Response to Liberals’ Light Rail Report

Canfan 12 June 2014 66

The paper on light rail commissioned by the Canberra Liberals chooses the most expensive construction method for the project and its use discredits the entire report, according to the Minister for the Environment and Sustainable Development, Simon Corbell.

The report is inaccurate, based on incorrect assumptions and does not stack up to rigorous assessment. It does not include important economic benefits from the project and uses unsound cost and construction assumptions. The paper’s author acknowledged the report assumes a construction alignment which is more expensive than constructing in the median corridor, and makes cost assumptions based only on a very few hand-selected foreign examples.

“Cost benefit analyses for transport projects are complex. The Liberals’ paper is based upon simplistic assumptions, including very limited foreign benchmarking that is not specific to Canberra and it cannot be relied upon,” Mr Corbell said.

“In contrast, Capital Metro’s analysis is robust and will stand up to industry standards for a project of this complexity. Our experienced economic advisers draw upon detailed and well considered inputs prepared by specialists with extensive experience on previous similar projects.

“The Liberals’ paper is based on the most expensive alignment option, a two-tracks system, one on either side of Northbourne Avenue, where the footpaths currently are. The government’s assumptions are based on the use of the median corridor because it is a more cost effective option and one which produces a better transportation outcome.

“The figures cited in the paper on benefit cost ratio and capital expenditure are completely out of the ball park. The BCR in the Liberals’ paper is less than 1.0. In contrast, work undertaken by Capital Metro and its economic advisors confirms the BCR for Capital Metro is positive and therefore delivers a positive economic return to the ACT.”

The analysis fails to include a number of key benefits, including:

– Benefits from urban densification spurred by the project, including increased patronage and the more efficient delivery of utility, health, education, waste collection and other services.
– The residual value of benefits at the end of the review period. It is wrong to say that in 35 years the line will have no value. Rail systems have long lives.
– The analysis does not include health or amenity benefits. In the press conference the Liberals’ own consultant acknowledged studies have proven people prefer light rail over buses.
– No wider economic benefits have been included in the Liberals’ analysis.

The Liberals’ report states that “few projects are funded unless the benefit to cost ratio is greater than 2.0 and usually about 2.5 is expected”. This is incorrect as there are numerous examples of transportation projects having been progressed in Australia with a publicly stated BCR of less than 2, including recent rail and road projects in Queensland and New South Wales. A project with a BCR of greater than 1.0 provides a net social and economic return sufficient to justify a project’s costs. The BCR for Capital Metro will meet this threshold.

(Simon Corbell media release)


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66 Responses to Response to Liberals’ Light Rail Report
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gooterz gooterz 9:34 pm 22 Jun 14

dungfungus said :

gooterz said :

Masquara said :

Can one of the proponents please explain why light rail will lead to increased urban density, while vastly increased bus services apparently wouldn’t? How are they materially different?

light rail costs much more, this in turn pushes the rates up and makes houses less affordable. The only way to fix this is to make units and apartments smaller making a much larger population density.

And eliminate car parking for residents of the units and apartments to force them to use public transport.

They’ll just have onstreet parking with super difficult to manage times so they can issue fines and bring in money

dungfungus dungfungus 6:32 pm 22 Jun 14

gooterz said :

Masquara said :

Can one of the proponents please explain why light rail will lead to increased urban density, while vastly increased bus services apparently wouldn’t? How are they materially different?

light rail costs much more, this in turn pushes the rates up and makes houses less affordable. The only way to fix this is to make units and apartments smaller making a much larger population density.

And eliminate car parking for residents of the units and apartments to force them to use public transport.

gooterz gooterz 5:20 pm 22 Jun 14

Masquara said :

Can one of the proponents please explain why light rail will lead to increased urban density, while vastly increased bus services apparently wouldn’t? How are they materially different?

light rail costs much more, this in turn pushes the rates up and makes houses less affordable. The only way to fix this is to make units and apartments smaller making a much larger population density.

Masquara Masquara 4:35 pm 22 Jun 14

Can one of the proponents please explain why light rail will lead to increased urban density, while vastly increased bus services apparently wouldn’t? How are they materially different?

banco banco 2:54 pm 22 Jun 14

Rattenbury’s opinion piece in the CT had basically zero substance.

davo101 davo101 11:55 am 22 Jun 14

miz said :

Shane Rattenbury’s light rail opinion piece in CT reveals that he considers Canberrans who disagree with him to be ill-informed.

