POST ELECTION OPINIONS
Letter, The Canberra Times, September 15 2019 from Rolfe Hartley, Bruce
Stage 2a and beyond of Canberra's light rail network hold some significant challenges.
How do we raise the level of London Circuit to match Commonwealth Avenue? How does the tram cross the lake in a cost-effective manner? How can the Parliamentary Triangle be serviced effectively without running tracks and overhead wires past some of our national institutions?
The answer may be right in front of us; the Trackless Tram. Already operating in China, the Trackless Tram is a vehicle very similar to our own red trams, but with no rails or overhead wires. It runs on a conventional road and is powered by rechargeable batteries. It can operate autonomously using a GPS based guidance system, but it can also be driven manually on existing roads. Modern hydraulics give it a smooth and quiet ride quality.
Imagine this. The Trackless Tram leaves the city and crosses the lake on the existing Commonwealth Avenue bridge without the need for a third structure. It moves past Old Parliament House without the need for rails and overhead cables. It then reverts to a dedicated roadway in the median of Adelaide Avenue for a high-speed trip to Woden and beyond. In addition, the future network uses it to provide other services, such as City to Airport, at a fraction of the cost of a conventional tram.
The Trackless Tram is currently the subject of a case study for possible introduction in Townsville. Is this the chance to really demonstrate that Canberra is indeed the 'Clever Capital'?
Letter, The Canberra Times, September 12 2019 from Dave Jeffrey, Farrer ACT
On Tuesday, September 10, my wife and I made a decision to travel on the tram to Gungahlin for lunch.
From door to door it took us one hour and 18 minutes.
The bus to Civic was uneventful but the next few minutes was a shocker. The 50-metre walk to the tram via two sets of walk lights took approximately six minutes.
The tram was waiting. We had just turned to board the tram when it set off without any discernible warning.
About 10 people were left standing. One person was actually pressing the "door open" button, when off it departed.
On boarding the next tram, I asked the conductor/cabin person why passengers would be left stranded. His response was "we ring the bell (not heard at rear of tram) and we have a schedule to keep!"
The tram ride itself was comfortable, smooth and quiet. Not quite the same on the return journey when school kids took over!
Where was the conductor/cabin person?
Overall an interesting outing. The lunch was pleasant. Gungahlin was like a ghost town, and the tram experience was not unpleasant after a bad start.
I'm glad our trip was free (Seniors) as the journey by car would have taken about 25 minutes, and probably cost less than paying the normal fare.
Letter, The Canberra Times, September 9 2019 from Kevin Cox, Ngunnawal
I am a frequent, and satisfied, user of the light rail and bus system, but it can be improved. One improvement is to incorporate private cars into my trips.
Uber and OLA have shown there are a large number of private cars available to take me, but they are too expensive because they typically only take me plus the driver. Insurance, capital costs and operator costs make up about 50 per cent of the fare and the money goes to people outside Canberra.
We can make many of these local trips much cheaper and socially acceptable with neighbourhood not-for-profit cooperatives. We could incorporate the co-ops into the public transport network with the MyWay Card. The co-ops could police the antisocial behaviour of passengers and drivers.
Costs would likely come down because multiple people can use a single car. The information, insurance, and capital costs would be localised and the money would stay in Canberra. The rapid transport and light rail network would get more passengers and become more cost-effective.
We could further reduce the cost by allowing the local cooperatives to fund the capital costs of the rapid and light-rail network. Co-op members could get a return on investment with lower-cost fares.
Letter, The Canberra Times, September 9 2019 from Leon Arundell, Downer
Chris Steel is the ACT's first Minister for Active Travel.
How will he make up the lost ground on the government's walking targets?
In 2001 walking accounted for only 4 per cent of journeys to work. The Sustainable Transport Plan and the Transport For Canberra plan aimed to increase this to 6 per cent by 2011 and 6.5 per cent by 2016. They made it less than half way to the 2016 target. Both plans endorsed a target of 7 per cent by 2026.
Former transport minister Meegan Fitzharris said that she wanted to make Canberra the walking capital of Australia.
In March of this year she installed pedestrian signals across the light rail tracks. These signals show red during every cycle of the adjacent road traffic signals, irrespective of whether or not a tram is approaching. A red pedestrian signal means a one-in-three chance that a tram is approaching.
The signals discourage walking because they cause unnecessary delays, and because they threaten pedestrians with fines for safely crossing the tracks.
Chris Steel became Transport Minister in June. At the start of Rail Safety Week, a pedestrian was seriously injured by a tram at one of these crossings.
Instead of fixing the signals, the government fined dozens of pedestrians.
Now that he is Minister for Active Travel, will Chris Steel fix the pedestrian signals across the light rail tracks?
Letter, The Canberra Times, September 6 2019 from Byam Wight, Kingston
I refer to Robert Knight's letter regarding his comments on the stationary tram at the Gungahlin tram station. (Letters, September 4). What a strange letter, I'm still not quite sure what his point is, but regarding his constant paragraph ending remark "with the doors closed" I can possibly answer it the following way:
It is winter. That means it is cold. The doors were closed to keep the cold weather out. To gain entry you simply press the button next to the door and it will open for you. I hope that helps.
Letter, The Canberra Times, September 6 2019 from Neil Richards, Bonner
In response to Robert Knight's 'Tramspotting' expedition (Letters, September 4).
Rather than aimlessly wandering around Gungahlin looking for a tram, it may be more fruitful to search out a Train or LRV as they are known.
On spotting the train (LRV) you may notice the buttons on the door. If you press one of these buttons you can board the train until moments before departure.
Also, much like the stations in famous railway cities around the globe like North Haverbrook or Ogdenville, you will notice the stations along Canberra's light rail have electronic boards notifying passengers of the departure time of the next train.
Give it a go, riding Canberra's rail network isn't nearly as difficult as it might seem.
Letter, The Canberra Times, September 4 2019 from Robert Knight, Bungendore
I had to visit Gungahlin on Monday morning. I decided to have a look at the tram station and the tram. I did not want to travel on the tram.
I approached the tram station from the front of the tram in full view of the driver. As I neared the front of the tram the doors closed. I expected the tram to move off. Not so.
I walked along the platform and looked at the ticketing equipment, read the instructions and the tram stayed there with the doors closed.
I walked along the platform and around to the other side and looked to see what was there. the tram stayed there with the doors closed.
I walked back to the tram and noticed the bike signage and looked into the tram to see what facilities there were for bikes. I also noticed the passengers all with their heads down looking at their mobile phones. The tram stayed there with the doors closed.
I started to walk back to the front of the tram and a bell rang. I thought the tram would move off. Not so. The tram stayed there with the doors closed.
I walked back to the building and, as I neared the doors, the bell rang again. I looked back expecting the tram to move off. Not so. It stayed there with the doors closed .
A lady about to walk across the tram tracks stopped also expecting the tram to move off. The tram stayed there with the doors closed. A little later, without any warning, the tram started moving.
It would have been about three minutes from the doors closing to when the tram moved off. If I was wishing to board the tram I would have been very annoyed.
I have seen the videos off people walking in front of the tram and could not believe why they would do so, however after my experience at Gungahlin I can understand why.
There are no lights or other signage to indicate if a person can cross safely or not. It appears you must take your chances.
Letter, The Canberra Times, September 4 2019 from Dawn Penman, Palmerston
Greens spokeswoman Caroline Le Couteur has called public transport users living in the areas from Gungahlin to Civic "privileged". In fact, it ain't roses up here either.
I'm in a Gungahlin suburb one removed from the rail line. Like Peter of Belconnen (Letters, August 13), I'm making the change from lifetime bus commuting to a gas-guzzling, congestion-increasing private car. It's against my values, but the dysfunctional bus plus rail system has broken me. I'm lighting a candle for my environmentalist sensibilities.
My public transport commute has gone from 35 to 45 minutes before light rail to 60 to 90 minutes. The line "Gungahlin to Civic in 19 minutes" ignores the rather elaborate process of getting to and from the train via a bus "connection" that rarely connects.
A bad trip might comprise half an hour on the train, half an hour butt-freezing at a bus stop waiting in hope for a connection that does not arrive at the advertised time, and another 15-20-minute bus trip.
Unless northerners in the "privileged" corridor live within walking distance of a light rail stop their lives have probably been complicated by the bus route changes as much as everyone else.
Does that mean the real privileged class are the people living right along the train line itself? Well, no. Arguably they're not doing so great either.
There are no longer any buses from the outer Gungahlin suburbs to Civic; all the buses channel us onto the train. Everyone who wants to take public transport to Civic is getting on that one train line. Do the maths. The train leaves the terminus each and every day with standing room only (including well before and after peak hour), and everyone downstream has to pack in like little sardines.
This can be fixed. Reverse the bus route changes, or go back to the drawing board and try again. Allow public transport commuters in outer suburbs a real choice between direct bus and bus plus rail to the centre. The light rail could then comfortably service those in its natural high-density catchment area along the corridor, and I can go back to being a bleeding heart, pro-public-transport leftie.
Letter, The Canberra Times, August 28 2019 from Sue Dyer, Downer
Passengers who "flock" to the new rapid public transport services, including the light rail (Rapid 1), have good reason to do so ("ACT light rail 'privilege' ", August 26, p1).
However many others will be looking forward to the transport minister's analysis of and conclusions about the public's post April 29 take up and use over time of local bus services, particularly in suburbs where services across the week were cut after April 29 and off-peak frequencies were not improved for week days, weeknights or weekends.
Hopefully both the minister and the ACT Greens MLAs will also analyse in detail the negative impacts on many in parts of the inner north, and, most likely, parts of Gungahlin too, where the local bus scheduling has created much longer journeys, delays and inconvenience, particularly for those who need to make return journey connections from light rail services to buses in non-peak times and on weekends.
It is fallacious for the government to imply that all is working well between Civic and Gungahlin.
Letter, The Canberra Times, August 28 2019 from Peter Baskett, Murrumbateman, NSW
Your article "ACT light rail 'privilege' " (August 26, p1) reported upon a statement in the ACT Legislative Assembly by Ms Le Couteur. Does that mean her statement was under Parliamentary privilege?
Letter, The Canberra Times, August 27 2019 from Peter Fenton, Karabar
It's beyond my understanding why the interstate bus terminal is located at the Jolimont Centre.
This is one of the entry points to Australia's federal capital. The location on Northbourne Avenue, a very busy road, means stopping or setting down is almost impossible.
As if to make it more difficult, out of approximately 10 parking bays five are taken up by the taxi rank.
To make things worse there is a hotel on the same block. How much better it would be to have the terminal on the Federal Highway just before Northbourne Avenue. There's plenty of land where a decent parking and set down area could be built.
One could catch the light rail or taxi to the CBD. Perhaps it would be logical to also locate the Canberra Tourist Centre there as well. This would free up more space on Northbourne Avenue.
The Jolimont Centre served us well when we were a 'Bush Capital' but it is totally inappropriate for a modern bustling city.
Several weeks ago I had to pick up a friend coming from overseas at about 10 pm and I found to my amazement that the place was closed and I had to stumble in the dark to the back of the centre where the buses park. I felt quite ashamed to welcome my visitor to this sort of place. First impressions are important. Remember the tourist dollar is important for Canberra.
Letter, The Canberra Times, August 24 2019 from Murray Upton, Belconnen
Andrew Barr should hang his head in shame! Infrastructure Australia's audit of our city's roads ("Canberra's worst roads" August 13, p1) not only demonstrates how bad they are currently but expects some of those currently being "improved" to get worse rather than better.
The cause of this crisis is plain to see.
The Barr government's persistent refusal to produce a proper Master Plan for Canberra is the primary cause. This, together with the government's failure to initially build roads capable of carrying the necessary traffic, and their inability to carry out any roadworks within budget or in a timely manner, has sealed the Canberra commuter's fate.
It would have been far more economical for the ACT government to have built William Slim, Gundaroo, and Horse Park Drives properly in the first place. And it will be far more economical in the future if Barr scraps all further expenditure on the nonsensical Woden Tram and puts that money into roads that will aid all Canberran commuters.
Letter, The Canberra Times, August 21 2019 from Steven Hurren, Macquarie
I have received my Annual Rates Assessment Notice from ACT Revenue Office. They have thanked me for my contribution to the community to help fund essential services like hospitals, schools and roads. They forgot to mention my enforced donation to the "inutile", imprudent tram.
Letter, The Canberra Times, August 15 2019 from Michael Catanzariti, Florey
We must feel for the poor guy but how "unusual" is it that a pedestrian is hit by a tram. Given the circumstances it should be of no surprise. According to witnesses he was busy on the phone while crossing the tram line.
It is absolutely ludicrous that some people become totally oblivious and complacent to the surroundings by being deeply engrossed on their phones. This kind of behaviour is dangerous and annoying and should not be overlooked by the lawmakers. it is time governments start reading the lines and consider banning walkers from using their mobiles. Motorists cannot so much look at their phones without being pinched by the police. This form of penalisation should be extended to include careless phone users. The number of people I see glued to their phones during my regular visits to shopping centers is alarming. I had a chuckle recently when I witnessed a woman actually ram the building pillar while busy texting.
Letter, The Canberra Times, August 14 2019 from Mike Quirk, Garran
Andrew Leigh ("ACT short-changed on Federal transport spending": Leigh, canberratimes.com.au, August 11) suggests the Morrison government should co-fund the second stage of light rail.
Infrastructure Australia. the ACT Auditor General and Jon Stanhope have demonstrated the Gungahlin to Civic light rail was provided despite an extremely weak business case. The second stage of light rail to Woden is likely to have less justification.
If Mr Leigh was genuinely concerned about how best to manage the development of Canberra he would not blindly support light rail but would investigate the benefits of bus rapid transport and lobby to increase the dispersal of employment to the town centres in Gungahlin, Woden, Tuggeranong and Belconnen.
Such a strategy could reduce the amount of infrastructure funds necessary to accommodate growth and release funds for the provision of much needed investment in social housing, education, health and disability services, city maintenance and the bus network.
Mr Leigh and other local members, including Senator Seselja, could make a significant contribution by lobbying the ACT and Federal governments to develop a planning and infrastructure strategy that provides the greatest benefit to the community. Light rail, given its low benefit to cost ratio, cannot rationally form part of such a strategy.
Letter, The Canberra Times, August 14 2019 from John Rogers, Cook
We should all feel distressed by the undoubted sufferings of the driver, pedestrian, and passengers involved in Monday's tram accident ("Canberra light rail vehicle hit person ...", canberratimes.com.au, August 12).
At the same time, the fact that tram services had to be replaced by buses between Alinga Street and Dickson shows the inherent inflexibility of rail systems. Not only can trams not be moved to where the demand is (e.g. Bruce Stadium on a Friday evening) but one accident can seriously disrupt the existing routes.
The obvious answer is to forget Stage 2 and bring in electric buses.
Letter, The Canberra Times, August 14 2019 from Steve Blume, Chapman
Re: "Canberra's Worst Roads" (August 13, p1). The article offers a horror headline based on an odd worst case scenario: ". . . if populations grow at the current rate and investment stops".
As though investment would stop. The article then repeats the results of the car and roads culture of Infrastructure Australia. The real question is investment in what?
In no city in this country, or anywhere in the world, ever, has building more roads eased congestion for anything more than very small periods, and then not by much.
The sole effective congestion busting infrastructure is called public transport and charging correct economic values for "free parking". The new bus network and the light rail are a good start in the ACT. If we had a Federal government serious about "congestion busting" we'd have a real infrastructure investment in public transport.
Letter, The Canberra Times, August 13 2019 from Murray May, Cook
Labor MP Andrew Leigh says recent figures show Canberra has been dudded by the federal government on transport spending ("ACT short-changed on federal transport spending: Leigh", canberratimes.com.au, August 11).
Let's hope if the ACT does do better in future that such funds are used on sensible projects such as bus rapid transit, and not money wasters such as stage 2 light rail.
Leigh should listen to former Chief Minister, Jon Stanhope, who recently stated that given the very low benefit-cost ratio (BCR) for Light Rail Stage 1 "no fiscally responsible government would or should have proceeded with the project, just wait until you see the business case and BCR for Stage 2".
Letter, The Canberra Times, August 10 2019 from Stan Marks, Hawker
Herman van der Brug (Letters, August 9) notes that the tram hasn't reduced congestion on the roads, which was one of its key objectives. Many other letters to the editor have said that tram travel from the north is actually slower and less convenient, apart from the few who live near the tram stops. But he nevertheless suggests that it is time to extend the tram - to increase its usefulness, he says. It is the opposite way around. The Gungahlin tram is the least bad leg of all and building the tram to the south is simply putting more good money after bad. It is so bad that the government won't release its business case, if it has one. It has to build it for political reasons (the Greens) but doesn't have a rationale beyond that.
