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Time for Feds to include ACT light rail in infrastructure spending plans

Ian Bushnell 16 September 2019 137

Chief Minister Andrew Barr and Transport Minister Chris Steel announce the go-ahead for light rail to Commonwealth Park. Photo: Ian Bushnell.

No matter where one stands on the light rail issue, everyone agrees that the next stage to Commonwealth Park and beyond to Woden is going to cost a motza.

Last week’s announcement that the Cabinet had backed the business case for Stage 2A and the Government was getting on with extending light rail didn’t come with a price tag due to commercial negotiations with the operator of Stage 1, Canberra Metro.

It makes sense to stick with Canberra Metro and maintain continuity and consistency along the light rail route. There’s no need to reinvent the wheel but the Government rightly wants to get the best deal it can, so it can’t logically flag how much it thinks the project, including the raising of London Circuit, will cost.

The question is, and the Canberra Liberals will no doubt be raising it, can the ACT afford it?

The Government believes it can, and, with the community on board for Stage 1 and the cost benefit ratio tipped to be the same for Stage 2 (1:2), it sees light rail as a long-term economic generator and electoral winner.

But we are a small jurisdiction, with limited revenue options and growing demands on services.

So it would be to the ACT’s advantage for it to get all the help it can to roll out light rail, which many should remember was aided in Stage 1 by the Abbott Government’s asset recycling scheme.

The May election dashed the ACT’s hopes of a Commonwealth windfall from a Shorten government, but the parlous state of the national economy and calls for more infrastructure spending offers a fresh opportunity for some of that possible treasure to come our way.

Perhaps there was something in Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s reported supportive nod to Chief Minister Andrew Barr last week on light rail.

The proposed City South station and the level intersection of London Circuit and Commonwealth Avenue. Image: Supplied.

The trip to Woden will go though Commonwealth land and service Commonwealth employees, and with its popularity no longer in doubt, the case for an economy-boosting infrastructure project is strong, even if it is in the ‘Canberra bubble’.

The raising of London Circuit to create a new level intersection with Commonwealth Avenue will also provide a new gateway entry to the City and assist with the long-sought re-imagining of its southern flank, and is worthy of support from a national capital perspective.

The other way the Commonwealth can come to the party on cost is to minimise some of the conditions it might attach to the project, particularly the amount of wire-free running required, at least in the City to Commonwealth Park leg.

Nobody wants to see the project waved through and the legitimate heritage and environmental concerns ignored, but a cooperative approach would save time and money.

With the success of Stage 1, and the Government rightly points to passenger numbers being way ahead of expectations, communities across Canberra now recognise light rail’s benefits and are clamouring for their own lines.

The Commonwealth should help facilitate through its planning arms the next stages and the Morrison Government should come to the party as part of a much-needed infrastructure boost to the national economy.

Locally the Canberra Liberals should keep the Government honest and accountable but accept the fact that light rail is now the public transport future of the ACT and stop being a drag on progress.

ACT Senator Zed Seselja should be talking to his leader about a light rail deal that would be good for ACT taxpayers and the future livability and prosperity of  the national capital.

It is right that light rail is moving forward but the ACT shouldn’t have to go it alone to get the job done.


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137 Responses to Time for Feds to include ACT light rail in infrastructure spending plans
Nell Feneck Nell Feneck 7:20 am 16 Sep 19

The RiotACT are you in bed with act labor and the greens ?

    Tom Lawson Tom Lawson 7:24 am 16 Sep 19

    Why do you say that? Both sides of the chamber are on board with expansion of light rail, the contentious issues are funding and route selection.

    Paul Dowden Paul Dowden 9:41 am 16 Sep 19

    Nell Feneck I think The RiotACT is in bed with Canberra 🛌 🚊

    Stephen Page-Murray Stephen Page-Murray 3:27 pm 16 Sep 19

    Nell Feneck

    Both sides want the tram extension.

Cat Cat Cat Cat 7:24 am 16 Sep 19

Regardless, watch the gov screw us over with further rate hikes etc.

