Sunday, November 23, 2014

ACT Light Rail support Capital Metro PPP contract transparency



On Sunday 23 November ABC Canberra ran a short story on the 7PM television news covering the use of PPP's between governments and the private sector to fund infrastructure projects.   

ACT Light Rail agree that the contracts reached between successful bidders for the Capital Metro project and the ACT Government should be made public. Transparency is good for governments and leads to good outcomes. 

We disagree with the contentions that some of the experts made. The Australia Institute said that bus services may be reduced to force people onto light rail. They said that the number of buses might be reduced. The government policy since 2012 has been to integrate light rail and buses, with increased bus services feeding commuters to light rail. All Capital Metro literature is consistent on this.

Other aspects of the story referred to closing roads. This is unlikely and does not make a lot of sense in the Northbourne Flemington context. It is not something ACT Light Rail  have heard of in any discussion held with engineers associated with Capital Metro or SMEC. It is in the  interests of toll road operators to close public roads. It is not in the interest of a public transport operator to close roads. 

The story did point out the benefits of PPP's in deferring upfront costs for governments, and letting private companies bear risk. Where the story fell down is in not making it clear that all the PPP failures featured, were road projects relying on tolls. 

The current proposal from Capital Metro is that the fare revenue (electronic card only through the MyWay card) goes to government and that the ACT Government will pay the operator a yearly fee. The private operator does not bear the risk of falling patronage and farebox revenue. Of note is that one prospective PPP bidder has already indicated that it would like to receive a bonus for higher patronage.

Contemporary light rail introduction has seen increases in public transport patronage that exceeded project estimates. Gold Coast Light Rail has been a tremendous success.

It is good that the ABC has decided to cover the PPP issue as Capital Metro light rail is a significant ACT infrastructure program, and affects the city and its future. Perhaps the journalist preparing the story should have read the business case and other Capital Metro literature first. Some of the misconceptions it raises, will now linger in peoples minds.


For more frequent updates on Capital Metro and light rail related news, please visit our Facebook page 'Light Rail for Canberra'.  

Monday, November 17, 2014

A review of Canberra traffic from 1962


This 1962 traffic survey of Canberra has just been located. It is a fascinating insight into the future that transport professionals saw, at that time, over 50 years ago. 


W. Morison
B.E., Dip.T.P., Traffic Engineer, National Capital Development Commission, Canberra

paper No. 46

"It outlines the 1961 population and employment structure and vehicle ownership of Canberra before briefly describing a comprehensive origin destination survey conducted in 1961 as the first stage of a transportation study and report for the National Capital.
Total trip generation is discussed for Canberra as well as for some suburbs more closely studied. Generated traffic is related to population all day employment; 1961 parking generation also is related to floor space all day employment. The paper discusses some of the future implications of Canberra's expansion, its road planning and traffic needs, and concludes by noting the possibility of some pure research projects being based on the 1961 origin-destination survey."



For more frequent updates on Capital Metro and light rail related news, please visit our Facebook page 'Light Rail for Canberra'.  

Thursday, November 6, 2014

ACT Government deserves support for Capital Metro business case and the bold vision it represents


The release of the full business case detailing both the costs, and the economic benefits of Capital Metro, is another positive step towards better public transport and the future planned growth of Canberra. For a small community based group that has been lobbying for light rail for over a decade, it is a vindication of ACT Light Rails beliefs that a mass transit backbone of light rail, and an integrated bus system, are the key to encouraging Canberrans to choose public transport over the private car for their daily commute.

This form of transparency is rare with governments and this ACT Government deserves support for the political courage it is demonstrating in continuing to move forward with a project that has faced determined opposition from those that view the world through the windscreen of their car, those who would never use public transport, and those who resent public money being spent on infrastructure unless it directly benefits them. By looking at Canberra in 50 years time, instead of the Canberra of 50 years ago, the current government are taking a bold progressive stance.

As well as leading to decreased road congestion, increasing light rail patronage will ensure that over time less money will need to be spent by government on building more roads and parking spaces. Decreased road construction is one of the difficult to quantify advantages of light rail, as the road will never be built, it is money you never spend, instead of money you need to plan to spend. It is money that can be spent on other areas of equal importance, such as schools and hospitals.

