Monday, June 22, 2015

Light rail draft environmental impact statement released

Front page of 1600 page report

The ACT Government has released a mammoth 1600 page draft environmental impact statement on the Capital Metro light rail between Gungahlin and Civic. It is a comprehensive examination of the impact that light rail will have along the corridor and covers many different areas.

You can download the full report here.

The ABC has covered the report here. It leads with its most obvious concern 'Canberras light rail poses significant risks to appearance of Northbourne Avenue, report says'

The Canberra Times has two reports - one quite informative and balanced here, and another focussed on the negative aspects here. The second talks up the minimal savings in time that drivers will experience as a result of having mass transit as an alternative option, and also the loss of a car park (that is scheduled to be sold anyway).

It does have a useful breakdown of key facts:

Construction
  • Construction depots take over London Circuit carpark near the courts; site of visitor information centre on Northbourne Avenue, carpark opposite Exhibition Park.
  • About 60 truck journeys a day in 2017 and 2018 (36,000 movements across the two years); 7800 truck movements in 2016.
  • Standard construction hours 7am till 6pm Monday to Saturday; major intersection work, overhead wiring and oversize deliveries done outside standard hours.
  • Construction to use 74,000 cubic metres of concrete, 3.4 million litres of diesel, 9500 tonnes of asphalt, 100,000 metres of PVC ducts, 3000 tonnes of steel for rails, plus 9300 more for reinforcement and structural work.860 trees removed.
  • Construction to employ an average 500 people, up to 900 at peak times.
  • Weekend closure of key Northbourne intersections at Macarthur/Wakefield; Mouat/Antill; Barry Drive/Cooyong; Alinga (closed Friday 10pm til Monday 4am, adjacent ones not on the same weekends). Other intersections to be "sporadically closed" for up to two or four weeks, with diversions. Bus routes using the corridor and running across the corridor periodically disrupted.
Operation
  • Light rail vehicles operate Monday-Thursday 6am-midnight, Friday-Saturday 6am-1.30am; Sundays 8am midnight. Light rail vehicles every six minutes at rush hour, every 10 minutes 9am-4pm, every 15 minutes other times. Journey time 25 minutes Gungahlin to the city. 14 Light rail vehicles, each up to 33 metres long, with dedicated space for four bicycles. Top speed 70kmh.
  • Platform at each stop 33 metres long, capable of extension to 45 metres for extended vehicles; signalled pedestrian crossings to nearest footpath. Light rail corridor 7 metres wide, widening in places to 10.4 metres, including outbound and inbound Light rail lanes and median strip.
  • Light rail replaces trunk and express bus routes on Northbourne Avenue, the Federal Highway and Flemington Road.
  • An extra southbound lane to be built from the Barton Highway to Antill Street, 630 metres long.
  • Road changes include banning of turning across the median in some locations, including: Exhibition Park entrance, the Kamberra Wine Company on Flemington, the Yowan Golf Club on the Federal Highway, the netball centre on the Federal Highway, the southbound right turn from Northbourne Avenue to Bunda Street.
  • Seven electricity substations to be built along the route, each in a 12m x 4.5m building, at: Gungahlin depot, Flemington Road, Collaroy Street, Vicars Street, Barton Highway, Macarthur House and Mort Street.
This draft EIS is a very useful document, It informs the likely disruption that construction will cause, and enables businesses along the route to plan accordingly. With the Majura Parkway almost complete, much truck traffic will have shifted off Northbourne already.

It also looks at issues such as the lack of familiarity that local drivers and pedestrians have with large light rail vehicles rumbling along, and proposes an education campaign to familiarise Canberrans with their new transport infrastructure.

The CT reports that:

Health and socio-economic impacts form part of 17 broad topics discussed in the environmental impact statement.
The report is designed to identify "worst case scenarios" to mitigate potential problems before construction of the proposed stage one development of the 12-kilometre tram route between Gungahlin and the city.
The document says key issues were impacts to heritage, noise and vibration, planted trees, landscape and visual, traffic and transport, social and economic, and property and land use.
The EIS also sets out problems and mitigation strategies for biodiversity, air quality, contamination and soils, utilities and services, hazard and risk and bushfire, among others.
The 1700-plus page report, put together by Parsons Brinckerhoff with ACT government data, has been in the works since last October.

