Page 2935 - Week 10 - Tuesday, 13 August 2013

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So $614 million to carry an extra 1,500 people down Northbourne Avenue; 1,500 people. It is a lot of money to spend—$614 million for 1,500 people.

What is the expense of this? That is $614 million spread across every ACT household. That is $4,400 per household for construction—just for construction. It is not for operations, not for the ongoing costs, not for the liability, not for depreciation; just for construction. I am yet to see the real evidence as to why the government is going for light rail over buses.

The government cites the URS report. But the URS report, in their assessment, is neutral for light rail and positive at six by their positive measure for bus rapid transit. It really is only in the last sentence of that report that it is stated, “Buses are the most economical and efficient. However, light rail provides the best overall outcome.”

So Minister Corbell talks about the best overall value, the best social value. If you are going to go down that track, you would think it would have been included in the cost-benefit ratio because the cost-benefit ratio does, in fact, take into account environmental and social costs. It takes into account things such as noise, things such as emissions, things such as time and things such as traffic. All the social indicators which Minister Corbell claims are supportive of light rail are, in fact, already included in the cost-benefit ratio. So at 4.78 for buses and 2.34 for light rail, you have got to wonder what other information the ACT Labor government have that supports their decision to go ahead with light rail.

The government has also spoken about uplift—that is, if you build light rail you can redevelop parts of Northbourne Avenue. Quite frankly, you can redevelop parts of Northbourne Avenue with or without light rail. You can do the uplift on the “do nothing” scenario. There has been talk about redeveloping government land up and down Northbourne Avenue for years and years. Yet this government has made no progress on that. They can do it today. They can redevelop land along Northbourne Avenue, whether you do light rail or not. Therefore, it should not simply be contingent upon light rail, because it could be delivered under any scenario. Neither bus nor light rail would be a necessity.

Of course, the real hurdle that the ACT Labor government has restricting this whole process is Infrastructure Australia, the experts in this field. What do the experts think? The heading of the assessment was “Not recommended”. Not recommended was what Infrastructure Australia said with regard to the August 2012 submission that the ACT Labor government made to Infrastructure Australia. One of the reasons that they gave was, of course, that it is pretty hard to support light rail when their own submission says that buses are better. They pointed to the cost-benefit ratio. They pointed to many other things that are stumbling blocks for this government.

It is easy to say that Infrastructure Australia does not really matter. But it matters on several counts. Firstly, it means that the ACT Labor government will not get commonwealth funding for this project. If you do not get commonwealth funding for the project, that leaves you with two options. You have either got to fully fund it yourself or you have got to seek private sponsorship. But if you are going to seek private sponsorship, you actually do need Infrastructure Australia’s support, because

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