Next stop: Belconnen – why the alignment of the Belconnen to City light rail line deserves scrutiny

The recent announcement of $132.5 million in Commonwealth Government funding for Stage 2A of Canberra’s light rail network by ACT Liberal Senator Zed Seselja and Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack will stand as the definitive moment when the decade-long partisan bickering over the existence of Canberra’s light rail network finally came to a close.

The “light rail wars”, as they have been termed, are over. In their place, hopefully, will be a greater focus on how we roll out Canberra’s network of inter-town light rail corridors, rather than the now-redundant argument of whether they should be built at all.

This brings us to the purpose of this blog post, which is the flagged extension of light rail to Canberra’s north-west district of Belconnen. While it forms part of a more substantial east-west line connecting Kippax to the Airport (Light Rail Stage 3), this post will concentrate on the section between the Belconnen Town Centre and Canberra City.

Belco Bound

Compared to the handful of viable alignments for the City to Woden extension, there are many more ways to connect Belconnen to the City via the activity generators strung along the route, which include:

  • University of Canberra
  • Radford College
  • Australian Institute of Sport (including Canberra Stadium)
  • CIT Bruce
  • Calvary Hospital
  • CSIRO, and
  • Australian National University.

Indeed, the study of initial options considered for the aborted 2005 proposal for a Belconnen to City busway reveals the sheer number of different alignments that could be considered for a future light rail line.

Initial route options considered for the 2005 Belconnen to City busway

Of these options, the 2005 study whittled the list down to 13 shortlisted routes.

Shortlisted options for the 2005 Belconnen to City busway

Which were then narrowed down further to four viable options.

Final four options considered for the 2005 Belconnen to City busway

Finally, two routes were selected for further detailed analysis – one that largely followed the existing inter-town bus route along College Street, Haydon Drive, Belconnen Way and Barry Drive (Option 2C) and the other which took a detour via the saddle between Bruce and O’Connor Ridges to provide a stop at CIT Bruce and the Australian Institute of Sport (Option 1C). Both routes were designed with gradients and curve radii that would permit future conversation to light rail.

“Option 2C” route via Haydon Drive considered for the 2005 Belconnen to City busway
“Option 1C” route via Bruce and O’Connor Ridges considered for the 2005 Belconnen to City busway

While interim bus priority measures were eventually installed along sections of the Option 2C alignment as part of the 2012 “Belconnen Transitway” project, the 2005 busway proposal with its elaborate tunnels, flyovers and station-style stops was scrapped by Jon Stanhope’s Labor Government prior to the final route being selected.

The busway legacy

While the proposal for a city-wide network of busways may have been abandoned in part due to a perceived lack of support, its planning work continues to influence proposed light rail alignments across Canberra.

The below graphics are taken from official ACT Government reports on Canberra’s future light rail network. Each shows the Option 2C route via Haydon Drive as the indicative alignment for the Belconnen to City light rail route.

Indicative light rail route between Belconnen and the City (clockwise from top-left: ACT Planning Strategy 2018, ACT Light Rail Network Plan 2015, ACT Government submission to JSCNET Inquiry into Light Rail Stage 2, ACT Transport Strategy 2020)

Alternative alignments have been floated, most notably by former ACT Opposition Leader and vocal light rail stage one critic Alistair Coe, who in 2013 suggested a route from Belconnen to the City that closely resembles Option 3E from the 2005 busway options analysis.

Alistair Coe’s alternative light rail route (red) compared to the ACT Government’s indicative light rail route (blue) as illustrated by PTCBR

On paper, the attractiveness of this proposal is obvious. Unlike the ACT Government’s indicative alignment, this route runs to the east of Calvary Hospital and CIT Bruce to provide stops that are within easy walking distance of all the key activity generators between Belconnen and the City. By avoiding the saddle between the O’Connor and Bruce Ridges, it also avoids a potential repeat of the “Save the Ridge” campaign.

Despite being ranked above Option 2C in the 2005 busway options analysis, Option 3E was discounted due to its longer length, higher cost and greater environmental impact. However, many of the assumptions used during the assessment are outdated or suspect.

For example, the “perceived directness” of the route options was given undue emphasis, despite the fact that most options were estimated to take around seven minutes.

Source: Belconnen to City Busway: Final Report on Route Selection (Brown Consulting, 2005)

The low patronage of the existing bus stops at Calvary Hospital also meant that some routes were rated equally, regardless of whether they provided a stop at the hospital.

Source: Belconnen to City Busway: Final Report on Route Selection (Brown Consulting, 2005)

It is worth noting that these studies were conducted prior to the current proposal being considered by the Australian Sports Commission to consolidate the footprint of the Australian Institute of Sport by selling off major assets, including Canberra Stadium, the AIS Arena and the surrounding land, to the ACT Government for future residential and commercial development.

This proposal dovetails neatly with the ACT Government’s plan to construct a new Canberra Stadium on the site of the Civic Pool on Constitution Avenue, which just so happens to be further up the line of the proposed east-west light rail corridor.

It is hard to avoid coming to the conclusion that not including a stop at the current Australian Institute of Sport precinct would be a significant missed opportunity.