The ABC ran the following story on 20 June 2015
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A public consultation period is now open with several public sessions planned to gather feedback and provide further information.

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

Thursday, June 11, 2015

'Economic Lunacy' Federal Minister on Canberra Liberals light rail contract cancellation letter

The ALP were quick to seize on the federal Liberals comments

On June 10 2015 the Canberra Liberals sent a letter to the media the consortia bidding for the Capital Metro light rail project. They felt that until this point that the consortia may not have been aware that the Canberra Liberals were opposed to investment in Canberra, better public transport, transit oriented development, decreased road congestion and urban renewal.

Their action has infuriated the federal Liberal government:

Federal Assistant Infrastructure Minister Jamie Briggs has warned the ACT opposition not to cancel contracts for Canberra's light rail line after the 2016 election, describing the move as "economic lunacy".

Mr Briggs said the Abbott government's firm position was that contracts lawfully entered into by governments to build infrastructure projects must be honoured.

His comments came a day after Opposition Leader Jeremy Hanson and Liberal transport spokesman Alistair Coe wrote to two international consortiums to explain a Hanson government would stop the $783 million project after the October 2016 election because it was not viable.

Mr Briggs' comments follow Prime Minister Tony Abbott's criticism of the Victorian Labor government's decision to tear up contracts for a controversial tunnel project.
"As we have seen with the East West Link disaster in Victoria, tearing up legally binding infrastructure contracts raises sovereign risk, damages investor confidence and stifles economic growth," Mr Briggs said.

"Australia needs more private sector involvement in infrastructure, not less. In this respect threatening to tear up contracts is bad enough but to follow through with this threat is simple economic lunacy that will damage not just the jurisdiction involved but the broader economy."

Read the full Canberra Times article here.

Capital Metro Minister Simon Corbell has also responded accusing the Canberra Liberals of holding the Government to ransom.

Minister for Capital Metro Simon Corbell said he would not be held to ransom by the Opposition's demands.
"We have a clear mandate to [build light rail], we have a clear election policy that we're implementing," he said.
"What's important to me is that we get on with the delivery of this project.
"Liberals really should be writing to the hundreds and hundreds of Canberra families who are going to lose jobs and lose opportunity from this project if they tear up these very important contracts."
The minister also called on the opposition to put a figure on how much they would be willing to spend in compensation, despite conceding that arriving at such a cost would be a "complex" task even for the Government.
"It would depend on what stage the contract is at, when and if [cancellation] occurs," Mr Corbell said.
"I don't think the consortia are concerned about these issues, but I think Canberrans should be concerned." 

Read the ABC Online article here.

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


Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Canberra Liberals reject $800M investment in Canberra

Opposition politicians MLA Alistair Coe and MLA Jeremy Hanson today emailed a letter advising the two consortia selected to bid for the Capital Metro PPP, that they might like to know that the Canberra Liberals don't want light rail.

Instead of attracting $800 million of investment to Canberra, the Canberra Liberals alternative policy is to lease 50 buses.

Read the Canberra Times article here.

Read the ABC Online article here.

Update:


Federal Assistant Infrastructure Minister Jamie Briggs has warned the ACT opposition not to cancel contracts for Canberra's light rail line after the 2016 election, describing the move as "economic lunacy".

Mr Briggs said the Abbott government's firm position was that contracts lawfully entered into by governments to build infrastructure projects must be honoured.

His comments came a day after Opposition Leader Jeremy Hanson and Liberal transport spokesman Alistair Coe wrote to two international consortiums to explain a Hanson government would stop the $783 million project after the October 2016 election because it was not viable.

Mr Briggs' comments follow Prime Minister Tony Abbott's criticism of the Victorian Labor government's decision to tear up contracts for a controversial tunnel project.
"As we have seen with the East West Link disaster in Victoria, tearing up legally binding infrastructure contracts raises sovereign risk, damages investor confidence and stifles economic growth," Mr Briggs said.

"Australia needs more private sector involvement in infrastructure, not less. In this respect threatening to tear up contracts is bad enough but to follow through with this threat is simple economic lunacy that will damage not just the jurisdiction involved but the broader economy."