Well it is statement of fact. Every Canberran who does agree with him is also ill-informed because the ACT Government continues to refuse to release any of the supporting data for the plan. Even Mr Rattenbury appears to be ill-informed, Portland is not a viable model for Canberra’s situation. Portland’s light rail system has mostly been paid for by the Federal Transit Administration (somewhere just over 70%). So, sure, if the Commonwealth was going to chip in with 70% of the construction cost, why not have a tram? Otherwise Mr Rattenbury stop pretending that Portland is an example of a where a municipality has borrowed to build a tram system and it’s been worthwhile.

miz miz 9:48 am 22 Jun 14

Shane Rattenbury’s light rail opinion piece in CT reveals that he considers Canberrans who disagree with him to be ill-informed. This is a patronising, almost gnostic view of the electorate and shows that he just does not get why people don’t want a millstone like light rail and are angry about his bulldozer approach.

Frankly, why wouldn’t people be angry? He has made it clear from the start (see the very first sentence in his piece) that any consultation will be farcical and contrived. He has said to ACTION staff things like, ‘While I am Minister for Transport, that ship (light rail) has sailed.’ (reference: a bus driver). In other words, no further correspondence will be entered into.

Ironically, Rattenbury actually admits in the article that buses would be cheaper, yet goes on to dismiss that as if it is a minor point, effectively saying that his ‘vision’ is more important than pesky things like cost benefit analysis. This is NOT a balanced argument based in any kind of reality as we know it.
While I personally favour renewables in the general sense, I simply cannot see the point in a very expensive light rail when we already have buses (some already running on green power), and even with retrofitted, allegedly ‘vibrant’ tower blocks along the corridor we cannot hope to have enough people to make light rail viable. It is environmentally friendly to use what you have, instead of consuming unnecessary goods. While EVERYONE gets that we need better public transport, light rail is unnecessary at this time and we need better public transport across the city, not just in a small favoured stretch.
We all know that the first stretch will be an expensive white elephant and no one else in Canberra is ever going to see light rail. I used facts to come to this conclusion, not fairy stories.

dungfungus dungfungus 10:00 pm 21 Jun 14

Simon’s PV farms will be working overtime to power the air conditioners in the trams that Edinburgh considered unecessary.
http://www.edinburghnews.scotsman.com/news/transport/complaints-over-edinburgh-s-sweltering-trams-1-3452325

rommeldog56 rommeldog56 8:59 pm 21 Jun 14

aussieboy said :

This whole project demonstrates how out of touch ACT residents are with reality.

In Sydney, the bus between Bondi and the City runs every 2 minutes all day (every 15 mins all night). It serves more than 8.9 million passengers per year (2006 figure) – that’s the equivalent 10 full buses per hour in each direction, 24 hours, 365 days a year. The Wentworth electorate is 10x as dense as Fraser.

Yet there is no firm plan for rail to Bondi.

Maybe when the 200 bus starts running at least every 15 minutes 24/7 we should start to think about light rail? At the moment, Northbourne feels like a private dragway after 9pm.

What I would like to see is a widened kerbside lane, designated bus only in peak hour, and with proper cut out stops so express buses can overtake stopped buses. The median should be used for a high speed cycleway.

A widened kerbside lane and high speed cycleway in the median is a good idea – sensible and no doubt, much, much cheaper than a toy train set. Good grief – it might even make it to all parts of Canberra !

Not sure what you mean about “This whole project demonstrates how out of touch ACT residents are with reality”.

Isn’t it the ACT Gov’t that is out of touch with reality ? I think more and more Canberra residents, and particularly Ratepayers, are waking up to what the economic (as opposed to social/environmental) impact of a Gunners-Civic toy train set really means and the public sentiment has, IMHO, certainly changed to be against it.

This, and the potential tripling of Annual Rates (wait till the 2014/15 Annual Rates Notices are issued – and that’s only year 2 of those increases !) will, I reckon, shake the apathy out of ACT residents and Ratepayers. At least, I hope so, or we are all stuffed………

aussieboy aussieboy 12:09 pm 21 Jun 14

This whole project demonstrates how out of touch ACT residents are with reality.