Next steps

These are just some of the reasons to question the ACT Government’s current indicative alignment for the Belconnen to City light rail route. There are, or course, many more options that are worthy of further analysis, including:

  • the use of Macarthur Avenue instead of Barry Drive
  • proposals from both UC and ANU to run sections of the route through their respective campuses
  • the location of the bus and light rail interchange in the Belconnen Town Centre, and
  • opportunities for interoperability between the north-south and east-west light rail lines.

Rather than leaving it to the last minute, PTCBR will be lobbying the ACT Government to conduct an honest and transparent consultation process for the Belconnen to City light rail line, with the comparative costs, patronage estimates, journey times, development opportunities and environmental impacts of the various alignments being made publicly available.

After a decade of rancorous debate, Canberrans deserve an informed and civilised discussion about the future form of our light rail network.

MEDIA RELEASE – PTCBR welcomes Federal Government funding for Light Rail Stage 2A

The Public Transport Association of Canberra (PTCBR) has welcomed the Federal Government’s decision to invest $132.5 million in Stage 2A of Canberra’s light rail network from Alinga Street to Commonwealth Park.

“This is significant support from the Federal Government for a project which will transform our nation’s capital. It is more than double the Commonwealth’s contribution towards Light Rail Stage 1, and a very welcome sign the Commonwealth has realised that public transport investment keeps our cities vibrant and moving,” said PTCBR Chair Ryan Hemsley.

“We hope this signals an ongoing partnership between the ACT and Federal Governments as light rail rolls out through the parliamentary zone and towards Woden.”

Ryan Hemsley is the Chair of the Public Transport Association of Canberra, the Canberra region’s peak public transport lobby group.

MEDIA RELEASE – Public Transport Association of Canberra welcomes Federal Government support for Light Rail

media_release_6

The Public Transport Association of Canberra (PTCBR) welcomes progress on the approvals processes for the second stage of Canberra’s light rail network, as well as Federal Government support for the development of advanced battery technologies for light rail vehicles.

PTCBR Chair Ryan Hemsley said, “The Federal Department of the Environment and Energy has mapped a clear path forward for Light Rail Stage 2 by identifying the assessment processes for this city-shaping project.”

“We welcome the Federal and Territory Governments working together to ensure that Canberra’s fast, frequent, reliable and attractive light rail network is able to starts its journey to Woden. This will bring the benefits of light rail across the lake and improve public transport connectivity between north and south Canberra.”

“Following the success of Stage 1, we call on the ACT Opposition to outline their plans for bringing light rail to Woden ahead of the Territory Election later this year.”

Mr Hemsley added that “We are also pleased about a recent Commonwealth grant to a consortium developing fast charging batteries for light rail vehicles.” The Federal Department of Industry, Innovation and Science recently announced a grant of $1.6 million to a consortium proposing to develop an ‘Advanced Nano-engineered Battery for Fast Charging Catenary-free Trams’. Total project expenditure is expected to be $5 million and consortium members include the CSIRO.

Mr Hemsley further observed “This project has the potential to benefit light rail systems across Australia as well as in the ACT by reducing charging times at stops and lowering the lifetime costs of wire-free running.”

Ryan Hemsley is the Chair of the Public Transport Association of Canberra, the Canberra region’s peak public transport lobby group.

MEDIA RELEASE – Public Transport Association of Canberra welcomes the fast-tracking of light rail to Commonwealth Park

media_release_1

The Public Transport Association of Canberra (PTCBR) welcomes the ACT Government’s decision to progress with the first section of the City to Woden light rail route. The decision announced today by Chief Minister Andrew Barr and Transport Minister Chris Steel ensures that work on the second stage of Canberra’s light rail network will get underway as soon as possible.

PTCBR Interim Chair Ryan Hemsley said that “Commencing construction on the leg between Alinga Street and Commonwealth Park is the first important step towards bringing fast, frequent, reliable and attractive public transport to Canberra’s south, and will help retain the skilled workforce acquired during the construction of stage one.”

On the design elements of Stage 2A, Mr Hemsley said that “The details of the route design, operation and approval are the responsibility of the relevant Federal and Territory government entities. On the issue of light rail stage two, PTCBR’s main goal as an outcomes-focused organisation is to see the successful completion of light rail between the City and Woden.”

“We trust that the Federal and Territory Governments will work together to ensure this is achieved in a manner that realises the greatest benefit to the citizens of Canberra.”

Ryan Hemsley is the Interim Chair of the Public Transport Association of Canberra, the Canberra region’s peak public transport lobby group.

Federal Election 2019 – ACT Candidate positions on Transport, Planning and Infrastructure policy

 

Candidate forum Smiths April 2019.jpg
Federal election candidates at a public forum in April 2019

The Federal election will be held on May 18 2019. Canberra is the Nations capital and seat of Federal Government, as well as a growing regional city with a diverse community. Our city has been overlooked at federal elections in recent years, by both major parties, and deserves an equal share of infrastructure investment to assist the city to expand in a sustainable and planned way.

The PTCBR will send an email to all candidates for the House of Representatives and the Senate, running in the ACT at the 2019 election, seeking their views on transport planning and infrastructure, and asking if they will work to obtain funding to put towards light rail and other public transport programs. Any candidate that responds will have their answers placed here, and promoted on our Facebook group, and shared among our members. The PTCBR is an apolitical organisation, but all PTCBR members are entitled to vote based on the issues that matter to them, and after making an informed decision.

