Page 1441 - Week 05 - Wednesday, 6 May 2015

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David Hughes believe that this annual availability payment will be somewhere between $80 million and $100 million per year.

For this cost we will get minimal public transport benefits. Just 3,946 people are projected to catch light rail during the morning peak. This means that, on population projections contained in the light rail business case, less than one per cent of Canberrans will use light rail to get to work or school in 2021. Most importantly, overall public transport usage in the Gungahlin to the city corridor will also be impacted. The vast majority of light rail users are already catching a 200 series ACTION bus to the city.

It is important that we do not forget that the ACT government also has to take away services and amenities in order to construct light rail. Soon you will see chainsaws on Northbourne Avenue. Of course, you cannot have light rail without chopping down the 430 mainly healthy trees on the median. You also cannot have light rail without cancelling the popular 200 series buses from Gungahlin to the city. These services conveniently run through most Gungahlin suburbs and continue past the city to Russell, Barton, Kingston and often Fyshwick.

Mr Assistant Speaker, the crux of the issue is that the ACT government has no mandate to construct light rail. The electorate has not yet voted on the $783 million tramline from Gungahlin to the city. ACT Treasury costings of ACT Labor’s 2012 light rail policy reveal a $34 million commitment to continue the investigation and feasibility of light rail in the ACT. There was no mention of a $783 million tram. There was no mention of the annual operational expenses of the tram. The policy was simply a $30 million commitment to look into the feasibility of light rail.

Interestingly, part of ACT Labor’s 2012 election commitment was a wish that the then Gillard Labor government would contribute $15 million from Infrastructure Australia to investigate the feasibility of the project. As we all know, Infrastructure Australia, under the Labor government, said:

The case for favouring light rail over bus rapid transit has not been strongly made, especially when the submission itself points to the stronger economic performance of a bus rapid transit option.

The ACT government have no mandate for light rail. The 2012 election commitment was a $30 million feasibility study, not a $783 million tram. They have never promised a $783 million tram in the lead-up to an election. They have never taken a commitment to spend $783 million to the people of Canberra. Consequently, the electorate have not been given a chance to accept or to disendorse it and they will not accept it until they get a chance to vote on it, I believe.

Even if someone disagrees with me on this point, the project is still vastly different from the proposal submitted to Infrastructure Australia. For a start, the projected cost has already blown out by 28 per cent, from $614 million to $783 million. There is a good chance that the cost will reach $1 billion, given this government’s track record when it comes to delivering infrastructure. If there is an extension to Russell, which has been openly speculated on by many, including the minister, surely the cost will exceed $l billion.

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