Jenny Bolin Jenny Bolin 7:25 am 16 Sep 19

Why should the federal government bail out the local governments overspending! If it was any of the states or the NT would you say the same? We need to look at what is important - drought relief, climate change, homelessness, to start!

    Ella Factor Ella Factor 7:43 am 16 Sep 19

    Jenny Bolin yes we would, because the federal government actually does contribute to infrastructure investment in the other states and territories. Its just here they ignore, so fairness says they should contribute here too.

    Also infrastructure investment at the time when the economy is stalling and interest rates are close to zero is actually the most sensible time, it is definitely not overspending.

    Plus it is helping with climate change - its 100% renewables run transport replacing petrol cars!

    And the government is also looking at homelessness - I saw a presentation by ATCOSS recently, they said ACT is far ahead of other jurisdictions in spending to increase public and affordable housing.

    Leigh Brady Leigh Brady 8:12 am 16 Sep 19

    Jenny, it’s not a bailout, they’re supposed to invest money in infrastructure across the country.

    Besides, this stretch is more expensive because of the additional rules that are in place on the federal land. So it makes sense they kick in some bucks given it’s more expensive due to fed rules to go across the bridge and past Parliament House.

    Gwg Heldon Gwg Heldon 9:43 am 16 Sep 19

    Daniel Königs those requirements have always been there. And it's not the Government, it's the National Capital Authority upholding those requirements.

    The ACT should not have made an election promise on the run in 2016. That's what stage 2 was because there was every chance they would lose the Woden/Weston swing voters, so two weeks out, they promised stage 2 and just got over the line.

    Mark Dando Mark Dando 5:17 pm 16 Sep 19

    The federal government stumped up $460 million for the Gold Coast light rail stages 1 and 2 and has promised another $112 for stage 3.

Vanessa Jones Vanessa Jones 7:29 am 16 Sep 19

Kippax-Belconnen-City/Civic-Airport-Queanbeyan seems the route with the most population, the most unis/hospitals/facilities, a NSW rail line & the most businesses and the most COMMON SENSE. But when did common sense ever dominate this "Greens power deal-light rail-build it where ACT ex leader and deputy live-build units for rates" tram line debate?

    Russell Nankervis Russell Nankervis 7:58 am 16 Sep 19

    That does make sense but Tuggeranong is feeling left out so they have to build towards them first.

    Vanessa Jones Vanessa Jones 8:03 am 16 Sep 19

    Russell Nankervis I think it should have been built based on logic, facilities, businesses, unis, populations, and then it would have made sense!! But no, it was built where ex ACT leader Katy Gallagher, deputy ACT leader Barr and Greens Rattenbury owned real estate.... funny that....

    Kerry Dent Kerry Dent 8:13 am 16 Sep 19

    Vanessa Jones Yes, build a tram line where it will be most useful. I agree, out to the airport and Queanbeyan better.

    Vanessa Jones Vanessa Jones 8:26 am 16 Sep 19

    Kerry Dent Queanbeyan & West Belco have similar populations. Link them up!

    Russell Nankervis Russell Nankervis 9:00 am 16 Sep 19

    Gungahlin is the fastest growing suburb in the country. This route made sense for stage one.

    Vickie O'Malley Vickie O'Malley 9:07 am 16 Sep 19

    Russell Nankervis light rail will never come into the valley. The terrain isn't suitable.

    Justin Watson Justin Watson 9:09 am 16 Sep 19

    Vanessa Jones I think you'll find it is because of the divisive politics at play that they want to build south. If they don't the ACT Liberals will keep playing the Southside never get anything card, even though the infrastructure on the southside is a million times better than Gungahlin, albeit older. They did the most populated corridor first and the second most corridor would be Belconnen to Airport, but instead, the government is playing politics to keep people happy rather than build what is needed now. Parkes Way is a car park everyday, so anythin g to get a few cars off the road in the East West direction would be useful.

    Justin Sevi Justin Sevi 10:16 am 16 Sep 19

    100%, people at Russell would no longer get violated for parking everyday airport link to the city, possible stadium etc etc.. Woden hardly a prority.