Read the full Canberra Times article here.

video

ABC Canberra covered the response here.
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WIN TV Canberra covered the response here.


The letter that was provided to the consortia (below):



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

Friday, June 5, 2015

Liberals 'more roads and buses and no light rail' policy cops a flogging

The Canberra Liberals after three years have released a page containing their alternative to the Capital Metro light rail project (see this post). Reception from the community has been underwhelming.

Marcus Paul from 2CC radio spoke to Canberra Liberals Jeremy Hanson and Labors Mick Gentleman, the Planning Minister. Listen here.

Shane Rattenbury releases these scathing comments:


“Is this amateur-hour policy all they have to show for almost three years in opposition? What have the lazy Liberals been doing?”

“The Libs have no clue how to pay for this, either. Their flyover would cost well over $50m, not the $30m proposed. Buses need somewhere to park and be maintained: a new depot costs $25m, which they haven’t even considered, let alone funded. No wonder they have already had to admit they don’t know when they will actually do any of this.”

Minister Assisting the Chief Minister on Transport Reform, Shane Rattenbury, said: “The short-sighted Liberal scheme does not consider the realities of our growing city. If their ‘express’ buses are really to avoid traffic and be express, they need priority or separation, which the scheme does not fund.

“The Liberals are playing catch-up on public-transport planning. For years they stuck their head in the sand and opposed public transport spending. Now they have finally realised the value of buses, but don’t understand the need for a 21st century integrated transport strategy.

“Under the Government’s integrated plan, the completion of the light rail corridor will improve the whole transport network, including by freeing buses to provide connections elsewhere.



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ABC News covered it here
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WIN News Canberra covered it here.


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








Canberra Liberal 2015 Budget Reply - they don't like light rail and their math is wrong



MLA Jeremy Hanson, Canberra Liberals Opposition Leader, told the ACT Legislative Assembly in his budget reply speech on Thursday that it was unfair to make the community pay for a light rail system that 'will be used by only 3 per cent of the population'.

"Mr Barr, I say to you now, and I will keep saying every day until the election, the people of Canberra do not want your light rail," he said.

"They do not want your rates rises. They do not want an agenda for the few paid for by the many.

"It's a direction that hits every single person in this Territory to pay for a light rail system that will be used by 3 per cent of the population."

Mr Hanson's estimate is a mantra he oft repeats, although it is wrong. Analysis based on 2011 Census data shows the population of Canberra along the Gungahlin to Civc light rail route, living within 1 kilometre is 7%. That figure excludes the population of Campbell and Reid, that the proposed Russell extension would travel through.

Read the ABC Online article here.


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



Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Capital Metro funding from ACT 2015/16 Budget


ACT Chair Damien Haas attended the ACT budget Briefing on 2 June 2015. Chief Minister Andrew Barr emphasised that the investment in Capital Metro was a significant boost to the local economy, at a sorely needed time, and that it would also deliver transport and urban renewal benefits - for decades.

The biggest light rail news out of the budget was that after construction is complete, the ACT Government will pay for Capital Metro by making a capital contribution of $375 million. This is funded by the sale of ACTTAB and ageing public housing stock under the Federal Government's Asset Recycling Scheme. 

The other funding announcement for light rail was that the Capital Metro Agency will receive $51.8 million for the provision of specialised technical, program management, legal and commercial advisory services with most of this money to be spent in the first and last years of the project. 

The Capital Metro Agency budget statement can be found here

The 2015/16 ACT Budget papers can be found here

The Canberra Times article on public transport funding from the 2015/16 budget can be found here.