How will the Canberra Liberals respond? By 2016 construction will have commenced. The current Opposition has no public transport policy and no light rail policy. It is not a sustainable position for an alternative government to go to the electorate lacking a policy on the Territorys most important infrastructure project. They must announce a viable policy on light rail, or they will not be able to be taken credibly by the electorate. 

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Capital Metro Business Case documents all in one place



It is useful to place all the Capital Metro Business Case documents in one place. You will find them on a new page created on this website. The documents include the full business case, the business case in brief, the brochure and the EOI documents.


For more frequent updates on Capital Metro and light rail related news, please visit our Facebook page 'Light Rail for Canberra'.  




Operational cost of light rail in Canberra - around $22 million a year


Canberra currently spends around $110 million a year to operate ACTION Buses. The operational cost of light rail has been the subject of much speculation. The Capital Metro Business Case informs us that the estimated cost of this is $22 million a year

For more frequent updates on Capital Metro and light rail related news, please visit our Facebook page 'Light Rail for Canberra'.  

Television news coverage of light rail Capital Metro Business Case announcement

The electronic media gave very generous coverage to the release of the light rail business case for Capital Metro on the day of release, and over the weekend. Here are the major news reports and interviews with local politicians on both the ABC and WIN.

video
WIN Canberra coverage 31 Oct 2014

ACT Light Rail meet Heavy Rail proponent

Canberra Times story from Oct 13:

Opposite sides of the track: light rail campaigners square off


ACT Light Rail Deputy Chair Ian Ruecroft (left) Dr John Smith (right)
Canberra Times photograph   


Long before construction begins on tram tracks linking the city and Gungahlin, Canberra's light rail line has already divided public opinion and established a key policy fight for the 2016 election. 

After decades of debate about the best public transport options for the capital, two opinion makers from opposite sides of the fight visited the proposed location for a Northbourne Avenue terminus at Alinga Street to share their views.

Friday, October 31, 2014

Capital Metro Business Case released


The full business case for the Capital Metro light rail project was released on 31 October by the Chief Minister, at the Gallery of Australian Design in Kingston. Along with the Business Case, the EOI for prospective tenderers was also made available. 


The Expression of Interest documents are available from the ACT Government.
Chief Minister Katy Gallagher at the Gallery of Australian Design, releasing the Capital metro Business Case. (ABC Photo)

ABC Canberra have a good report of the Business Case release online here.

Canberra Times coverage of the Chief Ministers release of the Business Case.

"ACT Chief Minister Katy Gallagher said at a press conference on Friday the project would deliver a return of $1.20 for every $1 spent, a figure she said was produced using analysis from Ernest and Young."

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Chief Minister confirms Russell extension light rail planning

screen shot of FB Q&A


ACT Chief Minister Katy Gallagher held a question and answer session on Facebook on October 7 2014. ACT Light Rail Chair, Damien Haas, asked several questions including one specifically related to rumours ACT Light Rail keep hearing about an extension of Stage One of Capital Metro to Russell from Civic. 

His question:

D.c. Haas: How serious are plans to extend the first stage of Capital Metro light rail along Constitution Avenue to Russell?

The Chief Ministers response:

Katy Gallagher MLA: Hello again D.c. Haas. The government is considering the option of extending stage one of Canberra’s light rail network through to Constitution Avenue and Russell. Preliminary analysis on the possible extension is underway.

It is good that this has been confirmed. We believe two possible routes through Civic have been modelled. One through City Walk to Constitution Avenue, the other around Vernon Circle. We are told Jarrett Walker favours the Vernon Circle model. The light rail would terminate near the statue. 

Extending Stage One to Russell is a very sound idea. Paid parking has now been introduced, leading to greater demand on public transport. It is important to build light rail from where people live to where they work. 

It would also be a simple task to extend from Russell to the Airport in the future (perhaps the Airport owners may even pay for that stage), or even across the lake along Kings Avenue. 

ACT Light Rail support this extension proposal. 

For more frequent updates on Capital Metro and light rail related news, please visit our Facebook page 'Light Rail for Canberra'.  

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

ACT Business leaders express confidence and support in Capital Metro light rail

Many of the news reports following the announcement of the Governments decision to proceed with Capital Metro, have focussed on the reactions of business to the news.

