Friday, September 21, 2012

ALP commits to 'Capital Metro' light rail for Canberra

Today Simon Corbell announced that the ALP had committed to light rail.

He said that 'light rail was the best choice for Canberra'.

The election policy is that the Government will commit $30 million for a series of studies, with an aim to begin construction no later than 2016, and have it up and running by 2018.

The ALP are in favour of a private public partnership. Minister Corbell has had a series of meetings with large international companies experienced in running transit networks. The talks have been focused on these companies building and potentially running that network.

The first link will be from Gungahlin to Northbourne, and will be called 'Capital Metro'.

This is an exciting transport policy announcement, but it must be remembered that the ALP has had four years to propose and announce funding - yet it waits until an election campaign to announce funding for a study. The four year time frame for 'studies' is also disappointing. That takes the actual construction phase to six years from now. There is another territory election in four years.

Some details are available online in this Canberra Times article.

ACT Light Rail will be keenly looking for further detail.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Benefits of light rail - from the WA MAX project

The WA State Government are proposing to build light rail in Perth. The WA Department of Transport  have placed an excellent website for the Metro Area Express or MAX system online here.

The excerpt below is from the section titled 'Benefits of light rail'. Many of these benefits are directly applicable to the ACT.


  • Reduced traffic congestion: The estimated economic cost of traffic congestion in Perth was nearly $1 billion in 2009, with costs predicted to more than double by 2020 to $2.1 billion. Initiatives such as light rail to reduce congestion will have a significant impact on both productivity and quality of life.
  • Cost-effective solutions: Light rail can be built within existing streets in developed areas unlike heavy rail, which needs significant vacant land or a high-cost tunnel-based design. For areas of medium and high demand, light rail is competitive on cost with buses.
  • Large capacity: One light rail vehicle carries the equivalent of three articulated buses, and a light rail system can cater for passenger numbers conventional bus routes can’t handle.
  • Environmental benefits: Transport contributes 14 per cent of Australia’s total greenhouse gases, of which 90 per cent is generated by private vehicles. Light rail will reduce Perth’s reliance on motor vehicles.
  • Sustainability: Light rail offers developers and planners the opportunity to reduce urban sprawl by increasing population densities near stations and along routes.
  • Infrastructure certainty: Light rail infrastructure provides a sense of permanence, encouraging developers to invest in new commercial, mixed use and residential projects.
  • Vibrancy: New development and greater population density can make areas near light rail more vibrant and active. Public transport supports community fitness by encouraging people to walk or cycle to stations or stops. Light rail vehicles will be quiet, both inside and outside.
  • Easy access: Navigating a light rail system will be simple, with routes marked by permanent infrastructure in the form of rails and stations.
  • Integration: MAX will integrate with the rest of the Transperth network.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

ACT Light Rail meet with Simon Corbell

ACT Light Rail met with Minister Corbell on Thursday to discuss light rail and public transport issues. The meeting was very frank and instructive. It is clear that Minister Corbell understands the competing issues in the BRT v LRT debate, and I expect that a decision will be politically motivated, not necessarily cost related.
The meeting ran longer than expected with the Minister explaining his thinking on several issues that were raised, answering in great detail questions put to him. He also asked several questions regarding our public statements and views, including our support of the ACT Greens recent policy on light rail.

An unexpected bonus was that after querying the $870 million cost, and the failure to release the figures for scrutiny, the Minister offered ACT Light Rail the opportunity to look at the figures. We have taken him up on this, and will write to his office to formalise this early next week.

At this stage we will ask two of our members, a transport economist and a very senior federal public servant with considerable experience in budgeting, project management and operational implementation, to examine the figures provided to the ACT Government by their consultants.

A full brief of the meeting will be provided to the ACT Light Rail executive committee at our next meeting.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

ACT Greens release excellent light rail policy ahead of election

In the opening salvo of competing policies for the 2012 ACT Assembly election, the ACT Greens fired the opening salvo with a game changing policy on light rail.

In summary, the ACT Greens light rail policy is this:

  • Commit to building a light rail for Canberra
  • $200 million initial Government funding committed to light rail
  • An ACT wide light rail master plan, covering existing and developing areas
  • Construction on Canberra's first light rail route beginning by 2015
  • Independently manage the project through the Canberra Urban Transit Authority, a new independent body to design, cost and manage funding and construction of light rail in Canberra.
When asked by the media what ACT Light Rail though t of this proposal, our response was 'This is the most forward looking public transport policy in Canberra since self government.'.

ACT Light Rail meet with all political parties as part of our public transport lobbying efforts. We have met with the Greens several times to discuss light rail, ACTION buses, integrated transport and related matters. To say that they 'get public transport' is to obvious. They also understand how it is an essential part of Canberra's future.

To quote from the Greens policy paper "Our transport system will be a key part of Canberra's long-term economic, environmental and social health. Not only will light rail move people efficiently and reduce pollution, it will also help bring significant economic and cultural opportunities. Light rail is an investment today that will mean savings in the future."

The policy is well worth reading. The Greens have gone to some effort to explain how light rail could be financed, with suggestions including government funding, private finance, value capture financing etc. 

A graph from the Greens light rail policy, showing capacity benefits of light rail

Although this is an excellent policy, there is one big problem - it is not a mandatory part of their agreement to govern. The Greens currently hold four seats in the Assembly. It is expected that they may lose one seat in the October election. That will still place the Greens in the position of determining who governs Canberra for the next four years if neither the ALP or the Canberra Liberals are able to achieve a majority in their own right.

The Greens must make this policy a mandatory part of their agreement to govern, for it to be implemented in the next Assembly term.

This policy is visionary for Canberra. It is light years ahead of comparable policy from the ALP or Canberra Liberals. While the ALP have always talked up light rail ahead of an election, they have always squibbed the real opportunity government has given them to deliver it. The Canberra Liberals are too focused on ACTION and the private car to deliver a serious light rail policy (although they did go to the 2008 election with a 4 million dollar proposal to conduct an engineering study, which was what ACT Light Rail were asking for at that time).

In the remaining 40 plus days of this campaign, we will see what light rail policy the two major parties deliver. To date the Greens have offered the most credible light rail policy.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Puzzling transport policy from Canberra Liberals

The Canberra Liberals released many policies today, well ahead of the October Assembly election. One of them was on public transport. I dont really know what to make of it, except to say that it is light on detail and disappointing in its aims. It also seems as if light rail has been ejected from the list for consideration of Canberras future transport infrastructure.  

"Mr Seselja said the Canberra Liberals are committed to improving the ACTION service for Canberrans."

It then lists two objectives: 

  • $3 million for a 12-month trial of a free shuttle service in the Belconnen, Tuggeranong and Gungahlin to feed into rapid bus lines
  • Conducting a study on intelligent transport systems such as the use and collection of real-time commuter information and driver guidance systems.

To me this means 'guided buses' or O-bahn style buses. This is a trip in the wayback machine for sure. The Canberra Liberals need to issue more detail on what they mean by this. 

At this stage the greens have the most compelling policy on public transport.