11 July 2023

Steel vows no retreat on light rail stage 2B after route doubts emerge

| Ian Bushnell
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ACT Transport Minister Chris Steel and Infrastructure Minister Catherine King

ACT Transport Minister Chris Steel and Federal Infrastructure Minister Catherine King at the Mitchell light rail depot. The ACT will be seeking Commonwealth financial support for stage 2B. Photo: ACT Government.

Transport Minister Chris Steel has doubled down on light rail stage 2B, saying one way or another the mass transit infrastructure project is coming to Woden.

Mr Steel rejected claims the project was in trouble after technical problems had been found with the preferred State Circle route that could make it unviable and impact costs.

“We always said it was going to be a challenging project but we’re not going to give up,” he said. “We’re going to work milestone by milestone through these challenges.”

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The next milestone would be an environmental statement to be submitted next year, for which there will be a public consultation process.

Mr Steel said the government would not rule out any options to get through the Parliamentary Zone.

That includes revisiting the previously rejected deviation off Commonwealth Avenue into Parkes and Barton.

The government’s technical partners looking at the turnoff to State Circle have concerns that its narrowness poses engineering challenges that could be cost-prohibitive.

This has prompted the government to ask the National Capital Authority to re-examine the Barton dogleg option.

The other factor is the surge of public servants expected to be working in Barton in the coming years due to the new National Security Precinct and the movement of other agencies into the area such as the Australian Taxation Office.

“They’re the challenges we’ll be working through as we now start to focus on stage 2B,” Mr Steel said.

He said the works approval for stage 2A to Commonwealth Park was in its final stages and the government hoped to have contracts signed by the end of the year.

With work on raising London Circuit well under way, the government is still expected to start laying track for stage 2A next year.

Mr Steel said the government was now turning its mind to stage 2B, with a budget allocation of $50 million for the planning and early design work to take the project to the environmental impact statement.

He said a project the size of stage 2B faced a number of challenges moving through a sensitive area that had many cultural, heritage and environmental issues that would need to be overcome.

“It’s been really promising that the NCA has been working collaboratively and suggested they’ll be flexible with working with the ACT Government to look at those different options to get light rail down to Woden but also to benefit those tens of thousands of public servants who work in this major employments hub to provide them with access to high-quality mass transit,” Mr Steel said.

He said that the government had also re-established the light rail community reference group made up of local representatives that would be involved in guiding the project through the next milestone and the further approvals required in the national capital area.

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The project will need both NCA and parliamentary approval, and the ACT Government is confident the Commonwealth will contribute financially to this stage as it did for stage 2A.

But with the Canberra Liberals determined to scrap stage 2B and further stages altogether, it will be crucial for the government to reassure the community in an election year that the project remains on track.

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Chris Steel continually talks a great game. But geez he regularly gets out for a duck, misses goals from in front and drops the ball over the try line.

I can’t think of a single Minister since self government who’s had so many massive cost overruns, poor audit reviews, overlooked stuff ups by his public servants and failed projects.

GrumpyGrandpa6:35 pm 12 Jul 23

Hi Stephen,

The ACT is a left-leaning jurisdiction and for the past 20 odd years, we had an ALP or ALP/Greens Alliance Government.

Being elected doesn’t mean that every policy was supported by the majority of voters.

Even if the Government had run on a policy of abandoning public transport entirely and providing free push-bikes to everyone, the likelihood is that they would have stilll been elected.

That is the real problem here and it doesn’t matter who is in power. It applies to all parties and in every jurisdiction. If politicians don’t expect to be held accountable at the Polls, we can get decisions that are poor and idelogically based.

Stephen Saunders11:04 am 12 Jul 23

Few of the comments recognise, that this a very rare example, of government backing the popular will.

Times the voters have endorsed this: 2016, 2020. Next time the voters endorse this: 2024.

They are default Labour/Greens voters. Don’t confuse political allegiance with popular mandate for this massive waste of taxpayer dollars.

