Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Dickson towers demolished as part of Northbourne Avenue urban renewal

The redevelopment of this site will attract major investment as it is right on the Capital Metro Stage One route on Northbourne Avenue. The sale of the site will help fund Capital Metro Stage One through the asset recycling program. The former tenants have been relocated to better quality accommodation more in keeping with their requirements. Win Win Win.

The Canberra Times reported on this here.

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

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Tram or light rail? What are we building in Canberra?

 Is it a tram or is it light rail?

Terminology around public transport technologies is often used in a fast and loose way by advocates and opponents. One persons rapid bus is another persons bus in traffic. The Capital Metro light rail project is a perfect example of using terminology as a veiled attack.

Trams, colloquially shortened from Tram Cars or Tramcars are typically associated with your average Melbourne tram. They travel on the street along rails embedded into the road surface and share the traffic with cars. In some places they are referred to as trolley cars.

Light rail, referred to as such because it is a smaller version of heavy passenger rail, is typically associated with more modern public transport systems, with low floor vehicles, travelling on its own right of way, and not sharing the road with cars. It is an industry standard term.

The public transport industry does not refer to the technology that Canberra is building as trams, it exclusively refers to light rail vehicles, or light rail transit. In Melbourne almost all new extensions to the tram network have been built to light rail specifications with vehicles separated from traffic on their own right of way. Fleet replacement has exclusively been low floor modern light rail vehicles, with articulated bodies, enabling 200 or more passengers. These are not tram cars. But the tram culture is strong and valued, and rightly the term Tram is used to describe their tram and light rail network.

Canberra is constructing a light rail route almost exclusively to light rail standard with light rail vehicles travelling on their own right of way and not sharing the road with cars. Despite this, in Canberra it has become a badge of ignorance worn proudly to refer to the Capital Metro light rail project as the Gungahlin Tram. Sadly, even the Canberra Times falls into this political and partisan language game. Although it is expected that political opponents of a public transport and infrastructure program will deliberately distort arguments and language in the contest of ideas it doesn't necessarily mean that they are right, and that it's a good example to follow. It is odd that journalists use lazy language when they are supposed to be reporting on events accurately, to inform their readers.

Will this influence the way that Capital Metro is referred to by Canberran's in the decades to come? I suspect not. There is no Melbourne tram culture here, and in Sydney the light rail system is not referred to as the Sydney tram, even though they also had a tram culture. Once the light rail system is operational and tens of thousands of Canberran's use it every day, it will create its own language.

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

Monday, February 22, 2016

Monorail? it's been looked at several times, and never taken seriously for Canberra

April 1963 vision of monorail in Canberra
Many opponents of light rail make various claims that other technologies have not been fully investigated, or even looked at before the decision to build light rail was arrived at. That is simply not correct, and a basic search through the National Library Trove database of newspapers shows that the Canberra Times have looked at and covered monorail several times, over several decades. Proponents of monorail have had the same opportunity as advocates of other transport technologies to place their case before the public and decision makers. 

Monorail has not been used in many locations, compared to more conventional transport technologies, as it hasn't attracted enough development to be suited for mass transit. Light rail is used in thousands of cities around the world, and has hundreds of manufacturers offering proven technology. It is used by hundreds of thousands of commuters every day in several Australian capital cities.

The only Australian city to use a monorail was Sydney, and that was removed prior to the expansion of the new light rail network. At the time, several hopeful locals opined that the ACT should purchase that redundant system and rebuild it here

Demanding that contemporary transport planners consider fringe technologies for mass transit defies common sense. Monorail on the scale required to shift the volumes of commuters that Capital Metro predict, would not be good value for money. That is before the issue of whether the NCA would allow raised monorail stations, towers and rails down Northbourne Avenue, is even looked at.

Light rail is the best mass transit technology for Canberra, supported by an integrated more frequent local bus service. That is the proposal that the ACT Government, and the Greens went to the 2012 Assembly election with, and that it has a mandate to construct. No one would vote for monorail.

September 1962

April 1963

August 1989

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

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Alistair Coe struggles to explain reasons for opposing light rail while Malcolm Turnbull endorses ACT Government policy

Canberra Liberals MLA Alistair Coe struggled to explain the reasons for opposing light rail in an interview with ABC Canberra's Virginia Hausegger during the week.