The auditor-general estimates the benefit cost ration for the northern leg is $0.47, as in, we will get 47 cents back for every dollar spent. The southern leg will be worse, especially given the costs associated with crossing the lake. The benefits will be less, as there is already an excellent express bus service from Woden to the city. If we build this and later stages, we will all end up as peasants, to use Jack Palmer's word, because there wont be any money left.
Letter, The Canberra Times, August 9 2019 from Herman van de Brug, Kaleen
I was not a supporter of light rail initially (Mike Quirk - "South doesn't need the tram", Letters, August 8) but now that it's here, we should extend it to increase its usefulness. Traffic congestion in the north has not been helped much at this point, partly because the current route is so short. I also like the proposed Athllon Drive route.
The current piecemeal approach will have us discussing light rail for the next 10 years when the overall cost will also increase significantly. Zed Seselja should be able to divert the $500 million saved on not extending the Australian War Memorial and argue for the rest under the infrastructure program the Reserve Bank has been urging to be expanded to boost economic and wages growth.
Wayne Grant ("Go under, not over lake", Letters, August 7) suggested the route in the Parliamentary Triangle go underground. That would be an expensive option, made more so by the wall of rock under Capital Hill. The age of the rock is of geological significance, perhaps tours of the rock could also be developed as a regular tourist attraction.
Letter, The Canberra Times, August 8 2019 from Mike Quirk, Garran
Herman van de Brug (Send the tram to Tuggeranong, Letters, August 6) is under the misapprehension that a tram to the district would reduce congestion on the Parkway and improve the access of residents to facilities and services.
The provision of light rail, as the experience in Gungahlin demonstrates, does little to reduce traffic congestion or improve access to facilities and services. Most of the population in Gungahlin do not live or work along its route and gain little benefit from its provision. Similarly the intertown public transport route (IPT), along Athllon Drive, is not convenient to the majority of Tuggeranong residents.
Any extension of light rail is unnecessary with the city's transport needs more cost effectively met by bus rapid transport on the IPT route, improving the coverage and frequency of the bus network and the adoption of strategies to reduce the need for travel including incentives to disperse employment and to increase working from home.
It is wishful thinking to suggest extending light rail to Tuggeranong would attract federal funds. The federal government has many higher priorities, as should a responsible ACT government.
Letter, The Canberra Times, August 7 2019 from Melanie Barnes, Wanniassa
As a daily commuter I find the present transport situation in Canberra most frustrating. Since the new tram system was introduced the bus routes have been changed and some routes going directly from outer suburbs to the city have been cut out. Instead, passengers on these routes must follow a system of park and ride.
Understandably this system is designed to limit the volume of traffic; however that means that the bus commuters are now filling up the car parks and some people miss out. I parked on a nature strip next to a line of cars doing the same thing, there were no signs forbidding parking only to return to find a $120 parking fine. This issue is a catalyst caused by the changed bus routes.
The other issue is that the buses and trams become overcrowded with standing room only in peak periods. I catch the bus to save money and then am hit with a $120 fine when believing I was doing the right thing.
Letter, The Canberra Times, August 6 2019 from Herman van de Brug, Kaleen
Jack Kershaw (Letters, July 29) suggested that we preserve our beautiful Commonwealth Avenue for the reasons stated and that stage two light rail proceed over Edinburgh Avenue, Lawson Crescent, Walter Burley Griffin's missing third central lake, State Circle, its cutting and around Adelaide Avenue. I fully agree. By not having to go through Barton, this also reduces travel time to the fast-growing Woden Town Centre, save much needed funds by avoiding Commonwealth Avenue Bridge, surely permit overhead wires (they would hardly be visible) and stage three to Tuggeranong would become a reality earlier.
Let us get rail right across Canberra as soon as practicable, consider better access for the Barton hub at a later stage, reduce congestion on the Tuggeranong Parkway and permit Tuggeranong residents to feel part of the city sooner with better access to education, employment, retail and recreation opportunities. As Tuggeranong is mainly Zed Seselja territory electorally and he is a man of great influence, my proposal should attract much needed Commonwealth funds. It is not up to this relatively small jurisdiction to fund all this and Canberra residents contribute substantially to Commonwealth tax revenue.
Letter, The Canberra Times, August 5 2019 from Penleigh Boyd, Reid
Some people just don't get it. Jon Stanhope wants to commission British sculptor Antony Gormley to construct an "Angel of the South" at the arboretum and current ACT Arts Minister Gordon Ramsay rejects the idea the government has turned philistine pointing out the seats on our trams were designed by an artist ("More cash for public art? Or sledgehammers?" August 3, p4).
Embracing art is not an "add on", it is a way of life and everything this city sets out to achieve should be done artfully. For example, the tram, with its disfiguring and inept overhead wires, is art too. It is just that it is bad art. It does not make bad art better by claiming that the seats were designed by an artist. Talk about lipstick on a pig.
And in Jon Stanhope's time as chief minister, for example, we saw his planners allow views from the city centre west along Alinga Street towards Black Mountain to be built out. What better art could there be in a city than having beautiful views to surrounding hilltops? No amount of "destination art" as now proposed can offset such loss. Until our civic leaders see that all they do is "art" we will always be a visually impoverished city.
Letter, The Canberra Times, July 29 2019 from Tim Field, Red Hill
A recent Canberra Times article highlighted the challenges facing stage two of the light rail, with Andrew Barr saying a major cost would be the need for the tram to be "wire free" in the Parliamentary Zone ("Questions over stage two final costings", July 23, p3). Problems with the steepness of the route were also mentioned. Doesn't this raise the whole issue of the technology proposed? Surely more modern approaches would be more appropriate for this sector of the network. Rubber wheeled, battery powered vehicles could be cheaper and just as effective.
Letter, The Canberra Times, July 29 2019 from Jack Kershaw, Kambah
Commonwealth Avenue is the truly insurmountable problem with the Civic to Woden tram line. There are destructive, expensive, and disruptive construction problems along the avenue's entire length, as well as the loss of nationally significant engineering heritage, superb cultural-landscapes, symmetry, and semiotics, in the finest built precinct in Australia. Briefly, the best lake crossing solution is to take the tram from Civic along Edinburgh Avenue, Lawson Crescent, and Griffin's missing, beautifully curved and arched, third central lake crossing from the outer southern shore of Acton Peninsula to Flynn Drive north (and then up to State Circle, its cutting, and around to Adelaide Avenue).
Letter, The Canberra Times, July 17 2019 from Leon Arundell, Downer
Letter, The Canberra Times, July 25 2019 from Stewart May, Reid
No one would blame Andrew Barr if he finally realised, albeit quite a bit more slowly than most of us, that stage two tram to Woden would be too complicated, too expensive and too slow. Changing the present services to electric buses would be much easier, cheaper, faster and still achieve the desired result of reducing emissions. This would enable a new stage two to Belconnen or along the Tuggeranong Parkway (or even to Russell and the airport), resulting in a very significant reduction in motor vehicle usage.
Letter, The Canberra Times, July 24 2019 from Geoff Nickols, Griffith
So the Greens' feel-good, $1 billion tram, as promised at the last election, gets built more or less on time, but the vital Canberra Hospital expansion promised at the same time is delayed ("Hospital expansion delay", July 22, p1). When are Canberrans going to wake up and get rid of this mob?
Letter, The Canberra Times, July 24 2019 from Maria Greene, Curtin
Andrew Barr, please don't let the extra bridges deter you from light rail stage two ("Questions over stage two final costings", July 23, p3). And continue the good work of eliminating buses to universities and hospitals. We southsiders are looking forward to the years of road disruption and the higher rates, but, best of all, taking longer to get to Civic by tram than we do by bus.
Letter, The Canberra Times, July 23 2019 from Mike Quirk, Garran
The Chief Minister correctly identifies the conservatism of the Liberals greatly increases the chances of the re-election of his government ("Public service, social policy to frame ACT election debate, Barr says", canberratimes.com.au, July 20).
The ACT government should provide evidence to support the more than $1.6 billion extension of light rail to Woden.
The under-funding of the health system and the bus network, declining housing affordability, the under-supply of social housing, increasing congestion, the over investment in light rail, the absence of an evidenced based ACT planning strategy, excessive rate increases and the failure to genuinely consult and respond to community criticism should all be nails in the government's coffin.
These unmet needs and the fragile state of the ACT economy, as documented by Khalid Ahmed, Jon Stanhope and Pegasus Economics, require priorities to be determined on evidence to ensure the best use of limited funds.
It is astounding, for example, the government has not provided evidence to support the more than $1.6 billion extension of light rail to Woden. Does it meet transport needs and city development objectives better than the far cheaper bus rapid transport?
To win government, the Liberals need to move to the centre. Whether they can is questionable. What they cannot continue to do is to wait for the Barr government to fall over. As the federal election shows, incompetent governments can be re-elected.
The only hope for improved governance of the territory is maybe the election of independents, holding the balance of power, requiring government to justify decisions.
Letter, The Canberra Times, July 20 2019 from Terry Werner, Wright
Lee Welling (Letters, July 15) asks why Mr Barr and his government are fixated on the tram for transport.
The tram is not about transport, it's about development along the route. For transport, there are technologies that compared with trams are greener, faster, more flexible for the future, quicker to build, cheaper to operate ... and less than 10 percent of the cost per kilometre to build.
We used to think we were quite a progressive place but the world is leaving us behind. For just one example, try searching for the "Trondheim trambus" to see what modern transport looks like.
One engineering feature is that while it feels like a tram inside it uses rubber on the road rather than steel-on-steel that struggles with emergency braking and handling gradients like those on the trip to Woden.
Letter, The Canberra Times, July 19 2019 from M. Flint, Smart Canberra Transport, Erindale
So, a "Tram question hangs over economy", (Editorial, canberratimes.com.au, July 15). That is some understatement.
Given that Stage 2 is now a "captain's pick" with absolutely no thought to fiscal consequences some taxpayers might call that arrogance in the extreme.
Marie Antoinette had nothing on the prima donnas running our government.
While trams may be a work of art in the eyes of one local journo, they are slow, inflexible, of limited capacity, outrageously expensive and already outmoded technology.
Even if the government bothers to commission one, a business case for Stage 2, based on a light rail solution, will not be good enough. What is needed is a complete re-think of the best mass transport options for Canberra, given the technologies available now and, especially in the future.
There needs to be another study, like that done in 2012 for Stage 1, which compared a Light Rail Transit (LRT) system to a Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) system, the latter being costed at half that of the tram.
Letter, The Canberra Times, July 17 2019 from Leon Arundell, Downer
Your editorial ("ACT economic growth partly contingent on light rail stage 2a", canberratimes.com.au, July 15) is correct in saying investment in light rail from Civic to Woden will (temporarily) stimulate the ACT economy.
The same can be said of the similar investment that would provide rapid bus transit between Civic, Woden, Tuggeranong and Canberra airport.
More importantly, the long term economic benefits of investment in rapid bus transit will be about double those of the same amount of investment in light rail.
Letter, The Canberra Times, July 16 2019 from Wayne Grant, Swinger Hill ACT
Re the comments from M Flint on the high discount rate used by the ACT government in determining the value of the light rail project to Gungahlin (Letters, July 10).
It is also worth noting that in determining an appropriate discount rate for the Net Present Value (NPV) of an investment project the discount rate has two components
1. The government cash rate (risk free) time value of money plus;
2. A risk premium (unsystematic risk) reflecting the potential of the project to achieve its planned financial outcomes. This can be either the Weighted Ave Cost of Capital (WACC) of the institution planning to undertake the project (the ACT government) or some other agreed risk premium which relates to the projects individual risk or what the financial market would demand for providing funds to undertake the project. It also represents the ri
sk of the project not achieving its projected financial cashflows. The current cash rate is at an all time historical low of one per cent. This suggests this project, even using the ACT government's own figures of a discount rate of 7.52 per cent according to Mr Flint, is loaded with operational financial risk.
Letter, The Canberra Times, July 15 2019 from Lee Welling, Nicholls
Why are Mr Barr and the other dinosaurs in the ACT Politburo so fixated on obscenely expensive, 19th century tram technology? Why does he refuse to consider other transport systems such as the trackless tram, a 21st century technology orders of magnitude cheaper to build and infinitely more flexible in its capabilities?
Letter, The Canberra Times, July 12 2019 from Mike Quirk, Garran
t is appropriate for The Canberra Times to question the adequacy of the City Renewal Authority's plans ("ACT Government plans to transform Canberra's inner north show many gaps", canberratimes.com.au, July 8).
Mr Barr is correct in saying "great cities don't succeed by accident or by leaving things to chance; they require outstanding design, good governance and outstanding collaboration". However, his stewardship is providing no such benefits. The urban design is mundane; planning and development decisions are evidence free (light rail, planning strategy, greenfields land purchases) while community concerns are ignored.
Mr Barr is under the misapprehension placing higher density housing along a light rail route constitutes a coherent planning strategy.
The government could be accused of manipulating the market to achieve its unjustified high density targets by (a) undersupplying detached dwellings (b) increasing congestion, a consequence of ineffective actions to reduce travel including dispersing employment and promoting working from home and (c) ineffective action to reduce housing costs. Equally plausible is that it is incompetent, arrogant and lazy, unable or unwilling to undertake the necessary analysis to ensure Canberra is a great city.
The government needs to demonstrate how its density target optimises social, economic and environmental sustainability objectives including how high rise apartments meet the needs of households with children
Letter, The Canberra Times, July 11 2019 from Murray Upton, Belconnen
The ACT government's decision to press ahead with the second stage of the light rail project without waiting for the necessary approvals from the National Capital Authority is certainly "courageous". It is also stupid ("Light rail decision courageous but risky" Editorial, July 5, p18).
It is a desperate and unprincipled attempt to get the project underway before a business plan has been prepared for it and, at the same time, to force the NCA into agreeing to this dubious project.
To suggest the extension to Commonwealth Park could "stand on its own" is ludicrous.
If one of the main drivers for rushing into this proposal is for an "economy-boosting infrastructure project" it would be far more sensible to put the borrowed money towards public housing projects of the same, or even greater, value.
Letter, The Canberra Times, July 10 2019 from M. Flint, Co-ordinator, Smart Canberra Transport, Erindale, ACT
On June 21 the ACT government released its City to Gungahlin Light Rail Project Delivery Report.
The report attempts to convince ACT taxpayers Light Rail stage one will cost only $872 million, in January 2016 prices.
I believe the project will have a Public Private Partnership cost of $1.355 billion in April 2019 prices.
The report contains two serious miscalculations. One was to give the cost in January 2016 prices. This is very misleading, if not unethical. Another was the erroneous discounting of all costs paid or to be paid to the contractor, from January 2016 through to 2039 (the end of 20-year operations period), at a rate of 7.52 per cent per annum.
This discount rate was used during evaluation of the tenders for the project, but has no place in determining the Present Value of future Availability Payments the government now has to make to the successful bidder.
By using this rate the government is saying that the average depreciation of money from 2016 through 2039 would be 7.52 per cent every year. This is obviously an error.
The correct, average depreciation rate is more like 2.5 per cent per annum.
This gives a real PPP contract price of $1.355 billion.
Letter, The Canberra Times, July 8 2019 from Mike Quirk, Garran
The proposal to partially construct the light rail to Woden demonstrates evidence based policy is critically ill, if not dead, in the ACT. Given the under funding of health and housing and the fragile state of ACT finances, infrastructure decisions need to be soundly based. An independent business case should be prepared.
Letter, The Canberra Times, July 8 2019 from M. Flint, Erindale
Rattenbury and Barr will waste more public money on a tram to nowhere by extending the tram line to Commonwealth Park. Very courageous, as Sir Humphrey would say. I predict any business case will turn out to be "positive", even if woefully not so; and tenders will not be let, as required by procurement regulations, but be a revival and extension of the stage one PPP contract.
Letter, The Canberra Times, July 5 2019 from Sue Dyer, Downer
Many of those forced to stand while travelling on light rail vehicles would be happier if there were overhead straps to grab. Perhaps the lack of them helped the light rail project come in under budget.<
Letter, The Canberra Times, July 5 2019 from Christopher Ryan, Canberra
Re "Teen left in dark" (canberratimes.com.au, July 4).
The reported treatment, by Metro fare enforcers, of young people on the tram is appalling.
Several years ago a young woman to whom I was talking by mobile phone was unable to immediately locate her purse to pay for a night bus ride in Auckland. The driver waved her on. The purse was found and the fare paid during the journey.
When I was a young police officer we were trained in the need to exercise restraint when it came to our wide powers. The importance of common sense, decency and humanity was stressed.
Is the ACT government so desperate for money to recoup the eye watering cost of Tram Stage I that it will harass those without correct fare and/or papers? If so, this is chilling. Totalitarian state officials ask for papers.
Meanwhile seniors are kept waiting at the Canberra hospital emergency department. This is more than chilling.
Parents. Keep your phones with you at all times. Calls for pick up from children booted off buses or the tram may occur at any time.
