ACT News

Taxpayers hit with $11,000 bill for cardboard tram

The opposition has accused the ACT government of squandering taxpayers' money on a cardboard model tram costing more than $11,000 to promote the light rail project. 

Capital Metro Minister Simon Corbell this week told the Legislative Assembly that the model tram was part of  $14,000 in recent spending on promotional materials used during a four-week consultation period for the project's urban design features. 

Vote changer? Public opinion on Canberra's light rail line remains polarised.
Vote changer? Public opinion on Canberra's light rail line remains polarised. Photo: Jay Cronan

The made-to-order model, first unveiled by Mr Corbell and Chief Minister Andrew Barr in January, cost $11,320 to design and produce.

It featured reinforced cardboard walls with artist impressions of tram tracks, passenger stops, the proposed landscaping on Northbourne Avenue and other facilities.

It also included a hole in the driver's window where potential passengers could pose for photos.

Three online videos produced to promote the $783 million line from the city to Gungahlin cost between $720 and $1300. The videos covered topics including why the project is a good investment for Canberra and background to the government's business case, released in October last year. 

A third video was titled Light Rail: It's really happening

The model tram and videos were accompanied by a series of information fact sheets, outlining forecasts in population growth, traffic congestion in the Northbourne Avenue corridor and how light rail would reflect "Canberra's unique character".

All the materials were used at events in January and February raising awareness of the consultation, including in Braddon, Kingston, Watson, Kippax and Gungahlin. Officials also attended O-week events at the University of Canberra and an ACT Brumbies game. 

Opposition transport spokesman Alistair Coe said the spending was wasteful. 

"It's ridiculous but unsurprising that the cardboard tram which was used by ACT Labor over four weeks during January and February cost $11,000," Mr Coe said.

"Only Simon Corbell could make sure a cardboard pop-up would cost this much." 

The Opposition is yet to unveil a detailed public transport policy. Mr Coe has pledged to try to stop development of light rail in Canberra and increase investment in buses. 

In September, Mr Corbell told the Assembly $5648 had been spent on 2000 foam model trams with the ACT Government and Capital Metro agency logo.

Another $8300 was spent on 2000 Capital Metro drink bottles and 2000 cardboard model trams, given to visitors to a pop-up information shop located in Mort Street and at community information sessions.

"This government continues to squander Canberra taxpayers' money on a project that will service only a small fraction of the ACT population," Mr Coe said.

"If it wasn't such a serious waste of money, spending $11,320 on a tram would be a laughing matter." 

Four private sector consortiums are bidding to build and operate the tram line from 2019. Two will be asked to participate in the request for proposal process in the second half of this year.

On Thursday, Mr Corbell welcomed the release of a report by the Australian Railway Association supporting light rail for cities with the population and density of Canberra.

"The report demonstrates that the ACT government is not on its own with more than 400 light rail systems operational and 100 under construction globally," he said.

"More and more cities, of all densities and sizes, are recognising the multiple benefits that fixed light rail infrastructure brings."