The ACT elects one lower house member from the seats of Bean, Canberra and Fenner, and two Senators.

Questions to Candidates

  1. If elected, will you support light rail stage two and future light rail stages in Canberra?
  2. What are your views on the role of the National Capital Authority? Would you increase the NCA’s federal funding or would you abolish it and handover all planning controls to the ACT Government?
  3. How would you improve public transport connections between Canberra and regional NSW cities and towns?
  4. What is your parties’ view on ensuring ACT residents are not carrying the financial and environmental costs of the significant population increases in nearby NSW?
  5. Would you advocate for federal funding for the ACT light rail to be extended into Queanbeyan CBD?
  6. Would you advocate for dedicated bus lanes combined with park and ride facilities near the main Queanbeyan roads into the territory?
  7. What are your other policies on public transport and planning?

Responses received from candidates will be published on this page in the order they are received, below the list of candidates. Irrelevant responses unrelated to our members policy interests, will not be posted.

House of Representatives Candidates in the ACT

Bean – Weston Creek, Tuggeranong

  • David Smith – Australian Labor Party
  • Therese Faulkner – Australian Progressives
  • Ben Rushton – Great Australia Party
  • Jonathan Davis – Greens
  • Matt Donnelly – Liberal Democrats
  • Ed Cocks – Liberal Party
  • Tony Hanley – United Australia Party
  • Jamie Christie – Independent

Canberra –  Woden, East Belco, N. & S. Canberra

Fenner –  Western & Northern Belco and Gungahlin

ACT Senate Candidates 

Election Announcements on public transport, planning and public transport infrastructure for Canberra

ALP – Alicia Payne and Bill Shorten announce 200 million dollars for Canberras second stage of light rail.

Responses received from Candidates (presented in the order they were received)

First response (28 April)

Robert KnightAustralian Progressives

(Disclosure, Robert was formerly the Deputy Chair of the PTCBR)

G’day Damien and the PTCBR committee,
It’s a great pleasure to be able to respond to a topic I’m so passionate about. In response to your questions:
1. Unequivocally, yes. I believe the light rail is an incredibly important piece of infrastructure for Canberra’s future development. If elected, I would continue my fierce advocacy for a comprehensive light rail system creating the backbone of an integrated active and public transport network.
2. The National Capital Authority has a critical role in upholding the importance and management of nationally significant land, and institutions. I would seek to ensure the NCA is adequately resourced, and it’s mission refined to work more intimately with the ACT government on a coherent planning strategy.
3. Transport connections between regional NSW and the ACT is riven with legal and technical issues which create constant roadblocks to coherent public transport solutions. If elected I would seeks to identify each of these issues and find workable solutions to allow for the extension of existing bus services and, ultimately, rail services including light rail.
4. The way I see it, the major impacts on the ACT from nearby population increases in NSW consist of those on our transport infrastructure, health system, and education system from the users of those who are not ACT ratepayers. For that reason I would work to ensure federal funding is aimed at appreciating Canberra as a regional hub. From an environmental perspective, I think it is critical that Canberra and the surrounding local government areas work together to create a coherent and coordinated regional strategic plan dealing with urban planning, municipal services, environmental protection, and infrastructure provision.
5. Yes. Linked with my response to questions 3 and 4, I think it’s important that Canberra and surrounding local government areas work together to treat the area as a coherent functioning region. The border doesn’t act as a barrier to individuals living their lives in both NSW and the ACT, so our governance arrangements should behave the same way.
6. Yes. As part of a coherent regional strategy, a more comprehensive set of transport infrastructure is important in reducing the impacts of congestion, and non-sustainable transport choices.
7. The Australian Progressives believe our national transport focus should shift towards more sustainable choices. This translates into a focus on electrically powered, rail based public transport, both in an urban setting as well as inter-city. We also believe in a closer focus on active based transport development, closely integrated with well funded, rapid, and frequent public transport options in our towns and cities.
Thanks again for this opportunity, and I hope the members of PTCBR enjoy my response. Let them know I’m available for any questions via email at: canberra@progressives.org.au

Second response  (29 Apr)

Therese Faulkner – Australian Progressives

Hi Damien – lovely to hear from you, and thanks for your questions.  Please see my responses below, which accord with Australian Progressives policies:

