Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Canberra Liberals Admit There's a Need For Light Rail

Apparently there are circumstances in which the Canberra liberals will build light rail

The Canberra Liberals blatant political opportunism over light rail has been exposed by the Canberra Liberals themselves. They do believe in the need for light rail, according to Transport Spokesman, MLA Alistair Coe. In a radio interview on 27 June he conceded that if elected, his party would scrap the contracts but keep the light rail plans for a future roll out of the network.

In the ABC 666 interview Mr Coe said: “We would still own the plans for the rail, the design work.  So we would have a shovel ready project if and when light rail does happen in 20-30-40 years down the track,

This is vastly different from his earlier position from last year, when he said: 'There are no circumstances whatsoever in which the Canberra liberals will go ahead with light rail. Absolutely none. If we get elected in october of 2016 it will be to stop light rail". 

Clearly there are circumstances in which the Canberra Liberals will build light rail.

A forward looking politician would surely want to build for the future.

Minister Simon Corbell and Greens MLA Shane Rattenbury attacked Mr Coe for the comments, saying they showed the Liberals recognised light rail would be necessary in the future.

The comment comes at a late stage in the federal election campaign when Senator Zed Seselja is campaigning against the very light rail program the Liberal government he is part of, is funding.
Mr Corbell criticised Senator Seselja's use of light rail as a campaign tool, saying he was contradicting his federal colleagues.

"I think it's ironic that Zed Seselja is campaigning against a project that the federal Turnbull government is funding," "Maybe Zed needs to speak to his federal counterparts who have agreed to giving millions and millions of dollars that will go towards light rail here in Canberra."

Greens Minister Shane Rattenbury says the Canberra Liberals have realised light rail is required to address Canberra's growing population. In a gleefully worded press release, Mr Rattenbury said:

“It is clear that the Canberra Liberals are starting to realise that light rail is the necessary solution to Canberra’s growing congestion problems,” said Mr Rattenbury.
“But they have painted themselves into a corner with their anti-light rail propaganda and it seems they don’t even believe the rhetoric they are sprouting.
“This begs the key question – if the Liberals accept that we will need light rail in 20 years time, why tear up the contracts now?
“It is both easier and cheaper to PLAN for the future and have the infrastructure in place before it is too late to address Canberra’s growing congestion issues effectively.
“They are so wedded to their untenable position that not only they are prepared to burden the Canberra community with the substantial costs of cancelling the contract but they are also prepared to burden future generations with the inevitably increasing cost of the future construction.
“This shows a complete lack of vision from the opposition and demonstrates how ill-equipped the Liberal party is to take government.
“The Canberra Liberals have a history of being behind the eight ball when it comes to transport policy and planning.
“The Liberals originally opposed the introduction of the Red Rapid bus route and Mr Coe even moved a motion in the Assembly in 2009 opposing the West Belconnen route. He said: “It seems absurd to me that anyone would actually use this service.”
“That is now one of the most successful routes in Canberra, and the Liberals have used this ‘rapid’ model as the basis for their proposed new bus network,” said Mr Rattenbury.

“It’s almost as if the Canberra Liberals are living a decade behind the rest of us. It is time they caught up to the 21st Century and faced the realities of our growing city,” .

As well as this website, the facebook group 'Light Rail for Canberra' carries frequent updates on Capital Metro and light rail related news. 

2016 Federal election Public Transport funding commitments

The federal election campaign has been running for months, and the nation heads to the polling booth on July 2nd only a few days away. Many campaign specific commitments have been made across all policy areas. Transport infrastructure and public transport commitments are of great interest to the members of ACT Light Rail, and the existing users of public transport in Canberra.

