Monday, August 29, 2016

Canberra light rail construction timeline for Capital Metro Stage One

This brochure detailing the construction timeline for Canberra Metros build of Capital Metro light rail Stage One was distributed to prospective tenderers at last weeks Canberra Business Chamber Light Rail Forum. Construction began on July 12 2016.




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

ACT Government release new rapid bus routes and bus expansion for 2017


The ACT Government today released details of new rapid bus routes and expansion to the ACTION Bus fleet, accompanied by funding details to support the expansion. These improvements to the bus network are aimed at increasing public transport patronage and have been planned to follow growth along public transport corridors. In time, several of these routes are likely to be replaced by light rail. The start of light rail service in late 2018 will free up over one million bus kilometres that can be allocated across the ACTION Bus network. It is the equivalent of buying a new fleet of buses and extra drivers.

The new routes include expansions of existing bus routes to enhance the 'rapid' aspect, and completely new routes. Importantly, funding is attached to the plans - $55 million for the services and $51 million for 80 new buses and a new depot to house them. This is a government announcement, not an election policy, with funding to be allocated in the pre-election budget update.

Buses and light rail will always coexist in an integrated transport plan, and we need to make sure we get maximum utility and value from our bus fleet. The big picture plan is that we need more people using public transport.  Light rail, more buses, better frequency, better routes. It's a very compelling plan, and achievable.

The only way to convince Canberrans to use public transport over the private car, is to offer reliable, frequent and attractive public transport. Bus fleet renewal, expanding the reach and frequency of bus services, integrating bus services with light rail and planning for future expansion provide that alternative. This will also lead to reduced travel times and reduced road congestion.

Seven new lines are added to the current Blue and Red Rapid services, with new services supporting Woden, Weston Creek and Canberra Airport every six minutes during peak times and every 15 minutes at other times. The network expansion starts with Belconnen to Gungahlin and Woden to the City rapid services commencing in 2017.

The announcement of new rapid services in 2017 follows on from last weeks announcement of extensions of the Blue Rapid bus from Lanyon to Kippax, and the introduction of a new ACTION Timetable on 27 August. In 2017 a new Green Rapid from Woden to the City via Manuka and Barton, and the Black Rapid from Belconnen to Gungahlin will commence. 

These new services will be phased in through to 2020.
  • Woden to City via Weston Creek (2018)
  • Belconnen to Watson via Dickson (2018)
  • Tuggeranong to City via Erindale (2019)
  • Lanyon to Airport via Barton (2020)
  • Belconnen to Airport via City (2020)
It may appear as if these are simply extensions to existing routes, that is not correct.
  • The Green Rapid is a new route from Woden to the City via Manuka and Barton
  • The Grey Rapid is a new line that goes from Belconnen to Watson via Dickson
  • The Purple Rapid is a new line that goes from Tuggeranong to Civic via Erindale, Woden and Barton
  • The Pink Rapid is a new line that goes from Lanyon to the airport via Tuggeranong, Woden, Barton and Russell
  • The Yellow Rapid is a new line that goes from Belconnen to the airport via Civic and Russell
Also important things to note about the new Rapid Network:
  • All rapid services will run at least every 15 minutes everyday with increased frequency during peak periods
  • The Blue Rapid now extends to Kippax and Lanyon
  • The Black Rapid from Belconnen to Gungahlin will have increased frequency 
  • These routes have most likely been planned thoroughly using data available to the government (MyWay, traffic)
  • These routes have been depend on the fact that light rail will be implemented, which will free up more than 1.2 million kilometres of bus travel

Transport Minister Meegan Fitzharris said "When people know that there's always going to public transport where they need it ... that really drives patronage," "That's exactly what these rapid bus services already do and what future rapid bus services will do."

Minister Fitzharris also said that the debate about Canberra being a car-centric city was over and more rapid bus routes were planned for Molonglo and Gungahlin as the population grew.

The new bus route plans differ markedly from the release earlier in 2016 of the Canberra Liberals bus plans, in that they are funded, are based on research and future population patterns, and integrate light rail services with future transport planning.

ACT Government media release
Canberra Times article 'ACT Govt announces seven new rapid bus routes in network overhaul' here
ABC News Online 'Labor reveal nine line Rapid Bus network for Canberra' here

video
WIN TV Canberra covered the announcement on the 29 August 6PM TV News

video
ABC TV Canberra covered the announcement on its 29 August 7PM TV News


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

Northbourne Avenue trees and light rail - facts not fiction

A diseased tree being removed from Northbourne Avenue (Canberra Times)
Yes the trees are going
Yes they will be replaced (with more than there are now)
Yes they will be replaced with semi-mature trees 4 to 5 metres high
No tree that is removed before construction begins is because of light rail.
No Northbourne Avenue will not be defoliated permanently

There will be more trees when we have light rail, then when we didn't. 

