"It is massively undercosted and we will be challenging them to provide actual costings"
Transport Minister MLA Meegan Fitzharris 31 March on WIN TV News Canberra
The Canberra Times covered reactions here 'Liberal bus plan unaffordable, light on detail'.
(TWU Secretary) Klaus Pinkas said the Liberals' proposal, unveiled on Thursday, had "some good ideas and great lines on the map", but was uncosted. He said bus drivers supported the idea of fewer stops on express services. "But it's just not costed. I don't know, you don't know and [Liberal leader] Jeremy Hanson doesn't know what the cost is."
The Liberals believe they can deliver the plan for the same amount currently spent on ACTION and the Capital Metro Agency combined, about $160 million a year. But the party admits it has no firm costings.
The government dismissed the proposal as "massively undercosted", but did not provide any of its own figures on what the Liberals' proposal might cost.
Mr Pinkas said Labor's plan for a tram line to Gungahlin was better because it meant far more jobs in construction. He said the Liberals' proposal would mean more bus drivers, but Labor's project would bring hundreds of construction jobs to build the tram and redevelop Northbourne Avenue.
The Liberals also propose a rapid service to Canberra Airport, plugging a long-lamented gap in bus routes. But it is unclear whether such a route could be delivered, given the current impasse, with the government so far unable to persuade the airport to allow ACTION buses.
A spokeswoman said the airport "welcomes any discussion about ground transport to the airport" but pointed out there were already ACTION buses to the Brindabella Business Park, about 500 metres from the terminal. A privately contracted shuttle bus ran from the terminal to Russell and the city.
Transport Minister Meegan Fitzharris said the Liberals' proposal would cost hundreds of millions and take years to implement.
She said the policy lacked costings and relied on the Liberals spending millions on compensation to tear up light rail contracts. The government plans to create new bus routes after 2019, including through redeployment of buses from the city to Gungahlin corridor as tram services begin. They could include services to the Molonglo Valley and Weston Creek.
Ms Fitzharris said hundreds of new buses would be required for the Liberal plan, as well as at least two new depots. She said dead running would be an inevitable result of route specific vehicles and she questioned idea of colour coding buses.
"Labor introduced rapid bus routes, so we are obviously committed to those and we will be making further announcements with the roll out of our integrated transport agency on July 1 and also further announcements as we get closer to the election.
"I think there is no detail in the Canberra Liberals' plan. I think it is massively undercosted and I think we will be challenging them to provide actual costings for this, of what it will cost on top of the costs they will need to pay for scrapping and tearing up the light rail line."
ABC Online covered reactions here.
"Chief Minister Andrew Barr questioned the viability of the plan to expand the Rapid bus routes instead of building light rail.
Mr Barr said the consequences of cancelling light rail contracts would be severe.
"The Liberal Party proposes to spend hundreds of dollars on nothing," Mr Barr said.
"That is tearing up contracts and handing $60 million of Commonwealth funding back because the project that that money has been allocated to would not go ahead."
But he said he welcomed the debate.
"We think our plan through Transport Canberra will deliver a better public transport system for the city," Mr Barr said.
"It's a debate we're very happy to have.
"We look forward to that unfolding in the months ahead."
ABC TV Canberra carried this report on 31 March 2016
ABC TV Canberra interviewed MLA Alistair Coe on 31 March 2016
WIN TV Canberra carried this report on 31 March 2016
Minister for Transport and Municipal Services Meegan Fitzharris released the following statement on the bus only policy:
Canberra Liberals bus plan doesn’t stack up
The Canberra Liberals have shown just how out of their depth they are when it comes to public transport with their announcement today that is massively under-costed and will only lead to more congestion on Canberra’s roads.
Minister for Transport and Municipal Services Meegan Fitzharris said the first step in their plan is to spend hundreds of millions of ratepayers’ money on nothing by cancelling the light rail project.
“What the Canberra Liberals won’t admit to is that by tearing up the light rail contracts, for a solution committed to before the last election, they will actually be spending hundreds of millions of dollars on nothing, including handing back $60 million to the federal government.
“The real solution for Canberra is an integrated transport network, which the ACT Government is delivering for our growing city.
“The ACT Government is establishing Transport Canberra on 1 July. Transport Canberra will focus on making the customer service experience even better with more transport choices as our population hits almost 500,000 people by 2035.
“Transport Canberra will also be responsible for integrating buses with light rail, taxis, car sharing and active travel, and ensuring a single ticketing system, a central contact for information and coordinated timetabling. And we are investing in an electric bus trial already.
“Part of Transport Canberra’s focus will also be on re-distributing the million bus kilometres that run along the stage 1 light rail route so they can provide a better service to our suburbs. This is a plan that is sustainable, more efficient and will cut our greenhouse gas emissions.”
Minister Fitzharris questioned the Canberra Liberals’ figures and said with no patronage figures or plan for bus priority around Canberra, more buses will simply mean more congestion on our roads.
“We estimate that the Canberra Liberals plan would actually require hundreds of new buses, more depots and cost hundreds of millions of dollars to implement. Then you have to factor in costs of setting up the depots, maintenance costs, staff costs, dead time running costs, costs of free travel after every eighth trip and costs of running very frequent buses on eight rapid routes. It’s easy to see that their figures don’t add up.
“This is on top of the current costs of running the ACTION network, and the increasing costs of congestion around Canberra which is tipped to reach $700 million by 2030. Their plan must be to cut local services and push up fares, and I think Canberrans have a right to know how much fares will go up.
“I’m also surprised they still have no plan for Northbourne Avenue, our most congested route, which will be transformed by light rail but left to perish by the Canberra Liberals.
“Then there is the lost opportunity costs associated with urban renewal and investment along high priority transport corridors. The facts are clear that light rail routes encourage renewal, investment and economic activity. The Canberra Liberals ignore this proven link.
“The Canberra Liberals’ plan doesn’t address congestion on our roads and spends millions on nothing. Only ACT Labor has a real plan for an integrated transport network for Canberra that improves the way we move around our city,” said Minister Fitzharris.
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