A works approval for light rail to Woden won’t be approved for many years, but it’s not going to be a debate on whether or not the project is a fundamentally good idea or not.
That’s the message from the National Capital Authority, which appeared before a Federal Parliament inquiry on Thursday (8 December) afternoon.
Chief executive Sally Barnes was questioned about the progress for light rail Stage 2B, which will take the light rail from Commonwealth Park, across Commonwealth Bridge and through the Parliamentary Triangle.
Most of that is Commonwealth land, which means the NCA manages it.
Ms Barnes said a works approval was expected to be submitted next week, but this would not be approved for “many years”.
But that didn’t mean the fundamental aspects of the project would be up for debate, as she said that decision had been made by the ACT Government already.
Ms Barnes said the NCA was only interested in ensuring the finished product was of a high-quality “fitting” for the National Capital.
“We support [that decision] from a public transport perspective … we can’t really be looking at whether it’s a waste of money … that’s got nothing to do with us,” she told the committee.
“There will need to work on finalising the route and [looking at] the impacts on Commonwealth Avenue, on the trees and a whole range of things that really haven’t progressed to a stage yet where the light rail can be presented to the board or even to us.”
That’s a similar timeframe to what Transport Minister Chris Steel told budget estimates earlier this year.
He said work had commenced and the government would submit it to the NCA by the end of this year.
Mr Steel has stressed the second part of Stage 2 is the most complex of the entire project and that was why it had been separated into two sections.
But despite hounding from the Opposition, and even the Greens at times, he’s kept quiet on further details, including timeline and cost, arguing revealing those would compromise the procurement processes.
Early works to raise London Circuit have now begun with parts of that road shut.
It’s anticipated to take around two years and is needed to enable the light rail’s right-hand turn onto Commonwealth Avenue.
The Canberra Liberals, claiming Stage 2B could cost more than $3 billion, this week pulled their support for light rail to Woden.
That’s despite running on a pro-light rail platform at the last election.
Opposition Leader Elizabeth Lee argued that money could be better spent on basic service delivery and has accused the government of neglecting health, education and policing to pay for the light rail.
The party has promised to release a comprehensive public transport strategy ahead of the next election.
They have hinted at the inclusion of both trackless trams and electric buses as part of that.
Chief Minister Andrew Barr brushed off the announcement from the Opposition, describing them as “stale and conservative”, unlike his own “experienced and mature” government.