Letter, The Canberra Times, July 5 2019 from John Rodriguez, Florey
Everybody, please, read Dan Jarvis-Bardy's piece ("Teen left in the dark over light rail ticket", canberratimes.com.au, July 4) according to which "Inspections, which Transport Canberra refers to as "revenue protection" can also be conducted by police".
Don't our hard working police have anything better to do than to chase up teenagers and forgetful travellers on our beautiful light rail? First Annika Smethurst, then the ABC, then our public transport and now Big Brother.
It would be heartening if the ACT Greens MLAs could put effort into ensuring that the current light rail set up, that they wanted so badly, can accommodate the volume of passengers living in the inner north and also those wishing to bring bicycles on board.
One wonders if the Greens' current focus on e-scooters ("Scooters on our roads?" June 25 ), and any governmental review of e-scooter use and regulation, will consider the likely impacts of many private scooter owners wanting to take their devices on board the already congested rail transit service between Gungahlin and the CBD and network feeder buses.
This is but one issue Kurrajong MLAs may wish to consider when identifying new transport network improvements, including more efficient light rail connections, that are needed to better support public transport users across their electorate.
Letter, The Canberra Times, July 1 2019 from Leon Arundell, Downer
The share of Canberra commutes that include public transport fell from 11.5 per cent in 1986 to 7.8 per cent in 2011.
Then Labor committed to "increasing the public transport share of all work trips to 10.5 per cent by 2016 and 16 per cent by 2016". The 2016 census figure was 8.3 per cent.
Transport Canberra's latest statistics show that weekly public transport boardings averaged 516,086 during the first four weeks of free travel, compared with 434,625 in the corresponding period in 2018.
Assuming annual population growth of 1.8 per cent and ignoring the fact that light rail increases the number of boardings per journey, the combination of light rail and free fares was enough to lift the public transport share from 8.3 per cent to 9.7 per cent.
My submission on the draft "Moving Canberra" identified strategies to meet Labor's commitments.
Strangely, there is no mention of Labor's commitments in the draft "Moving Canberra" strategy, or in the subsequent "What We Heard" report.
The consultation report is to be released in August.
Will it mention Labor's commitments? Only time will tell.
Letter, The Canberra Times, June 28 2019 from Don Sephton, Greenway
It's unlikely tears will be shed over Meegan Fitzharris's resignation. She has been ineffective as health minister. As transport minister she copped a lot of criticism over bus timetables and routes, and the tram.
Letter, The Canberra Times, June 28 2019 from Sue Dyer, Downer
What about the thousands of Canberrans who have not yet lodged concerns and suggestions about the new transport network and are waiting patiently to be able to participate in a thorough and transparent evaluation of both light rail and bus servicing aims and outcomes (" Bus load of complaints", canberratimes.com.au, June 22)?
No more gung-ho statements about or preliminary work on stage two of light rail should take place until lessons learned from the current 'integrated' bus and rail operations are identified, acknowledged and applied to improve the existing network.
Nor should our federal politicians be tripping over themselves to lobby for Commonwealth support for any stage two rail planning until a high-grade evaluation occurs and the current 'massive change' is working much better for those they represent.
Letter, The Canberra Times, June 27 2019 from Kent Fitch, Nicholls
For the $459 million the ACT Government paid the tram consortium in April ("Light rail boosts corridor housing", June 22, p8) they could have replaced all their diesel buses with a modern green and electric fleet and built the required charging infrastructure.
For the cost of their stage one and stage two tram "studies", they could have expanded transit lanes, increased the this new electric bus fleet by 25 per cent, and for the less than the consequent fuel and maintenance savings and the annual repayments of between $55 and $79 million to the consortium over the next 20 years, could have made the service fare-free.
Stage one is now a sunk cost, but thankfully, stage two is still only partly submerged.
Letter, The Canberra Times, June 26 2019 from Ronald Elliott, Sandringham, Vic
"Canberra light rail: By the numbers" (canberratimes.com.au, April 19) stated "442 CCTV cameras will keep an eye on the network's 13 stops. Canberrans must be an unruly mob for each stop to require 34 cameras.
Letter, The Canberra Times, June 24 2019 from John Holland, Dickson
Let us not make the same mistake with a new stadium as was made with the tram - namely, a large amount of money spent to benefit a few, purely for political reasons. Given the low or very low number of supporters of the three codes of football that would play at a new venue, all that is needed is a boutique stadium of modest cost and sustainable design.
The reality is the main sports in Australia are cricket and Australian rules. Planning for the future should allow for the likelihood of more Test matches here and the relocation of a Melbourne AFL team to Canberra, which now has a catchment area with a half million population.
Manuka Oval is fine for now but it will not be able to meet these future needs.
It would make sense financially to consider building a new cricket/AFL ground (perhaps at the Bruce stadium site) and to modify Manuka Oval for use by rugby and soccer clubs.
Letter, The Canberra Times, June 24 2019 from H. Merritt, Downer
While I totally support our new light-rail system and hope it is soon extended to Belconnen and beyond, I'm afraid the public transport planners totally missed the mark for the more vulnerable in our community - the elderly, disabled and young.
Bus stops are too far from peoples' homes, the constant need to change buses and the increased distance from the final tram stop to a final destination are all deterrents for those who would like to use buses/trams.
More intra-suburb services are needed. Perhaps the planners could take a look at some of the underutilised main roads and not just focus on Northbourne Avenue.
Also, a bit of park-and-ride consideration could have avoided the cars now parking along suburban streets - I assume so their drivers can catch the tram.
Letter, The Canberra Times, June 21 2019 from Zlatko Spralja, Harrison
I too remember some bus commute times from the northside blowing out, especially when hitting the dreaded Northbourne Avenue (Letters, June 6), but that was when tram construction meant lanes closed down for weeks and months at a time. I don't know how long a bus would take now, because Transport Canberra cancelled all of them.
Letter, The Canberra Times, June 20 2019 from Stan Marks, Hawker
Jack Palmer (Letters, June 12) referred to those of us opposed to the tram as peasants. So I offer him a way in which we can all become peasants. The tram, according to the Auditor General, has a benefit cost ratio of 0.47. That means for every dollar we have spent on it so far, we will get 47 cents back. The $1 billion we've spent will shrink to 47 per cent of that in 20 years. All we have to do for us to run out of money is to spend a few more billion on trams to the south and we can rapidly end up with not much money at all. Then we would all be peasants
Letter, The Canberra Times, June 19 2019 from Gil Miller, Barton
There were many differing opinions in the lead-up to light rail but not so with comments relating to the new bus timetable. As an Uber driver delivering over 100 people each week to destinations around Canberra, the vitriol, complete frustration and bewilderment of Canberrans is a testament to the total lack of understanding of what is required by the community that our government serves. If we were embarrassed by our public transport system before light rail, well, buckle up viewers, I believe a new era is dawning.
Letter, The Canberra Times, June 18 2019 from B.M. Cooke, Latham
Before Andrew Barr continues spruiking about spending a billion dollars of taxpayers money on stage two of light rail he needs to address many other issues. This city and suburbs need cleaning up, so many suburbs are neglected and scruffy. Tuggeranong Parkway is a disgrace, litter and weeds everywhere. Contact with Canberra Access has not had any result. It is not OK to make the tourist venues all spick and span while the the rest of Canberra is ignored. We are proud Canberrans who want a neat and clean city like it used to be before self government.
Letter, The Canberra Times, June 17 2019 from M. Silex, Erindale
Why should Canberrans think that the federal government should buy them a new stadium when 64 per cent of them did their best to get rid of the Coalition just last month. Messrs Barr and Rattenbury have already blown $1.6 billion on light rail and have promised a second stage that will cost $2.7 billion plus. So, why not a measly $400 million for a new stadium?
Letter, The Canberra Times, June 14 2019 from M. Silex, Erindale
For Mr. Jack Palmer's information, concerning lack of government investment in fast trains (Letters, June 12), I am one 'peasant' that is very much against the travesty that is light rail in Canberra.
However, in respect of fast trains, in 1990 I was directly involved with one of the major companies in the consortium to build the Very Fast Train, Sydney-Canberra, until the Labor government of Messrs. Hawke and Keating flatly refused to subsidise the line in any way, upon which the consortium promptly pulled up stumps. I guess that made Hawke and Keating 'peasants' too! So, who is the peasant Mr Palmer?
Letter, The Canberra Times, June 13 2019 from Sue Dyer, Downer
The weather would not be a major deterrent to public transport use if far more adequate and appealing forms of protection from our harsh seasonal extremes and the growing impacts of climate change were provided ("Numbers on light rail drop after free trial", June 11).
More shelter would encourage and assist passenger movements to and from transport modes and make more comfortable the extra waiting times now required for connections at transport nodes and the very exposed rail stops.
In addition the new Dickson Interchange is largely a concrete wasteland, with the nearest public toilet over 600m away. People need to wait at Dickson for connecting bus services whose frequency has not improved during the day, at night or on weekends and where cancellations have impacted adversely on those waiting. Many elsewhere are using bus stops that have no built or natural shelter.
Let's hope that many of the promised 17,000 trees for Canberra over the next four years will be planted and nurtured at and around bus stops, at major pedestrian crossings and intersections and along pathways, to help show that the government is prepared to support active travelers with practical, attractive and well-designed infrastructure, both green and man-made.
Letter, The Canberra Times, June 13 2019 from Mike Quirk, Garran
The suggestion by the Chief Minister that the Commonwealth forgive the $1 billion loan to enable the construction of a football stadium ("Andrew Barr's challenge to fast-track new stadium for Canberra", June 11, canberratimes.com.au) is an example of political sophistry.
Why would the Federal government forgive the debt given the financial irresponsibility of the ACT government in the provision of the Civic to Gungahlin light rail, assessed by the ACT Auditor General to have an extremely poor benefit to cost ratio of 0.6?
A new football stadium may have already been provided if funds had not been prioritized for light rail. Its provision needs to be assessed against the claims of other infrastructure including the extension of light rail/the provision a busway to Woden, increased social housing, new convention and theatre complexes and improvements to health, education and bus systems.
The provision of infrastructure should be based on evidence rather than rhetoric and ribbon cutting opportunities.
Letter, The Canberra Times, June 13 2019 from John Nothdurft, Giralang
On Friday my wife and I took the light rail. It appeared to me that there were a number of people not tapping on/off and I commented that the day I see a ticket inspector we would crack a bottle of bubbles. Lo and behold on the return trip that afternoon an inspector boarded and checked our cards. So on a lovely sunny Canberra afternoon we sat in the garden and cracked a cold bottle of bubbles and toasted TC and the ticket inspector.
Letter, The Canberra Times, June 11 2019 from L. Hearle, Narrabundah
Sorry Paul (Light rail whingers - June 7), but those of us opposed to light rail do so for reasons other than whether it is in our suburb. I never want light rail to come close to my suburb because doing so would be an unconscionable waste of ACT rate payers money as was stage one of light rail.
Put simply, it is the wrong technology in the wrong place for these current and future times, with a business case that did not and never will be justifiable. We have light rail because of one party, desperate to govern, acquiesced to one person's outrageous demand resulting in "The Rattenbury Rattler" - an outrageously expensive folly.
Letter, The Canberra Times, June 11 2019 from M Flint, Erindale
On May 16 the ACT government claimed a windfall of $44.3 million because of late delivery of the tram. The budget provides for a deficit in 2019-20 of $89 million.
Does this mean that, if the tram had arrived in December 2018, as planned, that the deficit could have been $133 million? Also, when the tram started rolling, Minister Fitzharris promised to release costings for Stage 1. Minister, when will we see those figures?
Letter, The Canberra Times, June 11 2019 from Jack Palmer, Watson
Crispin Hull's penetrating article (Forum, June 8) exposes the continuing short-sightedness of individuals so besotted with individual transport as an indicator of social success that they ignore the broader necessity of nation-wide transport.
Locally we saw the protests of this peasantry to the ACT government's initiative in light rail, the innovative beginning of up-to-date Australian transport.
Historically, hindered by break-of-gauge, rail networks scarcely recovered. In our national capital, the loss of the Molonglo rail bridge, followed by the depression years, finished the rail link to Yass (the remains can still be seen in Reid).
Plans for a fast rail link from Canberra to Sydney have failed. As weak governments fear voter support for a determined transport policy, we sink towards the Third World.
Letter, The Canberra Times, June 10 2019 from Zlatko Spralja, Harrison
I too remember some bus commute times from the north side blowing out, especially when hitting the dreaded Northbourne Avenue (James Penny, Letters, June 5).
That was when tram construction meant lanes closed for weeks and months.
I don't know how long a bus would take now. Transport Canberra cancelled them.
Letter, The Canberra Times, June 8 2019 from Marie Oakes, Turner
Last week at tram failed to turn up in peak hours. This made the news. Not so newsworthy are the buses that do not turn up.
In the first month of the new timetable two buses I have attempted to catch failed to turn up.
Both times this happened on a Sunday with a one hour wait for the next.
On other occasions during the month a driver took the bus in the wrong direction and another asked me which way to turn at a T intersection because a direction was missing from his run sheet.
Any confidence I had in ACTION to provide a service has dissipated in this first month of the new timetable.
Letter, The Canberra Times, June 8 2019 from Graham Downie, O'Connor
It was heart-warming to read of the Greens' Caroline Le Couteur's concern for we Canberra bus users, ("ACT Greens call for more shelter at city bus interchange", canberratimes.com.au, May 31) given her party's support for the light rail which has ripped $1 billion from general public transport spending.
To support this monstrous waste of money, a bus service to Lyneham shops was diverted, denying shoppers the convenience of a nearby stop. This cynical change, no doubt to encourage residents east of the Lyneham shops to trudge to the tram, also removes the convenient bus service from Lyneham High School.
Numerous bus changes such as this, to prop up the commercial enterprise which operates the tram, demonstrate the light rail venture has little to do with public transport.
The shambles which the Civic bus interchange has become, again to accommodate the tram to the disadvantage of bus passengers, is a reminder it once had heated waiting rooms. In 1986, the rooms were locked for several months because of what ACTION officials described as their use by drunks, undesirables and others for meeting places.
By August 1999, under Transport Minister Brendan Smyth, plans were hatched to remove the heated, enclosed waiting rooms. They were replaced in 2000 by the present structures. Bus commuters have long known what apparently Ms Le Couteur has taken 19 years to recognise; travellers need shelter from the wind and rain.
Meanwhile, the promise by then Transport Minister, Simon Corbell, in 2006 to remedy the serious shortcomings of the Woden bus interchange remains unfulfilled.
Instead of using their considerable influence to require improvements to bus services, the Greens demanded a tram which has sucked scarce funds, not only from general public transport, but from overdue path maintenance and other urban services. No doubt, some people benefit from the tram, but the extravagance of this project is paid for by all.
Letter, The Canberra Times, June 7 2019 from Paul Wayper, Cook
Are the people who whinge about light rail the same group who want to silence those disappointed in the Federal election result? I'd take the light rail complainers more seriously if they lived in Gungahlin. Most just seem to be complaining because their suburb missed out.
Letter, The Canberra Times, June 7 2019 from Judith Ballard, Kaleen
James Penny (Letters, June 5) thinks the tram is wonderful. So would I if I lived in Harrison, and was in good physical shape. Kaleen to Civic is now a 50 minute journey, including either a tour of Ainslie or a scramble across Northbourne to board a crowded tram. Car to Civic takes 15-20 minutes. Public transport is off my agenda.
Letter, The Canberra Times, June 7 2019 from Peter Toscan, Amaroo
Barr's 2019 budget provides $4.8 million for the construction of the Mitchell Tram stop, one that should have been included in the original construction. Has Geocon been asked to build a five storey luxury tram stop? Give me a break.
Letter, The Canberra Times, June 7 2019 from Ashley Woodhouse, Ngunnawal
Is it just me or do property prices in Mitchell seem outlandish. $4.8 million will get you a block 30 metres by 10 metres with a dwelling with no walls, heating, bathrooms or parking. But is close to public transport and free WiFi. Bargain.
Letter, The Canberra Times, June 6 2019 from Douglas Mackenzie, Deakin
The Barr government has once again increased rates by up to three times the rate of inflation, but says that increases will cease after the 2021-22 financial year ("Home owners face rates rise...", June 5, p6-7).
Mr Barr expects deficits of $89 million in 2019-20 and $66 million in 2020-21 before achieving surpluses of $135 million in 2021-22 and 413 million in 2022-23 ("ACT government heads into deficit territory", June 5, p2).
However, the predicted $1.6 billion cost of light rail stage two dwarfs these figures. With stage two expected to commence in 2022-23, we can then expect either a return to big budget deficits or more large increases in rates - or both - for several years.
That, of course, will mean more massive rate increases. The Canberra Liberals may have been right (eventually) with their 2012 claim that "Labor will triple your rates".
