Why is the light rail going to cost so much?

johnboy 24 May 2012 52

The Greens are asking just why the ACT Government thinks it’s going to cost the best part of a billion dollars to join Gungahlin and Civic with 13 odd kilometres of light rail.

ACT Greens Transport spokesperson, Amanda Bresnan MLA, has questioned the Government’s commitment to light rail, and called on the Government to release the costing details for the Civic to Gungahlin light rail project.

The call has been echoed by others, including Bryan Nye, CEO of the Australasian Railway Association, who criticised the proposed $700m-$890m price tag as ‘exorbitant’ and said it ‘does not seem sensible’.

“The ACT Greens believe light rail would be a transformational project for Canberra, helping to solve our transport problems, attracting business and tourism, and building us into a successful and sustainable 21st century capital,” Ms Bresnan said.

“We want to see light rail given genuine consideration. We’ve heard the Government talk about light rail so many times before – especially at election time – only to then find excuses for it to fall off the agenda.

“The Greens support the call for the Government to release the full data it used to come up with these high light rail costs.

“I also challenge Simon Corbell’s claims that questioning these costs is somehow a ‘conspiracy theory’. The proposed costs have grown by approximately 400% since the 2008 costs done by Treasury and PriceWaterhouseCoopers. They are also double or triple the costs for other light rail systems being built around the world.

Let us consider for a moment the Alice Springs to Darwin Railway built in 2000 consisting of:

    –1420 km
    — 6 major bridges crossing the Katherine, Elizabeth, Adelaide, Cullen, Fergusson and Edith rivers[8]
    — 87 minor bridges
    — 1,500 culverts[9]
    — 145,000 tonnes of rail[9]
    — 2.8 million tonnes of ballast
    — 2 million sleepers
    — 8 million sleeper fastenings

Cost? according to the ABS $1.2 billion.


UPDATE 24/05/12 09:36: Simon Corbell has hit back:

Responding to claims that the initial cost estimate of $700 – $860 million for the project, were overinflated, Mr Corbell said the assessment was based on detailed comparisons with similar projects nationally and internationally.

“The initial project cost estimate has been developed by URS Australia, a respected international engineering consultancy, experienced in large-scale infrastructure projects,” Mr Corbell said.

“Costs were benchmarked by URS against the Constitution Avenue Upgrade Project (ACT), Gold Coast Light Rail Project, and the Melbourne Hoddle Street Planning Study. Further reference and benchmarking was undertaken using data from Rawlinson’s Australian Construction Handbook 2010,” Mr Corbell said.

“The estimates were also developed using information obtained from the Federal Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional, Development and Local Government – Best Practice Cost Estimation for Publicly Funded Road and Rail Construction, 2008.

“Those who criticise the initial costs estimate should remember that the Government has been very clear that these are early cost estimates subject to further assessment and detailed analysis.


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52 Responses to Why is the light rail going to cost so much?
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bitzermaloney bitzermaloney 2:44 pm 31 May 12

NSW extending their light rail 5.5km, including 9 stations for $176M.

http://www.abc.net.au/news/2012-05-31/contract-awarded-for-sydney-light-rail-extension/4044644 or
http://www.smh.com.au/nsw/light-rail-expansion-approved-20120531-1zk8e.html

…. works out at approx $32M per kilometre with roughly 2 stations in that km

Those figures applied to the Gunners – Civic link equal $416M and 18 stations!

One can only imagine:
– The pain of stopping every 700m for another station (in addition to the traffic lights on Northbourne);
– The cost of land (i.e. Northbourne median strip) is somewhat over-inflated; and
– How much 5.5kms of land (say 50-100m wide) in the inner suburbs of Sydney would actually cost if you were to build a structure.

watto23 watto23 10:54 am 25 May 12

There seems to be two trains of thought regarding how public transport could be improved.

1. Make it free even if it is inefficient and slow.
2. Make it efficient and fast to entice people to use it

Personally I don’t use it because of the time and I suspect for many canberrans its time and convenience thats the issue. Sure cost plays a part but I doubt free buses would entice too many, especially when plenty are happy to pay $10+ a day for parking with the convenience of driving a car.

Buses through the suburbs are the slow bit, but I’d walk/cycle to the interchange if the intercity buses were actually faster than a car. but they are not, so while the intercity is well patronised, its still nopt efficient. Of course its the intercity routes that prop up the suburban routes.

Yet I go overseas to many places and travel on efficient fast public transport. However Canberra is probably twice the size of the average city with a population in the 300+k mark.

