Page 1735 - Week 06 - Wednesday, 13 May 2015

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With this impact, it would not be surprising if the government opted for a contract term of 30 years, or perhaps even greater, in order to try and reduce the annual burden of the availability payment, albeit locking even more people into this agreement in the future. This extension to 30 years is contemplated by the Capital Metro Agency. In the full business case, the Capital Metro Agency advises the ACT government:

Should affordability concerns be centred upon annual budget impacts, the proposed operation term may legitimately be lengthened with an attendant reduction in annual availability payments (albeit with an impact on whole of life costs).

In effect, if the mortgage is too big, don’t worry about addressing the capital; just extend the loan term.

Still, then, with an availability payment of $50 million, $60 million, $70 million or $80 million a year, service delivery would surely drop, taxes would be raised or both. This is simply an expense the ACT cannot afford.

Mr Assistant Speaker, $80 million to $130 million is a lot of money to spend each and every year on one light rail line. At its highest estimate, the availability payment closes in on the annual payment the ACT government makes to operate ACTION each year. However, whilst ACTION carries over 50,000 people each day, this light rail project will carry only about 15,000 people each day in 2021. Of course, the vast majority of those are coming from the 50,000 people who are currently riding ACTION buses, which is something the full business case and all other studies have shown. Capital metro is, in effect, competing with ACTION more than it is competing with private motor vehicles. It is a huge amount of money to spend on a project which does little to benefit public transport.

My colleagues and I will continue to point out that on the ACT government’s own figures, only approximately one per cent of Canberrans will use light rail in the morning peak. In 2021 this government will spend $80 million to $100 million for just one per cent of Canberrans to get to work or school. They will be doing that each year for 20 or 30 years.

Sadly, these figures hardly improve for the decades following 2020. In 2021 and 2031, light rail passengers in the morning peak will remain at approximately one per cent of Canberrans, while the availability payment will remain between $80 million and $100 million annually. What we are doing is spending up to $1 billion between 2021 and 2031 so that just one per cent of Canberrans can catch light rail to work or school. These are extremely low figures, perhaps even abysmal, and they prove that this project does not stack up.

Once it is constructed, ACTION buses will clearly be running in competition with light rail. This is specifically mentioned on page 44 of the capital metro full business case, which states:

The proposed restructuring of bus routes will result in no bus routes operating along Flemington Road between Manning Clarke Crescent (North) and Sandford Street, or along Northbourne Avenue between City and Dickson.

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