The trees on Northbourne Avenues median strip will be removed during the construction of light rail. Trees are being removed now because they are diseased or damaged. Construction has started on the light rail project, but it is not yet at the stage where trees will be removed on Northbourne Avenue. See this post on the light rail construction timeline.

Fact - There are only 202 healthy trees left along Northbourne Avenue after years of disease and storm damage to the current planting. Many of these would have to be replaced over time in any case.

Fact - When light rail construction concludes an extra 1000 trees will be planted to replace those removed.

Fact - semi-mature Eucalyptus Mannifera will be approximately 4-5 metres high when first planted during the construction phase of Capital Metro. The NCA endorse this species.

Fact - light rail tracks will occupy about seven metres of the total 27-metre wide median strip, leaving about 10 metres on either side for landscaping and trees

Northbourne Avenue with light rail, mature trees and sympathetic landscaping 
In time the entrance to the Nations capital will become a grand tree lined boulevard, with trees and light rail. People may actually enjoy walking or cycling along it. It will be more than simply a funnel for cars and a long strip of sickly gum trees. It will be the entrance we have needed since Federation.

Many trees have fallen since the current planting matured, and they continue to fall or be removed on safety grounds. Sometimes this program is misinterpreted as being part of the light rail project, and those with an anti light rail agenda fulminate and distort reality in their political campaign. Even the Canberra Times (Independent always...) plays this game with misleading headlines.

Example - "First Northbourne tree removals costing $32,000" implies that the trees being removed are part of the first stage of light rail construction. In fact the removal was about public safety.

"the tree removals were not linked to the government's planned city to Gungahlin tram line, which will see 444 trees cut down on Northbourne from later in the year. They will be replaced with 671 new trees, expected to be grown at the Yarralumla Nursery. On the Federal Highway, 211 trees will be removed and 157 new trees planted."

Understandably it is hard to get the true facts on tree removal along Northbourne when even the local newspaper distort the truth to sell papers. That is why this website will alway provide a range of views to enable you to form your own.
Northbourne Avenue has had several generations of tree plantings in its lifetime. It is a harsh environment for native trees, and their lifespan is significantly shorter in a congested urban area, than sitting peacefully in Namadgi. In 2015 the ACT Government advised that:
"The selection of a suitable replacement tree species for the Northbourne corridor is significant as it represents the fourth generation of trees to be planted within the median since around 1913.
“Many of the trees remaining in the median on Northbourne Avenue are in decline and will need to be replaced in the near future regardless of the light rail project,” Mr Corbell said.
“Between 2010 and 2014 the number of trees on the Northbourne Avenue and Federal Highway median of the light rail corridor reduced from 802 to just 484 through failing health, storm damage and removal of dead and dangerous trees. Furthermore, the 2014 assessment of the trees in the corridor found only 59% of the remaining trees were healthy."

In June 2015 the ACT Government informed the public that:
"The light rail corridor between Gungahlin and City will see an increase of nearly 1000 extra trees as part of Capital Metro stage one according to the recently released environmental impact statement for the project, Minister for Capital Metro Simon Corbell said today.
“Although the project requires the removal about 860 existing trees along Flemington Road, the Federal Highway and Northbourne Avenue there will be 1,800 new trees planted in their place,” Mr Corbell said.
“This includes the replacement of about 450 Eucalyptus elata along the Federal Highway and Northbourne Avenue with approximately 700 Eucalyptus mannifera.
“This will result in fantastic medium to long-term results for the aesthetic of the gateway to Canberra but the government is also exploring possibilities for the staging of replacement of the existing trees and the procurement of pre-grown replacements in order to minimize the short-term visual impact of these changes.
The Eucalyptus elata have been struggling over recent years and through natural attrition the number of these trees in this area have reduced from more than 800 in 2010 to about 480 in 2014.  Many of these remaining trees are in decline and only 59% are rated as being in good health. 
“Eucalyptus mannifera is a common tree in Canberra with 100,000 already planted in our urban forest, including as boulevard trees in areas like Captain Cook Crescent in Griffith.  The new plantings will emphasise the ‘bush capital’ look and uphold the character of Northbourne Avenue as a grand boulevard,” Mr Corbell said.
“The Capital Metro project provides a key opportunity to redefine the gateway to the nation’s capital and improve the landscape character for the light rail corridor for all residents and visitors to enjoy. Development of light rail stage one provides an opportunity to refresh the Northbourne Avenue, Federal Highway and Flemington Road corridors, adorning the alignment with new native and exotic trees
“An opportunity also exists to improve the landscape character of Flemington Road, which at the moment doesn’t feature many trees in the median. The draft EIS identifies an opportunity to greatly improve the visual appeal and amenity of the corridor through tree planting in the verges and median.”
A number of native and exotic trees are proposed to be planted along Flemington Road and the Federal Highway. A key focus for the Flemington section of the light rail corridor will be to compliment the surrounding native temperate grassland and lowland woodland character."