The Canberra Liberals have isolated themselves politically on yet another policy area, with Liberal Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull endorsing the ACT Governments taxation reform on stamp duty elimination on the ABC Insiders program. Phasing out stamp duty was another policy (along with light rail) that was supported by the electorate at the 2012 Assembly election.
ABC Canberra TV held an interview with MLA Alistair Coe discussing the breaking of contracts and sovereign risk concerns on 2 Feb 2016
ABC Insiders program interview with Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull discussing the benefits of eliminating stamp duty, and pointing out the ACT is the only jurisdiction to attempt it, on 7  Feb 2016

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

Monday, February 1, 2016

Media release: Greens welcome Canberra’s light rail future

This is the media release from Greens MLA Shane Rattenbury, dated 1 Feb 2016

ACT Greens MLA, Shane Rattenbury, has welcomed the announcement of the Canberra Metro as the consortium who will construct the first stage of Canberra’s light rail system from Gungahlin to the City.
“Canberra has turned a corner today. Today we welcome a vision for a new and exciting Canberra,” said Mr Rattenbury.
“This is a milestone that marks the next stage for Canberra as a progressive, sustainable, 21st century city.  That is the Greens’ vision for Canberra and the key reason that light rail was included as an agreement item when forming Government with the ALP in 2012.
“Over one hundred years ago Walter Burley Griffin laid the foundations for light rail with his ambitious and progressive vision for our city.
“Today is an important step in his vision becoming reality with the announcement of the consortium who will deliver the first stage of Canberra’s light rail network.
“I am excited to imagine Canberra’s future entryway as a vibrant, tree-lined boulevard of activity that welcomes visitors to our city and shows them that Canberra is a fantastic place to live.
“The latest demographic data shows that Canberra’s population will reach 400,000 this year.
“Current projections show that without change in approach there will be 124,000 more cars on our roads by 2040 – enough to fill a parking lot the size of the entire Parliamentary Triangle.
“We are a growing city that needs and deserves better public transport options. And we are going to get just that with an integrated, inclusive and affordable light rail network across the city.

“This is an exciting day for Canberra’s future and I look forward to having conversations with the Canberra community about where we go next with Canberra’s light rail network,” said Mr Rattenbury.

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

Canberra Metro announced as successful light rail consortium (media release)

This is the media release from Chief Minister Andrew Barr and Capital Metro Minister Simon Corbell, dated 1 Feb 2016

It can be downloaded from here.

The first stage of Canberra’s light rail network will be delivered by a world-class consortium, Canberra Metro, sooner and with a capital cost lower than earlier estimated, ACT Chief Minister Andrew Barr and Minister for Capital Metro Simon Corbell announced today.

Canberra Metro will construct and operate stage one of Canberra’s light rail from Gungahlin to the City. 

“Canberra Metro’s proposal offers an innovative and world-class solution that will deliver better transport for Canberra,” Mr Barr said. “The quality and breadth of the bid responses reflects the stature of this project and the appetite of the international infrastructure community to help redefine our city and further improve its liveability.

“The first stage of Canberra’s light rail network, the corridor from Gungahlin to City, represents a timely investment in a more convenient, efficient, affordable and reliable integrated transport system – a genuine alternative to driving.

Canberra Metro consortium announced as winners of bid to construct Capital Metro light rail in Canberra

The Chief Minister Andrew Barr and Capital Metro Minister Simon Corbell today announced that the consortium Canberra Metro had been awarded the contract to construct and operate Capital Metro Stage One. Thus historic announcement came after several months of negotiations with the two shortlisted consortia.

The two consortia bidding for the contract were Canberra Metro and Activate. Both consortia had multinational expertise in construction and operation of light rail networks, and building light rail vehicles.

