The extension of Capital Metro Stage One from Civic to Russell has been talked about by the ACT Government for well over a year now, with engineering studies performed and a cost to construct figure sought from the Canberra Metro consortium. A formal announcement that the extension will proceed has been expected.
In a move widely believed to be aimed at securing Federal funding as part of a wider extension to Stage Two of Capital Metro, the Russell extension has now been rolled into Stage Two, instead of an extension to Stage One.
Today the ACT Government indicated that it would wait until after the October 2016 Assembly election before proceeding with the Russell extension. On WIN News the Chief Minister Andrew Barr said "We are expanding our thinking in the context of stage two of the light rail project and we look forward to making a further announcement on that closer to the election".
The second stage that initially was to run from Civic to Russell now forms part of a post-election Stage Two expansion, possibly taking in the Parliamentary Triangle and/or the Airport, and the crossing of Lake Burley Griffin.
It is a brilliant piece of politics by the ACT Government.
By putting Capital Metro Stage Two to the public, post-election there will exist a clear and unequivocal mandate from the public to proceed with further light rail extensions. It also shifts the debate from defending Stage One to positive campaigning about light rail expansion and improvement to public transport in Canberra.
With the willingness of the Federal government to assist with urban public transport infrastructure there could be a convergence of factors leading to further federal funding for Capital Metro (the Federal Government has contributed $60 million to Stage One as part of the Asset Recycling scheme).
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull is a proponent and user of urban public transport, and light rail in particular. His use of and support of light rail also shows the public the wide gap between the Canberra Liberals and the Federal Liberal government on public transport and infrastructure priorities.
In announcing the delay of a formal announcement of an extension to Stage One, Chief Minister Barr said "People will be very clear when they come to vote in the territory election in October what our commitment to stage 2 of the project will be and what we would intend to deliver if the government were re-elected.""What's really exciting is there's an opportunity to go beyond Russell, to look at connections that are not just city to Russell but city to other major employment centres in our city, particularly potentially the parliamentary triangle or other locations ... the airport or university."
ACT Light Rail await the announcement of Stage Two keenly.
The joint press release from Chief Minister Andrew Barr and MLA Simon Corbell:
Russell to be considered as part of stage two of light rail networkThe ACT Government will consider an extension of the light rail network to the Russell defence precinct as part of a second stage of light rail in Canberra after the next election.
In the meantime, the Government will progress with delivering its 2012 election commitment to build the City to Gungahlin stage of the network. Work will start this year and be complete in 2018-19, in line with our 2012 election commitment.
Just as we sought and were given a mandate for the first stage of the network, we will seek a second mandate at the 2016 ACT election for the next stage.
It is encouraging that now both sides of Federal politics back urban rail project and with the Commonwealth the major landowner, employer and beneficiary of a future stage of light rail we will continue to engage with the Commonwealth Government.
Taking into consideration the light rail master planning work and community consultation that the government is currently undertaking we will make further announcements closer to the election about the next stage of the light rail network under a re-elected Labor government.
Minister for Capital Metro Simon Corbell said Russell would be strongly considered, alongside other options, in the next stage of Canberra’s city-wide light rail network.
“Our preferred proponent, the Canberra Metro consortium, has provided an excellent bid for stage one from City to Gungahlin and the government is acting now to secure this excellent deal for the people of Canberra.
“We have always said the City to Gungahlin was just the first stage of a city-wide light rail network and the work that has been done to develop a future extension from City to Russell confirmed that.
“Canberra deserves a world-class public transport system and a Labor government will take the next step in making that happen by building on the base we have put in place with stage one and progressively extending the system across Canberra.”
In line with the 2012 election commitment, contracts are due to be completed for stage one in May or June with significant early infrastructure works beginning immediately. The project is being delivered cheaper and faster than estimated by the government and will deliver about 3500 jobs during construction. Canberra Metro has committed to 90% of its workforce being acquired locally.
“ACT Labor took stage one from Gungahlin to City to the last election with a plan to secure a Public Private Partnership to start construction by 2016,” Mr Corbell said.
“Having delivered on that election commitment we will be in a position to make a new commitment to extend light rail to even more Canberrans.
“While stage one tackles the ACT’s most congested corridor it is has always just been the first stage of a light rail network that will service all of Canberra. Before the next election, we will detail the next stage of the light rail network.”
The Canberra Times reported on the announcement here.
WIN Canberra report from March 22
ABC TV Canberra report from March 22
For more frequent updates on Capital Metro and light rail related news, please visit our Facebook page 'Light Rail for Canberra'.