With 3500 predicted jobs created as a result, is it any wonder business is supporting the project.

video
ABC Canberra report on positive business reaction, with endorsement from peak business body

video
WIN Canberra on positive business reaction with comment from Emma Thomas of Capital Metro on job creation

For more frequent updates on Capital Metro and light rail related news, please visit our Facebook page 'Light Rail for Canberra'.  




Capital Metro light rail wins tick from Infrastructure Partnerships Australia



Tucked away at the bottom of an ABC Online news article is this important news:

(Note this is 'Infrastructure Partnerships Australia' (a peak body) not Infrastructure Australia (the government body). )

Light rail wins tick from Infrastructure Australia

The country's peak infrastructure body has also offered its support for the project, pointing to the successes of similar proposals in other states.
Infrastructure Australia chief executive Brendan Lyon said it was a good time to be buying infrastructure, as strong competition could drive down the cost.
"This is really setting up for a very good result in terms of price and a very good result in terms of the type of technological advances that Canberra might see," he said.
Mr Lyon said the project would however test Canberra's bureaucracy.
"The ACT Government does not have a tradition of delivering major civil infrastructure projects using private financing. That is going to test the bureaucracy in Canberra," he said.

The project is currently listed on Infrastructure Australia's Potential PPP Projects webpage. 

For more frequent updates on Capital Metro and light rail related news, please visit our Facebook page 'Light Rail for Canberra'.  

Monday, September 15, 2014

Capital Metro fly through - a video trip along the light rail route



Capital Metro have created this stunning animation of a trip along the Civic to Gungahlin light rail route. It is from the perspective of 'flying along and above the line'.

For more frequent updates on Capital Metro and light rail related news, please visit our Facebook page 'Light Rail for Canberra'.  

ACT Government endorse Capital Metro business case - it will be built!


Today over 250 industry representatives attended the Capital Metro Industry Briefing, where MLA Simon Corbell, Minister for the Capital Metro Agency, announced that cabinet had approved the Capital Metro business case, and that the light rail project would proceed. It was widely expected news, and provides a major boost to Canberra's public transport sector, and construction and property sectors. 

How much will it cost?

The estimated cost of the project is $610 million with a $173 million contingency, a total cost of $783 million. 

How it will be built

The government have decided to use a Public Private Partnership to build and operate the light rail system, and will call for Expressions of Interest on 31 Oct 2014. The full Capital Metro business case will be released to the public, and prospective PPP partners. 

The approach taken for construction and operation will be a bundled PPP, with a 20 year concession. There will be no ACT Government financial contribution during the construction phase, although they reserve the right to make a financial contribution following that, to reduce debt for example. 

How it will be paid for

The project will be paid for through the value uplift associated with Transit Oriented Development, recycling of assets (such as the sale of ACT TAB and the sale of surface car parks) and transport related efficiencies.  

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Gungahlin Light Rail Community forum a tremendous success


The Gungahlin Community Council and Canberra Loves 40% jointly hosted a community forum on Monday 8 Sep 2014, where members of the community could come together and speak to planning and transport experts, and representatives from Capital Metro, about the light rail line from Civic to Gungahlin. It gave the community the opportunity to have input into some design aspects, and from their experiences, offer suggestions and solutions. 

video
ABC news covered the event

video
As did WIN Canberra
It was a valuable opportunity for members of the community to speak directly to Capital Metro and other ACT Government officials on the impact of light rail and how it may affect their community. The day began with presentations from Capital Metro and other light rail and planning experts, and after lunch attendees participated in a Design Workshop, giving residents the opportunity to ask questions, and offer advice about quite specific parts of the proposed route. This outstanding example of community driven consultation will ensure that the delivered product will meet current and future needs. 

ACT Light Rail promoted the event on our Facebook page. If you are interested in attending other events like this, please join the Facebook group Light Rail for Canberra


Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Industry briefed on Capital Metro project by ACT Government


The compressed timetable of Capital Metro (construction is scheduled to begin in the first quarter of 2016) means that the employees and consultants working on the project are extremely busy. The final Business Case is due to go to Cabinet imminently, with a decision in September.