Letter, The Canberra Times, June 5 2019 from James Penny, Harrison
I respond to Geoff Barker's letter regarding his trip on light rail (Letters, May 28).
I would like to provide my own point of view as I use it daily.
It has been a game changer for me.
This because some morning and afternoon commutes on the bus blew out to 45 minutes to an hour long.
Also, unlike some bus services that don't turn up, that has never been the case with light rail.
I have certainty the next service will be along shortly.
Light rail has dramatically reduced my car usage, even including trips up to Gungahlin and back.
Regarding the seats, you can fit more people standing than sitting. I do agree the seats are quite hard but the trip isn't that long.
Letter, The Canberra Times, June 5 2019 from Mike Quirk, Garran
The appointment of Katy Gallagher as shadow finance minister is concerning as her lack of acumen was reflected in the approval of the Civic to Gungahlin light rail despite a very weak business case. Projects need to be assessed on merit, not short term political gain.
Letter, The Canberra Times, June 3 2019 from Sandy Paine, Griffith
It is hard not to resort to emotional language when commenting on the ACT government's persistence in planning to extend the light rail across Lake Burley Griffin, including the disturbing notion of destroying Commonwealth Avenue Bridge.
Canberra's light rail is costly, unnecessary, inappropriate and outdated. Stage one is just a shiny toy.
The agonising over how to take the rail line across the lake is a tragic waste of time and effort given the whole project has been based on a false premise.
Mr Barr and Ms Fitzharris, you are now forced to continue to run the existing light rail line using the public's money. We can't turn the clock back.
But don't compound the felony by wasting millions of our dollars on the misguided plan to take the rail across the lake.
This scheme is impractical, grossly extravagant, destructive and pointless.
Battery-powered electric buses, already running successfully in China and elsewhere overseas, will avoid these problems.
Letter, The Canberra Times, June 3 2019 from Wayne Grant, Swinger Hill
Photos of the absolutely crazy mass of climbers trying to reach the top of Mt Everest are the perfect example of a business case for the ACT government of where light rail would be at its most effective. I'm sure it would be an absolute revenue winner.
Letter, The Canberra Times, June 1 2019 from James R Smith, Watson
Thank you Sandra Mackenzie (Letters, May 20, for setting down your unfortunate experience when visiting Mitchell. I had a similar experience when I had to collect my car from Mitchell.
I used the bus to Dickson and then the tram. As it approached Epic I had the choice of leaving the tram there or continuing on to Wells Station.
There is no stop in the area of the shops along Flemington Road. As the location of my car was at the Epic end of Mitchell I decided to leave the tram at Epic considering that it would be shorter than getting off at Wells Station.
Crossing Randwick road I found there was no footpath on either side of Flemington Road. I walked along the rough sloping area between the tram rails and the pond. I finally crossed the road where the tram depot is located.
There was a path. As I continued along that I was stopped by a lady who, by her attire, was an official of either the government or the tram construction company.
She said I should not have walked along that way as it was dangerous and not permitted.
I pointed out there was no path either side of Flemington Road until you reached the entrance to the tram depot and that, additionally, there was no signage prohibiting access to Mitchell along that side of Flemington Road.
I understand the Mitchell community had petitioned the government unsuccessfully to provide a stop in Mitchell.
My experience has shown that despite all the back slapping and self congratulations the government has failed miserably in its duty to provide a safe access to the area and decent service to the workers and people visiting Mitchell.
Letter, The Canberra Times, May 31 2019 from Julie Kidd, Bonner
Can anyone else see the problem with the letter from the guy who won't use the tram anymore? (Letters, May 29). He lives in Flynn. I too think it's best he doesn't use it. Julie Kidd, Bonner
Letter, The Canberra Times, May 31 2019 from David Purnell, Florey
I applaud the arrival of the light rail. Buses are good but discomfort on bumpy roads makes them far less enjoyable than a rail system. I urge the government to press on with the extension so those of us not in the Gunghahlin-Civic corridor can benefit also.
Letter, The Canberra Times, May 30 2019 from Yvette Goode, Yarralumla
Rapid transit buses could cover the journey to Woden faster, more frequently and traverse more south Canberra streets than a light rail system.
Elderly citizens use the current transport arrangements from places such as Yarralumla and Deakin to access shops and services in Woden. We have seen stage one, with the slashing of bus services resulting in a deterioration of daily life for our children and our independent senior citizens.
Mr Barr, please seriously reconsider plans for stage two. The developers may not be happy, but the majority of ordinary Canberrans would be exultant.
Letter, The Canberra Times, May 28 2019 from Geoff Barker, Flynn
With all the latest comments regarding behaviour on the new tram l thought l would relate my experience after l forced myself to have a free ride just last week.
It was off peak hour so it was relatively quiet. Even so, the first thing l noticed was there seemed to be very few seats available. The ones l did see were, for the most part, facing the wrong way or sideways.
Having decided to take a side facing seat, looking past the bored passenger on the other side at buildings going past, l found the seat to be narrow and hard, not comfortable at all.
Towards the end of the trip l decided to move to one of the empty disabled seats, looking at the back of the driver. It was also narrow, hard and uncomfortable. I found myself wishing l was on a bus.
The passengers looked bored and uninspired.
All in all a disappointing experience. l am unable to see value for the money spent.
Although l now can no longer get one bus to Civic and need two which takes longer, l think l actually enjoy the bus better.
Because the bus now takes longer l am actually thinking of reverting to my car.
Letter, The Canberra Times, May 28 2019 from Jack Kershaw, Kambah
The National Capital Authority is finally revealing the glaring faults of the Civic-Woden tram route by suggesting the obvious "stalking horse"; replacing the heritage-significant and structurally sound Commonwealth Avenue bridge.
The NCA knows that route would destroy the avenue's magnificent trees, wreck the symmetry with Kings Avenue (especially its bridge), and involve insanely expensive tram infrastructure at the State Circle and London Circuit intersections.
We need to look to Griffin's missing third central lake crossing. It would spring from the southwest part of Lawson Crescent on Acton Peninsula, avoid the sailing course, and connect to north Lennox Gardens.
The route would serve New Acton, West Basin, ANU-west, and the National Museum.
The tram route would continue up Flynn Drive, through the State Circle cutting, to a stop at the top of Kings Avenue.
It would serve Parliament House, the national institutions, and Barton and go around the State and Capital Circles to Adelaide Avenue.
Letter, The Canberra Times, May 28 2019 from H. Maxwell, Turner
It seems the light rail to Woden is on hold until 2025. Another option, serving a different cohort of Canberrans, could be a light rail to Belconnen.
A track along Macarthur Avenue (a stop on the current Gungahlin line) - or Barry Drive - could serve, not only Belconnen residents, but the significant number of travellers to and from Calvary Hospital, Radford College, the CIT Bruce campus, Bruce Stadium, the University of Canberra, Belconnen government departments and finally Belconnen Mall. Growing the light rail culture could be an attractive option for travel for all Canberrans.
Letter, The Canberra Times, May 28 2019 from Yvette Goode, Yarralumla
Tram technology is expensive, outdated and inflexible. Rapid transit buses could get to Woden faster, more frequently and traverse more south Canberra streets.
The elderly use current transport from Yarralumla and Deakin to access shops and services in Woden. We have seen stage one, with the slashing of bus services, diminish the quality of life for children and independent elderly in the north.
Mr Barr, please seriously reconsider plans for stage two. The developers may not be happy, but most Canberrans would be exultant, particularly with the retention of trees and green space along Adelaide Avenue.
Letter, The Canberra Times, May 27 2019 from Simon Cobcroft, Lyneham
What a peculiarly Canberra phenomenon to shun conversation on public transport ("Light rail etiquette, don't talk on the tram, please", May 23, p17).
It highlights both an unwillingness to engage with people whose views may differ from one's own, as well as a broader incomprehension that such views exist at all. Greg Fraser's letter (Letters, May 23) is another prime example of the monocultural way some Canberrans see the world.
Instead of trying to understand why so many people voted differently to him, he instead seeks to label his fellow Australians as an ignorant and greedy lot.
Have we really reached a place where we cling so tightly to our our ideological strongholds that we never venture to listen or engage in public discourse?
I have had lots of spirited conversations on buses and trains around the world; often with strangers whose views were very different to my own.
In most cases, it enriched my understanding of people's belief-systems and experiences.
It also changed many of my own comfortably-held views.
It is a universal maxim that everyone is hurting and everyone believes they are right.
It is through respectful discussion though, that we get closer to agreement and healing.
Letter, The Canberra Times, May 27 2019 from Judy Bamberger, O'Connor
It's not April 1, so interpreting S Evans's article as a joke proved wrong. ("Light rail etiquette: don't talk on the tram, please", May 23, p17).
For some, their primary socialisation is on buses or trams. Some spontaneous conversations with a familiar stranger may be awkward; others are cheerful and rewarding.
Re: " ... adhere to Rule 1 of Tram Etiquette: do not attempt to have a conversation with a familiar stranger. Maybe a weak smile to show an absence of hostility but that's it".
If that's what we Canberrans want as our norm, then maybe it's time I leave Canberra.
Letter, The Canberra Times, May 27 2019 from John Holland, Dickson
It was interesting to read Steve Evans information on tram travel etiquette.
It affirms my intention to remain a member of the bus brigade rather than join the light rail losers.
It must be so embarrassing to be seen riding the tram.
Letter, The Canberra Times, May 27 2019 from Wayne Grant, Swinger Hill
Following on from Steve Evans great take on tram etiquette a few more suggestions:
Rule 5: It is your right to be serious and miserable or you will never make it in this politically correct gig economy we now live in.
Rule 6: Don't sit in those cheap atrocious uncomfortable seats that don't flip backwards or forwards and are so close you must confront the poor soul opposite you.
Rule 8: Why can't we sit on the tram roof and enjoy the breeze like they do in some other countries? Be very invigorating and bracing in Canberra winters.
Rule 9: What was the rationale in deciding that the huge work area of Mitchell didn't exist?
Letter, The Canberra Times, May 27 2019 from Colin Lyons, Weetangera
Canberrans were promised a better public transport system, with more services, more often.
What an appalling system we now have. Commuters must travel in conditions akin to livestock transport, with many standing up most of the journey, which takes appreciably longer than it used to. Instead of expresses many commuters are forced to take two buses to get to the city.
Instead of a better public transport system as promised, we have been given an absolute lemon and at great cost. The 12 kilometres of light rail was constructed for a small percentage of total users. Even they are not receiving a superior service. Congestion is a major issue.
Would this abomination of a transport system have been instituted, let along maintained, if the Transport Canberra bureaucrats and minister responsible were to use it on a daily basis, rather than have taxpayer provided cars for their privileged use?
Letter, The Canberra Times, May 27 2019 from Sue Dyer, Downer
It is time public health advisories about the benefits of flu vaccinations were placed on our crowded light rail vehicles and buses, on rail platforms, and at bus interchanges.
Letter, The Canberra Times, May 27 2019 from Don Sephton, Greenway
Now free travel on ACT public transport has ended the true popularity of the tram will be able to be tested. I suggest the "90,000 boardings" will end up being significantly less once the cost kicks in.
Letter, The Canberra Times, May 27 2019 from Graham Anderson, Garran
Your editorial "Challenges mounting for light rail" (May 23, p14) fails to ask "Is stage two really needed?"
Letter, The Canberra Times, May 24 2019 from Douglas Mackenzie, Deakin
With the defeat of Labor at the May 18 election, the Barr government will miss out on the $200 million that had been promised to help fund light rail stage two.
Barr has, nevertheless, vowed to persist with planning and assessment for stage 2 ("Barr won't quit amid light rail setback", May 20, p5), which in March was costed at $1.3 to $1.6 billion. This means that Canberrans can look forward to further big increases in government charges, especially rates.
It would be more practicable and far less costly to use a fleet of electric buses to provide both the fast City-Woden link and the suburban transport network.
This option will become even more advantageous when the ACT energy supply becomes 100 per cent renewable in 2020, and as the cost of renewable energy continues to decrease.
Letter, The Canberra Times, May 24 2019 from Murray May, Cook
Andrew Barr predicted a federal ALP win with up to 15 additional seats. $200 million had been committed by the federal ALP for stage 2 light rail.
Given the poor state of the ACT budget and under spending on important areas such as health, how can the ACT government still support continuing with the stage 2 light rail funding nightmare?
Letter, The Canberra Times, May 24 2019 from Leon Arundell, Downer
Woden need not wait until 2025 for rapid public transport. Adelaide Avenue's transit lanes can be extended to make real improvements in peak hour travel times quickly and at a cost of only tens of millions of dollars.
Letter, The Canberra Times, May 20 2019 from Stephen Saunders, O'Connor
The ACT Liberals ran a single-issue light-rail referendum in 2016. The people wanted light rail. Armed with their instant MIT urban-transit doctorates, the haters have been in a rage ever since.
Inside two elections, the government delivers, well under budget, and the system is an immediate sellout. But the haters don't even miss a beat. The oppressed peasants have been forced onto rail. The socialist government is lying about the patronage. And, it had to come sooner or later, ("Light rail is a complete failure", Letters, May 15) because it is so popular.
How can the government ever win? Why would it even bother to try? Here's a tip for the haters. Outside of absolute peak hours, I still see too many scheduled buses driving around with the lights on and no passengers. Rage about that instead?
Letter, The Canberra Times, May 20 2019 from Barry Suters, Charnwood
I join with Katherine McCarthy (Letters, May 8) in encouraging the use of the tram as jolly entertainment for children. The present cost is a bargain if you have a MyWay card.
Basil Fawlty would doubtlessly reflect on the current situation and instead of whispering "Don't mention the war". would instead whisper, "Don't mention the rates or the much lower cost of dedicated bus lanes".
Letter, The Canberra Times, May 20 2019 from Sandra Mackenzie, Reid
I am a 77-year-old Canberran who regularly has my car serviced in Mitchell.
Last week, having left my car, I walked to my usual bus stop to find that all bus services in Mitchell have ceased to operate.
The closest light rail stop was more than a kilometre away.
In attempting to walk on Flemington road I discovered that there is no pedestrian access in either direction.
I find it extraordinary that the planners of transport routes in Canberra have provided no services for workers or people travelling to Mitchell on business.
That means people have to drive, or like me get a taxi service.
Last week it cost me nearly $60 to travel to and from Mitchell and the city.
Letter, The Canberra Times, May 20 2019 from Jim Derrick, Florey
Last week I waited with my partner in Canberra hospital for her appointment to see a doctor that was three hours late. It wasn't just us, there was a whole waiting room full of people.
I imagine if the tram was delayed even half an hour there would be swift and decisive action. It would appear the ACT government finds it perfectly acceptable for sick or injured people to wait in pain and discomfort for hours.
Enjoy your tram ride to Gunghalin but just make sure you don't get sick or injured and need a well-resourced, fully functioning health system.
Letter, The Canberra Times, May 16 2019 from Thomas Rowell, Watson
The light rail is a waste of money because no one will ever use it because it is too crowded because too many people are using it. So, if no one will ever use it then it must be a waste of money.
Letter, The Canberra Times, May 15 2019 from Aaron Kimber, Throsby
The new light rail system is a failure. When it is peak hour and the trams are full, they are not equipped to handle that amount of passengers.
There are not enough seats, of course, but there are also not enough handrails for people to travel safely.
I have seen more than half a dozen people fall in the first two weeks, two of whom were frail elderly women. People will be injured, it is only a matter of time.
I had to help up four of the people who had fallen. Not only is it unsafe, it is an unreasonable burden of responsibility to put on other passengers to assist and protect the people who can't reach the rails.
Also, there is not enough space for all the wheelchairs, parents with children, and bicycles.
It is a recipe for disaster should a serious incident happen.
Any tram on the weekend is already full when it leaves Gungahlin, inevitably picking up more and more passengers, leading to the problems I listed above with overcrowding. Trams at these "off-peak" times run every 15-20 minutes. They are more packed out than the western Sydney rail line in peak hour, a miserable, horrible experience.
Letter, The Canberra Times, May 14 2019 from Peter Bradbury, Holt
The tram may be on the rails, but the tax system is way off track.
Letter, The Canberra Times, May 11 2019 from Mario Stivala, Spence
Whoopee! What a bargain! The recently completed light rail network is only going to cost the ACT taxpayer $675 million for 12 kilometres.
That is $56.25 million per kilometre and $61 million over the 2010 estimate of $614 million.
Under these circumstances, for Transport Minister Meegan Fitzharris to say the ACT Government had "validated" its promise to deliver an affordable and sustainable light rail network is a joke.
Letter, The Canberra Times, May 12 2019 from Chris Mobbs, Torrens
We have yet to see the business case for stage two of light rail, and that may indicate that Andrew Barr has not yet managed to extract enough financial benefit from the venture, especially when compared with the existing fast Woden to Civic bus service. A tram may give a smoother ride, but with most passengers standing and probably no speed advantage. But given Mr Barr's penchants for extracting rates and for high buildings, it would not surprise if when the business case emerges it is built on an assumption of turning Yarra Glen into a property zone, instead of the green space it presently exhibits.