In Sydney, the bus between Bondi and the City runs every 2 minutes all day (every 15 mins all night). It serves more than 8.9 million passengers per year (2006 figure) – that’s the equivalent 10 full buses per hour in each direction, 24 hours, 365 days a year. The Wentworth electorate is 10x as dense as Fraser.

Yet there is no firm plan for rail to Bondi.

Maybe when the 200 bus starts running at least every 15 minutes 24/7 we should start to think about light rail? At the moment, Northbourne feels like a private dragway after 9pm.

What I would like to see is a widened kerbside lane, designated bus only in peak hour, and with proper cut out stops so express buses can overtake stopped buses. The median should be used for a high speed cycleway.

miz miz 10:06 pm 20 Jun 14

me2, I completely agree that HEAVY rail is actually the preferable way to go – it’s off road, can go underground where needed, and if done properly would be a ‘true’ metro (i.e. like the French one), not the metro-lite they are proposing. I lived for some years in Sydney and loved the trains, whereas this proposal for a dinky tram is just silly as it will be beholden to traffic lights and the current proposal will only serve a minuscule part of town. It would be sensible to look at heavy rail in, say, 20 -30 years, once buses are near capacity. No need for it now, though – and we can’t afford it.

dungfungus dungfungus 6:41 pm 20 Jun 14

davo101 said :

dungfungus said :

I see that you approve of the NBN business plan.

How? In what way do you think I said anything about the NBN? I was just pointing out that both side are equally guilty of using infrastructure investment as electioneering grease.

Sorry, I misunderstood what issue you were referring to as you only raised the issue of the Canberra light rail project being committed to before a business plan had been developed.
I mentioned that the same was done with the NBN which was a common denominator with Labor.
If you are suggesting that the both the Canberra light rail and the current NSW light rail proposals are “pork barrelling with infrastructure promises” you are only half right as the next NSW State election is almost 12 months away whereas the Canberra light rail promise was made about 2 months before the 2012 election.
I said you agreed with the NBN because you didn’t express any opinion. Kevin Rudd first announced the NBN in April 2007 which was 7 months before the election which definitely falls into the “pork barrelling” category.
You didn’t exactly say that both sides are equally guilty of using infrastructure investment as electioneering grease earlier. I am not a mind-reader.

HiddenDragon HiddenDragon 6:41 pm 20 Jun 14

rosscoact said :

Can I suggest that people who don’t believe that light rail is a good idea resolve to not vote for Labor and the ones that think it’s a good idea do? Admittedly, that’s what happened last election but that’s democracy.

Problem solved.

Quite so – and in a unicameral legislature, with a four year fixed term, and the “veto” of the federal parliament now gone, the local legislature can do pretty much whatever at least 9 of its 17 members want. I just wish they could be a little more pragmatically forward-looking, rather than idealistically and impractically so, about which promises and commitments they choose to keep, and which they overlook, re-prioritise or re-interpret in light of changed circumstances and new information. Mandate theory is just that, and wonderfully malleable when it suits.

davo101 davo101 5:36 pm 20 Jun 14

dungfungus said :

I see that you approve of the NBN business plan.

How? In what way do you think I said anything about the NBN? I was just pointing out that both side are equally guilty of using infrastructure investment as electioneering grease.

dungfungus dungfungus 2:04 pm 20 Jun 14

davo101 said :

dungfungus said :

This is the text book Labor way

There, fixed that for you. This complaint applies to both sides–the current NSW Government being of a Liberal variety.

I assume you are referring to the plans being announced in Sydney to build new light rail lines?
You’re probably too young to remember (most of the NSW politician’s certainly are) but Sydney used to have trams in most places they are planning to them again and with close to 5 million people with increasing traffic gridlock and diminishing car parking spaces the “business plan” will work.
The ACT Labor governmnet has had to “invent” factors with dubious benefits to convince everyone our light rail will work.
I see that you approve of the NBN business plan.

Me2 Me2 1:28 pm 20 Jun 14

miz said :

CT has another article casting doubt on viability of light rail, in which Katy ‘conceded a rapid bus might stack up better on “a single equation of capital cost and passenger journeys”, but said 1. light rail improved land values, 2. attracted more passengers, 3. was more accessible for the elderly and disabled, 4. took more people than buses, 5. was faster loading, and 6. was less polluting and 7. more visually appealing.’

