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.

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