There is a video accessible on the government internet site that depicts the future of light rail at either end of the stage two route, and planned large buildings are in evidence. While there are no predictive images of the Yarra Glen section, that does not mean there are no plans for more buildings. This government's track record is to plan first and consult later with no provision for dropping unpopular proposals. It gives the appearance of a secretive government. And the current thinking seems to be that light rail is for some (unexplained) reason preferred by developers over buses, notwithstanding the fact that Woden is already undergoing re-development without the aid of light rail.
Our city was deliberately built with greenspace separating our town centres, and there is a psychological benefit in being able to travel through greenspace rather than a continuous built-up area. As Canberrans we should treasure that benefit. And we should expect the Greens to stand up for that greenspace, rather than letting it be stolen from us by a chief minister who seems not to like Canberra as a bush capital. (We were once proud of Northbourne Avenue, but it will be many years, if ever, until we feel that again as we come home.) Likewise we should expect the Greens to look very carefully at any proposals to remove stands of heritage trees along the route, in Commonwealth Avenue or elsewhere.
Letter, The Canberra Times, May 11 2019 from Mike Quirk, Garran
Next time you wait for hours in emergency, can't find an affordable house, have difficulty catching a bus, are stuck on congested roads, or wonder why rates are so high and city maintenance so poor, remember the ACT government has spent hundreds of millions of dollars more than necessary on the inter-town public transport from Civic to Gungahlin and intends to spend well over a billion dollars on an unanalysed extension of light rail to Woden.
Letter, The Canberra Times, May 10 2019 from Chris Emery, Reid
ACTION has almost the same number of buses as in 1989 despite our population growing by 50 per cent and becoming more geographically widespread.
If we had 50 per cent more buses imagine the improvement in frequency. We may even have enough for dedicated school-bus services.
Letter, The Canberra Times, May 10 2019 from Hugh Smith, Deakin
Re bus and tram boardings. J. Lindsay (Letters, May 8) suggests our town councillors "have no idea how to analyse public transport usage figures".
Another explanation is government spin-doctors are very good at presenting misleading figures.
Letter, The Canberra Times, May 10 2019 from Stan Marks, Hawker
Keith Pantin (May 4) should not be surprised by his experience (instead of a quick, direct bus into Civic, he now has to go to Dickson to change into the tram for the final leg).
The whole network in north Canberra and Gungahlin has been turned upside down, not to provides a better service but to generate revenue for the tram so that it doesn't look so bad.
The people are the servant of the tram not the tram of the people. It is a microcosm of the whole city.
This is the wealthiest jurisdiction in the country and should have no trouble dealing with the issues it faces but it won't be able to while we continue to tip money by the billion down the tube to pay for the tram.
Letter, The Canberra Times, May 10 2019 from Maureen Hoff, Isabella Plains
After travelling by bus each week day for the last eight years from the Tuggeranong Bus Interchange to the City Bus Interchange, I have been forced to start driving.
The one suitable bus route no longer allows commuters off at the City Bus Interchange and is either usually already full or only accepts a few passengers whether departing from Tuggeranong or the city, leaving many waiting even longer.
The bus rarely travels to Tuggeranong from the city during the evening peak hour, despite what the timetable says.
My daily commute which used to take a total of one hour and 30 minutes now takes a minimum of three hours.
Despite assurances from one of Minister Fitzharris' advisors that I will "come to realise it is better for you" and I "will get used to it", I can categorically say I am not prepared to spend three hours each day attempting to catch buses which may or not have room for passengers, drive through the City Bus Interchange but won't allow commuters to disembark or board until across Northbourne Avenue near the Post Office and may or may not actually travel to Tuggeranong from the city.
Letter, The Canberra Times, May 8 2019 from Katherine McCarthy, Deakin
I would like to congratulate the ACT government on building the light rail to Gungahlin. I took my three-year-old grandson on it yesterday. He was delighted as I was, as we whizzed along Northbourne Avenue.
I couldn't get over the amount of high rise dwellings along the corridor. These residents and the residents of Gungahlin will find the rail a great improvement to their lives.
Letter, The Canberra Times, May 8 2019 from J Lindsay, Curtin
Hugh Smith (Letters, May 7) asks what the figure of 90,000 bus and tram boardings in a single day actually tells us. I think it tells us that our town councillors have no idea of how to analyse public transport usage statistics.
Letter, The Canberra Times, May 8 2019 from Leon Arundell, Downer
Canberra's cyclists have gained an unexpected benefit from light rail. They can avoid red traffic signals by matching the average speed of an adjacent "LRV."
Letter, The Canberra Times, May 8 2019 from Geoff Davidson, Braddon
The trams coming south in morning peak hours are already full when getting to Northbourne Ave. So how do the existing residents and perhaps thousands of new residents from the densification of Northbourne Ave get to the city. Geoff Davidson, Braddon
Letter, The Canberra Times, May 7 2019 from Denise Page, Yarralumla
When the government has to cancel school buses; we have an unacceptable number of homeless; they fill in part of our lake for apartments to raise revenue and rate bills keep rising, we can't afford $1 billion plus for stage 2 light rail.
Letter, The Canberra Times, May 7 2019 from Hugh Smith, Deakin
It has been reported that more than 90,000 people boarded Canberra's buses and trams in a single day earlier this week. But what used to be one trip for many travellers may now require two or even three "boardings". What does the figure actually tell us?
Letter, The Canberra Times, May 6 2019 from Julie Kidd, Bonner
I was driven from Bonner to Civic on Gungahlin Drive in the middle of morning peak hour on Thursday. It was fast and easy, no hold ups at all. I can only assume everyone is on the light rail.
Letter, The Canberra Times, May 6 2019 from Zlatko Spralja, Harrison
I compose this while this beyond capacity tram pulls away from Alinga St, leaving people on the platform who couldn't fit. It strikes me that the Transport Minister would characterise this as a victory. See. The tram is so popular, people can't even use it.
Letter, The Canberra Times, May 5 2019 from JR Ryan, Phillip
I took the liberty of attending the Civic Tram Station and took a short ride on one up to Dickson and back. The trams are very quiet when approaching and leaving the various stations, which brings me to the following point.
When the tram approaches the station, there is no audible notification of its impending arrival. There is when it departs a station. The yellow line with the words "please stand behind the yellow line" is only 200mm at best from where the tram aligns to the platform.
There are no other safety devices or barriers that I could see to prevent a small child from stepping into the path of the tram. I did observe a mum attempting to control, I assume, her children from stepping over the yellow line.
My point is, if the parents are distracted and don't hear the tram arriving there is a potential risk of children and/or others being struck by the tram. Perhaps the government can go back and review that and put in place some sort of audible sound to warn patrons that the tram is approaching the station. The driver activates some sort of horn when leaving the station. Perhaps the same should apply when approaching the station.
Pretty simple. Evaluate the risks and implement an appropriate control using the hierarchy of control.
Letter, The Canberra Times, May 4 2019 from Josef Brzozowski, Macquarie
Ken McPhan (Letters, May 2) I am sorry the tram is not for you. It's not very useful to me unless I'm travelling to Dickson. Like you, I have a car. You are number one in contention for the meaningless whinge of the month award.
Letter, The Canberra Times, May 4 2019 from Keith Pantlin, Downer
In the old bus network, Belconnen to Civic passengers had many direct services.
Now, many city-bound passengers are obliged to go by bus to the Dickson interchange, then to Civic by tram in the new "integrated transport network".
These new bus routes go via Mouat Street, Lyneham.
Mouat Street has always been busy in peak hours, but now it has the added congestion of a large number of extra buses, all trying to change to the right-hand lane as they approach Northbourne Avenue, so they can go to the Dickson interchange.
The result is that Mouat Street is a scene of chaos, with buses stranded across two lanes, holding up the traffic, and the ever-present possibility of missing a turn of the green lights because of an approaching tram on Northbourne - probably the very tram that the greatly inconvenienced bus passengers want to catch.
Letter, The Canberra Times, May 3 2019 from Jack Kershaw, Kambah
The ACT government needs to postpone light rail 2, and invest in more public housing. Increased supply along the tram route isn't reducing prices.
Letter, The Canberra Times, May 3 2019 from Michael Lucas, Conder
Transport Canberra is saying 64,000 trips were taken on the light rail network during the first free five days of operation. I challenge them to provide the figures for the corresponding five days next year.
Letter, The Canberra Times, May 3 2019 from Samantha Lemon, Braddon
I sustained an injury recently that means I have to use a walking stick to walk and cannot stand for long periods of time.
Since the launch of the new network the morning and evening trams are so packed nobody can move.
I struggle to get on at my stop at Ipima St, and have to lean against the carriage doors to take pressure from my knee.
My injury is only minor.
Think of the experience of someone with a more serious injury/disability attempting to access the system.
There is no way that a person in a wheelchair would be able to use the tram at that time.
Letter, The Canberra Times, May 3 2019 from Vanessa Stephenson, Symonston
Well done Transport Canberra. You have left two government departments and two caravan parks with no access to bus services.
Maybe you could consider bringing the tram down Narrabundah lane in Symonston so employees of the Therapeutic Goods Administration and Geoscience Australia, and residents of the long stay park and Sundowner village don't have to walk over two kilometres to the closest bus stop.
Letter, The Canberra Times, May 3 2019 from Graham Downie, O'Connor
Care should be taken when accepting figures on Canberra's public transport use.
The headline, "Record numbers on ACT public transport but students left behind" (canberratimes.com.au, May 2) seems to confuse passenger boardings with passenger numbers.
The ABC on the same day reported 90,000 passenger boardings. Given the new arrangements require far more people to change buses, or from light rail to bus, there are inevitably more passenger boardings.
The test of Canberra's public transport use is whether more people use the service. The requirement for more people to change almost always increases travel time and is a demonstrated disincentive to public transport use. Transport Canberra is well aware of this.
If there are 90,000 passenger boardings in a day, allowing for return journeys, only 45,000 people would have used public transport.
If half of those have to catch four vehicles a day, the realistic figure is nearer to 30,000 passengers.
Letter, The Canberra Times, May 2 2019 from Laurie McDonald, Watson
Some of the more interesting views in local media about light rail lately have taken me back to some of the more interesting views about the construction of Black Mountain Tower around 1980.
When one critic complained on talk back radio that the tower had made Black Mountain look smaller, one of my workmates commented: "No. I have always felt that Black Mountain looked a touch too big and now it looks just the right size."
Letter, The Canberra Times, May 2 2019 from E. Smith, Page
I commend Michael Williams' suggestion of a Whinge of the Week Award (Letters, April 29). Can all Letters readers offer their nominations?
I would also like to comment on the issue Michael refers to: someone complaining about the boring landscape from the tram. I have heard this comment several times in various media, including radio talk-back.
As far as I know engineers and town planners don't decide where tram or bus routes go based on the scenery.
I am reminded of Basil Fawlty's comment to Mrs Richards, who was complaining about the inadequate view over Torquay from her room. Did she expect to see "herds of wildebeest sweeping majestically across the plain?" he asked.
Yes, a little perspective would be a good thing.
Letter, The Canberra Times, May 2 2019 from Leon Arundell, Downer
The business case for stage 1 of the light rail estimated that during the morning peak it would carry 3,946 passengers in 2021, and 5,193 passengers in 2031.
The Canberra Times reported that on Monday only "around 2500 people caught the light rail alone between 7 am and 9 am" ("'Bedding down' issues blamed for bus timetable blowouts", canberratimes.com.au, April 30), and that "commuters were left waiting at light rail stations as full carriages passed them by."
Letter, The Canberra Times, May 2 2019 from Ken McPhan, Spence
To ride on light rail from Gungahlin to Civic I would have to drive about 15 minutes from my home to get to the terminus and drive a similar time to my home after the return ride. For a few minutes more I could drive into Civic from my home and get there in less time.
Letter, The Canberra Times, May 1 2019 from Murray May, Cook
At a recent 6pm crossing of Northbourne Avenue from Lyneham to Dickson at Antill Street, I noticed traffic backing up well into Lyneham. The lights favour the tram with vehicles only allowed to cross Northbourne Avenue at a trickle. Has the ACT government factored in the congestion costs of this new transport setup?
Letter, The Canberra Times, April 30 2019 from Damien McGrath, Kaleen
What a tremendous asset the new light rail system is. I recommend all Canberrans try it. Fast, comfortable, efficient it makes travelling along Northbourne Avenue and to Gungahlin a pleasure. It is also a climate positive way to travel. Congratulations to this forward thinking government.
Letter, The Canberra Times, April 30 2019 from Warwick Davis, Isaacs
I agreed with Jon Stanhope's call, made several years ago, to make cats indoor pets. My two cats have not been allowed outside since they were kittens. Everyone can train new kittens likewise; as older cats die out we can eliminate outdoor cats, other than the feral.
That formula of cat training is a proxy for training owners: the aged cat owners might be hardest to persuade.
The registration fee will be introduced because Andrew Barr is scraping up every possible dollar.
It was legitimate to clean "fluffy" houses but not to treat the owners as miserably as they have been; It was not legitimate to introduce a tram just to bribe Green voters so Barr could stay in power.
Any major commercial undertaking such as a tram should have a sustainable business case; if the service requires a tax payer subsidy the amount should be clear in every budget.
One cut back in services is the closure of the Hydrotherapy pool at Canberra Hospital.
Another destructive proposal is building at West Basin. This will be the end of our lake as a resource for all.
Andrew Barr has had one good idea: moving off stamp duty is essential since we are, inevitably, running out of land to sell.
Letter, The Canberra Times, April 29 2019 from Michael Williams, Curtin
I've noticed a disturbing element creeping into the Letters to the Editor: whingeing.
The letter from a lady complaining about her tram ride (cold breeze down her neck, boring landscape, Letters, April 23) was a masterpiece of the genre, and I nominate it as the first winner of a new feature I propose for your letters page: the Whinge of the Week Award.
Not wanting to just whinge about whingers myself, I'd like to offer some suggestions for how to discriminate between a whinge and the raising of an issue that deserves a public airing.
What sets a whinge apart is: 1) it is relentlessly self-centred; 2) it doesn't offer anything positive about what can be done; 3) it reveals a victim mentality.
A really good whinge can be entertaining for a short while. A steady diet of whinge palls rapidly.
There are plenty of things to be legitimately upset by in our world that need discussion, but instead we seem to be edging towards a culture of feckless outrage not backed up by reason, responsibility, or a sense of history.
Receiving a Whinge of the Week Award might, in a small way, encourage some perspective.
Letter, The Canberra Times, April 28 2019 from Marion Davis, Charnwood
Thanks The Canberra Times for clearing things up ("How to drive a tram (sorry, LRV)", April 20, p3). No rails above ground so it is a tram. Sorry drivers but if you want to feel macho call it the Rhino as a driver has likened it to driving a herd of rhinos.
Folk Festival is over but one of our local songwriters could pen a song about rolling down Northbourne on the Rhino Express.
Perhaps the CT could run a competition.
Letter, The Canberra Times, April 28 2019 from Chris Oxley, Evatt
My letter (Forum, October 1, 2016, p9) advised that the resurfacing of Copland Drive did not last 25 weeks, even though the Minister for Transport and Municipal Surfaces indicated that such resurfacing products have expected lifespans up to 25 years.
Based on this poor quality outcome, I asked "...how long is the proposed multi-billion dollar light rail network going to last?" The Canberra Times ("Software blamed for tram breakdown", April 24, p3) answered this question for Stage 1 ... less than one week!
Letter, The Canberra Times, April 27 2019 from H Merritt, Downer
Thanks Michael Shoebridge ("All aboard your non-existent bus", April 24, p19) for a considered and thoughtful look at forthcoming bus changes in respect of school services.
As an "older" Canberran, I've had a look at the changes from an "aged" perspective and I suspect, those with a disability have viewed through that prism.
None of us fare very well under the new scheme so I assume it has been designed by those who either don't catch buses or to whom speed is of the essence.
Having to change buses (or from bus to light rail) once or twice to complete a journey is certainly not ideal.
I am already driving my car to a local bus stop due to my decreasing ability to walk any great distance (the nearest bus stop to me is half-a-kilometre away), so having to change to light rail at Dickson (more walking!) and then, on arrival in Civic, walk twice as far to my destination as I used to on the "one catch bus" is really not my idea of an "improved service".
Letter, The Canberra Times, April 26 2019 from Sue Dyer, Downer
Concerns raised about the new integrated public transport network arrangements for school students apply equally to adult public transport users, day and night, and regardless of age, physical ability or necessary accompanying personal items such as bikes, prams, shopping bags and walkers ("All aboard your non-existent bus ", April 24).