    Ian McLeod Ian McLeod 2:29 pm 16 Sep 19

    There is nothing to gain politically from the Belconnen route although it makes the most sense. The representatives who should be arguing for this are too busy with the Culture Wars and breaking records for rate payer funded overseas travel.

    Ashley Wright Ashley Wright 4:12 pm 16 Sep 19

    Vanessa Jones stage one was built based on that criteria. A look at the population heatmap on the territory plan would be a good start to see why.

    Stage 2 should be belco but not as far as Kippax.

    Amanda Evans Amanda Evans 8:16 pm 16 Sep 19

    Vanessa Jones is there land to sell along that route?

    Roderick Saunders Roderick Saunders 7:58 pm 17 Sep 19

    Amanda Evans new development at Ginnindery

    Paul Wylks Paul Wylks 9:04 pm 17 Sep 19

    Spot on Vanessa, I've always said this was the first route they should of done, it includes an airport, defence forces, city centre, bus interchange, 2 uni's, a school, shopping centre, Bruce Stadium, a hospital, two of Canberra's biggest tourist attractions; floriade and the war memorial. A virtual no-brainer really. And people would have used it in both directions..

    Vanessa Jones Vanessa Jones 7:14 am 19 Sep 19

    Roderick Saunders And too many units in Belco....

    Vanessa Jones Vanessa Jones 7:16 am 19 Sep 19

    Paul Wylks Yes, me too, Belco to Civic was the logical first tram line, too many "pearls on a string" facilities along the route. But it was never about logic. It was a big waste of money making the wrong first choice, but that's the ACT govt....spoiling some areas and ignoring safe Labor electorates....tragic.

    Peter Hatfield Peter Hatfield 6:21 pm 23 Sep 19

    Vickie O'Malley It was also denied the benifts of popualr direct buses to the city so they would not complain at having to change at Gungahlin town centre after the light rial was introduced.

George Lemon George Lemon 7:31 am 16 Sep 19

I hope the Feds don't put a cent into this. If Barr, Greens and GetUp want this tram set, they should fund.

    Alex Thomson Alex Thomson 12:08 pm 16 Sep 19

    George Lemon when had getup ever mentioned the Canberra tram?

    George Lemon George Lemon 12:25 pm 16 Sep 19

    Alex Thomson Labor, the feral Greens, bully Unions and GetUp are a civil union so of course they back each other's policies.

    Alex Thomson Alex Thomson 5:55 pm 17 Sep 19

    What do getup care about our tram? Show me some evidence they've ever even mentioned it

    George Lemon George Lemon 6:27 pm 17 Sep 19

    Alex Thomson Labor, the feral Greens, bully Unions and GetUp are a civil union so of course they back each other's policies.

Glen Fuller Glen Fuller 7:37 am 16 Sep 19

City building and environmental reasons are not sufficient, so I wonder whether commenters here will complain about investing in proper transport infrastructure when they are paying $2.00-2.50 a litre for fuel?

    Guy Manton Guy Manton 12:55 pm 16 Sep 19

    Glen Fuller we are pretty car obsessed in oz. So more likely we will just keep complaining about congestion, parking and petrol prices rather than consider alternatives.

Veceslav Stanuga Veceslav Stanuga 7:49 am 16 Sep 19

It looks like Mr Barr’s fund raising adventure overseas came to nothing and foreign investment institutions have not come to the party to prop up the huge debt that Barr has created , he is now running to the Federal government for support to pay for his ill measured spending spree. Of course this is connected with rates as well, it will be the major issue when the next election comes around as Barr increases the rates to an unbearable amount which could be the final straw which will oust this corrupt party

    Sher Young Sher Young 9:35 am 16 Sep 19

    Veceslav Stanuga spot on. We need to vote him out before he destroys the bush capital.

    Trace Hawker Trace Hawker 3:02 pm 16 Sep 19

    Sher Young he already has. 😡

Michael Ahern Michael Ahern 7:55 am 16 Sep 19

Federal government has seen the cost-benefit analysis..... The tram was never about better public transport, just about raising real estate revenue along the rail corridor.

    Leigh Brady Leigh Brady 8:14 am 16 Sep 19

    more likely they’ve done the cost benefit analysis on how many votes investing in infrastructure in Canberra would get them.

