Liberals' transport paper backs buses on Northbourne median

Liberals' transport paper backs buses on Northbourne median

Respondents to an opposition discussion paper on the future of Northbourne Avenue have backed a bus and emergency vehicle lane in the median strip as an alternative to the government's light rail plans.

Opposition transport spokesman Alistair Coe released about 55 responses to the Liberal discussion paper published in December, which proposed three options to speed up travel times into the city without building the $698 million tram line.

An artist's impression of the Capital Metro Gungahlin tram line.

An artist's impression of the Capital Metro Gungahlin tram line.

Each of the options involve changes to the configuration of the road and median strip. The Liberals have pledged to tear up contracts for the project if the party wins the October election, likely to result in compensation payments to the international consortium chosen to build and operate the 12 kilometre light rail line.

Among the responses from members of the public, the most popular plan would see a 3.25m wide one-way bus lane through the middle of the median strip, with 1.25 metre wide one-way cycle lanes running immediately adjacent. The discussion paper said a fence or barrier would be used to divide the bus lane from the cycle paths.

Canberra Liberals' transport spokesman Alistair Coe.

Canberra Liberals' transport spokesman Alistair Coe.Credit:Jay Cronan

The proposed lane would begin at Antill Street and run to Barry Drive, with buses entering and exiting intersections. Buses and cyclists would travel on the existing north–south green signals and cyclists would enter or exit the cycleway at signalised intersections.

It would require "numerous" Eucalyptus elata trees to be cut down from the median and require underground pipe and wires to be relocated. The plan is not fully costed, but is estimated by Mr Coe to cost more than $140 million.

The discussion paper said the plan would see about 10 minutes saved from all public transport trips, with lower rates of construction delays.

Some respondents also supported a bus priority lane on the lefthand side of traffic, with a new median cycle path. The plan would require the building of bus priority measures at selected interchanges along Northbourne Avenue.

The most popular option was described as cost-effective, safer than current arrangements, an opportunity to remove buses from existing traffic lanes and more suitable to offices and apartments along the corridor. The government has ruled out bus lanes in the median strip.

None of the opposition plans have been fully designed or costed. The Liberals plan to release a formal transport policy in the first half of the year, but have already committed to spending $51 million on the leasing and operation of 50 additional buses for ACTION, including pay for more drivers.

Some respondents congratulated the opposition for opposing light rail, while one accused the Liberals of lax policy planning and development and others said they wouldn't vote Liberal for the first time. One urged the party to properly plan to reduce congestion on Flemington Road.

A small number were in favour of the government's plans for the city to Gungahlin tram, described as good infrastructure planning, good for business and a tourism opportunity for Canberra.

Mr Coe said last year the discussion paper options could be used on other roads across the city, including on Adelaide Avenue, Belconnen Way, Ginninderra Drive, Hindmarsh Drive and the Tuggeranong Parkway.

Mr Coe said the opposition was "happy to listen to the community about future public transport options for the ACT".

"It's an options paper, we expected a range of responses and that's what we've received."

Tom McIlroy is a political reporter for The Australian Financial Review in the federal press gallery at Parliament House.

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