I understand its not an easy issue to fix, intercity bus transitways IMO would be a good start. eg say its ~20kms from tuggeranong to civic. A non stop bus service on a transitway should take 15 minutes. Say the suburban service takes 20-30 minutes. so looking at 45 minutes. Thats actually getting close to a usable service. more so if people can get to the towncentres more quickly via say car pool, bike/walk etc.

dungfungus dungfungus 10:11 am 25 May 12

If a conventional tram line with overhead electricfaction is rolled out down the centre of Northbourne Avenue, all the tress adjacent will have to be removed because the constantly falling limbs will damage the wires and supports.
A cheaper “wireless” battery powered tram would allow the trees to be preserved adding to the aesthetics of the cityscape.

Innovation Innovation 7:24 am 25 May 12

dvaey said :

Innovation said :

dvaey said :

One interesting figure to throw out there, is that ACTION currently has a budget of about 100mil (75mil from govt, 25mil from ticket sales). So it would only cost 8 years of ACTION budget to be able to wipe it out.

I haven’t looked at the numbers but this seems to suggest that it costs ACTION $10 for every $2.50 paid (or $16 for every $4.00 cash fare). I know that many can’t afford taxis but it’s ridiculous if taxi fares to many destinations are cheaper than the cost of bus trips.

The figures are available at http://www.treasury.act.gov.au/budget/budget_2009/files/paper4/06action.rtf

Check for the ‘Operating Statement’ table, showing for 09-10 $73.971m came from ACT govt, while $23.332m came from users, for a total of 97.303m. There are estimates in the same ballpark for upto 2013 in that table.

My point is that if it is costing ACTION as much as $10 to $16 per passenger then there must be a better solution. For example, subsidising an on call taxi shuttle service in and out of the suburbs to and from bus stops on the nearest main road would allow ACTION to focus on direct bus routes and might cost the same or even less than what is being spent now. I’m pretty sure that ACTION makes a profit and runs at or close to capacity on their direct (eg intertown) routes and commuters might stand a better chance of getting a taxi (may be even to and from their door) than having to wait for an irregular suburban bus service.

yellowsnow yellowsnow 11:59 pm 24 May 12

DrKoresh said :

You know, I must admit that I think having lightrail in Canberra would be pretty freaking awesome but for 800 odd million why not just kick some more money ACTION’s way to gain and maintain a decent bus service for auxiliary suburbs? It would immensely cheaper, one would assume, and the main problem that I can see with public transport in the ‘Berra is how crappy the services are to outer suburbs, especially on weekends. Maybe we can have services that DON’T terminate at 7pm on Sundays (which is a joke, a sick joke) with an expenditure of just 100 million or so?

+1

Light rail would just displace frequent bus services like the 300s and 200s … which, Northbourne traffic lights aside, are pretty decent services and not the source of under-patronage.

The problem with Canberra public transport is the lack of direct routes and/or meaningful frequency beyond the rapid routes, i.e. in the suburbs, where most people live. Light rail wouldn’t solve that, you’d still need feeder routes, which would no doubt continue to be poorly serviced. In fact light rail could potentially take funding away from other parts of the transport system, thereby possibly leading to reduced services for the bulk of the population while benefiting only those living along the light rail corridor.

Unless light rail is rolled out evenly throughout canberra, buses will always be inherently more flexible, equitable and a better return on taxpayer investment in cities of canberra’s size.

dvaey dvaey 10:00 pm 24 May 12

Innovation said :

dvaey said :

One interesting figure to throw out there, is that ACTION currently has a budget of about 100mil (75mil from govt, 25mil from ticket sales). So it would only cost 8 years of ACTION budget to be able to wipe it out.

I haven’t looked at the numbers but this seems to suggest that it costs ACTION $10 for every $2.50 paid (or $16 for every $4.00 cash fare). I know that many can’t afford taxis but it’s ridiculous if taxi fares to many destinations are cheaper than the cost of bus trips.

The figures are available at http://www.treasury.act.gov.au/budget/budget_2009/files/paper4/06action.rtf

Check for the ‘Operating Statement’ table, showing for 09-10 $73.971m came from ACT govt, while $23.332m came from users, for a total of 97.303m. There are estimates in the same ballpark for upto 2013 in that table.

gooterz gooterz 9:08 pm 24 May 12

dvaey said :

DrKoresh said :

You know, I must admit that I think having lightrail in Canberra would be pretty freaking awesome but for 800 odd million why not just kick some more money ACTION’s way to gain and maintain a decent bus service for auxiliary suburbs? It would immensely cheaper, one would assume, and the main problem that I can see with public transport in the ‘Berra is how crappy the services are to outer suburbs, especially on weekends. Maybe we can have services that DON’T terminate at 7pm on Sundays (which is a joke, a sick joke) with an expenditure of just 100 million or so?