    Kerry Dent Kerry Dent 8:17 am 16 Sep 19

    Michael Ahern Agreed.

    Justin Watson Justin Watson 9:11 am 16 Sep 19

    It was actually about building a high density corridor. The fact that property values increase due to light rail is actually justification for doing it. People will pay to live near a light rail line, but not near a bus stop.

    Leigh Brady Leigh Brady 11:30 am 16 Sep 19

    Exactly Justin, and that drives additional businesses in those areas, who now have a higher density population supporting them.

    Ashley Wright Ashley Wright 4:20 pm 16 Sep 19

    Leigh Brady and saves money by not needing to build longer and bigger roads into the Bush to support urban sprawl plus a whole heap of other savings that having a more compact city delivers.

    Brady Daw Brady Daw 4:53 pm 16 Sep 19

    Finally some intelligent commentary.

Russell Nankervis Russell Nankervis 7:57 am 16 Sep 19

Building infrastructure stimulates the economy and if we wait too long we will lose the knowledge gained during construction of stage 1.

    Kerry Dent Kerry Dent 8:19 am 16 Sep 19

    Russell Nankervis But the route is the problem. Far too expensive and useless along Adelaide Avenue to Woden. Better create a more useful route, like out to airport.

    Russell Nankervis Russell Nankervis 8:58 am 16 Sep 19

    There are better routes but unfortunately due to politics they have to go South. Tuggers is fed up with being ignored.

    Justin Watson Justin Watson 9:15 am 16 Sep 19

    Russell Nankervis Reality is though we do have great infrastructure in Tuggers. It is just the politicians p[laying the politics of envy. Sure there are things that need to be done down south like fixing Lake Tuggers, But traffic jams is a daily occurrence in Gungahlin and we are lucky to get one once a month in Tuggeranong. Also our rates are lower and we have bigger blocks of land. There is just too much whinging in Canberra fullstop and people not realising how fortunate they are to live in one of the best places in the world.

    Russell Nankervis Russell Nankervis 9:16 am 16 Sep 19

    Wow, I didn't know that about Tuggeranong. It must have been the libs poisoning their minds

    Ashley Wright Ashley Wright 4:22 pm 16 Sep 19

    Kerry Dent other than Russell offices which is a low transport user anyway (despite regular buses) what else is on the airport line that isn’t on the line to Woden?

    Peter Paz Peter Paz 8:02 am 17 Sep 19

    Loose the knowledge gained in construction? People have been building trains and trams for centuries for crying out loud! It's not new groundbreaking technology!

    Jeff Smith Jeff Smith 10:45 am 17 Sep 19

    Justin Watson You must have fluked to live in a part of Tuggeranong that didn't get a worse bus services since the new network. A part of Tuggeranong that didn't have Mr Barr close a a public school. A part that didn't lose its local supermarket or have boarded up shops. A part that didn't lose government services and facilities. A part that hasn't seen ovals and playgrounds converted to high density housing. Unlike what you claim, there are traffic jams everyday on some main roads and roundabouts in Tuggeranong. You stick up for the ACT government more than your fellow Tuggeranong neighbours who you call whingers. Some great neighbour you must be.

James Daniels James Daniels 8:01 am 16 Sep 19

The feds look at proposed infrastructure projects and assess them on value and need and allocate funding accordingly. That's why stage 1 didn't get any funding and stage 2 looks like its even worse value for money. Even with the new slower bus routes for Tuggeranong, LR stage 2 would lengthen travel times even further, so it won't deliver improved public transport and unit prices in Canberra have been flat for some time so there's not a huge unmet demand for a whole new corridor of them.

    Justin Watson Justin Watson 9:09 am 16 Sep 19

    Actually the Feds have suggested they might help fund stage 2. Also value can be a very subjective thing.

    Gwg Heldon Gwg Heldon 9:36 am 16 Sep 19

    James Daniels Fed's won't come to the party of a hostile Local Government.