If the Labour/Greens came out and cancelled this mess, the same people would all still vote for them at the next election.

strange, I didn’t see a referendum where we got to vote directly on light rail in those years. Perhaps you can share the details of that direct vote on light rail?

No retreat?? You are not storming the beaches Minister Steel, far from it. Here’s a thought. The money for tram 2B should be spent on better schools, better hospitals, renovating public pools , lower energy prices and rates. Then let’s look at the 2B tram programme if anything is left over. Ideology over Economics as usual from a typical Labor green government.

They have been talking about going from the City to Woden for more than 10 years but they still haven’t come up with realistic and feasible way to get there. But they will not retreat.
Light rail in Canberra, just another Labor/Green brainfart that is going to bite everyone of us in the bum.

Vows no retreat, at the cost of Canberra taxpayers, what a

HiddenDragon7:27 pm 11 Jul 23

Kindyana Steel and the Riders of the Dogleg of Doom – coming soon(er or later?) to a ratepayer-funded, zero-carbon, plastic-free artisanal cinema and Spiel-tent nowhere near you.

I am a light rail supporter and like the Barton option. There are a lot of office workers in the Parliamentary Triangle. But I do wonder why underground options do not appear to be considered.

“No retreat”? That sounds like the kind of thing someone who is making decisions based on ideology would say, not a responsible politician that is weighing up the costs and benefits of the proposed solution while deploying billions of dollars of taxpayer dollars.

How are these kinds of statements not a giant red flag to most people?

Ok but he didn’t actually say “no retreat”, did he? Or if he did, it’s not quoted in the article.

He’s a failed teacher, not the sharpest knife in the draw.

I am a light rail supporter. My support for the light rail from Civic to Woden will drop to zero if it diverts to Barton.
I don’t have much confidence in Chris Steel at the moment. Mr Steel has cost taxpayers too much in his short time as a minister.
Taxpayers want a direct and rapid route. Not a dumbed down dogleg option because Mr Steel has doubled down and wants a route to Woden at any cost.

You know things must be dire when even Jack D is questioning the Government on this issue, haha.

Although I’m sure Jack will remind us that the Libs would do a far worse job but still.

Haha it is my old mate chewy! No one epitomises Toryism, fogeyism and backwardness like chewy14! Glued to his/her keyboard hitting the refresh button, railing against light rail and just about everything Labor has to offer.
I can always be guaranteed chewy has his/her pulse on everything even the most mundane!

Hahaha Jack, nothing makes laugh more than partisan hacks calling me a “Tory” one day and others calling me a Left winger the next. Not an original or intelligent thought in their brains.

How is the Legislative Assembly today? Oh, that’s right, they aren’t sitting right now, so you’ve got some spare time on your hands.

GrumpyGrandpa6:22 pm 11 Jul 23

Hi Jack D,
We don’t always agree, but on this ocassion, we’re singing from the Same page of the Hymn Book.

My view, as you’d know, is that LR has merit in a densely populated and congested area, because it can compete positively against the speed of road traffic, particularly so when it gains an advantage via traffic light sequencing. LR to Woden, however, simoly doesn’t offer the same level of speed; it’s considerably slower.

I’ll step down from my soap box now. What you’ve All of said, is spot on.

These are our dollars, Mr Steele is throwing around and LR to Woden, at any cost and by any route, is not what Government is elected to do.

A more accurate headline is:
“Intransigent tram pushing politician vows to ignore technical problems, cost blowouts, alternative transport options, commuter realities, heritage issues, environmental concerns and community objections.”

When you’re in a hole, stop digging. The Robodebt disaster should show governments (even those largely blind to their own faults) that when experienced people raise the alarm, it’s time to pause and reflect rather than rush headlong into more folly.

TR, I agree. If federally, those who are responsible for malfeasance in public administration can be found criminally liable for their decisions, this should reflect in local government too.

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