As part of the project, Capital Metro are briefing industry. As it will be private contractors that will build the light rail line and facilities, it is important to keep all interested parties up to date on project developments.

There is a strong focus on employing local companies in the design and construction phase. For companies that may have an interest in tendering, these briefing provide important detail and information they can use to guide preparation of business cases, and tenders.

The office of the Minister for Capital Metro Agency has released the following statement in relation to the briefings scheduled for 15 September:

Capital Metro to update industry on Canberra's light rail project

Released 19/08/2014
The Capital Metro Agency and the ACT Government will provide up-to-date information to all industries that might have an interest in the building and operation of stage one of Canberra's light rail network, at an Industry Briefing on 15 September.
Minister for Capital Metro, Simon Corbell, said he expected interest in the briefing from local, national and international companies.
"The briefing will demonstrate the progress to date of the Capital Metro light rail project," Mr Corbell said.
"It will provide an opportunity to relate the key information that has arisen from the feasibility, design and definition stages of the project.
"A major aim of the briefing is to ensure we remain connected with industry. The community consultation period was concluded earlier this month and it is now appropriate to update industry."
The briefing will include updated thinking around desired urban design outcomes, technical design, operations environment, desired customer outcomes, possible procurement steps and local industry participation.
"This is an excellent opportunity for local industry to get involved in, and be informed on, this exciting major infrastructure project," Mr. Corbell said.
"I am looking forward to the briefing in September and meeting with industry members."
- Statement ends -


For more frequent updates on Capital Metro and light rail related news, please visit our Facebook page 'Light Rail for Canberra'.  

Monday, August 18, 2014

ACTION Network 14 launched - let's hope it attracts more passengers

The TAMS Minister, Greens MLA Shane Rattenbury, has today launched ACTION Network 14. Let us hope that ACTION planners have created a workable timetable and network. Todays plan is mark 2 of Network 14, as planners tore up an earlier version of the plan and started again. It is very important that it succeeds. Bus patronage has been declining, and that decline needs to be reversed. A modal shift to light rail from Gungahlin to Civic is one action in response to declining bus patronage, but both modes of transport need to work together.

ACTION claim that (from ACTIONS website):

Network 14 is the first time that a network has been developed using patronage data from the MyWay system and over 2,300 pieces of feedback from bus passengers, drivers and through a successful community consultation. As a result a number of areas of Canberra will have enhanced services including Molonglo, Gungahlin, Weston Creek, the Parliamentary Triangle, Hume, Brindabella Park and Majura Park. There will also be improved alignment between weekday and weekend services. The new weekend network, which will include improved services in areas such as Gungahlin, Tuggeranong, Weston Creek, West Macgregor and Majura Park, as well as services to the National Arboretum.

How will services be improved?
  • More Direct - Services have been streamlined with the objective of achieving fewer, more evenly spaced and direct routes
  • More Frequent - Additional services have been added to many routes including; Erindale, Chisholm, Gungahlin, Weston Creek and West Belconnen
  • More Services -  Late evening suburban services carrying few passengers have been scheduled to finish earlier to allow more day time services
ACTION Bus webpage with Network 14 routes here.

Map of Network 14 weekday routes here. Small map also shown below.

Changes to the ACTION bus routes in your area of Canberra are here.

Canberra Times report on Network 14 launch is here.

Riot Act user analysis of Network 14 is here

video
WIN TV News report on the Network 14 announcement.

Weekday routes for Network 14

For more frequent updates on Capital Metro and light rail related news, please visit our Facebook page 'Light Rail for Canberra'.  

Thursday, August 14, 2014

The Assembly votes for Capital Metro funding

In our last post we covered the debate in the Assembly where the Canberra Liberals argued against better public transport infrastructure. Yesterday, they moved a motion in the Assembly opposing that funding. It was defeated.

Here is the video from WIN TV on the issue. The ABC TV carried no report on it.
video
Here is a media release issued by MLA Simon Corbell, Capital Metro Agency Minister.


Canberra Liberals' blinkered opposition to light rail lets Canberrans down

The Canberra Liberals have proved once again how out of touch they are with the needs of Canberrans with their blinkered opposition to a project that will deliver positive outcomes for the ACT, Minister for Capital Metro, Simon Corbell, said today.


