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Taxes to pay for light rail, says Coe

ACT Liberal Deputy Leader Alistair Coe.

ACT Liberal Deputy Leader Alistair Coe. Photo: Jay Cronan

The ACT opposition says taxpayers will have to foot the bill for the territory's light rail network if there is no Commonwealth investment in the project.

Transport spokesman Alistair Coe accused the government of "changing its story" on how it would fund the network after Chief Minister Katy Gallagher said building Capital Metro was not contingent on federal government or private sector support.

Mr Coe said the government was asking Canberra taxpayers to wear the risk of "light rail at any cost".

It comes two days after an Infrastructure Australia report did not include light rail on its priority projects list and instead suggested buses down Northbourne Avenue.

But Ms Gallagher dismissed Mr Coe's comments, saying it was "entirely reasonable" for a public infrastructure project to be funded through the public purse and "I don't think we've ever suggested otherwise".

The Chief Minister said she did not know what else the government could do to convince Canberrans that it was genuinely committed to seeing the $614 million project through.

"The government's story on light rail seems to be changing," Mr Coe said.

"Initially they said that they were looking at the options and they would do some serious studies.

"They still haven't done the serious studies and yet they have given a firm commitment to Canberrans that they are going to deliver on light rail.

"Now we've heard just yesterday that the project, which is meant to be a public-private partnership, doesn't necessarily need to be a public-private partnership; it can just be a public project."

Mr Coe said Canberrans wanted clarity on where the project was headed.

The Canberra Liberals have not publicly stated whether they support light rail. Mr Coe said on Thursday they would not state their position until they had seen a cost benefit analysis and other evidence to support the project.

"What the government is doing with light rail is reckless," he said.

"They shouldn't be committing to that kind of expenditure before they've done the proper checks and balances."

Ms Gallagher said the ACT needed a rapid transit solution across the city, whether it was light rail or buses.

She said the government had "never ever suggested" that light rail would not be funded through taxpayer dollars.

"If the private sector does partner with us they're not going to fund it out of the goodness of their own heart," she said.

"That's not how public private partnerships work."

Ms Gallagher said the project would still be viable even without Commonwealth funding or support from Infrastructure Australia.

62 comments

  • Maybe the property developers that bulld on existing car parks should pay for the new transport.

    Commenter
    Adrian
    Date and time
    July 05, 2013, 6:47AM
    • Or the ACT government could fund it using the money made from selling off all those carparks for commercial development.

      Yeah, I didn't think so either.

      Commenter
      Markus
      Location
      Canberra
      Date and time
      July 05, 2013, 3:19PM
  • The post-Zed Opposition is delightfully gung-ho and is asking the questions that C/T's commentators have been asking.

    I seem to remember the Government's comments were along the lines of "it will become clearer after the next (ie 2016) election" when it came to an actual decision about the White Elephant.

    In the interim, there are more pressing transport needs that this serves as a distraction.

    Commenter
    Outraged of Palmerston
    Date and time
    July 05, 2013, 6:56AM
    • I know I don't want light rail. I would rather see proper bus coverage, particularly on weekends, first. Tuggeranong has been poorly served since self-government.

      Commenter
      Mardi
      Location
      Tuggeranong
      Date and time
      July 05, 2013, 7:29AM
      • If the idea is so great, why does it have to be taxpayer funded as opposed to funded by fares? There's a very simple test to see if this idea is legit. Tell us how much the fare would be to go up Northbourne if the project is entirely self funded. My guess is city to Dickson would be upwards of $20, and that's with ridiculously optimistic passenger projections. Of course, at $20 passenger numbers would be nil. But if they charge $2 which would be reasonable, it would be 95% public funded, not self funded at all.

        Commenter
        John
        Date and time
        July 05, 2013, 7:30AM
        • Simple, it is public transport. If users had to pay fares to Action that represented the cost of the service without input from the taxpayer a trip would be $8+.

          Same to with roads, if users had to pay for roads directly through rego people would be up in arms.

          Commenter
          Jimmy
          Location
          CBR
          Date and time
          July 05, 2013, 11:35AM
        • Why are Australians so Stone Age in their thinking? You do realise that roads are not even close to being fully subsidised by taxes? Yes, that includes all the "indirect" taxes like rego etc as well. Roads are provided and run at a loss yet public transport which actually makes cities more liveable need to make a profit. Why? Only Japan, Singapore and Hong Kong have public transport systems that actually run a profit. Yes, not even very densely populated cities like London, Paris and New York City come close. It is a public service not a business and should be provided on this basis.

          Commenter
          Cimbom
          Location
          Real World
          Date and time
          July 05, 2013, 12:53PM
        • @ Jimmy - enough revenue in fuel excise and rego to fund the roads mate it is just siphoned off elsewhere.

          Commenter
          JazzyJeff
          Location
          Lismore
          Date and time
          July 05, 2013, 1:48PM
        • Very true. Rego would be around $6000 per annum if it actually paid for the cost and upkeep of roads. It is interesting to see the language used by the car lobbyists and some governments...if it's PT it attracts a "subsidy", if it's a road then it's called an "investment". Roads however are the most publicly subsidised infrastructure in the nation by a long chalk.

          Commenter
          PO
          Location
          Brisbane
          Date and time
          July 05, 2013, 1:50PM
        • Actually, rego and fuel excise DOES pay for roads, unless you work for the green lobby and include some dodgy numbers like figures for "climate change", "noise", "air pollution", "land use", "road trauma" etc.. And those dodgy figures I don't even think include stamp duty on vehicles. Road maintenance in Australia: 14 billion. Fuel excise: 10 billion. Rego: 4 billion. GST on fuel and vehicles: 5 billion. Suffice it to say, motorists are basically self funding, more or less. If this light rail comes anywhere near to that, I'd be shocked.

          Commenter
          John
          Date and time
          July 05, 2013, 3:05PM

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