  1. If elected, will you support light rail stage two and future light rail stages in Canberra?  Absolutely yes.  There may also be a case for investment in heavy rail for Tuggeranong and beyond down the track (pardon the pun).  This would be worth a feasibility study once we get past stage two of the light rail.
  2. What are your views on the role of the National Capital Authority? Would you increase the NCA’s federal funding or would you abolish it and handover all planning controls to the ACT Government?  I would like to see a review of the nexus between the NCA and ACT Government, with a view to having these two entities appropriately defined and resourced to be able to work collaboratively on planning and development within the parliamentary triangle and its fringes.
  3. How would you improve public transport connections between Canberra and regional NSW cities and towns?  The Australian Progressives support a national passenger rail network, including connections between Canberra, other major cities, and eventually regional NSW cities and towns. Noting that this is a long-term vision, in the shorter term I would look to establish a consultative forum comprising representatives from local, state and federal governments and bureaucracies, with a view to working together to establish better public transport linkages within this region – starting with improved bus services and then extending to rail.
  4. What is your parties’ view on ensuring ACT residents are not carrying the financial and environmental costs of the significant population increases in nearby NSW?   The Australian Progressives would work to ensure Canberra is considered as a regional hub from federal and state government perspectives, and lobby hard to ensure funding appropriate to such an important regional centre is provided by the federal and NSW state governments.  We believe that the ACT Government and the surrounding local NSW municipalities must work together to develop and implement a strategic plan to ensure that urban planning, municipal services, environmental protection, and infrastructure provision meets the needs of this wider community.
  5. Would you advocate for federal funding for the ACT light rail to be extended into Queanbeyan CBD?  Yes – this is consistent with the position that Canberra is an important regional hub within south-eastern NSW, and a centre for jobs and services which therefore requires good public transport links.  The extension of light rail into Queanbeyan would be a logical first step in providing such links.
  6. Would you advocate for dedicated bus lanes combined with park and ride facilities near the main Queanbeyan roads into the territory?  Yes – again, this is consistent with the positions set out in response to previous questions.  The provision of dedicated bus lanes combined with park and ride facilities can be a relatively quick and inexpensive way to improve public transport services within this region.
  7. What are your other policies on public transport and planning?  The Australian Progressives believe our national transport focus should shift towards more sustainable choices.  We would like to see well-funded, rapid, and frequent public transport options in our towns and cities, and an increase in electrically powered, rail-based public transport, both in urban settings as well as inter-city.

Kind regards

Therese

Therese Faulkner

Australian Progressives Candidate for Bean

www.facebook.com/therese4bean

Third response (3rd May)  Andrew Leigh – ALP

 

Dear Damien

Thanks for the email and thanks for all your hard work at PTCBR. This sounds like a fantastic initiative and I am more than happy to help. I have answered your questions below, but please don’t hesitate to get in touch if I can help with anything else. I look forward to seeing the results!

  1. If elected, will you support light rail stage two and future light rail stages in Canberra?
  2. Labor has committed $200 million to the second stage of Canberra’s light rail project. This will play a critical role in significantly reducing traffic congestion for residents of the City’s south. It will create hundreds of jobs and ensure that people are able to move swiftly through the city. We are committed to ensuring Canberrans have access to fast, reliable and affordable public transport and look forward to working with the ACT government as it continues to roll-out this fantastic initiative.
  3. What are your views on the role of the National Capital Authority? Would you increase the NCA’s federal funding or would you abolish it and handover all planning controls to the ACT Government?
  4. Labor greatly values the role of the NCA. The NCA will continue to play that important role in the development of the Nation’s Capital under a Shorten Labor Government.
  5. How would you improve public transport connections between Canberra and regional NSW cities and towns?
  6. Labor has committed to improve road safety and reduce traffic congestion by investing almost $250 million to progress the full duplication of the Barton Highway between Murrumbateman and the NSW/ACT border. The Barton Highway is used by 12,500 vehicles a day, including about 1,000 trucks. This commitment means Federal Labor stands ready to invest $100 million more in this important project than would be delivered by a re-elected Morrison Government. Increasing traffic volumes have led to increasing levels of traffic accidents on the highway, so a Shorten Labor Government would work with the New South Wales Government to expedite the duplication in the interests of road safety. The project would also boost productivity by facilitating quicker movement of road freight around the region. A longer list of Labor’s ACT/NSW infrastructure projects is below.
  7. What is your parties’ view on ensuring ACT residents are not carrying the financial and environmental costs of the significant population increases in nearby NSW?
  8. The ACT government is doing an excellent job investing in infrastructure in the ACT. A Shorten Labor Government will continue to support the ACT in this critical area, such as through our investments in light rail and roads. The fact that so many people want to live in or around the ACT shows that we are clearly on the right track!
  9. Would you advocate for federal funding for the ACT light rail to be extended into Queanbeyan CBD?
  10. The ACT Government has a fantastic plan for its roll-out of light rail in the ACT. A Federal Labor Government will invest $200 million in stage two and looks forward to working collaboratively with the ACT Government as it implements the future stages of its plan.
  11. Would you advocate for dedicated bus lanes combined with park and ride facilities near the main Queanbeyan roads into the territory?
  12. A Shorten Labor Government will establish a $300 million National Park and Ride Fund for new or expanded car parks at public transport hubs, such as train stations. Labor backs public transport – it’s good for commuters and it eases congestion on our roads. But too many residents in our cities and major regional areas are frustrated at the lack of available parking at train and bus stations as they travel into the city for work. I’ll be making sure the ACT gets its fair share of this funding to make commuting easier and ease congestion on our roads.
  13. What are your other policies on public transport and planning?
  14. We have many! We will build on the record of the previous Labor government which doubled road funding across Australia; rebuilt a third of the interstate rail freight network; and committed to more urban public transport infrastructure than every previous Federal Government combined. We will create thousands of jobs nationally with new work in every state and territory.
  15. Labor’s major infrastructure projects for the ACT and New South Wales include:
  16.          Canberra Light Rail Stage Two: Labor will reduce traffic congestion for residents of the City’s south with a $200 million investment towards the Stage II construction of Canberra’s Light Rail project.
  17.       Dunns Creek Road (NSW/ACT): Labor will invest $67.5 million to build the Dunns Creek Road, a key piece of regional infrastructure for residents of Queanbeyan, Googong and Jerrabomberra.

iii.      Nowra Bridge: Labor has committed $155 million towards building a second bridge in Nowra to improve road safety and boost local productivity.

