Underground city bus interchange too costly

Ian Bushnell 21 September 2020 54
Underground bus interchange artist's impression

An artist’s impression of the underground bus interchange entry. Images: ACT Government.

Canberrans won’t be catching the buses from an underground city interchange after the idea was canned due to the cost.

The City Renewal Authority had commissioned a high level, pre-feasibility study into the potential costs, benefits and challenges of replacing the current at-grade city bus interchange with an integrated underground facility with buildings above it.

“While the study showed that an underground bus interchange was technically possible it was cost-prohibitive,” Authority CEO Malcolm Snow said.

”This pre-feasibility study was undertaken as part of a broader urban design review with the aim of creating a world-class cultural precinct in the city centre.”

The study found that an underground interchange would cost hundreds of millions of dollars, mainly because of the excavation required for the facility’s layout, and the ramp access and height clearance needed.

The Authority said the cost of such a project could not be recouped through the sale of development rights due to the maximum height limit imposed by the National Capital Plan on the city centre.

Underground interchange site options

The study explored these underground interchange site options.

Although the Authority will continue to develop a plan for the civic, arts and cultural precinct that will guide the ACT Government’s future development decisions, no alternative sites for an underground bus interchange in the city centre were being considered, it said.

The plan to guide the revitalisation of the area immediately to the east of City Hill, bounded by Vernon Circle, London Circuit, Constitution Avenue and Northbourne Avenue is being developed in collaboration with the community and key stakeholders including artsACT, the Cultural Facilities Corporation, the National Capital Authority, ACT Treasury and the Legislative Assembly.

It is expected it will be available for community consultation in mid-2021.

Mr Snow said in 2018 that building a bus interchange under one or both the City Hill corners of London Circuit and Northbourne Avenue could help manage the future growth of Canberra’s public transport network while providing better street-level urban design outcomes for Civic.

A key consideration of the study was how to maximise development potential and land use in the city, but the national planning rules appear to have limited those possibilities.

The study took into account Light Rail Stages 1 and 2 and the Canberra Theatre Precinct Redevelopment, as well as other government planning strategies such as those for City Hill and West Basin.

Mr Snow said at the time that a modern, integrated underground bus interchange offered a wonderful opportunity to significantly improve the way public transport users access and experience Civic.

“It would also allow us to use the site of the current interchange as a more attractive, lively and people-friendly space,” he said.

But it seems the current interchange and its tired streets will be with Civic for some time yet.


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54 Responses to Underground city bus interchange too costly
ChrisinTurner ChrisinTurner 8:44 am 26 Sep 20

If inordinate cost is the reason why not apply the same for Light Rail to Woden, particularly when combined with twice the journey time and half the seats?

Queanbeyanite Queanbeyanite 8:19 pm 24 Sep 20

The same people who bought the election with a $6 billion tram network promise to the Greens?

michael quirk michael quirk 9:26 am 24 Sep 20

Given the deferral of the bus interchange on the basis of an assessment indicating it was not viable is a change in approach by the Barr government. It has ignored the assessments indicating a low benefit to cost for light rail.

The light rail extensions high cost, lack of value capture opportunities along the route, the possible reduction in peak travel demand form increased working from home, the likely greater benefit from alternatives including social housing, health infrastructure and investment in extending the frequency and coverage of the bus network all suggest, it should be deferred. There appears no immediate need for the project.
The government’s reluctance to expose the business case to scrutiny on the grounds of commercial in confidence could be seen as a fear of exposing commercial incompetence.
A responsible government would review the extension and consider whether its is the best use of funds in the current economic climate.

maxblues maxblues 4:58 am 24 Sep 20

Next up…. feasibility study for underground solar farm.

Sam McDonald Sam McDonald 10:09 pm 23 Sep 20

Andrew McDonald your mates lol

Fito Ferrari Fito Ferrari 11:58 am 23 Sep 20

Lake Burley Griffin should be emptied, land filled and lots of apartments built on it.

Cary Elliot Johnson Cary Elliot Johnson 10:39 pm 22 Sep 20

Get out. And i was feeling positive about asking Mr Gentleman about getting a Batcave Interchange developed in Lanyon. Booooooo.

