Transport Minister Chris Steel has defended the benefits of the next stage of the light rail, which will be built between the city centre and Commonwealth Park, after an audit report highlighted concerns over the expected costs of the project.
Mr Steel said the project would likely cost more than the 2019 business case predicted because the government now knew it would need to incorporate wire-free technology for when the route goes through the parliamentary triangle.
"We always take the recommendations of auditor-general's reports seriously. The ACT government welcomes transparency about light rail to Woden. We understand that Canberrans are rightly interested in how our city's largest infrastructure project will be delivered," Mr Steel said.
But Mr Steel said ongoing commercial negotiations prevented the government releasing updated costs immediately, but the government would respond fully to the recommendations of the auditor-general's report.
"The benefits of stage 2 are best assessed by looking at what the whole alignment will deliver for the city," he told a debate in the Legislative Assembly on Thursday.
A motion moved by the opposition's spokesman on transport, Mark Parton, had sought to establish a select committee on the light rail project, but the government amended the motion to refer the project to the standing committee on public accounts.
Mr Steel said the conversation about light rail needed to shift from whether it would be built to how it would be delivered.
"The next stage of the light-rail project is going to come to Woden. It's going ahead. It's not a proposal, as Mr Parton has put it in the motion. It's a project. It's actually started. Enabling works have actually begun - two weeks ago," he said.
The motion debated on Thursday followed a question time on Wednesday dominated by the light rail project and the audit report.
Asked by Mr Parton on Wednesday about the assumptions in the business case, Mr Steel said the government thought the benefits of stage 2A would be small in comparison with the complete extension to Woden.
"There will be further city-shaping benefits as part of that, particularly in the Woden town centre. Indeed, we are already starting to see that occur even before the light rail project starts construction, off the back of our government being committed to it. It is very clear that the Liberals are not," Mr Steel said.
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Auditor-General Michael Harris last month recommended that the government should make a fresh breakdown of stage 2A public, because the earlier business case failed to show how the line would be a catalyst for urban development, a key expected upside to the project.
The audit of the business case for stage 2A found the analysis relied too heavily on so-called "transformational projects" around the transport corridor.
The audit report identified interdependent projects as development at West Basin on the Acton waterfront, raising London Circuit to the level of Commonwealth Avenue, and a National Capital Authority proposal to reconfigure Kings and Commonwealth Avenues as grand boulevards.
"Any failure to implement these projects on a timely basis will have a negative impact on the expected benefits of light rail stage 2A," Mr Harris said.
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