"With his latest motion in the Legislative Assembly today Alistair Coe continues with his head-in-the-sand approach to tackling transport challenges for Canberra's future," Mr Corbell said.

"Not only is he objecting to a project that will deliver strong transport, economic and sustainability outcomes for Canberra but he is also objecting to a project supported by a majority of Canberrans."

A recent survey by Piazza Research, commissioned by Capital Metro, found 55% of Canberrans supported light rail as a public transport solution for the ACT.

Stage one of Canberra's light rail network will decrease congestion along Northbourne Avenue while providing for the iconic landscape of the wide, tree-lined median.

The Canberra Liberals' alternative to light rail is to either do nothing, allowing congestion to increase into the future to the point where commuters will be bogged down in gridlocked traffic, or to replace the landscaped entry to the national capital with extra road lanes.

"If Mr Coe is seriously suggesting that Bus Rapid Transit is the solution for preventing one-hour commutes from Gungahlin to City in the coming decades he should come clean and tell the people of Canberra whether he intends to either reduce Northbourne Avenue to two lanes of general traffic or if he prefers to put a two-lane road in the place of the median strip," Mr Corbell said.

Not only does the Capital Metro project have a positive Benefit Cost Analysis, meaning it provides more in economic benefits then it costs, but it will also provide social and environmental benefits that other forms of public transport do not.

"Light rail is good for all of Canberra. It is good for people who use public transport, who will have a fast, comfortable, reliable service. It is good for businesses, which will benefit from the increased economic activity. It is also good for drivers, who will benefit from reduced congestion on roads that are already being choked with traffic during peak periods and are only going to get worse if nothing is done.

"Light rail is a modern, sustainable form of public transport that delivers important benefits for Canberrans now, while allowing for Canberra to grow and prosper into the future.

"The government knows light rail is the right public transport choice for the ACT and the upcoming final business case will show it is economically good policy for the ACT.

"The Canberra Liberals need to decide whether they want more congestion and less efficient travel in Canberra or if they want a transformational transport option that provides for Canberra's future."

- Statement ends -


For more frequent updates on Capital Metro and light rail related news, please visit our Facebook page 'Light Rail for Canberra'.  

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Canberra Liberals vote against Capital Metro funding


Scrooge McDuck: The Expert
by Carl Barks

Local freebie magazine City News has an online story titled 'Liberals trumpet their impotence as Capital Metro rumbles past them' carrying a press releases from the Canberra Liberals. What the story and press release does not mention is that the funding will be passed, as the Government has a majority in the Assembly, the support of Green MLA Shane Rattenbury.

From the article:

“In the ACT Legislative Assembly debate today on the 2014-15 Budget, the Canberra Liberals spoke against the largest capital works project to ever be constructed by the ACT government,” Mr Coe said.

“The government’s mismanagement of the Cotter Dam, Gungahlin Drive Extension (GDE), and numerous other projects gives the opposition no confidence of the government’s ability to spend taxpayers’ money wisely.

“Given the government’s poor history, the bad patronage forecasts and escalating costs, the Canberra Liberals cannot support the appropriation of funds for light rail.

“The Canberra Liberals will do everything possible to prevent the ACT from spending up to $1 billion, or $6,500 per household, on a project that could then cost us $100 million per year in on-going expenses for a service used by less than 1 percent of the population to commute to and from work,” Mr Coe concluded.

To read the story online click here.

For more frequent updates on Capital Metro and light rail related news, please visit our Facebook page 'Light Rail for Canberra'.  

Monday, August 11, 2014

Light Rail v Bullet Trains - Riot Act Face Off

Local blog 'The Riot Act' has a series of 'debates' called 'Face Offs' in which an advocate and an opponent of idea de jeure are pitted against each other, and given 500 words to convince you the public of the merits of their cause.

ACT Light Rail were recently asked to take part in a 'Light Rail v Bullet Train Face Off'. We had reservations, as aside from rails, the two technologies are very different and serve very different needs. Nevertheless, we decided to take part.


The topic: Given the current financial climate, are our municipal funds better spent on light rail or a bullet train?

Here is our contribution below, as posted on their site. Click on the link, and go to the Riot Act site to take part in their debate.