This article looks at the election commitments from the three major parties involved in the election campaign, focussed on public transport in Canberra. It has been delayed somewhat by the late release of the ALP policy. This morning the ALP released their Infrastructure Policy (see here), part of their 100 positive policies for their federal election campaign. It was the last of the major parties to release an infrastructure policy, the Liberals released their policy (see here) and the Greens released their Infrastructure policy (see here) some weeks ago

The main focus of ACT Light Rail is public transport infrastructure in the Capital region, and programs and funding to expand the role that better public transport plays in city building, better regional access and community cohesion. Public transport cannot stand alone, it is intrinsically linked to other policy areas such as planning and development. Transport policy needs the same focus.

Let us examine each Public Transport or Infrastructure policy or funding commitment and see what Canberra's voters have to choose from.
Labors Infrastructure policy
The Australian Labor Party
As part of the 100 Positive Policies campaign, the ALP today released the 'Labor Infrastructure Policy'. Public transport is a key area of their policy, and is mentioned on Page 3 ahead of roads. It contains good news for public transport - in every state except for Canberra.

This policy offers nothing for public transport in Canberra. ACT Light Rail contacted each of the ALP's federal representatives or Canberra and asked for details about commitments to light rail. A spokesman for Andrew Leigh MP advised that the government commitment of $67 million is still in place and that Canberra would retain that funding if the ALP formed government.

The local ALP have invested a great deal of political capital in the Capital Metro Stage One light rail project and this lack of federal Labor support is very concerning.

Liberal Party
The Liberal Party policy on public transport can be found buried in their infrastructure policy titled 'Building Australia's Infrastructure' found here. Public transport warrants one paragraph in the foreword of a policy that then focusses very much on roads. Although it promotes public transport projects in other states, There is no mention of Canberra specific public transport project in it at all.

This is odd, as the federal Liberal government is contributing $60 million dollars from the Asset Recycling incentive scheme, and at the 2016 Budget announced it would increase that by ten percent with an extra $6.6 million dollars.

Senator Zed Seselja recently promised to relocate a federal agency to the Gungahlin Town Centre if he was returned. That commitment supports the business case for light rail, as it demonstrates that providing better public transport attracts employment.

Further adding to the unusual nature of the Liberals federal election campaign is an active effort in their advertising to encourage people who support light rail to vote for the Greens or the Labor Party. The Liberals are telling Canberra voters that if they want light rail, they should vote Greens or Labor at the federal election, and if you oppose public transport then vote Liberal.

Liberal Sentaor Zed Seselja explicitly endorses the Greens policy saying “It is a clear choice on Saturday, voting for the Greens is voting for light rail.”
 
The message being if you want light rail - don't vote Liberal?
Not all Canberra Liberals share this view. Robert Gunning, candidate for Fenner, says that "While he acknowledges it is a "possibility" he could pick up votes from light-rail opponents wanting to register their anger with Labor, he doesn't expect it to have a big impact.

As the delivery of Capital Metro Stage One is a territory funded and administered program, it is not clear how the light rail project can be influenced by a vote to the Greens or labor instead of the Liberals. It is almost as if the Liberals are in a schizophrenic policy position with the Federal Liberals promoting light rail in Canberra, and the Canberra Liberals campaigning against it. 

The Greens

Of the major parties, the Greens offer the most compelling policy for better public transport in the ACT. Their policy 'Building our Green transport future' found here says they will invest $400 million in a second stage of light rail in Canberra.
The Greens policy extends beyond light rail stage two construction to promise to invest in and encourage low emission bus fleets and local manufacturing of light rail vehicles. They also commit to making bus priority a feature on main roads. These are sound public transport election commitments.

These specific public transport commitments as part of the 2016 federal election are consistent with the Greens Sustainable Planning and Transport policy (found here).

Overview of federal election commitments

The Greens provide the only concrete public transport commitment for Canberra voters from any major party at this federal election. They commit $400 million for light rail stage two in Canberra.

The ALP and Liberals do not make any Canberra specific public transport commitments. The federal Liberal government commitment of $67 million is still in place, and a spokesman for Andrew Leigh MP maintains that the local ALP representatives would retain that funding if the ALP formed government.