One interesting figure to throw out there, is that ACTION currently has a budget of about 100mil (75mil from govt, 25mil from ticket sales). So it would only cost 8 years of ACTION budget to be able to wipe it out.

$62 per person in ticket sales? That doesnt seem right thats 31 x $2 trips.. so about two weeks worth for everyone? Thats a hella lot of overhead by the retailers!!!!!! What a waste!

If action were free, have a public transport tax about $100 (to about $40Million). I’m sure everyone could make use of 30 trips on an action bus in a year and get their monies worth.

A big amount of ticketing is kickbacks to the retailers the tickets themselves.

If buses were free i’m sure you’d get heaps more people using the damn things

Innovation Innovation 7:59 pm 24 May 12

dvaey said :

DrKoresh said :

You know, I must admit that I think having lightrail in Canberra would be pretty freaking awesome but for 800 odd million why not just kick some more money ACTION’s way to gain and maintain a decent bus service for auxiliary suburbs? It would immensely cheaper, one would assume, and the main problem that I can see with public transport in the ‘Berra is how crappy the services are to outer suburbs, especially on weekends. Maybe we can have services that DON’T terminate at 7pm on Sundays (which is a joke, a sick joke) with an expenditure of just 100 million or so?

One interesting figure to throw out there, is that ACTION currently has a budget of about 100mil (75mil from govt, 25mil from ticket sales). So it would only cost 8 years of ACTION budget to be able to wipe it out.

I haven’t looked at the numbers but this seems to suggest that it costs ACTION $10 for every $2.50 paid (or $16 for every $4.00 cash fare). I know that many can’t afford taxis but it’s ridiculous if taxi fares to many destinations are cheaper than the cost of bus trips.

dvaey dvaey 4:16 pm 24 May 12

DrKoresh said :

You know, I must admit that I think having lightrail in Canberra would be pretty freaking awesome but for 800 odd million why not just kick some more money ACTION’s way to gain and maintain a decent bus service for auxiliary suburbs? It would immensely cheaper, one would assume, and the main problem that I can see with public transport in the ‘Berra is how crappy the services are to outer suburbs, especially on weekends. Maybe we can have services that DON’T terminate at 7pm on Sundays (which is a joke, a sick joke) with an expenditure of just 100 million or so?

One interesting figure to throw out there, is that ACTION currently has a budget of about 100mil (75mil from govt, 25mil from ticket sales). So it would only cost 8 years of ACTION budget to be able to wipe it out.

DrKoresh DrKoresh 2:59 pm 24 May 12

VYBerlinaV8_is_back said :

Perhaps just make busses free.

If nothing else, it should reduce instances of “maaaate, can you spare 2 dollars for the bus, cos I haven’t got any money and I have to go see my kids ‘n’ s***’.

I like to respond with “sorry brah, but I needs it to buy me drugs””

VYBerlinaV8_is_back VYBerlinaV8_is_back 2:53 pm 24 May 12

DrKoresh said :

You know, I must admit that I think having lightrail in Canberra would be pretty freaking awesome but for 800 odd million why not just kick some more money ACTION’s way to gain and maintain a decent bus service for auxiliary suburbs? It would immensely cheaper, one would assume, and the main problem that I can see with public transport in the ‘Berra is how crappy the services are to outer suburbs, especially on weekends. Maybe we can have services that DON’T terminate at 7pm on Sundays (which is a joke, a sick joke) with an expenditure of just 100 million or so?

Perhaps just make busses free.

If nothing else, it should reduce instances of “maaaate, can you spare 2 dollars for the bus, cos I haven’t got any money and I have to go see my kids ‘n’ s***’.