  1.       Western Sydney Airport Rail: Labor will commit a total of $3 billion to Western Sydney Rail connecting the Sydney rail network with the new Western Sydney Airport, whilst reducing congestion and dependence on cars. Link
  2.       Sydney Metro West: Labor will commit $3 billion to Sydney Metro West, which will double the rail capacity between Parramatta and the CBD. Link
  3.       Central Coast Roads Rescue Package: Labor will fast-track $60 million worth of road works planned for the New South Wales Central Coast to ease traffic congestion and improve road safety.

vii.      Singleton Bypass: Labor will contribute $250 million towards construction of the Singleton Bypass on the New England Highway.

  1. Labor will implement a comprehensive plan for housing affordability and housing supply.
  2.          Across Australia, Labor will build 250,000 new affordable rental homes over the next decade in partnership with the community housing sector for Australians on low and moderate incomes. We will also ensure that 1 in 10 employees engaged in building new housing stock under our scheme are apprentices.
  3.       Labor will reform negative gearing so that deductions can only be claimed on newly built homes, which will increase new housing supply and support jobs. We will reform the capital gains tax concession and allow existing investors to maintain their current CGT and negative gearing entitlements. There will be no retrospective taxation or impost on existing investors.

iii.      Labor will create a viable Build to Rent sector in Australia – giving institutional investors better tax concessions; encouraging more construction; and stimulating the housing market. We will do this by cutting the managed investment trust withholding rate in half from 30 per cent to 15 per cent to encourage new housing supply.

  1.       Labor will establish a new and independent COAG Economic Reform Council that will be given the autonomy to examine, track and report to COAG on long-term reform priorities, including on housing affordability and supply.

Thanks again for getting in touch.

Andrew Leigh.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Andrew Leigh

Federal Member for Fenner

Shadow Assistant Treasurer

Shadow Minister for Competition and Productivity

Shadow Minister for Trade in Services

Shadow Minister for Charities and Not-for-Profits

 

Response number 4 – (9 may 2019) Tony Hanley – UAP candidate for Bean

Hi Damien,

I would like to see the NATIONAL APPROACH ROUTES – CANBERRA AV. BARTON HIGHWAY – As Walter Burley Griffin, envisioned it to be a grand gateway. This is a Federal Issue.

The light rail went to the wrong Town Centre, as it has no major white collar; Employment base. But we need to move on now, long term I do not believe it will be utilised. Will see in Winter, “I guess! but I always applaud leaders that actually do things. More pertinent – Northbourne Av. Now looks like the dogs breakfast. Lime stone Ave. and others are gridlocked. Policy on the run, is always bad. I think it’s just matter of time before will have flashing Boom gates, and some major car Rail crashes (I drive daily for my work – and too many people don sunglasses and have tinted windows) just for one of many examples. Panel beaters have a roaring trade here. There are new innovations on low cost over passes. That allow Kangaroos, wild life to pass over as against them being culled. There is No more culling required as kangaroos dictate on multi plying, depending on climate conditions. I have an expert with ten thousand signatures to submit to Parliament.

The next stage of light rail has to be to Tuggeranong (not Woden) which is connectivity ideas I have from a main exchange shooting off to both Weston Creek -Coombes and Woden.  I grew up in Weston Creek and it’s easy to walk cycle plus new innovations adopted), under tunnels, using the latest in transport.  We need to stall all things at the moment, as just around the corner are better options being invented now. The local ACT Gov. has created a two class, society here and are treasonous to the “Spirit, essence and very Foundation of why Canberra was conceived. Barr (Libs V ALP) “biting the hand that feeds it” has eroded away Public Servants Department away to Regional areas.  If ALP’s Negative gearing policy comes in, the ACT Housing market “will crash like a lead balloon”. It is not sustainable.

The ACT road designers have endangered cyclists lives, (Adelaide Av. For one) and turned us into a UK – Cotswold village and is just hopeless in all respects.

Plus, I would like to see (after 9pm) most Traffic lights to go to flashing amber mode and normal road rules applied.

I would foster APS swap job plans (car-pooling etc.) in the APS – to minimise car use at peak times to stop the gridlock at peak hours.

Tony Hanley “the NUMBER ONE AUSTRALIAN “by a Country Mile.

