21 September 2020

Underground city bus interchange too costly

| Ian Bushnell
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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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ChrisinTurner2:06 pm 24 Jul 21

Spending $billions on doubling the journey time to Woden by replacing buses with trams wasn’t too expensive.

ChrisinTurner8:44 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?

Queanbeyanite8:19 pm 24 Sep 20

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

michael quirk9:26 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.

Next up…. feasibility study for underground solar farm.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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 Retro7:52 am 24 Sep 20

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

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.

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