Gloria Altinger Gloria Altinger 9:47 pm 22 Sep 20

Could have bought all Canberrans an a electric car for what they spent on the tram......

    Brent Hutch Brent Hutch 11:34 am 23 Sep 20

    Gloria Altinger might need to check your maths

    Alan Hopkins Alan Hopkins 9:29 pm 23 Sep 20

    a very good bicycle maybe

    Gloria Altinger Gloria Altinger 10:26 pm 23 Sep 20

    Brent Hutch 12km for 675M.. 85 klm North to south... hmm ok so maybe at least a 100K 50k Electric cars to the roughly 260k registered cars in the ACT give or take a few for those fortunate to own more than 1 car.

    Brent Hutch Brent Hutch 10:38 pm 23 Sep 20

    Even 200,000 cars at a discounted price of 40k per car, will be 8billion. Obviously this number will increase as more cars are added and does not consider additional infrastructure required to deal with the vehicles.

    Julie Macklin Julie Macklin 10:47 pm 23 Sep 20

    Unfortunately I would have to keep my petrol car too, as electric cars can't go where I want to drive. Good for urban areas, but not great for more remote areas. Hydrogen would be better for Australia and the distances. Many trips in larger urban areas can be done by public transport too, or bike.

Ric Hingee Ric Hingee 9:12 pm 22 Sep 20

So why wasn't the tram also canned?

    Elroy Jones Elroy Jones 9:09 pm 23 Sep 20

    Ric Hingee cos the people voted for it twice Ric. And it’s chockers

    Ric Hingee Ric Hingee 9:33 pm 23 Sep 20

    Elroy Jones It needs to be. And the vote meant nothing as the Liberals were not worth voting for in any case. Why do you think that Labor has been in power for two decades? People were voting for Labor, not the train. An electric, rubber tyred "train" running along a dedicated line would have been chockers too.

    Brent Hutch Brent Hutch 10:22 pm 23 Sep 20

    Ric Hingee "People were voting for Labor, not the train". And one of their big policies was the tram, should they not deliver what they take to an election? If you were elected, would you renege on your policies because people were voting for you and not your policies? Perhaps you would fit in well as a politician.

    Ric Hingee Ric Hingee 7:46 am 24 Sep 20

    Two separate issues. Once Labor was elected of course it could go ahead with the tram. However, that does not mean it was the correct decision. Remember, this issue was driven by one Green who was quick to then buy property on the route. Try and see through the smoke and mirrors and concentrate on the economics rather than the politics. Presumably, using your argument, you also voted for all the excessive fees, rates and charges that the Barr Government has brought in over the past years.

    Michael Quirk Michael Quirk 9:50 am 24 Sep 20

    Elroy Jones buses would be full as well.Bus rapid transport would have delivered similar benefits at far lower cost,as found by Infrastructure Australia. The conservatism of the Liberals is why the mediocre Barr government is elected and why light rail with a low benefit to cost ratio gets built.

    Elroy Jones Elroy Jones 10:41 am 24 Sep 20

    Michael Quirk do you really believe the renewal along Northbourne (which will be achieved on all routes) would have been achieved by buses? Infrastructure Australia produce all sorts of reports. They have also contributed heavily to the project - doubling down with more funding for station upgrades and construction at Mitchell. The bulk of international studies, which we’re seeing manifest here - are that people prefer LR. We’re clearly seeing that in patronage

    Ric Hingee Ric Hingee 1:31 pm 24 Sep 20

    Elroy Jones I, as I have said before, I am not advocating buses. I am advocating an electric train running on rubber tyres like buses do. If that process had been followed then we would not have had to dig up the road to the extent we did and then laid bearers and steel tracks. Aso the ride would have been smooter and quieter. Will be interesting to see how steel tracks handle the hotter summers. What would be the difference to the renewal along Northbourne Avenue if you had electric train type buses running along Northbourne Avenue carrying the same number of passengers? I am an Economist by background, but your arguments show no sign of being one yourself. And have you considered that people might prefer light rail because they actually have not experienced the latest technology to make a comparison. When I was in Copenhagen the dedicated extended-bus lane technology worked perfectly.

    Elroy Jones Elroy Jones 1:42 pm 24 Sep 20

    ‘Trust me, I’m an economist...’