  • The Barr government has signalled for the first time it intends to make a $375 million capital contribution for the light rail line to Gungahlin. 
  • Funded from the sale of assets including ageing public housing stock and out dated government office blocks, the Capital Metro payment will also include money raised from the 15 per cent "asset recycling" bonus from the Abbott government, worth $60 million and announced earlier this year. 
  • The $375 million contribution payment, calculated as half of a roughly $750 million total project cost, will only be paid after completion of construction and the start of services on the line from the city to Gungahlin, expected in 2019. 
  • The full cost – expected to be about $783 million – will be paid through a combination of the capital contribution and availability payments made over 20 years
  • Public transport attracts about 3 per cent of the budget's funds, or $152.4 million
  • The figure is about $394 for each ACT resident
  • ACTION buses will receive an extra $17.2 million this financial year to deal with operational capacity and worker's compensation costs.
  • ACTION fell short of its patronage projections, recording 17.8 million boardings rather than 18.5 million budgeted. 
  • It also fell short of targets for services operating on time: 73 per cent of buses turned up on schedule. The target was 75 per cent for buses arriving one minute before timetabled or within four minutes after.  
  • The network cost per passenger boarding was $7.90, more than 40 cents above the government target.  



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



Monday, June 1, 2015

Canberra Liberals bus only 'first instalment' transport policy

ACTION bus on William Slim Drive (photo from ACTBus)

Expanding public transport options is a refreshing policy change for the Canberra Liberals, but removing the option of light rail in favour of only more buses is not good policy.

Once Capital Metro begins operation in 2019/2020 the Gungahlin-Civic rapid buses will be reallocated, expanding the other inter-town express services. That obvious effect of light rail beginning operation, will match this policy commitment of the Canberra Liberals.

The other benefits of light rail - increased public transport usage, urban renewal, decreased road congestion and job creation from construction, would not occur if the bus only option was adopted. It is a policy that doesn't 'stack up'.

Read the Canberra Liberals statement here.

Read the Canberra Times article on the policy proposal here and the ABC Online report here.

From the CT article:

Opposition Leader Jeremy Hanson and transport spokesman Alistair Coe will seek to disrupt the Barr government's budget roll-out by announcing the package on Monday, described as a first instalment of the opposition transport policy for next year's election.

Included in the package is $51 million for the leasing and operation of 50 buses for ACTION, including pay for more drivers. The funds would be reallocated from 2015 budget expenditure for the Capital Metro Agency's ongoing operating costs and would see a new "super express" service begin operating in peak periods, including from Tuggeranong, Weston Creek, Woden, Belconnen and Gungahlin. The opposition believes the plan would also improve existing express services. 

Mr Coe said a comprehensive transport policy, including plans to ease congestion on Northbourne Avenue, would be released closer to the October 2016 poll.

A Hanson Liberal government would  seek to stop development of the light rail line to Gungahlin but the party is yet to announce a substantive public transport policy.  

Mr Coe said the opposition package would improve travel times for drivers and would seek to improve bus travel times to be better than car travel. He was unable to say how long it would take to implement but called the plan a "priority" for the first year of a new government. 

The announcement estimates the marginal cost of operating a bus at $150,000 per year and $75,000 for leasing each vehicle. Mr Coe said work was continuing on the cost of expanding Canberra's public bus fleet. 

He said the announcement was not an alternative policy to the 12-kilometre tram line. 
"We are doing a significant amount of work in relation to Northbourne Avenue but also buses in general," he said.

"There is much more that we will be saying, I think relatively soon, about the operation of ACTION and also congestion across Canberra." 

UPDATE


The Greens and Labor are not kind to the newly found Canberra Liberal enthusiasm for buses:

“Is this amateur-hour policy all they have to show for almost three years in opposition? What have the lazy Liberals been doing?”

“The Libs have no clue how to pay for this, either. Their flyover would cost well over $50m, not the $30m proposed. Buses need somewhere to park and be maintained: a new depot costs $25m, which they haven’t even considered, let alone funded. No wonder they have already had to admit they don’t know when they will actually do any of this.”

Minister Assisting the Chief Minister on Transport Reform, Shane Rattenbury, said: “The short-sighted Liberal scheme does not consider the realities of our growing city. If their ‘express’ buses are really to avoid traffic and be express, they need priority or separation, which the scheme does not fund.

“The Liberals are playing catch-up on public-transport planning. For years they stuck their head in the sand and opposed public transport spending. Now they have finally realised the value of buses, but don’t understand the need for a 21st century integrated transport strategy.

“Under the Government’s integrated plan, the completion of the light rail corridor will improve the whole transport network, including by freeing buses to provide connections elsewhere.

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