Even the ACT Conservation Council appreciate the need for tree replacement.


Of course, politicians will ignore facts and create their own reality where any tree that falls along Northbourne, or is removed for safety reasons is somehow related to the light rail project. despite the facts presented here that shows that many of these trees will have to be replaced regardless of whether light rail was coming down Northbourne Avenue or not. These people are lying to win votes. They don't really care for trees, they just don't want light rail and will use anything they think people will fall for, even cheap deceptive publicity stunts.
Canberra Liberal candidate Elizabeth Lee deliberately misleading people in an attempt to win votes


Canberra Liberal candidate Candice Burch misleading the public to win votes

This is Northbourne Avenue. We deserve better.



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



Friday, August 26, 2016

Canberra business to benefit from light rail construction work opportunities


Media release from Minister for Transport Canberra and City Services, Meegan Fitzharris:


Local business to benefit from light rail work opportunities

Released 25/08/2016

Local Canberra businesses are set to benefit from the construction of light rail with new work packages worth up to $75 million announced yesterday by the Canberra Metro consortium.
The Canberra Business Chamber hosted a forum for local industry to learn more about the opportunities available during construction of the first stage of light rail from Gungahlin to the city.

The construction timetable for the light rail project was also released (attached).

“One of the many benefits of light rail is that it can have a transformative effect, generating economic opportunities and jobs,” Minister for Transport and City Services Meegan Fitzharris said.

“More than 75 work packages have now been announced by the light rail consortium, including professional services, plant, material, road, and building works. These packages are designed to give local businesses in Canberra and the surrounding region the opportunity to provide a wide range of services during the construction of the project.

“This is a real opportunity for local business to provide expertise across a diverse range of categories during the construction of the light rail project.

“Canberra Metro has committed to sourcing 90 percent of construction jobs locally and at least 75 percent during operation. Further opportunities for supply and services may also be available during the operations phase.

“This is a huge job-creating construction project for our city, directly and indirectly supporting around 3,500 jobs. Light rail will create great job opportunities for people right across Canberra.

“Like the ACT Government, Canberra Metro understands the importance of capitalising on local knowledge and expertise to deliver a project that meets the needs of our community. The consortium will continue to work with local suppliers, small and medium business operators and subcontractors as well to further maximise local participation and employment through training and apprenticeship programs.

“Canberra Metro will be taking on 60 apprentices and trainee roles during light rail construction, while also providing 10 graduate placements as well as 40 University of NSW Canberra work experience placements during construction. This is further proof of the benefits light rail will have on the local community, reaching beyond obvious transport benefits.”

Minister Fitzharris said the first of the construction work packages is expected to be released for tender in August 2016.  More packages of work are expected to be announced as the project progresses.  

For up-to-date information on the Canberra Metro work packages visit www.canberrabusiness.com

Further information on the Transport Canberra Light Rail project is available at www.transport.act.gov.au
- Statement ends -
Section: Meegan Fitzharris, MLA | Media Releases



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

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Australian Rail Association continues to support light rail in Canberra



The Australian Rail Association continue to support Canberras Capital Metro Stage One light rail as the backbone of an integrated public transport system in a media release on 17 August 2016.




"With the first sod recently turned on Stage 1 of Canberra’s Light Rail, the Australasian Railway Association (ARA) takes the opportunity to remind all Canberrans that an integrated approach to transport is the most sensible way to guarantee an efficient, affordable and environmentally sustainable transport network for Australia’s capital city.

“Canberra currently has one of the lowest rates of public transport usage in Australia, however with some smart planning, Canberra could have a world-class transport system that cleverly integrates light rail with buses, bike paths and carparks,” said ARA Chief Executive Officer, Danny Broad.

“This kind of modern solution to urban transport challenges is already being embraced by cities around the world.

“The transport solutions for a city of 300,000 people are vastly different to those needed for Canberra’s projected 2035 population of 550,000. Buses alone are not the solution, soon enough they would simply result in congested roads.