    Ric Hingee Ric Hingee 1:49 pm 24 Sep 20

    Elroy Jones Keep an open mind on technology and the country runs on economics. You still haven't said what your own qualifications are, unlike one person supporting the train who turned out to be a clown (yes a real one).

    Charny Barney Charny Barney 6:53 pm 24 Sep 20

    Ric Hingee "I am not advocating buses. I am advocating an electric train running on rubber tyres like buses do. "

    Champ, it's a bus.

    Charny Barney Charny Barney 6:56 pm 24 Sep 20

    Elroy Jones ‘Trust me, I’m an economist...’ He's a shocking economist:

    - denies the success of the tram, because his pointy head calculations indicate it cant succeed.

    - calls a bus not a bus.

    Nek minnit - day is night cos my calculator says so 🤣

    Charny Barney Charny Barney 6:58 pm 24 Sep 20

    Michael Quirk "buses would be full as well."

    They were stuffed full and no more capacity - that's why they moved to trams.

    "Bus rapid transport would have delivered similar benefits at far lower cost, as found by Infrastructure Australia."

    Really? Why hadn't it then? Why did all the urban renewal and investment occur after the tram was announced?

    Justin Watson Justin Watson 7:37 pm 24 Sep 20

    Charny Barney Because people will buy property near train/tram lines. Bus routes get changed. It something these people don't understand. This is the situation all over the globe. Never has a bus route been able to increase density like a tram/train line does.

    Ric Hingee Ric Hingee 7:42 pm 24 Sep 20

    Justin Watson We are talking about rubber wheeled trains running on an imbedded fixed course, not on a normal road.

    Michael Quirk Michael Quirk 9:11 pm 24 Sep 20

    Charny Barney bus rapid transport would operate on its own right of way. Suggest you look at the Brisbane metro to be operational in 2023. Redevelopment was occuring in nth Canberra before the tram. Also higher density is rapidly developing in other areas with good accessibility such as the Woden and Belconnen town centres

Conrado Pengilley Conrado Pengilley 7:28 pm 22 Sep 20

Now the ACT Government is saying the commonwealth avenue bridge is about to fall down and needs upgrading, seriously!

    Tom Munro Tom Munro 9:28 am 23 Sep 20

    Conrado Pengilley Nothing to do with ACT government. It’s NCA land and would be federally funded.

Billy Watson Billy Watson 6:12 pm 22 Sep 20

Why was this even considered? What was the point?

    John Hamilton John Hamilton 7:05 pm 22 Sep 20

    I'm unsure if you've been to the one in Perth but it is amazing and a really great feature of the public transport in the CBD. It was definitely worth investigating if it was doable here

Michael Ahern Michael Ahern 5:45 pm 22 Sep 20

Not extending the tram would be a good cost offset

Avril Pounds Avril Pounds 4:33 pm 22 Sep 20

How about an upgrade of the bus terminal at Jolimont? Hasn't changed a bit in at least 30 years. Visitors arriving by air get treated to a modern airport, but visitors arriving by bus get the same view they would have gotten a few decades ago.

    Clinton Berry Clinton Berry 6:57 pm 23 Sep 20

    Avril Pounds private bus services, and privately owned building and a privately owned airport.

    Mal Briggs Mal Briggs 9:00 pm 23 Sep 20

    The airport gets paid for with airline terminal fees, overpriced parking and commercial building development on federal controlled land that relies on Territory funded infrastructure.

    I agree Jolimont could do with a facelift, but comparing to the airport is not helpful.

Kathy Schneider Kathy Schneider 4:01 pm 22 Sep 20

Canberra could do with some underground carparks at tourist venues other than the National Gallery. With such hot summers and very little shade tree plantings in public carparks it is way too hot in the car.

Michele Woods Michele Woods 4:00 pm 22 Sep 20

What if the build a dozen high rises on the median strip on northbound , over the top of the tram? Underground tram, high density housing/mixed use building, convenience for occupants, more taxes in the coffers for Barr to give to, sorry, I mean "award to, through a thorough and fair and transparent tender process" geocon. Sounds like all the wins in one spot

    Brice Smith Brice Smith 1:17 am 23 Sep 20

    Malcolm Snow is a conservative. Got nothing to do with Barr.