After April 29 many will find that their new network journeys are slower, time wasting, unable to provide certain and clear rail/bus connections and less comfortable compared to the current servicing.
Letter, The Canberra Times, April 26 2019 from Patrick O'Hara, Isaacs
Well done, Andrew Barr, on completion of the first stage of light rail. You have given Canberra an asset, for which you will be praised over years to come. I look forward to Stage 2.
Letter, The Canberra Times, April 25 2019 from Laura Hakkinen, Lyons
There are so many whingers out there in letters-land. They are complaining about the price of the splendid new tram system, the uninteresting scenery along the route, the dullness of the destination, the air conditioning and the hardness of the seats. Really?
I traveled from the Alinga Street terminus to the Gungahlin terminus on Monday and found the whole experience very pleasant.
There was hardly any wait for each tram, they rolled along smoothly and quietly, the large windows gave an excellent view of the passing city and bush scapes, and the interior was stylish and clean.
I had picked out a destination in Gungahlin beforehand and soon found my way to the local library. I found a pleasant cafe for a healthy lunch, and returned home, having made a very pleasant outing.
The whole journey was accomplished faster than I could have driven there, and much faster than the two buses I would otherwise have had to take.
Well done Canberra.
Letter, The Canberra Times, April 25 2019 from Bruce Wright, Latham
Walter Burley Griffin included trams in his plan for Canberra because cars were all-but non-existent at the time.
When he came to Canberra as director of design, his wife initially stayed in the U.S. as the architect for Henry Ford's new house, built on the profits from the Model T Ford.
To say that it has taken more than a century to build Griffin's vision for trams in Canberra is utter tosh. ("With the beginning of light rail, Canberra is forever changed", canberratimes.com.au, April 20.)
Griffin did not envisage the use of personal motor cars for the masses. If you doubt it, just look at his suburban road system in inner Canberra.
Nor could he have envisaged such car use on the information available at the time.
Nor did he envisage Gungahlin, or Woden or Belconnen or Tuggeranong.
The ACT Government needs to stop pretending its 19th Century technology is the fulfillment of the Griffin Plan.
Letter, The Canberra Times, April 25 2019 from Adam Kirk, Braddon
David Walter (Letters, April 22) asks if getting trams represents the coming of age of a city then what does it say about the cities like Sydney that got rid of them? "Senile dementia?" Too right. History has indeed proved Sydney's misguided decision to rip up its tram network in the 1960s was, and still is, pretty demented.
Letter, The Canberra Times, April 25 2019 from M Davis, Charnwood
It is lucky the tram roll-out did not happen in January. If a stalled tram is a sweat box on a 24 degree day it would be a death box at 35 degrees.
Letter, The Canberra Times, April 24 2019 from L. Bentley, Braddon
Along with many others, I travelled on the light rail on Saturday: a beautiful vehicle, fast, quiet and smooth.
It will be a great boon to Canberra's north side, opening up possibilities not thought of before: a quick coffee in Lonsdale Street, a meal in Woolley Street, Dickson, a movie at the Canberra Centre - all without worrying about driving and parking.
But the recorded announcements mispronounced the names of the first couple of stations, and I found this irritating.
As a decades-long resident of Braddon I can state with confidence that Alouera has always been pronounced Aleer-a, not Aloo-ra, and Ipima pronounced Eye-p-eye-ma, not Eye-peema.
I hope the names of these stations can be re-recorded to reflect their traditional pronunciations.
Letter, The Canberra Times, April 24 2019 from Hamish Podger, Macquarie
Full of excitement I arrived two minutes before 8am for the first light rail vehicle leaving Alinga St.
I'd done my research, there's four bike slots on each vehicle and I thought it would be fun to join the other five or six people who'd rocked up early for the first ride.
Imagine my disappointment that due to "crowd control" reasons, bicycles were unwelcome on the opening weekend.
Somehow I don't think the other half-dozen people on board would have minded.
Letter, The Canberra Times, April 24 2019 from Stan Marks, Hawker
What were we opening on Saturday? The Sydney Opera House? The Taj Mahal? The Hanging Gardens of Babylon? Or perhaps the resurrection of Jesus Christ? No, just the waste of nearly a billion dollars [on a tram].
Most people in this city are disgusted by the waste. Just think what things could have been achieved with that money.
Better schools, better hospitals, care for youth who have fled the family home to escape violence or abuse, even better transport to Gungahlin are some examples.
Letter, The Canberra Times, April 23 2019 from Ron Edgecombe, Evatt
For all those Canberrans happily riding the new tram bear in mind that the real (nominal) cost of the project as identified by the ACT Auditor General is $1.78 billion ("With light rail, Canberra is changed forever"), Canberra Times 20 April 2018, and not around $700m as the Chief Minister is loudly proclaiming.
When Canberrans face the daily reality of declining education outcomes for their children in our public schools, increased waiting lists in Canberra's public hospitals for elective surgeries, major reductions in our public housing stocks, the rapid deterioration of Canberra's natural environment, not to mention the major changes to the bus network to force more people on to the tram, will it really be worth it?
New commercial and residential developments in the so called gateway precinct of Northbourne Avenue would have occurred irrespective of the tram build, as it is an integral part of the core transport spine of Canberra, laid out by the National Capital Development Commission. Instead Canberrans have been saddled with the identified $1.78 billion cost and an increasing public deficit ("Bad news then worse - ACT budget through lens of ex-treasury boffin"), Jon Stanhope and Khalid Ahmed, Canberra Times 9 March 2019. Ron Edgecombe, Evatt
Letter, The Canberra Times, April 23 2019 from David Walker, Ainslie
If getting trams represents the coming of age of a city as some have claimed then what does it say about the cities like Sydney that got rid of them? Senile dementia?
Letter, The Canberra Times, April 23 2019 from Penny Upward, O'Connor
After two years and $700 million dollars I had my first tram ride. I was surprised most of the seating at the Civic tram stop has no shelter or roof cover. The seats are harder than bus seats. A cold breeze from the air-conditioning blew down the back of my neck. The sun glare was uncomfortable. The scenery to Gunghalin is not attractive; nor is the destination. I caught the bus home. It was more comfortable and quicker.
Letter, The Canberra Times, April 22 2019 from John Ward, O'Connor
Well, I and my family rode the new trams all day on Saturday and a marvellous experience it was!
Very festive indeed and a superb piece of tramway engineering - and only 22-23 minutes from one terminus to the other! Congratulations Canberra!
However, next week a new bus timetable goes into operation and we, in O'Connor, lose everything. The advertisements say "more buses, more often, seven days a week". But not for us in O'Connor.
We currently have two half hourly buses connecting us with Belconnen, Calvary Hospital, Dickson, the ANU, the city, the National Library, the National Portrait Gallery, the National Gallery, Questacon and so forth. At weekends there is an hourly bus making these connections, and it also goes to the National Museum.
But next weekend almost all this goes - we have only one route, going only to Dickson and the city! Maybe the tram is being paid for by cutting most of the bus services out?
Letter, The Canberra Times, April 20 2019 from Errol Good, Macgregor
It is amazing that I read in The Canberra Times on April 16 that this government is going to spend another $100,000 of ratepayers' money on light rail on a booze-up to celebrate the opening of a white elephant when they have already cost the people of Canberra nearly $1 billion on this waste of time and outdated project.
As well we have now the pleasure of our MLAs telling us that they, with the help of the Transport Workers' Union (who's interest is in themselves and not the public) that all the bus routes will be changed for the better from the April 29 fit in with the light rail.
Dear MLAs, Transport Workers' Union representatives who I believe have never travelled on an Action bus to work: does the changing of bus routes in Belconnen, South Canberra, and as far as Tuggeranong have anything to do with the light rail service?
If the people of Gungahlin wish to change their bus service so they can catch a tram, which I believe will take an extra 15 minutes in travel time, good luck to them, but the rest of Canberra should not have to suffer the indignity of travelling on a bus system that was devised by a bunch of MLAs, the Transport Workers' Union, and Transport Canberra after a session down at the local.
I know from speaking to Transport Canberra that the good service of the 300s have been scrapped from April 29, and may I say what a wonderful service it was and could continue to be.
A trip that would have taken me 35 minutes from Macgregor to the city will take me over one hour, and will need me change at a bus interchange. Only if the connecting buses are on time, which I doubt as connecting times don't match up, will I ever reach my destination on time, only because some person in Transport Canberra and our MLAs thought we will try and force people on to the light rail. I will prepare after April 29 for more cars on the road.
Letter, The Canberra Times, April 20 2019 from Simon Blake, Deakin
There are two very related news stories this week. One is the start of Canberra's tram. The other is the Uber IPO. Rattenbury and Barr have committed $1 billion of ratepayers' money on a 19th century transport solution.
Investors are predicted to invest $100 billion of their own money on a 21st century transport solution. Uber has been very honest about its current business model that may never make a profit. The smart money, however, agrees with its expectation that within five years autonomous ride share will revolutionise public transport.
That means that within five years the expectation is that by pushing a button on your smartphone an air-conditioned pod will take you door to door. Rattenbury's plan is an 800m metre walk at each end, a wait and a tram ride. In a Canberra summer (35) and winter (-5) I know which one I will be using.
It is not too late to repurpose the route for buses and to trying recoup some of the wasted money by selling the rolling stock before it loses too much value through endless, empty runs.
In an attempt to seem relevant the system is referred to as light rail. The general definition is that light rail track protrudes from the surface whilst tram track is inlaid into the surface. If one needed any further clarification, look at the traffic lights: "T".
Letter, The Canberra Times, April 18 2019 from S. Watt, Fairbairn
A prudent light rail party sounds like a blast. I can't wait to go along and be thanked by the Barr government.
Thanks for accepting the loss of the bus service to your suburb. Thanks for accepting your children have no school bus service. Thanks for accepting the fact we totally ignored a petition of over 600 residents tabled in the ACT Legislative Assembly requesting a school bus service for our children. Thanks for accepting our sham "public consultation" over the new bus network. Thanks for accepting the way we snubbed any requests to reconsider the new bus network.
I'm not anti light rail, but when it comes at a genuine loss of service to other Canberra residents it's a pretty hard pill to swallow. Unfortunately a $100,000 (minimum) light rail sausage sizzle thank you celebration doesn't change anything.
Letter, The Canberra Times, April 18 2019 from Kim Fitzgerald, Deakin
So the ACT government proposes to spend over $100,000 on the party to launch light rail. And I thought spending taxpayers' money on painting rainbow roundabouts was over the top. But what I find saddest, is that when I look at the ACT opposition, I still couldn't vote for them. The ACT really needs a viable opposition.
Letter, The Canberra Times, April 17 2019 from Mike Quirk, Garran
It comes as no surprise the Barr government is spending over $100,000 to celebrate the advent of light rail.
It's a classic bread and circuses approach designed to distract the community from the government's poor performance. Nero and Caligula would be impressed.
Mr Barr start addressing the challenges facing the city: the increasing congestion, declining housing affordability, poor city maintenance and declining access to facilities and services.
Letter, The Canberra Times, April 17 2019 from John K. Layton, Holt
So the Barr government is to blow $100,000 on a shindig to celebrate the opening of Canberra's light rail. If you think that's scandalous wait until you see the bill for the wake.
Letter, The Canberra Times, April 17 2019 from Ken Keirven, Melba
If elected, Bill Shorten will provide $200 million dollars for light rail. This will just about extend the line to the beginning of Adelaide Avenue. When the House has a late sitting, Bill will be able to duck down to Civic, pick up a couple of take-aways and jump on the tram back home to the Lodge.
Letter, The Canberra Times, April 14 2019 from M. Flint, Smart Canberra Transport
Mike Quirk (letters, Apr 19) is quite right to say that light rail is “off the rails”. It would be another light rail travesty if the government forges ahead on Stage 2 without a valid business case.
There was one done for Stage 1, but was not worth the paper it was written on. The government will again ride rough-shod over the concerns of a great many taxpayers in the mistaken belief that it has a mandate from the last election and majority support for the Woden line.
I challenge the government to do a separate, valid survey for its claimed support for Stage 2, ie one where they also tell those surveyed the full cost of the project instead of framing the question like “Do you love light rail?”, to get its desired outcome.
Letter, The Canberra Times, April 13 2019 from Mary Brock, Kaleen
Zed Seselja and NCA chief executive, Sally Barnes, proudly announced Lyneham's Southwell Park would be preserved as open space.
I would be interested to know what other green space will be included along the entrance to the Bush Capital (apart from Glebe Park, if that is to remain).
It appears this government is only interested in putting up towers, with little consideration for the welfare of those occupying them.
Where are the children to play and the residents to socialise?
Why are we in need of 18 meter buildings in this area if not to justify having built a light rail?
Perhaps we could have one multi story, reasonably priced, car park where visitors could leave their car and use light rail to enter the city.
Can't our town planners see beyond multi story buildings which, over the term of the Barr government, have totally changed the character of Canberra.
In this article Adina Carson said "the changes showed the National Capital Authority had listened to the concerns of industry groups and the community".
I believe that industry groups had the loudest voice. I know the community would like to see much more in the way of welcoming green spaces rather than wall-to-wall buildings.
We need a simple one-page outline of exactly what is planned before it has already happened.
Could the Canberra Times provide this so the general populace can see what is to happen before it's too late?
Letter, The Canberra Times, April 11 2019 from Geoff Barker, Flynn
Mike Quirk (Letters, April 7) says that "hundreds of millions of dollars have been potentially wasted on the ....light rail". I would like to correct Mike by saying "hundreds of millions of dollars has been, is now, and will, in the future, be wasted on the light rail".
Letter, The Canberra Times, April 8 2019 from Peter Claughton, Farrer
I think that the Barr government wants high rise buildings along the tram corridor but I don't think Canberrans do. I think that if the trams turn out to be an expensive ''White Elephant'' the government will blame Canberrans for not supporting the high-rise building developments.
Looks like the government can't lose whatever the outcome - unfortunately.
Letter, The Canberra Times, April 7 2019 from Mike Quirk, Garran
Canberra's lack of evidence-based policies is preventing it from managing its population growth (Rise to the population challenge, The Canberra Times, March 29).
The projected growth requires the judicious use of limited funds to meet the needs of the community.
The ACT planning strategy did not undertake analysis of the social, environmental or economic consequences of alternative population and employment distributions, the demand for housing by location, dwelling type, household type and income or adequately assess potential new settlement areas such as Kowen. There is no plan indicating where, why and when development is likely to occur and the infrastructure required to service that growth.
Similarly, the extension of light rail to Woden is proceeding in the absence of a business case investigating whether it is superior to alternatives, especially a busway.
Nor has evidence been presented demonstrating the urban renewal benefits generated by light rail are greater than those from a busway.
The result is that hundreds of millions of dollars have been potentially wasted on the Gungahlin to Civic light rail that could have been available for health, education, disability services and public transport.
The ill-informed, often developer-led Barr government and its lickspittle bureaucracy need to stop the spin and commit to planning and genuine consultation to guide Canberra's development.
Consider the needs of all, not just the inner city, latte-lapping, kale munching, kombucha sipping, light rail loving elite.
Letter, The Canberra Times, April 6 2019 from Philida Sturgiss-Hoy, Downer
Your article "Jobs bonanza from light rail" (canberratimes.com.au, April) illustrates how construction projects, whether they be trains, high-rise apartments or (in other places coal mines) give a false impression of the jobs produced from large amounts of investment.
In this case it was about $1billion for a tram. Over three years 3.38 billion people-hours sounds impressive, until you break it down. If 4637 workers shared the "bonanza" this means that each worker got on average 728.9 hours each and, if this is divided by a 40-hour week, we have 18.2 weeks' work per person.
This is not very much and very casual for most of the workers.
And then comes the real letdown. Permanent full-time jobs, the sort of jobs most people want, are 125.
This is a very few given around one billion dollars was spent. In my view, the train may be many things but a jobs bonanza for the ACT it is not.
Letter, The Canberra Times, April 4 2019 from Herman van de Brug, Kaleen
Due to the incidents since light rail testing began, I suggest a three-month 50 km/h speed limit for vehicular traffic along Northbourne Avenue.
That would defuse a rather volatile mix and allow us to become familiar with the operation of light rail and the higher volumes of pedestrian traffic.
Letter, The Canberra Times, April 4 2019 from Michael Barry, Torrens
Our trams should each carry a set of stencils so they can paint military aircraft-style kill silhouettes of whatever they take out. I am already preparing stencils of my pergola, Hills Hoist and guinea pigs for when Stage 2 inevitably crashes through my backyard in Woden. By then light rail will have over-grazed the environment and we can indulge in another Canberra tradition: the cull.
Letter, The Canberra Times, April 3 2019 from Douglas Mackenzie, Deakin
Leon Arundell (Letters, March28) writes that "the ACT is one of the most progressive jurisdictions in the nation for keeping its people moving".