DrKoresh DrKoresh 2:44 pm 24 May 12

You know, I must admit that I think having lightrail in Canberra would be pretty freaking awesome but for 800 odd million why not just kick some more money ACTION’s way to gain and maintain a decent bus service for auxiliary suburbs? It would immensely cheaper, one would assume, and the main problem that I can see with public transport in the ‘Berra is how crappy the services are to outer suburbs, especially on weekends. Maybe we can have services that DON’T terminate at 7pm on Sundays (which is a joke, a sick joke) with an expenditure of just 100 million or so?

frontrow frontrow 2:22 pm 24 May 12

I don’t know about Launceston but ACTION introduced a three zone structure in 1999 that effectively doubled the fare for a large portion of users.

dvaey dvaey 1:54 pm 24 May 12

dungfungus said :

Last century in Launceston they had an excellent albeit ageing electric trolley bus service (I think they had a hydro power supply on the North Esk River to feed it). The local council worked out that they could tear down the copper wire and from the sale proceeds of the scrap they were able purchase a fleet of modern diesel buses.
Seemed like a good idea at the time.

I saw some stats about public transport use down there about 10 years ago virtually halving, but never understood why. Pretty much around the late 90s Canberra and Launceston had the same public transport usage, then virtually overnight they both halved.. Launceston has slowly gotten more usage while Canberra has slowly gotten less.

Thumper Thumper 1:37 pm 24 May 12

Subway is not as silly as it sounds either. Many subways start as trenches which are then covered and or built over. They could in theory use existing busways which then go under the intersections

Subways could work if the political will was there.

Which it isn’t.

VYBerlinaV8_is_back VYBerlinaV8_is_back 1:32 pm 24 May 12

We have to break this ridiculous paradigm that the roads are stationary and the vehicles move. What we really need are moving roads and no vehicles at all.

dungfungus dungfungus 1:26 pm 24 May 12

Solidarity said :

Trams without wires… ingenius! We could also set them up so they don’t need tracks too, just use normal truck tyres… then they could utilise existing roads, perhaps give them thier own lanes on some roads? Also rather than using batteries, why not just have them run on diesel?

What you are describing is what the ACT Governmnet proposes to do with ACTION and the problem is with that is that using mainly existing roads is compounding congestion. Last century in Launceston they had an excellent albeit ageing electric trolley bus service (I think they had a hydro power supply on the North Esk River to feed it). The local council worked out that they could tear down the copper wire and from the sale proceeds of the scrap they were able purchase a fleet of modern diesel buses.
Seemed like a good idea at the time.

dungfungus dungfungus 1:03 pm 24 May 12

Postalgeek said :

dungfungus said :

A big slice of the costs in establishing light rail would be the electricfication, wiring (and ongoing maintainence of same)
Why not set the trams up with battery power instead? I mean the ACT Government is promoting battery/electric cars so why not extend this concept to trams? Trams are large and could carry massive batteries and they won’t be running at night so they can be recharged then. They won’t travel vast distances or use steep grades either. Eliminating the ugly electric wires that current tram technology uses would be a great step forward and it would save a fortune (copper wire costs about $7,000 a tonne).
Without the need for overhead electric wiring, the trams (like the old rail-motors) would be able to use existing rail networks and if the Canberra battery powered trams were built with the same track width as the current NSW railways the Canberra battery trams could go to Queanbeyan, Royalla and even Bungendore so commuters could “park and ride” and eliminate a lot of congestion from the the feeder roads into Canberra. The existing rail facilities at Kingston could be used for the trams as well.
Just a thought.

I find myself agreeing with a post by dungfungus. Suddenly anything is achievable.

I apologise sincerely for this; it was an unitended consequence (as they say). I even found myself agreeing with something HenryBG posted last months and I acknowledged same but he still accuses me of being a pensioner with a tinfoil hat.
The problem is the Canberra Times disagrees with everything I say even more than you do so I don’t bother with that forum anymore. I would like to think that Rioters are more erudite than the CT readers.

Solidarity Solidarity 12:25 pm 24 May 12

Trams without wires… ingenius! We could also set them up so they don’t need tracks too, just use normal truck tyres… then they could utilise existing roads, perhaps give them thier own lanes on some roads? Also rather than using batteries, why not just have them run on diesel?

watto23 watto23 12:21 pm 24 May 12

Apparently the ACT government strategy is to supply a sub standard public transport network, sell all the parking but meanwhile continually widen roads as well, to allow for more cars to use less car parks.

I don’t care whether they use light rail or buses or anything else, if the public transport doesn’t bypass roads/traffic light etc, people won’t use it. Journey times need to get to 30 minutes maximum from anywhere in Canberra. I’d rather a less frequent but faster service.

Subway is not as silly as it sounds either. Many subways start as trenches which are then covered and or built over. They could in theory use existing busways which then go under the intersections ….

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