Kerry Dent Kerry Dent 8:11 am 16 Sep 19

Many Canberrans are not on board for stage 2a and 2b of tram. The public transport advantage case is not there. If it’s just to allow high density development along the tram line and “an election winner” then that is not reason enough to spend billions of dollars on an inconvenient tram from Civic to Woden, where the bus is doing a better job already. Prove the case to the community to bring us along. Don’t force it on the community.

    Ashley Wright Ashley Wright 4:18 pm 16 Sep 19

    Kerry Dent many Canberrans are in support and many can see the opposition from many of those opponents as being rather selfish. And you are right a lot of light rail is about higher density living which many see as the only way forward to accomodate a growing city without extending suburbs further and further out causing more of the same congestion that the current outer suburbs have created.

    John Kerry Tozer John Kerry Tozer 11:38 pm 16 Sep 19

    Ashley Wright - Of course your views are not “...rather selfish...”!

    Louis Sotiropoulos Louis Sotiropoulos 12:46 pm 21 Sep 19

    Ashley Wright lol. What's the benefit of it running to Woden, where it will be slower, when buses do the job fine?

Mje Mje Mje Mje 8:29 am 16 Sep 19

Except that they use slightly more reasonable analysis to determine cost/benefit which the mono-tram so it'll never make sense.

    Justin Watson Justin Watson 9:18 am 16 Sep 19

    By reasonable you mean under value the social and environmental values. That's the issue with CBA's. They can be tweaked to suit one's purpose and as a society, we tend to undervalue a lot of things because they don't generate income. Its why things like our telecommunications network and now the NBN are so rubbish, because they only looked at revenue raising aspects and not the gains in efficiency in other areas of society and put a value on that. Its why an emissions trading scheme is a good idea. It puts a value on pollution. If you want to pollute you pay for it. If you don't then you don't pay for it, but right now, people can p[ollute and damage the environment and it costs them nothing.

    Mje Mje Mje Mje 9:29 am 16 Sep 19

    Justin Watson I don't write them rules. I'm suggesting there's better ways of spending limited infrastructure budgets.

    But I don't think the mono-tram would've been built if Labour didn't rely on a green coalition because with the small population is doesn't make sense

    Alex Thomson Alex Thomson 12:07 pm 16 Sep 19

    Mje Mje, there are much smaller cities around the world with tram networks

    Mje Mje Mje Mje 1:38 pm 16 Sep 19

    Alex Thomson smaller in surface area and higher population density.

    Alex Thomson Alex Thomson 2:19 pm 16 Sep 19

    Smaller in both ways, yet still feasible and popular

    Mje Mje Mje Mje 3:14 pm 16 Sep 19

    Alex Thomson not alright to the Fed Gov analysis. Hence theory lack of support

Stephen Saunders Stephen Saunders 8:42 am 16 Sep 19

Here come the haters again. Labor won the election, built the rail, and everybody got on board. The haters, led by Jon Stanhope (*?@#), always know better.

In any other rich OECD nation, transit through the capital zone would be a project of national significance with national funding. No brainer.

“What do we want? Third world transit. When do we want it? Back then.”

    Capital Retro Capital Retro 11:03 pm 16 Sep 19

    Are you inferring Australia is “rich”?

    chewy14 chewy14 6:53 pm 17 Sep 19

    In any other country the government would assess infrastructure projects and prioritise those that made the most economic, social and environmental sense.

    Oh wait, that’s exactly what happened with this project and why it got no funding.

Ivan Slavich Ivan Slavich 8:43 am 16 Sep 19

No political incentive for a Coalition Government to support this, all funding goes to marginal seats and to seats loyal to the party in government.

    Alex Thomson Alex Thomson 12:05 pm 16 Sep 19

    Ivan Slavich, I don't remember any federal spending in the ACT when Labor was in power in federal government. Pretty sure it all just goes to marginal seats

    Peter Major Peter Major 12:41 pm 16 Sep 19

    Ivan Slavich hopefully after the next ACT election the federal govt may be willing to invest 😁😁

    Gwyn Rees Gwyn Rees 9:12 pm 16 Sep 19

    Ivan Slavich Alex Thomson sports rorts affair circa 1993/94

duc nguyen duc nguyen 9:16 am 16 Sep 19

Without this stimulation, Woden will run to the ground. I am surprise that no one care about south side. And yes, the Feds need to give ACT a helping hand no doubt.