“Australia is experiencing a light rail revolution, with projects in seven States and Territories at varying stages of planning, construction or expansion.

“Light rail offers Canberra a compelling public transport value proposition, which consists of a medium capacity, road-based public transport solution that is delivered at an affordable price point, realising a range of economic, social and environmental benefits.

“The Capital Metro Business Case has forecast the project will generate around $1 billion in benefits for the Canberra community over its first 30 years of operation.

“To better contextualise this figure, over the past ten years, the ACT Government has invested more than $1 billion on road infrastructure. Over the next four years, a total of $2.5 billion has been budgeted by the ACT Government for infrastructure development with Capital Metro’s $698 million project representing less than one third of the Territory’s total infrastructure investment.

“It is clear governments can no longer build their way out of road congestion by increasing road capacity even where suitable corridors exist.

“The induced demand for transport means new road capacity is quickly used and roads rapidly become congested. This is why cities around the globe are investing in alternative forms of mass transport.

“Light Rail represents a way to break this downward cycle of spending on more and bigger roads. Reallocating existing road space to light rail will carry more people per lane, per hour than private cars or the existing bus system can do.

“The debate over light rail versus bus is over. Canberrans need a light rail system integrated with a bus network. A long-term integrated transport approach is required for our growing city,” said Danny Broad."

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

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Canberra Liberals attend the Magic Pudding School of Economics

Magic pudding school of economics

The election campaign is in full swing and the Canberra Liberals are making many promises about redirecting light rail funding and spending it somewhere else. This is pretty impressive considering that spending on light rail will be only 65 million dollars a year, for twenty years.

On 10 August 2016 the Canberra Liberals announced they would spend $395 million on a hospital instead of light rail. Clearly they have been to the Magic Pudding School of Economics.

Health, education and disability services consume 65% of the ACT Budget. Light rail will take 1%

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

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

2016-2017 Appropriation Bill committee report excerpts on Light Rail and Action buses



The following are Light rail and ACTION Bus related excerpts from the report of the ACT Assembly Select Committee on Estimates 2016-17, looking at the APPROPRIATION BILL 2016-2017. The full report can be downloaded from here where all associated material including submissions, questions on notice and transcripts can be found.

The recommendations of the committee are also included below.


On page 219

"LIGHT RAIL MASTER PLAN

8.17 The Committee inquired about the Light Rail Master Plan including the information contained in the plan and when the information would be available. The Committee was advised that:
[T]he planning part for the Light Rail Master Plan does not involve costs for construction. That is a separate item within the business case that Capital Metro or Transport Canberra will be doing. The Master Plan is proceeding well.

8.18 Further to this the Minister noted:
The studies that we are doing for the Light Rail Master Plan will include the feasibility in a technical sense and the issues that we might have in that sense, as we have heard— crossing the lake or going into ridges along a route to the airport, for example. The further work that will be done will be done by CMA [Capital Metro Agency] or Transport Canberra in the future.

8.19 The Committee was advised that decisions about routes for the light rail network are government decisions and that these discussions will be ongoing. The Minister noted that there has been strong representation from the community with ‘many hundreds of people taking the opportunity to express their views.’


8.20 On the matter of whether Kings and Commonwealth Avenue bridges are suitable to carry the weight of the tram, the Committee was advised that investigations are ongoing. The
Directorate is ‘working closely with the NCA [National Capital Authority] on corridor alignments and on matters related to infrastructure that they control.’

COMMITTEE COMMENT

8.21 The Committee understands that studies and investigations must be carried out to properly understand the feasibility and cost of routes set out in the Light Rail Master Plan. Given the prominence of the issue and the considerable interest in the community, the Committee encourages the Government to provide a greater level of clarity about the likely timeframe for further stages of the Light Rail.

Recommendation 102

8.22 The Committee recommends that the Minister for Planning and Land Development inform the ACT Legislative Assembly before the last sitting day in August 2016 of the estimated timeline for progressing the Light Rail Master Plan.


On page 287

TRANSPORT CANBERRA

11.15 Output 1.1 includes oversight of the construction of light rail, the Government subsidy paid to ACTION buses, and the strategic oversight of the public transport network, public transport asset management and the Active Travel Office.

