyond).

So much has changed over the last 40 years. Imagine the changes over the next 40 years.

The plan to lock into a fixed line option really doesn’t account well for our changing needs or future technologies.

Yeah it’s not as if every other city in the world does this kind of planning and infrastructure development. It’s not as if there are tried and tested methods for doing this kind of planning…..
You can’t be serious expecting a government NOT to forward plan.

Matthew McGranahan10:04 am 03 Jan 22

“significantly reduce urban amenity and impede traffic flows”
As a local who frequents that actual area, it sounds like the members of ISCCC doesn’t travel through there on anything else but in a car. If you want to talk about urban amenity, maybe get out of your car. Crossing the cloverleafs on foot, bike or e-scooter is not a good time. You generally have to dash across when there is a break, as cars travel through them quite fast. There is no zebra crossing. Not elderly or disability friendly at all. Raising London includes intersection redesign, which will make it easier for other road users to be able to travel through the area.

Pointing out that the obvious, the Light Rail is a White Elephant at present is unlikely to make any difference.

Its always been a political decision, rather than a transport or essential infrastructure one.

Although I’d have to disagree around the merits of raising London Circuit, it will clearly improve the usage of inner city land and provide better long term transport linkages. Of course this will lower the functionality of the road for cars over time, but that would happen anyway with predicted growth. Better public transport linkages we’re always going to be necessary between the town centres eventually and private car use was always going to have to reduce in these locations as well.

Frederick Burman11:13 am 03 Jan 22

Did the greenies ever consider electric trolley buses? They would have avoided all these problems and still been green.

Gerald Lynch2:03 pm 03 Jan 22

Why blame “greenies”, whatever they are. Grateful for an explanation of why a trolley bus is better than LR when it shares road space with all other traffic, uses about 90% more energy than LR to move the same mass, emits PM2.5 particulates to the detriment of peoples’ health, uses twice as much copper OLH to deliver the traction power, is little used beyond legacy systems in the US, Canada and Eastern Europe, can be prone to dewiring at inconvenient times/locations, is as constrained as LR to fixed pathways and all Australian trolley buses were removed from Sydney, Perth, Hobart, Adelaide (Australia’s largest system), Brisbane by the late 1960s.

ChrisinTurner2:11 pm 03 Jan 22

The ACT government has announced moving to fully battery operated buses, which are better than trolley buses as they avoid overhead wires which the NCA won’t allow anyway.

Capital Retro2:54 pm 03 Jan 22

And costs about a quarter of the price of LR.

thoughtsonthesubject2:56 pm 03 Jan 22

Also, the new fully battery operated buses do not need the construction of an infrastructure costing several billion dollars, producing large amounts of greenhouse gasses and traffic chaos for years to come. They can provide transport where people want to live and not where the government plans to sell the land to developers at maximum profit. At times of emergency their express lanes can be used by ambulances and fire trucks.

Leon Arundell3:44 pm 03 Jan 22

What is the basis for your claims that (1) trolley buses use “about 90% more energy than PR to move the same mass,” and (2) “emits PM2.5 particulates.” I’ve never heard of an electric motor emitting measurable amounts of particulates!

Having lived in Melbourne…. Tram lines can be (and ARE) used by emergency services vehicles and are far more likely to be clear than the kind of bus lanes you are talking about.
These trams are designed to be more like arterial roads – the buses used to get out to suburbs.

Leon trolly buses do use more energy to move the same mass by virtue of rubber tyre on road having significantly more friction that steel wheel on steel rail. I’m not going to say the quoted figure is right though.

As for particulates again not my figures but as the anti renewable brigade will tell you a certain amount of power still comes from burning fuels so there would also be an increase in particulate pollution. Likewise (and again it’s now my claim) but would think wear on rubber tyres would also increase particulate pollution.

Oh and any increase in particulate pollution on making electricity would still be less than burning diesel owing to greater efficiency in electric motors compared to combustion engines.

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