Comparing the two is the classic apples to oranges cliché, as they are very different transport solutions with little in common aside from rails. However, that is what Riot Act has requested.

For the short and long term benefit of the ACT ratepayer, it is better to build Capital Metro from Gungahlin to Civic, and eventually across Canberra, than a bullet train.

Planning and engineering studies for light rail are well underway. Construction costs can be estimated, as building light rail is a standard and routine engineering task in Australia. Aside from conceptual feasibility studies, no similar work has been performed for bullet trains. If it was ever built, it may never come here, instead running directly between Melbourne and Sydney.

Investing in light rail is not the challenge many believe. The ACT will receive 4.4 billion dollars this year from the Federal government, an amount rising incrementally every year. In this context a public transport investment of 600 million over 4 years is fiscally prudent and a sound long-term investment in a growing city.

Light rail has strong electoral support, with the parties taking it to the 2012 Assembly election forming government. Individuals campaigning for bullet trains attracted a handful of votes, as bullet trains provide few clear benefits. Regular polling conducted since consistently shows a majority of Canberrans supporting light rail. Canberrans understand the short and long term benefits.

The use of public money for any project requires careful consideration using triple bottom line analysis – economic, environmental and societal. In each area Capital Metro delivers immediate and long-term benefits to Canberra, that bullet trains can’t match.

Light rail will provide direct economic benefit in the ACT enhancing productivity, freeing families from needing a second car and allowing parking space to be better used. Increased patronage and retasked ACTION buses will lead to a decrease in the public transport subsidy. Many construction jobs will be immediately created.

Transit oriented development will act as an economic growth driver. Businesses will establish themselves along the corridor knowing that parking wont be required for all staff, and that clients can visit them with ease.

Light rail will alleviate road congestion, mitigate future road construction costs and lead to a reversal in falling public transport patronage by attracting new passengers. Tourists visiting the nations capital will no longer get lost on the wrong bus.

Increased density along the corridor will lead to more walking, and a rise in the number of small businesses to service the needs of new residents. As Capital Metro expands across Canberra, this will be repeated.

The longer term benefits of light rail will be seen as its influence in shaping Canberras growth and culture emerge over several decades. Those preferring a suburban house and backyard will still have that option, but people seeking an apartment style of living will have that option in more quantity, and at lower cost. 

Bullet trains may be wonderful technology and one day in the future deserving of finance, however the immediate priority for Canberra’s ratepayers is not visiting Sydney in 30 minutes, but commuting to work in 30 minutes.  


For more frequent updates on Capital Metro and light rail related news, please visit our Facebook page 'Light Rail for Canberra'.  

Friday, July 18, 2014

Gaps in Transit Review - riposte to sloppy analysis from a CT reader


An excellent riposte to the sometimes misleading and sloppy analysis on light rail costs and benefits, published recently in the Canberra Times, in a letter from a reader. This letter is in the 'Letters to the Editor' page of the July 18 edition of the Canberra Times, and also online.

Gaps in transit review



I write as an outsider but frequent visitor to Canberra. I think the heading in your article ''Light rail poor value: report'' (July 15, p1) was misleading.

The Productivity Commission has criticised the process of moving to a go-ahead for Capital Metro from the point reached in a submission to Infrastructure Australia in 2012.
That does not necessarily imply they conclude the project is of doubtful validity. I sense they are instead criticising a gap in the decision-making logic without actually having the data to finally judge the project options. The submission in 2012 for preliminary funding showed better benefit-cost ratios for Bus Rapid Transit options than Light Rail Transit Options because of the lower capital cost of the former.

However, the two types of projects would not be equal on other grounds, and I think this is where the gap in economic and business cases has not been filled (at least in terms of public disclosure). Light rail will be better for value capture in relation to property development, based on overseas experience. The economic benefits of densification along transport corridors, and so-called agglomeration productivity benefits, are areas where our local experience in cost-benefit analysis is perhaps at the learning stage, but that is not to say that one cannot judge that they will be valuable.

In addition to the projected fare revenue and the lower operating costs of trams versus buses, I understand the ACT government had previously pointed to car parking revenues and this relatively new area of ''value capture'' as two key prospective financial benefits.
No one has yet done justice to analysing these factors in a publicly available study. The Nairn report for the ACT Liberals, which claimed the Capital Metro project would be unviable, seems to me to have a few major holes in terms of financial analysis. A long-term project was evaluated over less than its effective economic life, using 100 per cent debt funding paid off over 15 years, but assuming that the project was worthless after repaying the debt.