Response number 5 – (13 May 2019) ACT Greens

Dear Damien

Thank you for your emails to our Greens candidates with questions about our policy positions. I attach a detailed response on behalf of:
Tim Hollo
Penny Kyburz
Emma Davidson
Andrew Braddock
Johnathan Davis
We would appreciate it if this response could be posted with attribution to our candidates. Their Facebook pages are:
Kind regards
Adele Doust
Party Director
ACT Greens 

ACT Greens position on transport and planning issues for the Public Transport Association Canberra
13 May 2019
If elected, will you support light rail stage two and future light rail stages in Canberra?
Yes.
Light rail not only provides an excellent public transport option, it also attracts development to transport corridors, helping Canberra grow in a smart and sustainable way.
The ACT Greens have advocated for light rail for decades. As balance of power holders following the 2012 election, we were at last able to secure a Government commitment to building stage one of light rail for Canberra.
The Greens advocated for stage 2 of light rail at the 2016 election, and secured its planning and development through a parliamentary agreement with the Labor Party.
A key part of the ACT Greens’ long-term vision is to have a high quality public transport spine right across Canberra. We support extending light rail in stages, in line with a light rail masterplan, to ensure all parts of Canberra can use the network.
Work developing Stage 2 of Canberra’s light rail network is currently underway. Stage 2 will extend light rail from the City to Woden, creating a North-South light rail spine connecting Gungahlin to Woden.
What are your views on the role of the National Capital Authority? Would you increase the NCA’s federal funding or would you abolish it and handover all planning controls to the ACT Government?
The National Capital Authority plays an important role in protecting the national interest in planning for the inner areas of Canberra and should be funded sufficiently to carry out this role. It has been disappointing to see the Federal Government using the NCA’s planning role to facilitate the privatisation of the East and West Blocks in the Parliamentary Precinct. Privatisation of important national land is unacceptable. The NCA should also be funded to pursue national heritage listing of the lake and surrounding nationally-significant areas.

The Greens have announced their plan to restore the public service to 2013 staffing levels and put a cap on the use of consultants and contractors. This would restore resources across the federal public service, including the National Capital Authority.

The Federal election is an important opportunity to improve local oversight of the work of the National Capital Authority. A Green member of the Federal Parliament’s Joint Standing Committee on the National Capital and External Territories would push for the NCA to be better engaged with and more accountable to the needs of people living in the ACT.

How would you improve public transport connections between Canberra and regional NSW cities and towns?
The ACT Greens policy platform calls for the following on interstate transport:
Improved integration and connections to interstate transport hubs, improved services to regional heavy rail passenger stations, and proactive engagement with other jurisdictions to improve the sustainability and affordability outcomes of regional transport
The ACT Government to actively support the creation of a national high-speed rail network that incorporates Canberra
The ACT Greens understand that these connections will require a mix of different public transport solutions.
The Australian Greens have called for the construction of publicly funded and publicly owned high- speed rail from Brisbane to Melbourne. Depending on the route chosen, this could connect Canberra to Goulburn and possibly Yass.
The connection to Queanbeyan should be served by light rail, bus rapid transit or an alternative ‘trunk’ technology such as trackless trams.
Bus services for regional towns like Cooma need to be improved substantially as commuting is growing but services are currently not designed for commuters.
The extremely high fares from Queanbeyan, Murrumbateman and Yass to Canberra also need to be reduced.
What is your parties’ view on ensuring ACT residents are not carrying the financial and environmental costs of the significant population increases in nearby NSW?

The ACT Greens understand that there is a need for greater cooperation between all levels of Government to sustainably support the region’s growing population. Thanks to the Greens, the ACT is a model of ambitious investment in sustainable energy and infrastructure.

The Federal Government needs to play a stronger role, including:

• Federal Government funding support to deliver cross-border public transport infrastructure
between Canberra and Queanbeyan
• Adequate Federal funding for Landcare and catchment management groups, which work across the ACT/NSW border on water quality and habitat.
• Fixing the water-management mess in the Murray Darling Basin, of which Canberra and Queanbeyan are part
In 2016, the Australian Greens secured an additional $100 million in funding for Landcare.
Electing Greens to the Federal Parliament in 2019,will help to extend the ‘water trigger’ in our national environmental protection laws to cover all forms of gas extraction and protect farmers and their water sources. It will also support the Greens in standing up to corruption in the Murray Darling basin to stop water theft and return more water to the river.
Would you advocate for federal funding for the ACT light rail to be extended into Queanbeyan CBD?
Yes.
The Greens believe that the Federal, ACT and NSW Governments should work together to deliver mass rapid transit such as light rail, bus rapid transit or another technology between Canberra and Queanbeyan. Queanbeyan was part of the 2016 ACT Light Rail Network Plan, which we support.
The Greens recognise that there is a need to address the extremely high cost of public transport connections from Canberra to Queanbeyan and other regional centres.
Would you advocate for dedicated bus lanes combined with park and ride facilities near the main Queanbeyan roads into the territory?
Yes.
The Greens believe that the Federal, ACT and NSW Governments should work together to deliver light rail, bus rapid transit or another technology between Canberra and Queanbeyan. Park and Ride facilities would be an important part of delivering mass rapid transit between Canberra and Queanbeyan.
What are your other policies on public transport and planning?
The Greens have a strong track record of supporting public transport over many years. This includes the Australian Greens commitment to the construction of high-speed rail and the ACT Greens commitment to light rail and more funding for bus services. The Greens also support strong investment in public infrastructure to make walking and cycling safe and accessible.
Complete information about the Greens public transport policy is available here: https://greens.org.au/platform/renewables#public-transport
Information about the Greens policies for the ACT, including transport policies, can be found here: https://greens.org.au/sites/default/files/2018-06/Community_First_-_Our_Platform.pdf
The Australian Greens 2019 platform can be found here: https://greens.org.au/policies