That may be so, but I have serious reservations about the "progressive" nature and the wisdom behind plans for stage two of the light-rail project.
A former ACTION employee has said that ACTION could have bought a fleet of electric buses and operated them continuously, in a network covering north Canberra, for a fraction of the roughly $1billion cost of light rail stage one. A similar but even more dramatic comparison would apply to light rail stage two, with its estimated cost of $1.3billion to $1.6 billion.
It has been argued that electric buses should function in south Canberra as a network radiating out from the stage two light-rail artery.
However, the existing 300 series buses run between Civic and Woden every three to eight minutes, with a travel time of 18 minutes compared with the estimated 15-20 minutes for light rail.
It is very clear to me that an electric bus network makes much more practical, economic and environmental sense than old-technology andhorrendously expensive light rail.
Letter, The Canberra Times, April 2 2019 from Val Walker, Yarralumla
Now there are a lot more traffic signals at light rail intersections how long will it be before a car mistakes the green "T" tram signal for the green right-turn arrow for cars and a collision occurs? There must be a clearer or better way to do this.
Letter, The Canberra Times, March 31 2019 from Howard Carew, Isaacs
The front page article (The Canberra Times, March 26) would have awakened many Canberrans to the problems that light rail will bring.
There are many advantages that the bus has over the tram. The main one, of course, is that the bus unloads on the side of the road. The tram does not.
To add insult to injury, with the tram having right of way at lights, this not only reduces the time passengers have to cross from the centre to the sides but it reduces the time cross traffic has allotted to it. This applies not only at the 13 stops proposed between Gungahlin and Civic but also the same 13 stops on the return trip.
In Melbourne, to take an example I know well, the tram stops at a light. Passengers get off and are able to cross to the side of the road on the red light that stops the tram.
Moving on to the proposed second stage, which will travel along Adelaide Avenue and Yarra Glen: at peak times this stretch gives a quick passage to traffic.
If you run a tram down that stretch and have say six sets of traffic lights installed, this will slow car traffic down to the point where they will take at least twice as long to travel along that stretch of road. Naturally enough that does not happen with buses. It is a matter of fact that tram passengers will have difficulty getting to either footpath, especially at peak times. All the above is and was predictable. What is also predictable is that Mr Barr, in his usual fashion, dismisses any fact that does not fit in his plans for a tram service in Canberra.
It is a question of common sense that stage two of the tram does not start before stage one has been in operation for at least three months.
Letter, The Canberra Times, March 30 2019 from Mike Quirk, Garran
Transport Minister Meegan Fitzharris hopes Canberra will soon be recognised as a global leader in transport-focused urban development ("Putting the trams before the Gateway", March 27, p1).
It is more likely to be recognised as an example of what not to do.
The provision of the Civic to Gungahlin light rail took place despite:
(a) The Productivity Commission observing the business case indicated bus rapid transport would provide similar benefits at a quarter of the cost.
(b) A benefit to cost ratio of 1.2 i.e. it would return $1.20 for every dollar spent. The ACT Auditor-General indicated the real ratio was about 0.5.
(c) Failing to respond to widespread concern about the merits of the project.
(d) Limiting consultation to not much more than choosing the colour of the carriages.
(e) Failing to develop significant employment along the route.
Having spent hundreds of millions of dollars above what was necessary on rapid public transport from Civic to Gungahlin, the government now intends to spend about $1.6 billion on the Civic to Woden light rail without a business case. It is committed to the project no matter what the cost. Hardly an example of best practice.
Ms Fitzharris, be responsible, prepare a business case comparing light rail and its alternatives, including busways, and undertake genuine consultation, so we can get the most appropriate land use transport solution in the Civic to Woden rapid transport corridor.
Letter, The Canberra Times, March 28 2019 from John Mungoven, Stirling
I believe the ACT government and Canberra Metro need to take very seriously the potential dangers raised by the introduction of light rail.
Services haven't officially started and yet there have been two potentially fatal "incidents".
No "entrapment" yet, a nasty euphemism.
The project design raises significant risks. A separated tram line (in parts) sounds good but there is more to the design than that.
In particular, (for now), there are long stretches between stations in Northbourne Avenue that are in near complete darkness at night. There appears to be no tramline floodlighting in those areas.
There is no fencing preventing/slowing access by pedestrians or cyclists "sneaking across".
The trams travel, at their peak, faster than the road speed limit (60km/h).
They are comparatively quiet, making their approach different from existing traffic noise.
They do not sound a horn at intersections.
Pity help a pedestrian/cyclist (drunk, tired, distracted, inattentive earplugs/iPhone, careless) taking a shortcut.
Pity help the poor tram driver not expecting the same.
Another change to driver behaviour is required at T intersections with the tram line.
Imagine turning right at the Federal highway intersection to enter Northbourne Avenue.
In the past, it was a relatively safe process on the green arrow (mind you I always took a last quick glance for red light runners from the right).
Now in addition to the previous process, a motorist needs to keep alert for trams (approaching from the left and right) which should stop on your green light and hopefully will.
Consideration should be given to continuous pedestrian safety fencing at least along the unlit areas.
Sirens sounding as trams approach intersections and as they leave stations (a la Melbourne) should be mandatory.
Ah, the serenity for new apartment owners.
Letter, The Canberra Times, March 28 2019 from James Jupp, Hughes
The 1000 students criticising the withdrawal of buses from the ANU campus are justified.
The new system will replace the Number 3, which goes between Woden and Belconnen, by Number 57, which will need a change at the city interchange.
This is not needed now.
The proposed Number 53 might go to the National Museum (which is not part of the ANU or very close to it).
Four bus stops will be removed from the campus.
The myth that students will benefit from the Light Rail ignores that this does not cater for anyone south of the Lake, although the Number 3 does.
Letter, The Canberra Times, March 28 2019 from Leon Arundell, Downer
The ACT is one of the most progressive jurisdictions in the nation for keeping its population moving ("How Canberra's transport innovation rates against the rest of the country," canberratimes.com.au, March 23).
Larger cities are generally less car-dependent because they can offer better public transport.
The 2016 census showed that, although the proportion of our commuters driving their own vehicles reached an all-time high, we are still less car-dependent than Perth and Adelaide.
But we are completely lacking in innovation to encourage commuters to travel as car passengers.
Our only transit lane – the poorly designed Adelaide Avenue T2 lane – reduces travel time by less than 20 seconds.
The 2012 "Transport for Canberra" policy included no measures to encourage people to travel as car passengers.
The resulting fall in car passenger numbers exceeded the combined increases in walking, cycling and public transport.
"Moving Canberra" includes no measures to encourage people to travel as car passengers.
Letter, The Canberra Times, March 26 2019 from Elizabeth Teather, Reid
Who will want to live in Canberra once the light rail and its associated high-density developments have been constructed?
I can tell you: investors. Geocon's hoarding on its Cooyong Street development site says nothing about homes, only "Seven per cent rental guarantee for five years. Create wealth through property."
Others also stand to profit from Northbourne Avenue's projected densification. They include the ACT branches of the Property Council, Master Builders Association, Planning Institute of Australia, Institute of Architects, Institute of Landscape Architects, and the Canberra Business Chamber ("Industry Groups unite to combat 'low-density' plan for Northbourne Avenue", canberratimes.com.au, March25).
To the indignation of these professional bodies, residents of Downer successfully sought revisions to earlier plans for the tram corridor because of concerns about proposed building heights.
They managed to get maximum height limits reduced, to deal with potential problems with the blocking of sunlight to existing properties, increased traffic and an unacceptable change to the character of the suburb.
Is it a surprise that Downer is a suburb where many people have chosen to live because they enjoy its current character?
This is a test for the ACT government. Is it in the pockets of developers, an accusation often made? Or is it prepared to stand by the legitimate concerns of its citizens, those who enjoy their homes in Downer's pleasant, green, medium-density suburb?
Letter, The Canberra Times, March 27 2019 from Paul McCulloch, Macgregor
I am 60 years old. For the majority of my working life I caught public transport as I've never had a licence (which is more common than people would realise). I grew up in Melbourne and I like trams as a form of public transport. I thought it would be good to throw my hat into the ring for the ballot for the initial ride on the light rail as I'm part of the cohort who would be regular users. Wrong – according to the terms of the competition I'm not eligible. Genius.
Letter, The Canberra Times, March 27 2019 from Rosemary Crossland, Ngunnawal
Interesting that Canberra Metro's customer support staff will be wearing Akubra hats, in "a nod to the city's distinction as the bush capital". Wouldn't it be more appropriate for them to wear hats in the shape of a high-rise building?
Letter, The Canberra Times, March 26 2019 from Stan Marks, Hawker
Katie Burgess' article ("Dreams come true on the new light rail", March 23, p2) is entertaining. But it also explains why the tram is a farce. Yes, the tram will be nice to travel in but why buy a Rolls-Royce when a Holden would do? She says "The $939 million question is will Canberrans use the service". The answer is a lot of them will. But, based on the Auditor-General's assessment, only enough to recover half of that cost. A pretty poor investment when you consider all the needs that exist in this city. Express busses running down the middle of Northbourne Avenue wouldn't be as swish as the tram but would do everything useful that it does and the money that would save could be used on our schools and hospitals or, for that matter, on a more frequent bus service so Burgess could have a frequent bus past her door.
Letter, The Canberra Times, March 26 2019 from Guy Swifte, Garran
Bill Shorten recently said if Labor were elected at the next election, he would provide $200 million for stage two of the Canberra tram network. Shorten lost any possibility of getting my vote with such an announcement. However, if he had said he would provide the $200 million for an upgrade to the Canberra-Sydney rail line, he almost certainly would have garnered my vote. Such an amount could significantly upgrade the Canberra-Goulburn section of the line, with perhaps money left over to upgrade further sections.
So what do we want from Shorten, 10 kilometres of useless tram line between Canberra and Woden or a vastly improved Canberra-Sydney rail service. I know what I prefer.
Letter, The Canberra Times, March 24 2019 from Ian Jannaway, Monash
Regarding the old 63 service, not only do I now have to to get an earlier bus to get to work, but I now have to get two buses!
A five-minute trip to Erindale now takes 13 minutes, and then I have to get another bus to Woden. On the return journey I have to get off at Erindale and wait half-an-hour for the next bus to Monash. Oh yes, I am also disabled.
Can someone please tell me how this better or even efficient?
Supposedly this is also to do with light rail link up, for which I am paying exorbitant rates and for a service I will probably not see in my lifetime.
Well done ACTION!
Letter, The Canberra Times, March 24 2019 from Ian Jannaway, Monash
Jenny Goldie (Letters, March 18) is wrong. The construction of light rail in Canberra may represent "a rapid shift from fossil fuels to renewable energy" but that is all it is — a representation, not a saviour. The present-day environmental cost and amount of embodied fossil fuel energy that has gone into the construction of the light rail is astronomical. It will take more than 30 years of fewer cars on Northbourne Avenue to offset the initial fossil fuel outlay. And as cars become more environmentally friendly, including electric, that 30 years could blow out and never recoup the initial fossil fuel outlay.
Sixty thousand cubic metres of concrete had to be mined, crushed, mixed and trucked to site. Forty-eight kilometres of steel rail section had to have its iron ore mined, trucked, melted, extruded then trucked again across Australia.
Twenty-four kilometres of overhead wires and myriad steel poles to keep them aloft all had to be mined, melted, fabricated, processed, transported and erected using fossil fuels.
Then there are 14 40-tonne tram vehicles fabricated in factories in Spain and shipped to Sydney then overland to Canberra using fossil fuels all the way.
Not to mention the local fossil fuel consuming activities such as cutting down more than 500 trees on Northbourne Avenue, rerouting the gas mains, vast digging up and disposal of soil from the median strip, transport and placement of kilometres of steel safety fencing and the constant to and fro of a multitude of construction vehicles for the almost two-year construction period. Anyone who thinks the Canberra light rail is an exercise in a net saving of fossil fuels needs to think again. Penleigh Boyd, Reid
Letter, The Canberra Times, March 23 2019 from Bill Deane, Chapman
Re: "Previous delays have been mitigated through the resequencing of logic and acceleration of activity durations, which has ultimately resulted in parallel execution of design and testing activities and a back-end compression of the program" ("Minister warned over light rail start date", March 18, p9).
Is it possible the delays occurred because nobody could understand what anyone else was talking about?
Letter, The Canberra Times, March 21 2019 from P. Johnston, Gungahlin
Holy hot cross buns. We are going to have trams for Easter!
Letter, The Canberra Times, March 21 2019 from Kent Fitch, Nicholls
Jenny Goldie mistakenly asserts a tram on a new carriageway has a climate-change advantage over electric buses on existing roads (Letters, March 18).
The greenhouse-gas cost of the tram carriageway from Gungahlin was optimistically estimated at 61,000 tons of carbon dioxide equivalent.
The annual savings from diesel bus replacement by the tram will be at most 1200 tons per-annum, and given the tram has less peak-hour capacity than the current bus services it replaces, few car drivers will shift to the tram and removal of buses from the roads on the route will attract more drivers.
The inevitable electrification of most urban transport means the greenhouse-gas costs of the Gungahlin tram will never be recovered.
Rather than encouraging more private cars by covering more land with concrete and steel to remove public transport from existing roads, we should convert the ACTION fleet to electric and extend transit lanes, coverage and service.
While the ACT government ordered an extra 40 diesel buses last year, Shenzhen converted its fleet of 16,000 buses to electric-powered.
Letter, The Canberra Times, March 20 2019 from R. M. Smith, Scullin
If a bus is involved in an accident, buses behind can drive around it. What happens if a tram is involved in an accident? What do following trams do? Just queue up I suppose.
Letter, The Canberra Times, March 19 2019 from Gina Pinkas, Aranda
Jennie Goldie (Letters, March 18) in her complaint about us "anti-light rail correspondents" and the lack of legitimacy of our sentiments, rightly states we need to move rapidly from fossil fuels to renewable energy and recognises this can be achieved with electric buses the same as trams.
I disagree with her opinion that the advantage of light rail (over buses) is that it carries a lot of people on new carriageways, not on roads.
Transport studies have shown buses have the capacity to transport similar numbers of people. The original policy intent of the Labor government was to have fixed busways similar to those in Brisbane and Auckland.
They would have run on separate carriageways in much the same way as the tram will.
Discussion papers, issued by the ACT government, show the cost of busways was far cheaper than the light rail option.
Buses are more flexible than light rail in that they have the capacity to operate off the fixed route as well as on it.
A busway is also cheaper, and less disruptive, to construct. If I lived in Cooma, like Jennie, I might happily ride the tram but as, unlike her, I have to pay for this through my excessive rates, I feel I have a very legitimate reason to prefer a cheaper busway system.
On the same issue, Don Sephton (Letters, March 18) is spot on with regards to Bill Shorten's $200 million tram to Woden promise.
I doubt it will give Labor any overall increase in votes if we consider those who oppose the excessive rates we have to pay for our trams.
If it had gone to health, housing or aged care places and packages then no one would oppose that.
Letter, The Canberra Times, March 18 2019 from John Skurr, Deakin
Monash Drive should stay as an option. In 50 years we may all be driving solar electric cars; the costs for trams and buses may have made them too expensive.
Letter, The Canberra Times, March 18 2019 from Jenny Goldie, Cooma
I am getting a bit tired of your anti-light rail correspondents, even from the normally splendid Douglas Mackenzie (Letters, March 14).
Their sentiments might have some legitimacy were we not in a climate crisis which demands a rapid shift from fossil fuels to renewable energy.
This means the electrification of transport and that includes light rail.
Yes, we could go electric buses but the great advantage of light rail is that it carries a lot of people on new carriageways and not on existing roads.
As for the bareness, the trees are in and growing so Northbourne will be green again before long.
I look forward to the opening of the Gunghalin line and the extension to Woden.
Letter, The Canberra Times, March 18 2019 from Don Sephton, Greenway
Bill Shorten's premature endorsement of the second stage of the Canberra tram has probably kyboshed the one big chance Labor had of unseating Senator Zed Seselja.
Shorten has been poorly advised in this matter. He does not seem to understand just how on the nose the project is for many Canberrans, particularly in the south which has always been Senator Zed's heartland.
If Shorten had declined to endorse the second stage until a business case had been made Labor would have likely secured more Senate votes, possibly even unseating Zed.
That is an outcome that can't come soon enough for many of us.
Letter, The Canberra Times, March 18 2019 from Kent Fitch, Nicholls
While Bill Shorten should be thanked for offering Canberra $200 million towards the cost of the tram he also needs to be made aware the funds could be better spent elsewhere.
The ACT government can't adequately fund public housing: provision has fallen from 45 units per 1000 people in 1995 to under 28 now, resulting in rising numbers "sleeping rough", rental stress and the nation's least affordable housing for young people.
The ACT government can't adequately fund public medical services.
The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare reported last December Canberra locals have by far the longest waits in emergency departments and that our year-long elective surgery waiting times are four times the national average.