To assume a project is worthless in 15 years' (or even 30 years') time would necessarily pre-condition the result of such an analysis and make it a misleading exercise. And that is not to criticise Bob Nairn's transportation knowledge - it just says that the financial analysis (as distinct from his analysis of the transport issues) could not have been complete and must, to that extent, be unsound. I can't tell how this might have affected the end result, as I don't have all the data.

However, Mr Nairn's table of figures seems to project a stabilised fare revenue of only $2.2 million per annum. Simple arithmetic says that at an average light-rail trip fare of circa $4.50, this revenue estimate implies only about 1300 paying passengers per day, or six to seven full vehicles. Unless I am misinterpreting his analysis, that seems ridiculously low and would be a second doubtful element in terms of reaching a sound conclusion as to project viability.

I hope I am not being too unfair to Mr Nairn, but what I read didn't convince me that we have the full picture as yet. And, as a visitor, I cannot understand why the parliamentary and government offices area south of the bridge would not be a viable future route.
It is not just locals one should provide for, because if Canberra Airport goes international, future tourism potential is another major beneficial factor.

Ian F. Bell, Sydney, NSW

For more frequent updates on Capital Metro and light rail related news, please visit our Facebook page 'Light Rail for Canberra'.  

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Simon Corbell: The case for light rail


In todays Canberra Times, Simon Corbell, Minister for the Capital Metro Agency, has a powerful defence of light rail in Canberra.

The CT also carries a story: Light rail benefits more than just cost.

Rail network has proven its benefits worldwide

We are fortunate that Griffin provided us with a legacy of extreme foresight; a planned city linked by 'rapid transit' – his own term – with higher densities of retail, employment and development lining the transport system. We have the wide avenues in place and the designs drawn; the framework for a city wide tramway has been ready and waiting for the past hundred years.

Unfortunately, until today we have ignored Griffin's transport advice and plans. Politicians have debated the cost of installing Griffin's railway and tramway system for one hundred years, always deciding it was an unjustifiable cost until Canberra grew; we are having the same conversations now. Canberra has grown, will continue to grow and public transport investment is clearly imperative for the success and sustainability of our city.

A recent article, one of the many by ill-informed 'experts' advising that Canberra is making a mistake by investing in light rail, said that "smart people learn from their mistakes, smarter people learn from the mistakes of others". On this point, we agree. We do need to learn from the mistakes of others and we do not need to look very far.

In the PricewaterhouseCoopers Cities of Opportunity 2014 survey 30 cities were analysed across 10 indicators, Sydney's only 'low' grading was on transportation and infrastructure. And what is Sydney's response? Investment in rail. The NSW government has signalled its strong support for rail projects through the 2014 budget, with the North West Rail link, South West Rail Link, $400 million for the Parramatta Light Rail, $1.6 billion for the CBD and South East Light Rail route and a further $2.8 billion for new state of the art intercity trains.

The lesson to learn from our nearest city neighbour is that congestion is a major social, economic and environmental issue that must be solved. In the Territory, we have a choice: we can start addressing transport issues now at a relatively low cost, or we can wait until congestion, pollution and poor accessibility cripples our city and pay a much higher price.

Congestion was costing the Territory $110 million a year back in 2005, and is projected to increase by 82per cent to $200 million in 2020 (BTRE 2007). During peak travel times, road congestion already adds approximately 15 minutes to the travel along the city to Gungahlin corridor.

With a population set to almost double by 2050 and a car dependency rate of more than 80 per cent, the costs of congestion will only continue to increase. Introducing light rail is projected to halve corridor congestion immediately, providing travel benefits to road users and a frequent and reliable service for public transport users.