Public Transport Association of Canberra pleased that light rail stage two can now proceed through the Parliamentary Zone, after the JSCNCET issues its report on Commonwealth approvals for ACT light rail

IMG_20180625_121449366.jpgThe Public Transport Association of Canberra (PTCBR) has welcomed today’s release of the Joint Standing Committee on the National Capital and External Territories’ (JSCNET) report on Commonwealth and Parliamentary approvals for the proposed stage 2 of the ACT light rail project, arguing that the report provides much-needed certainty around the second stage of Canberra’s most important infrastructure project.

Download the full JSCNCET report on ‘Commonwealth approvals for ACT light rail’ here

Read the PTCBR submission to the JSCNCET Inquiry here

The PTCBR made a submission to this inquiry and gave evidence at a public hearing earlier in the year, addressing the heritage and approvals process.

“We are happy see the committee make a number of common-sense recommendations around the design and approvals processes for light rail stage 2” Mr Damien Haas, Chair of the PTCBR said.

“The timely release of the committee’s report means that the ACT Government can get on with the job of delivering the crucial next stage of Canberra’s city-shaping light rail network”.

The six recommendations made in the JSCNET report cover a range of issues, including heritage, urban design and approvals processes. Recommendation 2 of the report outlines a two-stage Commonwealth approval process for light rail stage 2, involving:

  1. An amendment to the National Capital Plan; and
  2. NCA Works Approval and other Commonwealth approval processes, including Parliamentary Approval.

The PTCBR agrees with the committee that this is the most appropriate way forward, and will continue to strongly advocate for light rail stage 2 throughout the remainder of the public consultation processes.

Mr Haas said “Importantly the Committees report means that the NCA and the ACT Government can resume working on a light rail route through the Parliamentary Zone that can serve the people of Canberra, service national institutions and satisfy heritage concerns.”

“When people visiting Canberra in future years travel by light rail to visit the nations treasured institutions, they will be more able to appreciate how beautiful our capital is, than focusing on the road and looking for a carparking space.”

The PTCBR look forward to the next steps for light rail stage two:

  • the Governments response to the report
  • a route through the Parliamentary Zone being identified by the NCA and ACT Government,
  • a National Capital Plan amendment prepared, and
  • the business case for Woden to Civic light rail finalised,
  • followed by work commencing on extending our light rail network.

Damien Haas is the Chair of the Public Transport Association of Canberra, the regions peak public transport lobby group representing Canberra’s public transport users.

ACT Government announce City to Woden light rail planning well underway

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Media release from TCCS Minister Meegan Fitzharris MLA:

City to Woden light rail planning well underway

Planning for light rail from the City to Woden is well underway, with the ACT Government releasing a mid‑year update on stage 2.

The ACT Government is committed to constructing light rail between Gungahlin and Woden via the City, Parkes and Barton as the backbone of its vision for a city-wide integrated public transport network. The government reaffirmed its commitment to developing light rail stage 2 with $12.5 million invested in progressing the project through the 2018-19 financial year.

The ACT Government expects to make a final investment decision in respect of stage 2 once greater clarity is achieved on the Commonwealth Government’s support for the project and any associated planning requirements.

Minister for Transport and City Services Meegan Fitzharris said the next steps for the project included developing the design in close consultation with the National Capital Authority (NCA), making planning and environmental submissions, and undertaking further community and stakeholder consultation on the project. The project will also be considered by a Commonwealth Parliamentary committee inquiry in the coming days.

“Light rail from the Gungahlin to Woden will create a north-south public transport spine for Canberra, significantly improving transport accessibility in our region. Stage 2 from the City to Woden via Barton will cater for growing population and employment adjacent to the light rail corridor.

“The ACT Government is acutely aware of the national significance of many locations along the City to Woden corridor, particularly within the Parliamentary Zone.

“The design of the light rail alignment, stops and other features is being carefully managed to respect and enhance the heritage value of these locations.

“For example, as well as wire-free running, thought is being given to the simplified stops near landmarks such as Old Parliament House to reflect this iconic location. We are also considering other elements such as grassed tracks, similar to that in operation in Adelaide, to conceal the rail within the landscape of the national boulevard.

“Windsor Walk is also proposed to be revitalised to become a central linear park and continuous pedestrian spine connecting transport facilities, offices, a proposed retail plaza and landscaped recreational areas.

“Light rail will also revitalise the Woden Town Centre, by enhancing amenity and safety, improving access to the shopping district and employment hubs and increasing property values.

“Light rail stage 2 supports the revitalisation of suburbs along the corridor, creating more vibrant, community-focused, active and modern precincts.”

Minister Fitzharris said the ACT Government’s investment decision will be guided by a final business case for the project in coming months.

“Our business case can be finalised once we’ve worked through approval processes with the NCA and Commonwealth Government. However initial costings have been developed and are currently anticipated to be in the region of $1.3 to $1.6 billion.