ACT Light Rail do not suggest or direct that you vote for any specific party or person, the information in this article is to aid your decision making process before you exercise your democratic right at the July 2nd federal election.


As well as this website, the facebook group 'Light Rail for Canberra' carries frequent updates on Capital Metro and light rail related news. 

Thursday, June 16, 2016

ACT Auditor general commends Capital Metro Agency delivery of light rail project


The ACT Auditor General today released 'Report No. 5 of 2016 Initiation of the Light Rail Project' after conducting a review of the Light Rail process. It is an endorsement of the ACT Governments approach to the Capital Metro Stage One process and concludes that the project has been handled professionally, competently and legally. It also recommends ways to improve capturing the benefits of the project.

The full report can be downloaded from this link.

ACT Light Rail support the recommendation to create a Benefits Realisation Plan. For Canberra to truly appreciate and manage the benefits of light rail, significant thought needs to be given to :

  • land development decisions
  • integrating bus services with light rail
  • park & ride development and promotion
  • parking charges 
  • value capture activities 
  • traffic light signalling
  • locating ACT Government staff in the corridor
  • encouraging large scale employers to build new employment centres along the corridor

The Government has already indicated it has started planning for these things, and ACT Light Rail are confident that a formal plan may be announced. Transport and planning need to be administered in the same portfolio.

Ultimately, this report has silenced the critics and conspiracy theorists. The Auditor General confirms what many have suspected about the Capital Metro Stage One project, that it has been well planned, and well administered. Credit must be given to the Capital Metro Agency and the ACT Government.

The following are excerpts from the report:

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Light rail affordable as ACT Budget moves into surplus from 2018


ACT Chief Minister Andrew Barr handed down the 2016/17 ACT Budget today and has advised that the ACT Treasury reports the ACT will experience a modest surplus in 2018/19 of $33 million and a stronger $66 million surplus in 2019/20. These budget surpluses coincide with the commencement of light rail services in 2018 and the first of the annual availability payments to the Canberra Metro consortium.

Stressing the affordability of light rail Chief Minister Barr said:
"We will be in a strong surplus position having paid for light rail," "All of that rubbish that has been put forward by the Opposition about the affordability of this project is completely destroyed by this budget [it's] very clearly funded".
"It is worth noting that I was the only state or territory leader able to get Tony Abbott to fund a light rail project in this country. I got Tony Abbott to fund an urban rail project."
Mr Barr said the capital component of the light rail project would be less than one per cent of the ACT budget.
"By the time the treasurer of 2037-38, who I promise you won't be me, gets up to deliver their budget, in the last full year of the light rail contract, the ACT budget is anticipated to be around $13.5 billion,"
"The final availability payment is $75.6 million, a tiny fraction of the territory budget.
"So this is an affordable project for the territory, and we have demonstrated in this budget that we can deliver the project and deliver budget surpluses."

He also repeated previous comments that the ACT government would commit to a second stage of light rail before the October Assembly election.
"People will know when they go to vote in October where we are taking the project next," he said.

Read more on the Chief Ministers comments about light rail affordability from the Budget announcement here.

The main ACT budget focus for 2016/17 would be:
  • Renewal of public housing 
  • More funding for hospitals
  • Domestic violence funding  
  • $100 million for road duplication
Specific public transport funding will be:
  • $17 million for ACTION 
  • $500,000 to engage local businesses along the light rail route from Gungahlin to Civic
  • $43.8 million allocated over the forward estimates to "deliver existing transport services and meet increasing costs as identified in the ACTION review"
  • $3 million will be spent to help introduce integrated ticketing for buses and light rail
Pre-budget public transport announcements included:
To pay for this there has been an increase in the territory's revenue to $5 billion from higher than expected GST revenue from the Commonwealth, and revenue from ACT land sales. Tax revenue has also increased with greater amounts raised than expected from payroll tax and stamp duty. Increased revenue would also come from:
  • Rates to increase by 4.5% to 7% with apartment rates to be calculated differently and eventually match house rates. 
  • Drivers licence fees to increase, but there will be a safe driver discount. 
  • 6% increase in parking fees
Although the territory budget is in a very healthy position, debt will peak at a lower than anticipated amount of $2.9 billion in 2018/19 and expected to return to surplus in 2018/19. The deficit in 2015/16 was $232 million, halving the 2014/15 deficit of $407 million (largely from unfunded superannuation liabilities and the Mr Fluffy scheme).