    Justin Watson Justin Watson 7:33 pm 24 Sep 20

    Only in Canberra do people get upset with awarding contracts to a Canberra developer over interstate and international developers.

Guy Noble Guy Noble 1:46 pm 22 Sep 20

We dont need it but an above ground Tram through the city would be a good idea. Start to rise from Braddon, get back level at london crct

    Guy Noble Guy Noble 4:02 pm 22 Sep 20

    no lights no dusruption to traffic,,, pretty much the same reason an underground bus interchange was floated but shite loads cheapr,,, useful once it goes through to woden

bj_ACT bj_ACT 1:44 pm 22 Sep 20

I’m glad the government has pulled the pin on this before the election. Too many infrastructure proposals get quietly taken off the table after the election.

I’m thinking of the stadium and city to the lake in the past as just one example.

The new ice skating centre for Tuggeranong that ACT Labor has proposed looks a pretty thin undertaking that I wouldn’t hold my breath for.

I feel it was more a case of…. we haven’t done any major infrastructure buildings for Tuggeranong since we came into government, What can we quickly come up with.

    JS9 JS9 3:27 pm 22 Sep 20

    The ice skating centre at Tuggeranong is a bit unique to most infrastructure, as Government only providing a contribution towards it – I think the Budget last year maybe had money towards it, plus providing some sort of deal on finding a site for it I expect. So it’ll depend on whether private provider can make it stack up – given the mixed experience in Adelaide with the same proponent, wouldn’t hold breath it’ll happen.

    The bus interchange underground in the City would be great if flush with cash, but definitely a ‘luxury’ item for mine that should never have really got off the drawing board.

    bj_ACT bj_ACT 4:47 pm 22 Sep 20

    It’s interesting that the Chief Ministers media release and web site says “ice sports facility WILL be built in Tuggeranong”.

    I think you’re right to point out that it’s been hand passed to a third party developer to make it happen.

    But I note you said in a previous post about the new ice rink that it’s “on the right track”. I certainly hope so for the sake of Canberra residents into ice sports and associated endeavours.

    There’s plenty of room for major new infrastructure around the Tuggeranong town centre. Much cheaper land for big footprint developments.

    bj_ACT bj_ACT 5:01 pm 22 Sep 20

    Actually I’m even more concerned about this project after reading that both the companies previous plans for ice rinks in other struggling Adelaide town centres fell through. Is this a ploy to obtain government seed funding?

    ASIC says the company named has been deregistered. So I’m really confused by what the Chief Minister has promised.

    JS9 JS9 11:45 pm 22 Sep 20

    Who knows what the real story is BJ. What I had heard was that it was broadly on the right track in terms of progressing and that serious steps were being taken within Government to make it happen, but what one hears and what is actually happening is sometimes an entirely different story together…..

    I’m not sure about the company name issue… but noting how these things seem to work, its probably just going to phoenix up under another guise/name.

    Interesting times.

    bj_ACT bj_ACT 1:13 pm 23 Sep 20

    Too true JS9. Let’s hope the Company selected and the ACT Government are as committed in reality as they are in their press releases.

    Ice sports users deserve no less.

    Capital Retro Capital Retro 7:52 am 24 Sep 20

    A crematorim is certain and a giant waste to energy furnace is odds on. Both destined for Tuggers.

    bj_ACT bj_ACT 4:32 pm 24 Sep 20

    You’re Probably right. I had to laugh when the ACT Government proudly announced their budget measures for Tuggeranong a few years back as: expansion to the mugga tip and improvements to the Machoniche detention centre. The Anketell Street improvement project turned out to be a huge speed hump and replacement of some dead trees. Now that was a project that looked ultimately looked nothing like the artists impression on the sign.

Ben Roberts Ben Roberts 1:33 pm 22 Sep 20

Ohhh you surprise me. Why would Canberran try hard pollies and policy makers want to think long term and be innovative?

    Brice Smith Brice Smith 1:16 am 23 Sep 20

    Good old conservative Malcolm Snow, strikes again.

    That’s the type of dumbassery we get from the Libs

Richard Willcoxson Richard Willcoxson 1:29 pm 22 Sep 20

Shock horror.

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