“This is commensurate with the original cost estimates for the first stage of light rail, escalated to future dollars and reflecting additional costs associated with bridges, wire-free running, additional light rail vehicles and other factors.

“At this stage, we are looking to achieve approval of the business case in 2018-19, procurement in 2019-20, before construction would ultimately commence in 2020-21. Of course our timeframes will depend on Commonwealth support for the project, and associated planning requirements.”

Minister Fitzharris said the Joint Standing Committee Inquiry currently underway provides the ACT Government with an exciting opportunity to explain how light rail benefits Canberrans while supporting the Commonwealth Government’s national objectives and plans for the Parliamentary Zone.

“Light rail from the City to Woden will not only enhance access to the precinct, but will serve to demonstrate the Commonwealth Government’s commitment to our cities through its support of a modern, well integrated mass transit solution, helping to make our nation’s capital an even more liveable and sustainable city.

“The ACT Government will continue to work closely with the Commonwealth to progress these planning approvals,” said Minister Fitzharris.

The full mid-year update can be accessed from the TCCS website at: http://www.transport.act.gov.au/news-and-events/items/june-2018/city-to-woden-light-rail-provides-for-canberras-future

Statement Ends

Light-Rail-Map-Civic-to-Woden-preferred-route

PTCBR submission to the Federal government on Woden light rail stage two

act lr hand drawnThe federal government Joint Standing Committee on the National Capital and External Territories is holding an inquiry into the ACT Governments light rail stage two project, from Civic to Woden via the Parliamentary Triangle.

The PTCBR have made a submission encouraging the Committee to recommend that the project proceed, and supporting the strong working relationship between the National Capital Authority and the ACT Government.

Read the PTCBR submission here

In launching the new inquiry, Chair of the Committee Mr Ben Morton MP said, “the land around the Federal Parliament is an important space for all Australians, and it is therefore appropriate that the Parliament has a role in ensuring that any proposals for change preserve this significance. The inquiry will also provide the ACT Government with an early indication of the Parliament’s view of its proposal.”

The Joint Standing Committee page on the Inquiry is here

The full terms of reference are:

The Joint Standing Committee on the National Capital and External Territories will inquire into and report on the development of stage two of the Australian Capital Territory light rail project, with regard to:

  1. the relevant parliamentary approval processes for works within the Parliamentary zone;
  2. the roles of the National Capital Authority and the Australian Government, and the associated approval processes;
  3. possible impacts on the Parliamentary zone and Parliamentary precincts, including any impacts on the heritage values and national importance of the Parliamentary zone and our national capital; and
  4. the identification of matters that may be of concern prior to formal parliamentary or Australian Government consideration of the project; and
  5. any other relevant matter the Committee wishes to examine.

Read the PTCBR media release on this Inquiry here

Media reports are here and here and here. The common theme is that Canberra Liberal Senator Zed Seselja believes that light rail along Commonwealth Avenue would create some form of commuting disaster. Senator Seselja has opposed light rail from the outset. It should be noted that Senator Seselja is not a member of the Committee assessing the light rail project.

This public transport project was supported at the 2016 ACT Assembly election, and community consultation since then has resulted in a route design that travels through Parkes and Barton, serving national attractions and many federal government departments and agencies. This second stage of light rail will link up the many accommodation providers located along Northbourne Avenue and around EPIC, enabling visitors to the  nations capital to visit national attractions, and Parliament itself, by public transport.

The PTCBR strongly believe that it is the best public transport option for ACT residents, employees in the Parliamentary zone, and business and tourism visitors to Canberra.

To stay up to date with all public transport and planning issues in Canberra, join the PTCBR here and visit our Facebook Group.

PTCBR encourage the federal government to support better public transport for the nations capital

Media release by the PTCBR May 11 2018
PTCBR encourage the federal government to support better public transport for the nations capital

The Public Transport Association of Canberra (PTCBR) are disappointed that Federal Parliament has decided to interfere in the provision of better public transport for Canberrans.

While all infrastructure projects should be subjected to scrutiny, the PTCBR would be disappointed if the Joint Standing Committee on the National Capital and External Territories went beyond the inquiries terms of reference and politicised a standard public transport project.

The ACT Government and the NCA have collaborated closely since 2016 on this project, and now in 2018 when the business case should be out and tenders being prepared, the process has been delayed by an unusual intervention by federal parliament into urban public transport.

The PTCBR hope that Prime Minister Turnbull, a well known public transport user and supporter, can persuade his fellow parliamentarians to support and endorse this project.

It will improve the transport options for all Canberrans, and open up the national attractions in the Parliamentary Triangle to all Australians that visit the nations capital city.

The lack of investment by the federal government into Canberra’s public transport is a topic that should be discussed, instead parliament decide to investigate a project wholly funded by the citizens of Canberra.

We hope that the inquiry concludes quickly, that the committee is satisfied with the work performed to date by the NCA and the ACT Government, and that the business case for Canberras second stage of light rail can be released as soon as possible.

The PTCBR hope that this process is not used to politicise a project that has been supported by Canberra voters at two consecutive ACT Territory elections.

Damien Haas is the Chair of the Public Transport Association of Canberra, the Canberra regions peak public transport lobby group.