Without investment in light rail, Canberra's transportation expenditure is heavily skewed to roads-only expenditure. The proposed investment in light rail over the next four years compares with the total cost of 'Roads and Sustainable Transport' between 2010 and 2014 of $1.13 billion. On a like-for-like basis (in 2013-14), and acknowledging their different funding sources, the capital delivery cost of the proposed investment in light rail (excluding contingency and rolling stock) is anticipated to be less than road investments in the Majura Parkway plus Gungahlin Drive Extension. After decades of under investment, with public transport infrastructure receiving less than an estimated 10 per cent of the investment in road infrastructure (estimated by TAMS, ACT government), it is time to restore the balance.

On the issue of balance, we need to discuss the benefits as well as costs of light rail. The economic analysis of the light rail projects – or the Benefit Cost Ratios (BCR) – was first developed back in 2011 for the Infrastructure Australia submission on the City to Gungahlin Transit Corridor. If we maintain the same land-use along the corridor the BCR was estimated 1.02. If we increase residential and commercial density along the rapid transit corridors (as suggested by Griffin and set out in the Territory's Planning Strategy) the BCR is 2.34; to clarify that is a return of $2.34 on every dollar invested.
Compare this to the recently opened light rail extension to Sydney's Dulwich Hill that was approved with a BCR of 1.0. The extension was oversubscribed in its first week of operation and surrounding land values increased significantly, the outcome is more investment by Sydney in light rail.

Transport investment projects BCRs can vary significantly, even for a single project depending on the options, assumptions and impacts included. The Capital Metro Agency will make the latest BCR as accurate as possible and it will inform the government's decision, but let's ensure a BCR is used as a tool to guide decisions; not the panacea to govern all decisions.

It is true that the benefit cost ratio for bus rapid was higher than for light rail – but there are important benefits beyond economic return that a BCR does not consider. And importantly in Canberra's case, the light rail project Capital Metro is not just a public transport project – it is the glue that holds together the city's urban renewal plans.
Light rail has a proven ability to attract investment, businesses and people. The land around light rail stops increases in value due to the benefits associated with this mode of transport – this is a researched and well evidenced phenomenon. In Curtin University research on Perth's BRT, there was no evidence that buses have the same economic effect. This can be explained by the perception that buses and bus lanes are not seen as permanent fixtures; routes can change, lanes can be reallocated back to normal traffic as soon as congestion creates public pressure. Tracks in the ground are a permanent fixture that gives investor confidence. Often commercial development happens before the light rail is even open, like the Minneapolis-St Paul new 'green line' light rail, where more than $1 billion was invested in projects along the route before the trams even started running. More investment and business in the city's core will be good for all of Canberra.
There is also the way that light rail can integrate with the surrounding areas, a busway would need to have barriers and be segregated, this would act as a divisive structure within the important Northbourne Corridor, splitting communities and turning this important gateway into a bus and car thoroughfare.

Light rail can blend with urban areas and bring communities together as shown in Burke Street in Melbourne and throughout the cities in Europe. Maybe this is why people demonstrate a preference for light rail, and why it is the only public transport mode that can attract 20 per cent of its passengers directly out of cars. It is clear that we need to reduce our car dependence for a multitude of health, environmental and economic reasons. More buses are unlikely to tempt Canberrans out of their cars.

An additional benefit that should be discussed is the potential to provide new and sustainable jobs for the Territory. Jobs that are not public sector and that will be accessible to young Canberrans and the long-term unemployed. The Territory is already identifying skills shortages and introducing training opportunities to increase employment opportunities created through its light rail investment.

During the construction phase, EY analysis estimates that more than 3500 direct and indirect jobs will be supported. Future mapping across a 30-year period indicates that around 50,000 jobs will be supported. At a time when youth unemployment is high and public service jobs are being cut, this is an important contribution to diversifying and strengthening employment opportunities for all of Canberra.

And last but not least there are the huge environmental benefits of reducing car dependence. Twenty-three per cent of the Territory's carbon emissions are from transport, compare this to the national average of 14 per cent. All the world's cities need to act now to stop the upward trend in vehicle emissions; investment in light rail will help us play our part.

Many of the major challenges we face as a growing city point to the same solution: a well-integrated public transport network with light rail at its core – more roads and more buses have not, and will not, solve the problems we face.

I do not ask you to make your mind up now on light rail. What I do ask is that you keep an open mind and weigh up the benefits as well as the costs. Let's learn from the past and others, finally listen to Griffin's advice and invest in the future of our great and unique city.

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