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Labor unveil plan for light rail line


Noel Towell

An artist’s rendition of how light rail can transform shopping precincts and open up pedestrian areas.

An artist’s rendition of how light rail can transform shopping precincts and open up pedestrian areas. Photo: BRW

ACT Labor will look to the private sector to fund its election promise of a light rail link from Civic to Gungahlin.

Announcing the ‘‘Capital Metro’’ policy yesterday, Environment Minister Simon Corbell said the government had already been approached by private operators interested in building and running a system in Canberra.

If the project goes ahead, it would be the first public-private partnership on an infrastructure project in the territory’s history and yesterday’s  announcement also means that both Labor and the ACT Greens will go to next month’s election with light rail as a central policy position.

An an artist's impression of the proposed Canberra light rail.

An an artist's impression of the proposed Canberra light rail. Photo: Supplied

The latest government costings on the scheme have put a price tag of $614 million on the Civic-Gungahlin line and Labor’s policy has committed just $30 million for design work.

The plan includes a 13km stretch of track along Northbourne Avenue and Flemington Road. The line would use vehicles capable of carrying up to 200 passengers, along a route from Hibberson Street in Gungahlin to the City Centre. Major stations would be at Gungahlin Town Centre and Dickson Group Centre with stops 750m to 1.5km apart at various points along Flemington Road and Northbourne Avenue.

The ACT Liberals were dismissive of the announcement, criticising Labor’s record of infrastructure delivery, while the Greens said Labor was jumping ‘‘on the green line.’’

An artist's impression of the city interchange for the proposed Canberra light rail.

An artist's impression of the city interchange for the proposed Canberra light rail. Photo: Supplied

The Greens plan calls for a Canberra-wide light rail system to be built, paid for with a mix of public and private funding.

Australia’s latest light rail project, GoldLinQ on Queensland’s Gold Coast, is being built and will be operated by a private sector consortium.

Chief Minister Katy Gallagher and Environment Minister Simon Corbell made the announcement at Northbourne Avenue in Dickson yesterday, declaring the policy ‘‘visionary.’’

A map showing the proposed route of the Canberra light rail.

A map showing the proposed route of the Canberra light rail. Photo: Supplied

‘‘Now is the right time for us to put our money where our mouth is and go to the next stage,’’ Ms Gallagher said.

‘‘So we’re committing $30 million to get this project to market-ready stage.’’

Mr Corbell said the spending would get the project past design stage and did not anticipate beginning work for several years, if Labor was re-elected.

‘‘That involves the final design and the detail of the work that needs to be put together,’’ he said.

‘‘The government has already received approaches from private sector companies with experience in delivering and operating a light rail network and we believe that is how Capital Metro can happen.

‘‘That means we can continue to invest as a government in schools and in hospitals but at the same time deliver the transport choices that Canberrans want to see.’’

Greens transport spokeswoman Amanda Bresnan said her party’s ‘‘vision has finally been accepted’’ by Labor.

‘‘This is great news for Canberra,’’ she said.  ‘‘The Greens are pleased to see that the case we’ve been making for light rail has finally been accepted by the ALP.

‘‘We’ve seen over the course of this Assembly that when another party shares a vision with the Greens we can deliver great outcomes for Canberra.’’

Canberra Liberals leader Zed Seselja questioned Labor’s ability to deliver light rail.

‘‘There’s a serious question mark over ACT Labor’s commitment to this promise and ability to deliver it, given their record on major infrastructure projects,’’ Mr Seselja said.

Damien Haas of pressure group ACT Light Rail welcomed the announcement yesterday but said he had reservations.

‘‘It’s a long time coming but it’s very welcome,’’ Mr Haas said.

‘‘ACT Light Rail are very pleased with the election policy, however we do have some reservations in that this is $30 million for a series of reports.’’