With a wide range of expectations from all sectors of the community to consider, public transport has emerged well from this budget. 

Light rail will only succeed as an integrated public transport system with buses, active travel and Park and Ride working together. Investing in bus services where the demand is expected and can be met with the flexibility of buses is sound public transport policy, as is exploring more sustainable bus technology, and these investments are sensible. The government remains committed to a second stage of light rail, and is expected to announce that in the lead up to the October Assembly election. 

A healthy budget, with sensible and funded transport initiatives, is both responsible and responsive to community expectations and will be attractive to voters.  

The ABC Online reported on the ACT budget here
The ABC Online 'Budget at a Glance' is here
The Canberra Times reported on the ACT Budget here

This page will be updated over the next few days

As well as this website, the facebook group 'Light Rail for Canberra' carries frequent updates on Capital Metro and light rail related news. 

Monday, June 6, 2016

Weston Creek direct bus service and free City Loop bus services announced


Public transport will be a key Assembly election subject and the ACT Government are getting in early by announcing a range of measures to improve bus services for all parts of Canberra. This is in addition to the Capital Metro Stage One light rail (that has already commenced construction) that will when it begins operation in 2019, free up one million bus kilometres that can be used to improve bus services in other parts of Canberra.

Today the Chief Minister Andrew Barr and the Minister for Transport and Municipal Services Meegan Fitzharris announced the following transport improvements for Canberra's bus network:
  •  a free City Loop bus service for commuters travelling in Canberra’s CBD;
  • $10 million over two years for 20 new buses as part of the ongoing fleet replacement program;
  • $3.5 million over four years for improvements to public transport services in Weston Creek and the Molonglo region. 
  • A new all-day direct service called the Weston Line providing improved connectivity between Woden, Cooleman Court in Weston and the City.  
  • increased bus coverage and frequency in Wright
  • Route 83 and Xpresso 783 services will be extended to include Coombs
  • $1.5 million for the design and construction of a new Park and Ride facility in Wanniassa;
  • $300,000 for improvements to the Woden bus interchange to provide a better bus station for the Woden town centre;
  • $900,000 for a 12-month trial of up to three electric buses on regular on- and off-peak route services; and
  • $775,000 for the design of a new bus depot in Woden to cater for growth in the bus fleet and meet the future needs of bus transport in the ACT.  
These are significant improvements to the public transport network and build upon upgrades in services and fleet modernisation that have been underway for some time. These improvements to a bus service that has been experiencing a  decline in patronage are important.

It is widely expected that when Capital Metro commences services that bus patronage will also rise. This has been the experience in other places where light rail has been introduced (on the Gold Coast bus services saw a 22% rise in patronage after light rail started operations). Our bus fleet must not only be able to cope with an increase in patronage, but offer a compellingly pleasant alternative for people to continue to chose public transport as their primary mode of travel to and from work.

A bus only public transport network, as the Canberra Liberals would prefer, is not the best way for Canberra to progress as we are simply to large and are continuing to grow, but it is important that we make our buses operate as efficiently and attractively as possible. Buses will always be a vital part of an integrated transport network that has light rail as its primary mass transit backbone, more frequent local bus services, a strong active travel (cycling and walking) focus and ample Park and Ride facilities.

free City Loop bus service route
Weston Line and Molonglo services
video
WIN TV Canberra covered the announcement here
video
ABC TV Canberra covered the announcement here

The Canberra Times reported on the announcement here and followed up in its next edition with this editorial praising the move.