I beg to differ on all seven points.
1. ‘improved’ land values: this is purely speculative, though of course values go up in any area well served by public transport – irrespective of mode of transport, but particularly HEAVY rail because it is off the road and fast (i.e. not light rail, which is on the road and therefore as slow as the traffic). *No points*
2. Attracting more passengers than buses? Have they not heard of advertising to inform people about services? Remember the pluses of buses?? *Zero*
3. ‘more accessible’ – I doubt light rail will be better than the new buses which are able to lower the doorways and have space for wheelchairs (has she been on one?), and remember, most people have to stand on trams which means it is pretty much the survival of the fittest. Zip.
4. ‘take more people’ – easily solved with more articulated buses. *Dadow*
5. ‘faster loading’ – I didn’t notice any particularly ‘fast loading’ when I used Yarra Trams – you still had to ‘touch on’ with the Myki Card (the equiv of the MyWay) on the way in, and besides, most cities have a bus policy of ‘in at the front, out at the back’ which would speed things up. *Nope*
6. ‘less polluting’ depends on how much they reckon they can generate via solar etc, instead of dirty dirty coal, and whether they spend more to get more nat gas buses – I seriously doubt this issue has been properly weighed up. *Unsafe claim*
7. ‘visually appealing’ probably would not apply to the poles and wires draping along the tracks, not to mention the many years of dug up roads and traffic jams spoiling the primary entrance into Canberra – all avoidable with buses. *Nada*

Total Score: Nil.

I note she did not mention the years and years of construction inconvenience and associated business decline, lack of route flexibility (they are stuck on tracks FFS), tracks icing up or buckling in our extreme climate, and how much public transport would improve across a much larger area for the same amount of spend – or even a quarter of the spend – if they put it into the buses we already have.

CONCLUSION: TALKING THROUGH HER HAT AS USUAL.

PS Not usually a Liberal voter. But I might be one soon if this keeps up.

Read more: http://www.canberratimes.com.au/act-news/report-casts-more-doubt-on-benefits-of-gungahlin-lightrail-line-20140619-zsezx.html#ixzz354fvSNwm

In response to your points above:
1. Agree re land values, but isn’t the planned route for it to run down the median of Northbourne and Flemington, therefore having its own right of way for the majority of the route? Granted, it would still have to cross all the road intersections but it would always be at the front of the queue at each light which would surely make it a bit faster than in a car. With appropriate signalisation it would be faster still. Stops could also be placed at intersections and traffic lights timed to be red while offloading/loading passengers. I’m not convinced our Gov and its planners are capable of making that happen but it is possible, so saying it will be as slow as traffic is also speculative.
You mention heavy rail. I believe this is the best long-term public transport solution for our city (well, probably a ‘medium rail’- heavy rail network using closer to light-rail style vehicles). It would cost significantly more than light rail though, so I don’t think it is ever likely to happen. Big projects cost big money but can also have big benefits.
2. Agree that more advertising could increase bus patronage, provided the services meet passengers requirements. But this doesn’t mean rail (heavy or light) wouldn’t attract more passengers. Having done a bit of travel, the places I found easiest to get around were those with rail. With rail you know if you wait at a station long enough something will turn up, route maps are generally easier to read, and you can easily find the station and the one you need to get off at.
3. While the new buses are wheelchair accessible, the lowering of the doorway to meet the curb is time consuming. Being fixed on rails means stops/stations can have the platforms built to the same hieght as the door/floor of the tram. See also point 5.
4. More buses could take more passengers, but also means more drivers and maintenance to pay for. As the city grows, is adding more buses exponentially (and building more roads) a viable solution in your opinion? How big would the city have to get before other options are worth investigating.
5. But did you notice any SLOW loading on the trams? Do all people who board a Yarra tram do so via the front door only a la an Action bus? I would agree that the older trams in Melbourne (the ones that still have stairs) aren’t all that different to a bus in terms of loading. But the newer ones are undeniably faster.
6. In a local sense, trams pollute less. The emissions from a bus come straight out the exhaust pipe, while those ofr a tram come from the power plant which is miles away. Your point is correct in a broader sense (which I assume is what Katy is trying to argue)
7. I’ve never found the wires to be a problem, I used to love it when holidaying in Melbourne as a kid the odd spark would zap from trams crossing wires at an intersection, but can understand others would find them an eyesore. There are battery powered light rail options out there and some systems in Europe use a third rail in the ground in their ‘old town’ sections where the wires would be visually intrusive. Remember also that the plan is for the route to run down the median strip so a busway would also require signifcant digging things up to build and the associated problems you mention.

