Remember the single lane GDE fiasco? Canberra Liberals Transport spokesman Alistair Coe has released an 'options paper' proposing a single bus lane up Northbourne Avenues median strip, instead of Capital Metro Stage One. After three years of criticising the Capital Metro Stage One light rail project, the Canberra Liberals have finally released an alternative plan. And that is it.... buses! Along the Northbourne Avenue median!
This is the transport policy for all Canberrans that we have been promised after three years of hand-wringing doom forecasts from the Canberra liberals over light rail. It really isn't good enough.
All we have been offered is an options paper proposing buses as a better option, that uses nine of its eighteen pages saying why light rail isn't suitable. The actual proposals are relegated to two to three pages each. No proper costings are provided aside from figures hastily plucked from somewhere that lack any explanation.
Is it really the Canberra Liberal transport policy though? The words 'Canberra Liberals' do not appear anywhere on the paper. Not once. The closest it comes to acknowledging the source of the paper is referring to 'the opposition'. Why? Perhaps the Canberra Liberals party room read it and experienced the same sense of 'is this it?' that ACT Light Rail members did upon reading it.
Download the Canberra Liberals bus paper here.
Lets look at the three options:
Option 1 - move the cycle lane into the Northbourne Avenue median strip, with bus priority measures along the corridor.
Option 2 - A single lane bus lane along the Northbourne Avenue median strip, with the cycle lane remaining on road. The bus lane would be one-way, and would reverse direction in the mornings and afternoons.
Option 3 - A single bus lane in the Northbourne Avenue median strip flanked by cycle lanes either side.
The ACT Light Rail position on these suggestions is that these proposals are twenty years too late. They may have been appropriate in the 90's when Gungahlin was first established, but the population of both people and cars has grown too much for this small target approach.
The major flaw of these options are that they are a 'Northbourne Avenue only' solution. They propose no works outside that corridor. They offer no solutions to Gungahlin residents, on already congested roads and congested buses at capacity. They only run along Northbourne Avenue. The Federal Highway section and Flemington Road are ignored. The rest of Canberra is ignored.
The people of Gungahlin are already experiencing public transport congestion on their rapid bus services. Often the buses cannot stop to collect passengers as they are already full. Nothing in this option paper resolves this bus capacity issue.
The plan also ignores any discussion of the cost of tearing up contracts, as promised by the Canberra Liberals if they form government following the 2016 Assembly elections. It has cost the Victorian Government 1.4 billion dollars to tear up the East Link contract. This needs to be factored into the Canberra Liberals proposal.
The cost of removing/replacing services under Northbourne is not factored in. Whether it be light rail or a single lane of bitumen, they will be impacted.
Lacking any real costings except vague figures of between $20 and $100 million, the paper doesn't carry anywhere near enough detail to be a genuine alternative policy proposal.
Alistair Coe said "Whilst it is fairly expensive, it is still a fraction of the cost of light rail and it also doesn't have the operating expenses,"
"Our transport planning is going to be based on genuine options, genuine cost-benefit analysis and genuine consultation with the community."
A plan costing $100 million that brings no benefits to the community is simply wasting public money. Transport infrastructure needs to be based on a triple bottom line approach that takes in the social, economic and environmental costs and benefits. The options paper lacks credibility in all three of these areas. For three years the Canberra Liberals have promised an alternative transport plan for Canberra. A single bus lane up Northbourne's median strip is not a plan. It's desperation.
Are there any positives? Yes. People can now see the lack of vision displayed in transport policy by the Canberra Liberals. This is such a small target approach it is hard to believe that the party room endorsed it.
Minister for Capital Metro, Simon Corbell has responded with the following:
"The Canberra Liberals’ options paper for Northbourne Avenue is a band-aid solution that will leave Canberrans with ongoing traffic congestion, no long-term public transport solutions and no plan for the development of Canberra.This was covered by the Canberra Times here.
Deputy Chief Minister Simon Corbell said the proposal ignored the price of tearing up light rail contracts, which the Canberra Liberals have said they would do at any cost.
“Not only is the proposal a band-aid solution for Canberra’s public transport, it also ignores many millions of dollars of potential cost for tearing up light rail contracts, which the Canberra Liberals have said they would do at any cost,” Mr Corbell said.
The Federal Liberal party has previously dismissed the Canberra Liberals’ threats to tear up light rail contracts as ‘economic lunacy’.
“When the Federal branch of your party is rejecting your toxic policies that will increase the ACT’s sovereign risk and waste taxpayer funds there is something very wrong,” Mr Corbell said.
“With average 57-minute travel times from Gungahlin to the City in 2031, the Canberra Liberals’ proposal would have Canberrans stuck in congestion on Northbourne Avenue and Flemington Road instead of solving the problem.
“The Canberra Liberals’ proposal has no plans for beyond Antill Street through to Gungahlin, which will leave Gungahlin residents with the same transport options and congestion they have now.
“This is a band-aid solution to a problem that Infrastructure Australia says will cost the ACT $700m per year by 2031. The Canberra Liberals’ plan is too little too late to fix the growing cost of congestion in our city.”
Minister for Roads and Parking Mick Gentleman said that these proposals would do little to relieve congestion in the short term, and has no plan for Canberra’s expected growth.
“What we’ve seen from the Canberra Liberals is a half-baked document with numerous mistakes and inconsistencies that doesn’t even attempt to solve our long-term problems. The proposal at this stage can’t be taken seriously,” Mr Gentleman said.
“With any of these three options, buses would still need to regularly interact with traffic. Adding more lanes of traffic will only increase congestion.”
There are few dedicated priority traffic signals for buses on Northbourne Avenue included in the proposal, which will increase travel times for buses on Northbourne Avenue.
“The proposal fails to recognise that many trees on Northbourne Avenue will still need to be cut down, and doesn’t address how the Canberra Liberals will put a roadway down the median without removing trees or utilities,” Mr Gentleman said.
The trees on the median of Northbourne Avenue will need to be removed soon due to health issues, and are expected to be replaced with 4-5 metre tall semi-mature plantings during the construction phase of Capital Metro stage one.
“We know light rail fits with the National Capital Plan and the National Capital Authority has been willing to come to the table and work with the ACT Government to find a design that fits with the Griffins’ plan,” Mr Gentleman said.
“The Canberra Liberals have proven with this proposal they have no idea how to improve Canberra’s public transport network.”
The Transport Canberra – Light Rail Network plan, which outlines possible future stages of a light rail system, including to Woden, Canberra Airport, and the Parliamentary Triangle was released for consultation by the ACT Government in October.
The ACT Government is in the final stages of assessment of bids from two international consortia to build, maintain and operate Capital Metro stage one, with a preferred bidder expected to be announced early next year."
ABC Online reported on it here.
WIN Canberra carried this TV report
ABC Canberra carried this TV report
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