  • Canberra Metro is comprised of Pacific Partnerships, CPB Contractors, John Holland, Mitsubishi Corporation, Aberdeen Infrastructure Investments, Deutsche Bahn International and CAF.
  • Activate is comprised of Downer EDI, Bombardier and Keolis Downer. It operates the new Gold Coast light rail and Melbourne's tram network.
  • The contract will deliver 12km of light rail track, 13 stops, 14 light rail vehicles, a depot and 20 years of operation and maintenance.
  • The winning bid was $698 million with a variance of 5%
  • The project would provide up to $1.2 billion of benefits to the city, including through new jobs
  • Light rail construction will conclude by late 2018 
  • Capital Metro services will commence operations in early 2019
  • A decision on the Russell extension will be made later this year
  • Light Rail service would run from 6am to 1am with services every 6 minutes during peak times
  • The removal of trees down Northbourne Avenue and the Federal Highway would be staged to minimise the visual impact of the project
  • Submissions for the $783 million contract closed last September with the development application for the first stage approved last month.
  • There will be initially be 14 light rail vehicle  costing $65 million powered by 100 per cent  renewable energy
  • Each light rail vehicle will be able to carry 200 passengers

At the announcement of the awarding of the contract, Simon Corbell said:
"While the final cost will be confirmed when contracts are signed, the capital cost included in the winning bid is $698 million, with a variance of 5 per cent depending on contract negotiations and changes in market conditions between now and contract closure".
"Additionally, Canberra Metro will complete construction in late 2018 and begin operations in early 2019. This is sooner than previous estimates and means less disruption for Canberrans and faster access to the transformational effects of this city changing project," 
"The staged approach will mean that as sections of trees are removed, and replaced with 4m tall plantings, there will only be periods of 3-4 months where each section will be without trees," 

Canberra Liberals Alistair Coe has issued a statement:
The disrespect Andrew Barr and ACT Labor have for Canberrans is disgraceful as the government commits to a light rail tenderer without a mandate, Shadow Minister for Transport Alistair Coe said today.
“Andrew Barr is squandering taxpayers’ money without giving them an opportunity to have a say on how it should be spent,” Mr Coe said.
“Light rail is deeply unpopular in Canberra, but again today we see Andrew Barr is more interested in his own grandeur than providing responsible government for the ACT.
“Serious questions remain about the rate of finance, repayment information, the scope of the works and the government’s contribution to construction.
“Also, the fact that the government plans to begin construction just months before the election demonstrates it doesn’t take democracy seriously.“I again call on the Barr government to do the right thing and delay the light project until after the 2016 Election so Canberrans can decide how their money is spent,” 

ACT Light Rail Media release to local news outlets.

ACT Light Rail Chair Damien Haas is pleased at the announcement of a successful bidder to construct Capital Metro Stage One.

This announcement comes after several months of talks between the Government and the two shortlisted bidders.

Mr Haas said "The cost of $698 million is considerably lower than many had expected, and once the cost of stabling and vehicles is removed, makes the cost per kilometer comparable to other light rail
constructed in Australia recently."

"The competitive bid and the sooner than expected completion date, are compelling reasons to award the tender to this consortium. The sooner we can use light rail, the better".

On the subject of paying for Capital Metro Stage One, Mr Haas said "The $370 million raised from asset sales and the contribution of $60 million from the Federal Government for light rail means that we have over half of the total cost already covered before the first payment is due in 2019".

On the topic of contracts being cancelled if the Liberals won the Assembly election in 2016, Mr Haas said that "In the absence of any compelling public transport policy, I don't think that the electorate
will give Mr Hanson and Mr Coe that opportunity. Their own federal colleagues describe that as 'economic lunacy'." 

"I suggest that anyone who thinks that ripping up contracts is a winning policy, go to the Gold Coast and ask them if they want to shut down their light rail service."

Mr Haas said that ACT Light Rail looks forward to construction beginning in several months.

The Canberra Times reported on the announcement here.
ABC Online reported on the announcement here.

The media release from Andrew Barr and Simon Corbell can be found here.
The media release from greens MLA Shane Rattenbury can be found here.

ABC Canberra TV covered the announcement on 1 Feb 2016
WIN Canberra TV covered the announcement on 1 Feb 2016
ABC Canberra TV covered reaction to the announcement on 2 Feb 2016
ABC Canberra TV held an interview with MLA Alistair Coe discussing the breaking of contracts and sovereign risk concerns on 2 Feb 2016

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