  • And then after the election they will blame climate-change/Federal-Gov/Santa-Claus/insert-excuse as to why they can't afford to build it

    Date and time
    September 21, 2012, 10:22AM
    • This is absolutely needed if Canberra is eventually to be a true carbon neutral city in the future and lose its addiction to cars and thus fossil fuels. All the roads in Canberra are so wide ( after moving from Sydney) and have the middle section already there to put the lines in. It just takes some politicians with some vision and the ability to see that if this does not happen now, despite the high upfront cost, the longterm cost of congestion and pollution in 20 years does not bear thinking about.

      Date and time
      September 21, 2012, 10:33AM
      • This is a complete and utter waste of money and I can't beleive how are getting hoodwinked into beleiving that this is going to be "enviromentally friendly". Has anyone thought about how much electricity this show pony is going to consume?? Australia currently generates slightly more than 90% of it's electricity from the burning of fossil fuels, so the bottom line is that where going to spend (how many?) hundreds of millions of dollars to pump probably even more carbon into the atmosphere!
        We're attacking the problem the wrong way around..... first, we have to move away from generating "dirty" electricity to green energy. It will be far more cost effective to purchase electric buses when we have gone to green electricity (don't hold your breath on this one!)
        A tram running from Gungahlin to Civic might save about 5mins compared to a similar bus trip..... this fact will make bugger all difference in people's preference for using the convenience of private vehicles.
        Shifting commuters from fossil fuel burning buses to fossil fuel burning trams is like re-arranging deck chairs on the Titanic.
        One thing you can safely bet on though, is that our tram WILL be painted a very pleasant and comforting shade of green.

        Date and time
        September 21, 2012, 12:35PM
      • @ Bikeandyak - where do you think the electricity for your electric buses will come from? I think you're underestimating the efficiency of light rail by a factor or two.

        Stir the pot
        Date and time
        September 21, 2012, 1:55PM
      • I am always astounded at how little vision some people have in this country. Have you guys criticising rail actually travelled to countries that use this as a major form of public transport? Are you really suggesting that as Canberra grows we should add more and more cars to the roads which for the near future at least will be continuing to burn petrol? Light rail will run on electricity which if the target of 90% of the territories power coming from renewables by 2020 is even half right, means a much lower rate of emissions. Busses would still at least partly use roads and help add to more congestion with vehicles even if they were electric busses. Go visit Europe and even in small towns with a much smaller population than here, think 150,000 or so, you will find a light rail/tram system that is widely used by many commuters. Every major city that has rail now had to start somewhere, and there is always a significant upfront cost to be paid, however the future costs of congestion, pollution and inefficiency are far greater in the long run.

        Date and time
        September 21, 2012, 4:58PM
    • I am genuinely surprised that the government has responded courageously to the widespread criticism of their initial position on this matter, and I commend them for this.

      I urge them to go into this with a real Australian determination to make it succeed, and to learn all the lessons that can be learned, from the many US and EU cities that have really turned the corner on public transport in the past generation. No Myki foul-ups, please.

      I am a little nervous to see the dreaded PPP acronym mentioned in any Australian public transport context, but it is early days yet.

      Date and time
      September 21, 2012, 10:34AM
      • "PPP acronym", Methinks this comment may have been prepared by the government proir to the announcement

        Long Memory
        Date and time
        September 21, 2012, 11:38AM
    • Unfortunately, this is a pipe dream not serious policy. Look at the track record of ACT labor in delivering major infrastructure projects...

      Date and time
      September 21, 2012, 10:41AM
      • Agreed with TheJoker1214324.
        Labor fault promise, they will blame everything and light rail will not go ahead if they get re-elected. No thanks Labor, will be voting for Liberal this election.

        Date and time
        September 21, 2012, 10:41AM
        • You would have to be mad to vote Liberal after seeing what Baillieu, O'Farrell and Newman are doing to their states. All three basically lied their way into office, breaking hundreds of election promises within months.

          in the real world
          Date and time
          September 21, 2012, 3:00PM

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