ABC Online covered the announcement here.

Full media release below.


Electric bus trial for Canberra

Brighsun electric bus
Today as part of a pre-budget announcement of public transport improvements, the Chief Minister announced funding for a trial of electric buses in Canberra.

The trial will be for three electric buses over twelve months in offpeak and peak hour services and is budgeted to cost $900,000.

No details of the manufacturer or vehicle type were made at the announcement. In 2015 an electric bus manufactured by Brighsun travelled 1015km on one charge.

The Chief Minister Andrew Barr said that:

"...the ACT Government will invest $900,000 for an electric bus trial. The buses will be used on regular route services, on and off peak, across the bus network. The trial will enable the ACT Government to assess the viability of using electric buses within the bus network.

Minister for Transport and Municipal Services Meegan Fitzharris said:

“Further demonstrating our commitment to exploring sustainable forms of public transport, we will also run a 12 month trial of up to three electric buses. This is a great initiative and one I think Canberrans will be really excited about."

The full media release is here.

This announcement is a confirmation of earlier indications from Government that electric buses would be trialled in the ACTION Bus fleet. The ACT Government has a policy of reducing greenhouse emissions and many of these emissions come from diesel buses that comprise 100% of ACTION's current fleet. Although there have been advances in diesel engine technology, reliance on a diesel bus fleet will continue to be a source of greenhouse emissions, even if a bus of 80 people emit less than 80 cars being used to drive one person to and from work.

Capital Metro Stage One light rail will be powered by 100% renewable electricity. By trialling electric buses, the government is making a sound investigation of a technology that could be the future of buses and probably private passenger vehicles. As well as being a much cleaner technology, electric vehicles require far less maintenance than vehicles using internal combustion engines.

Although light rail will eventually be the primary mass transit backbone of Canberra's public transport network, it will always need to be integrated with a local bus network. It is sensible to explore technologies that make bus use cleaner and potentially cheaper.

As well as this website, the facebook group 'Light Rail for Canberra' carries frequent updates on Capital Metro and light rail related news. 


Friday, June 3, 2016

The Canberra Business Chamber warn of the long term damage to our economy of 'tearing up contracts' for Capital Metro for political reasons



Glenn Keys, Chair  of the Canberra Business Chamber has written an article warning about the long term damage to the economy of Canberra that could be created by the 'tearing up of contracts' for political reasons. The Canberra Liberals have made it clear that is what they will do if they form government following the 2016 Assembly elections, in an act described by the Federal Liberal party as 'an act of economic lunacy'.

In his article Mr Keys refers to the importance of adhering to the law, and that political interference in the legal process will have expensive long term consequences for business and infrastructure investment in Canberra, damaging our future.

"However a business chooses to manage their contractual dealings, all will likely have one thing in common – a belief that a signed contract is inviolable.

It is this certainty that allows them to plan. Once a contract is agreed, a business can confidently employ and invest as needed. To spend and grow without this guarantee creates risk and uncertainty.