Grace Morgan Grace Morgan 9:25 am 16 Sep 19

Yes, lets force other taxpayers to fund our tram.

    Grace Morgan Grace Morgan 9:39 am 16 Sep 19

    Yes, it's going to benefit the whole country. Farmers in Queensland will get an enormous boost from public servants getting a property price uplift because there's a tram line near them. It's going to help with exports and tourism. Of course it's only fair because the people of the ACT are on such low average incomes they need help from the wider population.

    Julia Bocking Julia Bocking 10:18 am 16 Sep 19

    Loving your wit!

    Mark Dando Mark Dando 5:19 pm 16 Sep 19

    Yes, like Canberra taxpayers were forced to pay for the Gold Coast light rail. The federal government contributed $460 million for the Gold Coast light rail stages 1 and 2 and has promised another $112 for stage 3.

    Guy Manton Guy Manton 5:36 pm 16 Sep 19

    Mark Dando there are some perks to being a swinging electorate :)

    Grace Morgan Grace Morgan 6:09 pm 16 Sep 19

    Mark Dando Doesn't mean it's the right thing to do.

    Mark Dando Mark Dando 7:12 pm 16 Sep 19

    Grace Morgan no, but I hope you're as upset about Canberra taxpayers helping to fund the Gold Coast light rail as you are about Qld farmers helping to fund Canberra's.

Capital Retro Capital Retro 10:03 am 16 Sep 19

Jenny Bolin, you are right, there are more important things for the Feds to support if the ACT goes the same way as the Northern Territory has. We need a new hospital, new sewerage treatment works etc. Last thing we need is an extension of the useless light rail.

Morrison has already set the standard on territory handouts and Shorten said before the election he would do the same:

Maria Greene Maria Greene 11:29 am 16 Sep 19

ACT should use MODERN flexible transport AND bring back our buses in the meantime. It's 2019 not 1890

    Guy Manton Guy Manton 12:50 pm 16 Sep 19

    Maria Greene flexability comes with the cost of inefficiency. I love my swiss army knife, but I dont use it to prepare dinner at home.

    Julie Macklin Julie Macklin 4:43 pm 16 Sep 19

    LOL, you mean so flexible that they can close bus routes as they like. Wait, isn't that what they recently did and is causing all the complaints now? Yes, bus routes are flexible; their route can be changed easily and even removed all together. One advantage of light rail is that it gives more certainty that it won't have its routes changed on a whim.

    Ashley Wright Ashley Wright 6:05 pm 16 Sep 19

    Julie Macklin I think it is more correct to say they modified the bus network. Whilst routes went, routes came and others were modified.

Lyndon Zoukowski Lyndon Zoukowski 1:05 pm 16 Sep 19

Feds to kick in

Shayne Borger Shayne Borger 2:21 pm 16 Sep 19

The intent of a fully planned light rail is to run it as a spine infrastructure. Bus services are used to feed the light rail. Therefore the central spine over the lake and airport lines should be completed. The Feds will likely pay and support the Parliamentary Triangle zone

    Peter Hatfield Peter Hatfield 6:24 pm 23 Sep 19

    That was how the 333 operated. When it was replaced with direct buses form outer areas patronage rose. Teh ACT Government was told at estimate by transport managers that when people are forced to change at Woden patronage form outer areas would drop. LR is structurally inequitable, favouring high income inner households over lower income outer areas. .

    Ashley Wright Ashley Wright 11:10 pm 23 Sep 19

    Peter Hatfield the 333 was not replaced with direct buses from the suburbs. Rather it was extended at the Belconnen and Tuggeranong ends to take over a couple of suburban runs. None in Woden ever got taken over and Woden commuters still had to change for a 300 series/blue rapid bus.

    Whilst the lack of changing is indeed a plus only about 1/3rd the routes in (west) Belconnen and (southern) Tuggeranong benefited. The rest still had to change.

    Changing in itself is not a bad thing so long as the change over time is quick and the location convenient.

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