MATTERS CONSIDERED

11.17 The Committee considered the following matters on 27 June 2016 with the Minister for Capital Metro:
  • commencement of track laying for light rail and construction of stops;
  • order of light rail vehicles;
  • CMA component of TCCS Output 1.1;
  • staffing in CMA and TCCS;
  • penalties for non-performance in operations of light rail;
  • contract management skills in TCCS;
  • light rail contracts; 
  • components of service payments and calculation of capital contribution;
  • availability payments;
  • communication with stakeholders;
  • local business involvement in construction;
  • integrated ticketing;
  • potential cost of cancelling light rail contract in October 2016;
  • costing of extension of light rail to Russell, over Kings Avenue Bridge and over Commonwealth Avenue Bridge;
  • comparative impact of light rail upon ACT Budget; and 
  • enhancements from light rail, including lighting, Alinga Street terminus and activating
  • space between Sydney and Melbourne Buildings.


KEY ISSUES

INTEGRATION OF CAPITAL METRO AGENCY INTO TCCS

11.18 The Committee inquired as to why the Minister who would be responsible for light rail for the coming the year was not the Minister answering questions on the subject at the public hearing. The Minister for Territory and Municipal Services noted:
That is a good question, and one that was discussed. I am happy to take some of those questions, of course, but Mr Corbell is currently the Minister for Capital Metro. These changes do not come into effect until 1 July; therefore he will be appearing this afternoon as the current Minister for Capital Metro.

COMMITTEE COMMENT

11.19 The Committee notes that at the time of hearings the Minister for Capital Metro was still responsible for that portfolio for a few more days. Given that the hearings are focussed on the Budget estimates for the coming year, the Committee believes that it would have been more appropriate for the Minister who would be administering the relevant Budget to answer questions about it.

11.20 The Committee notes that the cost of ACTION to the ratepayer is clear in the Budget Papers. The integration of CMA and TAMS makes the cost of light rail less easy to discern and the Committee believes that it could be made clearer.

Recommendation 132
11.21 The Committee recommends that the Minister who is responsible for the allocation in the Budget be the Minister to appear before the Estimates Committee to answer questions on that allocation.

Recommendation 133
11.22 The Committee recommends that light rail receives its own budget output within the Transport Canberra Output.

AVAILABILITY PAYMENTS
11.23 The Committee inquired about the availability payments and their components of operational and maintenance, finance and capital. The Committee asked about the interest payments for each year and was informed by the Minister that interest rate information is considered ‘sensitive to the consortium because it could reveal the nature of their commercial arrangements with their financiers and others’.

COMMITTEE COMMENT
11.24 The Committee notes the Minister’s comments about commercial confidentiality but believes that it is important that the ACT Legislative Assembly is aware of the components of payments it is being asked to appropriate money for.

Recommendation 134
11.25 The Committee recommends that the ACT Government completes a detailed business case and staging analysis before committing to further stages of light rail.
11.26 The Committee did not hear evidence on the removal of trees from Northbourne Avenue but is aware that it remains an issue of community concern.

Recommendation 135
11.27 The Committee recommends that the ACT Government provide advice to the ACT Legislative Assembly on the removal of trees on Northbourne Avenue by the last sitting day in August 2016.

page 293

ROADS AND INFRASTRUCTURE
11.28 Output 2.1 provides management of the Territory’s road and associated assets, stormwater infrastructure, community paths, bridges, traffic signals, streetlights and car parks. This output also includes the provision of asset information services, capital works and development approvals relating to the acceptance of new infrastructure assets.

MATTERS CONSIDERED
  • impact of light rail on roads investment



Page 300

ACTION
11.59 ACTION delivers bus services throughout the city to ensure transport is accessible to all Canberrans. ACTION services are delivered in line with the ACT Government’s vision to provide a convenient, efficient, affordable, reliable and integrated public transport system for the community. Public transport services provided by ACTION include scheduled route bus services, school bus services, community and special needs transport and management of the ACT rural school bus contract.

MATTERS CONSIDERED
11.60 The Committee considered the following matters: 
  • patronage targets;
  • cost of operation by kilometre;
  • subsidy per passenger boarding;
  • trial of electric buses;
  • fleet strategy;
  • rebranding of, and advertising on, ACTION busses;
  • city loop bus route;
  • services to Weston Creek and Coombs;
  • implementation of new timetable; and
  • new ticketing system.

11.61 The Minister took a question on notice regarding the budgeted subsidy per ACTION bus passenger boarding in 2016-17. The Committee received an answer providing that each trip is subsided $6.07.

COMMITTEE COMMENT

11.62 While it received no evidence on the matter, the Committee believes that it would be worthwhile trialling services directly linking the town centres in the north and south of Canberra.

Recommendation 143

11.63 The Committee recommends that the ACT Government consider trialling a rapid bus service between Gungahlin and Tuggeranong via Belconnen Town Centre."

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