If a contract could be easily dishonoured without recourse, it would simply be a piece of paper and have no value to a business in terms of informing their future."
Many companies have long-term contracts with governments. These contracts can be for work that will take years or even decades to complete. It is based on this assured engagement that businesses are built up in order to meet their commitments.
Yet the political lifecycle is short, with it being possible a government will only be in power as little as three years. If government contracts were solely reliant on the government of the day being voted back in, businesses would think long and hard about getting involved in long-term projects, or change their pricing based on this risk.
The type of long-term projects the private sector usually partners with government on are major infrastructure projects. Infrastructure of all types – road, rail, convention centres, hospitals, schools etc. – are important to our economy. In 2012–13, 9.6 per cent of GDP was generated by Australian infrastructure industries.
Therefore, it is vitally important the private sector feels encouraged and confident about investing in infrastructure development.
- See more at: http://www.canberrabusiness.com/infrastructure-investment-vital-act-economy-planning-population-growth/#sthash.v0XH7rA0.dpuf
Many companies have long-term contracts with governments. These contracts can be for work that will take years or even decades to complete. It is based on this assured engagement that businesses are built up in order to meet their commitments.
Yet the political lifecycle is short, with it being possible a government will only be in power as little as three years. If government contracts were solely reliant on the government of the day being voted back in, businesses would think long and hard about getting involved in long-term projects, or change their pricing based on this risk.
The type of long-term projects the private sector usually partners with government on are major infrastructure projects. Infrastructure of all types – road, rail, convention centres, hospitals, schools etc. – are important to our economy. In 2012–13, 9.6 per cent of GDP was generated by Australian infrastructure industries.
Therefore, it is vitally important the private sector feels encouraged and confident about investing in infrastructure development.
- See more at: http://www.canberrabusiness.com/infrastructure-investment-vital-act-economy-planning-population-growth/#sthash.v0XH7rA0.dpuf

Many companies have long-term contracts with governments. These contracts can be for work that will take years or even decades to complete. It is based on this assured engagement that businesses are built up in order to meet their commitments.
Yet the political lifecycle is short, with it being possible a government will only be in power as little as three years. If government contracts were solely reliant on the government of the day being voted back in, businesses would think long and hard about getting involved in long-term projects, or change their pricing based on this risk.
The type of long-term projects the private sector usually partners with government on are major infrastructure projects. Infrastructure of all types – road, rail, convention centres, hospitals, schools etc. – are important to our economy. In 2012–13, 9.6 per cent of GDP was generated by Australian infrastructure industries.
Therefore, it is vitally important the private sector feels encouraged and confident about investing in infrastructure development.
- See more at: http://www.canberrabusiness.com/infrastructure-investment-vital-act-economy-planning-population-growth/#sthash.v0XH7rA0.dpuf
"...Many companies have long-term contracts with governments. These contracts can be for work that will take years or even decades to complete. It is based on this assured engagement that businesses are built up in order to meet their commitments.

Yet the political lifecycle is short, with it being possible a government will only be in power as little as three years. If government contracts were solely reliant on the government of the day being voted back in, businesses would think long and hard about getting involved in long-term projects, or change their pricing based on this risk.

The type of long-term projects the private sector usually partners with government on are major infrastructure projects. Infrastructure of all types – road, rail, convention centres, hospitals, schools etc. – are important to our economy. In 2012–13, 9.6 per cent of GDP was generated by Australian infrastructure industries.


Therefore, it is vitally important the private sector feels encouraged and confident about investing in infrastructure development."

"...Infrastructure does not get built without investment by governments and the private sector and it needs to be encouraged.

One major infrastructure project is now underway here in the ACT, with the signing last week of the light rail contract between the ACT Government and the prime contractor.


Local businesses will win work associated with this project; an effective public transport system will help attract visitors to our city, visitors who will spend in our restaurants, shops and hotels; if it results in shorter commute times, this translates to increased productivity; and we expect new skills and capacity to be developed by those involved in the project. Light rail has the potential to make Canberra more connected and liveable – two key planks of Canberra Business Chamber’s Destination 2030."

"...Threats to tear up the light rail contract now it has been signed, have the potential to hurt the ACT’s ability to attract inward investment for other infrastructure projects.

When political parties, or indeed members of the community, form a view on a project, I urge them to think about what it can contribute to our city and its residents as a whole. A strategic view of what is best for the Canberra Region must be taken."

Read the entire article Infrastructure Investment Vital to ACT Economy, Planning and Population Growth at the Canberra Business Chamber website.

As well as this website, the facebook group 'Light Rail for Canberra' carries frequent updates on Capital Metro and light rail related news.