Re the other points you make:
Fixed routes are a positive. Why do you think land value increases around heavy rail? Because people know it’s not gonna disappear any time soon. Buses and their flexibility are good for the suburban routes but fixed transport for the trunk routes is far better.
The climate thing- didn’t a number of Action buses breakdown in the heat a year or two ago? Does that mean we shouldn’t have buses because they can’t handle our climate? There are numerous light rail networks around the world that face greater extremes than ours. Had a quick look around the net and Lyon in France has similar average highs and lows as Canberra. They reintroduced light rail in 2001, couldn’t find anything on tracks buckling etc.

As mentioned above, I actually think medium/heavy rail (a genuine ‘Capital Metro’) is the best long-term public transport option. I also don’t have any faith that Labor/Greens will manage the project well and can see another cost blowout in the making, so I don’t support the light rail on this basis. I do however, think light rail on the trunk routes is better than more buses.

davo101 davo101 12:47 pm 20 Jun 14

dungfungus said :

This is the text book Labor way

There, fixed that for you. This complaint applies to both sides–the current NSW Government being of a Liberal variety.

dungfungus dungfungus 11:18 am 20 Jun 14

davo101 said :

rosscoact said :

Can I suggest that people who don’t believe that light rail is a good idea resolve to not vote for Labor and the ones that think it’s a good idea do? Admittedly, that’s what happened last election but that’s democracy.

Problem solved.

Not going to help (Hansard 4 June):

MR COE: Minister, will you guarantee that tracks will be laid in 2016 as promised, or has no final decision been made?

MR CORBELL: The government has made its commitment very clear. That is: tracks in the ground, work commenced in 2016. That is absolutely a commitment that this government has put very clearly on the table.

Next election is too late. Also note absolute commitment being given before the business case has been finished.

“Also note absolute commitment being given before the business case has been finished.”
This is the text book Labor way; just like the NBN.

davo101 davo101 8:42 am 20 Jun 14

rosscoact said :

Can I suggest that people who don’t believe that light rail is a good idea resolve to not vote for Labor and the ones that think it’s a good idea do? Admittedly, that’s what happened last election but that’s democracy.

Problem solved.

Not going to help (Hansard 4 June):

MR COE: Minister, will you guarantee that tracks will be laid in 2016 as promised, or has no final decision been made?

MR CORBELL: The government has made its commitment very clear. That is: tracks in the ground, work commenced in 2016. That is absolutely a commitment that this government has put very clearly on the table.

Next election is too late. Also note absolute commitment being given before the business case has been finished.

dungfungus dungfungus 8:29 am 20 Jun 14

gooterz said :

rosscoact said :

Can I suggest that people who don’t believe that light rail is a good idea resolve to not vote for Labor and the ones that think it’s a good idea do? Admittedly, that’s what happened last election but that’s democracy.

Problem solved.

Democracy making a decision about 3 years worth of events that affects billions of dollars and millions of lives by placing numbers in boxes.

Just how many boxes are there,
Its merely an elected dictatorship, you only have to appease 51 percent.

How much of the light rail is actually needed vs vote buying?

In terms of sustainability what damaging impacts is always pandering the minority having on Canberra’s long term viability. A minority government can make things positive for more than just the minority. How long before Canberra sentiment turns into if you don’t like what were doing then leave.
There’s only so much the average person can subsidise cyclists, greens, light rail, public ‘art’. Before they throw in the towel and leave.

Losing the public service is a huge threat to Canberra yet the current government seems to be complacent that it has any value at all. A serious government would be tackling the cost of living not contributing to it.

When you say “It’s merely an elected dictatorship, you only have to appease 51 percent.”, who are you referring to as “the dictator”?
It cannot be Ms Gallagher as although she may be Chief Minister she represents a minority government so she was not elected as Chief Minister. The Liberals also polled more primary votes than Labor.
Mr Rattenbury was elected as one of four Green candidates and had Labor or the Liberals attained an absolute majority to form a government on their own Rattenbury would be a “political nobody”.
So, I guess you are referring to Rattenbury siding with Labor as the dictator and this being the case, we voters did not vote to install a dictator.
So much for “democracy”.

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