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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2003 Week 10 Hansard (24 September) . . Page.. 3657 ..

MS DUNDAS (continuing):

I was interested to find out that a rail line to Civic was an essential element of Burley Griffin's original plan for Canberra. In 1921 a temporary standard-gauge construction line opened from Kingston to Civic, crossing the Molongo River near Russell, running through Reid, Glebe Park and terminating in present-day Garema Place. Unfortunately, a flood washed the bridge away two years later. A further goods line was built to Civic via Scotts Crossing and Constitution Avenue, with a spur to the Hotel Canberra in 1925. In the early years of federal parliament in Canberra, the majority of passenger and freight journeys to the national capital were by rail.

Rail history in the ACT has been characterised by lots of talk but very little action. Over the years, huge numbers of proposals for railway lines have been put forward. In 1914 a survey for a rail link from Canberra to its proposed port at Jervis Bay was completed. In 1916 surveys were undertaken for a Canberra to Yass rail link. In fact, the Commonwealth's Seat of Government Act still contains a provision that, if a rail line from Canberra to the northern border is ever built, New South Wales will be obliged to build a railway line from near Yass to meet it.

The project for a Yass rail link was revived in 1965, and in 1968 the Commonwealth announced a rail link to Belconnen as part of its forward planning. In 1982, a bicentennial high-speed rail project proposed to build a fast train between Canberra and Sydney, to be completed by the bicentenary in 1988. In the 1990s the idea of a very fast train was proposed, as well as a light rail system to service the suburbs of Canberra. But as members of the Assembly are very much aware, none of these proposals were ever implemented.

Equally, over the last few decades, rail services in and around Canberra have been successively cut. In 1972, New South Wales commenced deregulation of road freight, leading to a heavy loss of rail traffic. In 1974 the world energy crisis saw many services temporarily cut, including the Canberra mail service to Sydney and the Spirit of Progress service to Melbourne. However, neither service was ever restored.

In 1983 Canberra got its first XPT service, but this was cut within eight years. This year we have seen Canberra passenger services cut by two services, from three per day back to the level of service we were receiving in 1923. In fact, it is a reduction in service from what we were receiving in 1923 because it only goes as far as Kingston and not into the city, as it originally did.

The successive ignorance of rail development has meant that no long-term rail infrastructure has ever been built in the territory. The private vehicle, followed by coach trips and air services, now dominates the bulk of trips in and out of the territory. The short-sighted decision making of previous Commonwealth, New South Wales and ACT governments has meant that the ACT is now the most car reliant capital city in Australia and continues to promote the use of unsustainable transport modes.

At the moment, rail is the most sustainable form of long-haul transport, especially when it is used with many carriages over long distances. It has lower energy consumption than car, bus or plane and has far lower levels of emission for freight transport than trucks. Rail transport is also far safer than that of road. Australian Transport Safety Bureau

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