It is also unable to fund mental health services. Only 40 per cent of the people who present receive treatment within the clinically recommended timeframe.
The ACT government can't adequately fund public education. The Grattan Institute recently stated ACT schools "trail the nation" on a like-for-like basis. It said the trend was getting worse.
The ACT government can't fund adequate urban infrastructure. The steadily deteriorating state of our parks, footpaths and public areas is visible to all.
So, before stumping up a fraction of the funds needed to replace a fast and efficient bus route with an outdated and inflexible tram, Mr Shorten should think about the good $200 million could do for Canberrans dependent on public services.
If you insist on spending it on transport, replace the oldest half of the Transport Canberra fleet with modern electric buses and return the operating-cost savings as additional services.
Letter, The Canberra Times, March 16 2019 from J. Bishop, Flynn
I have difficulty imagining how someone could be so negligent as to attempt to cross Northbourne Avenue at its intersection with Cooyong Street and Barry Drive not only without checking the pedestrian lights but also while listening to a device through headphones, whether or not there was a tram undergoing a test run.
Letter, The Canberra Times, March 16 2019 from Patricia Watson, Red Hill
A simple warning of an approaching tram in the days of trams in Brisbane was a repeatedly clanging bell activated by way of a foot pedal in the driver's cabin.
Technology has advanced since then. An air horn could work provided it was piercing enough. It could be activated by the driver at every intersection.
Letter, The Canberra Times, March 15 2019 from Nick Corby, Hawker
B. Peterson (Letters, March 13) suggests the tram should sound a horn when approaching intersections. I suggest people with eyes and ears pay attention to what is going on around them. Lets hope we, the ratepayers, are not compelled to compensate anyone who has been foolish enough to walk in front of a moving tram.
Letter, The Canberra Times, March 5 2019 from Paul Pentony, Hackett
I don't understand why it is possible to drive a light rail vehicle through a red light. This is 2019. How can a brand new vehicle, running on brand new tracks, with a brand new, and purpose-built signalling system, allow itself to be driven through a red light?
Letter, The Canberra Times, March 15 2019 from Robyn Coghlan, Hawker
If, as Andrew Barr claims, the ACT government has a "very robust balance sheet" ("Labor defends promise for light rail without business case", canberratimes.com.au, March 13), then how come our public infrastructure is in such a parlous Third World state? Bill Shorten would be better advised to allocate $200 million to bringing our national capital back from its embarrassingly deteriorated condition.
Letter, The Canberra Times, March 14 2019 from V. Harris, Yass, NSW
We do not need barriers to stop stupid people from getting hit by the tram. The person who was hit was wearing ear phones and crossed against a red signal. What happened to parent and school training of kids on road safety? I feel for the driver. The person who walked in front of the tram needs to get a licence in how to cross roads.
Letter, The Canberra Times, March 14 2019 from Peter Johnson, Robina, Qld
Visiting Canberra several months back, I was shocked and disgusted that trams were being installed along the "main drag", Northbourne Avenue.
All very well but in doing so all of the beautiful trees have been removed along the centre of this road. As a former resident I consider this to be a national disgrace.
I say a pox on those who decided to go ahead with trams down this former wonderful tree-lined avenue. Where were the "Greens" when this idea was first mooted?
Buses, as previously used, can alter routing unlike fixed route trams.
Letter, The Canberra Times, March 14 2019 from M. Flint, Smart Canberra Transport, Erindale
So, Mr Shorten is promising to contribute $200 million to Stage 2 of Canberra’s light rail.
This may sound a considerable sum but is not much in the context of the overall project cost, for construction and the 20 years to pay for and operate it.
The government has given estimates of $1.3 billion to $1.6 billion for construction.
Because these figures are taken not to include the interest cost of capital, independent estimates for the minimum contract cost are in the order of $2.6 to $3.2 billion.
Stage 2 would impose a huge and untenable burden on the ACT budget at $130 million to $160 million per annum for 20 years, on top of the minimum average $49 million per annum already committed for Stage 1 (all costs in today’s money).
Given a Public-Private Partnership (PPP) contract, as for Stage 1, the $200 million will just about cover the interest cost that the ACT government could have saved taxpayers by borrowing the money itself at bond rates to pay the capital cost of construction.
Letter, The Canberra Times, March 14 2019 from Sandy Paine, Griffith
Our semi-perpetual Labor-Greens administration seems consumed by the need to create some big, tangible, quasi-impressive "innovation" to make them feel "with-it" and contemporary, even forward-looking.
Sadly, the very opposite is the case as they wade ever deeper into folly with their outdated, inflexible and vastly expensive tram system. It is patently obvious that, for an efficient transit system, what this beautiful, developing city needs is a network of electric buses, battery-powered, and modest-sized which can be deployed where and when needed.
That, to me, would be a modern, technically and socially attractive public transport system of which we could all be proud, and thus would go a long way to encouraging us to leave our cars in the garage.
The thought of a tramway coming south over Commonwealth Avenue Bridge, pushing into Parkes and Barton and ripping up the beautiful, venerable trees on that fine avenue fills me with horror.
The extravagance of stage one of the tramway, in the face of repeated, well-founded technical and financial advice to the contrary, is now tragically a fait accompli. Let it proceed no further.
Letter, The Canberra Times, March 14 2019 from Patricia Watson, Red Hill
Please, Mr Barr, give up the idea of a southbound stage of the light rail just at the moment.
Instead do the west-east route – Belconnen to airport.
A much better chance of viability, servicing universities, schools, shopping centres, War Memorial, government offices, markets, light industrial area of Fyshwick, Majura Park and business hub and the airport.
Let us stop squandering space for the provision of Wilson carparks to accommodate the rapidly-growing number of cars by providing a workable alternative means of travel.
No doubt, the taxi companies, Uber drivers, Sun Hung Kai Properties (aka Wilson Parking) et al will complain but they will adapt – there will always be some travellers preferring private transport to and from the airport.
Letter, The Canberra Times, March 14 2019 from Ron Edgecombe, Evatt
The article by Jon Stanhope and Khalid Ahmed ("Bad News then worse; ACT budget through lens of ex Treasury boffin", canberratimes.com.au, March 9) indicates that the ACT government is now borrowing for recurrent initiatives and changes in other operating costs and more.
This should be very disturbing to all Canberra residents and business owners.
The normal budgetary practice is for governments to borrow for items such as capital works, which by their nature can increase employment, generate multiplier benefits for industries, improve productivity, increase efficiencies and provide a benefit for future generations.
These aspects compensate and offset for the additional interest from these borrowings which current and future Canberrans have to pay back through their rates, taxes and fees.
There are conceivably no benefits for Canberrans when the Barr government is now apparently borrowing for the actual day to day operating costs of government.
How parlous then is the real state of the ACT budget under the Barr government? The Stanhope/Ahmed article suggest that it has significantly deteriorated since the last budget update.
This is despite the massive year on year increases in residential rates (for houses and apartments), commercial property rates, and other taxes, fees and fines.
Given this worsening budget situation, one would have to seriously question why the Barr government is still progressing stage two (Civic to Woden) light rail with its estimated lowest cost estimate of $1.3 billion to $1.6 billion.
Whilst there are benefits to the community from capital works as outlined above, this project should surely now be deferred until the ACT government budget situation improves.
Letter, The Canberra Times, March 14 2019 from Douglas Mackenzie, Deakin
Despite Mr Shorten’s offer of $200 million to help fund the light rail stage 2 from Civic to Woden ("Shorten in $200m light rail pledge", March 12, p1 and p7), I remain unconvinced of the project’s practicability, effectiveness and viability.
The proposed route via Commonwealth Avenue and State Circle is a quick walk from residences only in a short section between Hobart Avenue and Adelaide Avenue.
Similarly, it is close to residences in the section along Adelaide Avenue and Yarra Glen only between Hopetoun Circuit and Kent Street-Novar Street in Deakin and Yarralumla.
These facts indicate that there would probably be few, if any, people wanting to board the train except at either end of the route. For these people, the existing 300 series Action bus route provides a direct and quick link between Civic and Woden every three to eight minutes.
I suggest that there are much better ways to spend up to $1.6 billion of ACT taxpayers’ money.
Letter, The Canberra Times, March 13 2019 from Bruce A. Peterson, Kambah
One pedestrian hit by a tram already!
Trams, like trains, should sound a horn when approaching a level crossing.
Letter, The Canberra Times, March 12 2019 from Greg Zakharoff, Macgregor
During the late 1970s, when the old Belconnen Bus Interchange opened, there was a one-kilometre-long "Bus Way" running from Benjamin Way to Coulter Drive.
The bus way passed along the front of the new Belconnen Mall. A pedestrian land bridge was in place for shoppers and others to enter the mall from Lathlain Street and car park areas.
Along the length of the bus way, there was a median strip where many trees and shrubs were planted to separate the bus way and other general traffic.
A short time after the bus way was commissioned, two teenaged boys decided to cross the bus way in an attempt to climb the rock wall and access Lathlain Street.
Unfortunately, partly due to the trees and shrubs concealing them and reducing their vision and that of the bus driver, one teenager was struck and tragically killed by the oncoming bus. The bus driver was a shattered man for the remainder of his life.
As a result of this terrible accident a 2.2-metre-high chain-link fence was erected along both sides of the entire length of the bus way. No further accidents were recorded.
Now that we have experienced the first recorded accident involving a pedestrian and tram what physical measures will our fearless leaders put in place to prevent further pedestrian incidents such as this, or worse, those intent on self-harm?
It is one thing for our government to urge the public to be aware of their surroundings, it is another for our government to physically reduce the possibility of further incidents.
Surely pedestrian barriers will need to be installed in and around high-pedestrian precincts such as Civic, Dickson Interchange, Showground and Gungahlin Town Centre tram stops.
What price public and employee safety?
Letter, The Canberra Times, March 7 2019 from John Litano, Hughes
As the city braces for the official launch of the light rail stage one, it is time for the government to provide some clarity about the fate of the historic trees along Commonwealth Avenue if stage two is to go ahead. Canberrans are for progress, but the loss of our garden city character is a real concern for most citizens.
Letter, The Canberra Times, March 7 2019 from Mike Quirk, Garran
The ACT government should consider the views of Professor Hensher, founding director of Sydney University's Institute of Transport and Logistics, in its planning of Canberra's transport system.
Professor Hensher observed "There's the old adage that buses are boring, trains are sexy. Trains might be more comfortable, but they come at a much higher cost of construction and (there are) a limited number of corridors in which we can justify them (in Sydney)."
The Productivity Commission found light rail was not warranted in Canberra and the ACT Auditor-General also found there were major deficiencies in its business case.
Barr, Rattenbury and Fitzharris are now advocating its extension to Woden in the absence of evidence of how it stacks up against alternatives including busways. One would expect a responsible government to intensely scrutinise any light rail project given the marginality of the Gungahlin to Civic and Newcastle projects and the farce of the Sydney CBD light rail which is expected to open more than a year late and $1 billion over budget.
The Canberra community deserves better.
Letter, The Canberra Times, March 5 2019 from Dallas Stow, O'Connor
Some unfortunate motorist will be the first to collide with a Canberra tram.
I suggest the government present this person with a suitable memento, to be presented by the Chief Minister. It could be a presentation cup with a ding on it, or a little Lego sculpture of a car and tram locked together and blocking an intersection, or a plaque inscribed "Winner, Round One, Canberra Light Rail v Car, x/x/2019".
Letter, The Canberra Times, March 4 2019 from Stan Marks, Hawker
One can only take a deep breath at the government's idea of raising London Circuit to increase the area of developable land in central Canberra but its plan to dump 1000 dwellings just west of Vernon Circuit, taken with the impending desecration of West Basin, leads one to wonder why Andrew Barr doesn't just up stakes and head off to the inner west of Sydney where congestion already exists and where they already have a tram, albeit one that serves a useful purpose.
What is most amazing is the language in the tender documents intended to give lip service to the continuation of the wonderful city we live in: "A uniquely Canberra look and feel", for example, which actually would suggest the area be left alone, other than, perhaps, turning it into a park. But the best of it all is this: "In partnership with the community [that would be a first], we are creating a vibrant and vital city heart [whatever that is] through a design led, people-focused urban renewal [whatever that is too]".
Letter, The Canberra Times, March 2 2019 from Jack Kershaw, Kambah
It is said that town planners never forget. So the ACT government is reportedly now considering the raising of London Circuit to Commonwealth Avenue, to facilitate the Civic-Woden tram, and the associated crude and intrusive property development of West Basin and City Hill ("ACT government considering raising London Circuit", February 28, p1).
The plan is based on the NCA’s substantial 2004 document,The Griffin Legacy, which, in reality, is primarily about facilitating the sale of territory land in the Central National Area. Things have changed a lot in 15 years, and we have a better understanding of the sense of open space around, and the vistas to and from, City Hill (an apex of the National Triangle), and West Basin; as well as the great engineering heritage values and efficacies of Parkes Way (expensively vertically duplicated in The Griffin Legacy, and the associated City to the Lake Plan), and the view-preserving "clover leaf" intersections near City Hill.
The tram will wreck Commonwealth Avenue, its magnificent trees, and its bridge. Another route must be found, such as via Edinburgh Avenue, Acton Peninsula south, Griffin’s sublime missing bridge (not excluded in The Griffin Legacy) to Lennox Gardens, Flynn Drive, and the State Circle cutting.
The existing Parkes Way-Commonwealth Avenue-Vernon Circle-London Circuit intersection arrangements need to be preserved; pedestrian access from Civic and City Hill to West Basin and Commonwealth Avenue (and Park) greatly improved; and the proposed West Basin, City Hill south, and Commonwealth Avenue property developments canned for good.
Letter, The Canberra Times, February 21 2019 from Peter Moore, Barton
The Gungahlin to Canberra city light rail line is expected to start running from April 27, after originally being due for construction completion in late December.
Stage One from Gungahlin will be initially popular.
This is likely to be short-lived once the inevitable realisation of catching a connecting bus in Civic to travel to Russell, Barton, Woden, Belconnen and every other Canberra destination becomes apparent.
Network integration is crucial if transfers are to work. This means passengers should be able to transfer easily.
Canberra has been found lacking in this area for many years as evidenced by the poor performance of Civic Interchange.
The reality of using public transport soon becomes a chore when patrons are left stranded due to poor connectivity in a cold Canberra winter.
If Canberra light rail is going to work it needs to transport patrons directly from where they live to where they work, shop and educate themselves. And it needs to do this as conveniently as they experience in their private cars.
That is a daunting challenge.
Light Rail Stage Two must be built as quickly as possible in the right location. To suggest that it should run around State Circle, remote from the employment centres of Canberra, is nonsense. Light Rail Stage One risks becoming a ‘‘white elephant’’. It will not succeed unless Canberrans can be convinced to ditch their cars for the convenience and reliability of mass transit.
Letter, The Canberra Times, February 14 2019 from Stan Marks, Hawker
Jack Palmer's letter (Letters, February 12) which said that Northbourne Avenue as an avenue of trees plus tram "proclaims our contemporary status in a sophisticated manner" gave me a laugh, especially when his next paragraph talks about "the protests of the peasantry".
Anyone who disagrees with him is a peasant.
He is right when he says that it is regrettable that many cities pulled up their tram tracks in the 1960s and there are many cases where newly built light rail systems work extremely well.
The key point is that, where a light rail system is implemented after proper studies have been done which show that it is the best option, then it is likely to work.
We got ours because Kate Gallagher needed Green support to form government in 2012.
That is about the worst possible reason for spending a billion dollars.
Letter, The Canberra Times, February 14 2019 from Matt Watts, Belconnen
ack Palmer's dismissal of concerns regarding light rail as mere protests from the peasantry (Letters, February 12) cannot stand unchallenged.
We should do more than design a transport system as an adornment to but one city entrance. Light rail should actually work as a transport system.
The increased residential population density along Northbourne, itself a revenue raiser for the ACT government and an offset against the high financial cost of light rail, will likely result in more vehicular congestion on that route than ever before.
I hardly think a traffic jam would be regarded as a bold proclamation of our sophistication, although perhaps I'm a peasant and the beauty escapes me.
Because there is no third rail along Stage One, or sufficient rolling stock capacity at either end of that route, the inability of light rail vehicles to overtake contiguous services along Northbourne necessitates an "all stops" timetable.
This is a step backwards from existing bus services in my opinion, although perhaps I am too much of a peasant to see the beauty. If the high population density business model required for Stage One were replicated along other routes, our bush capital's beloved town centre arrangements would be forever swept away, although perhaps I'm just a peasant who fails to see any beauty in that.
If Mr Palmer is himself a satirist then what a beauty!
Letter, The Canberra Times, February 12 2019 from Jack Palmer, Watson
Enlightened cities are realising the efficiency of metropolitan rail transport, and those that dismissed their original networks belatedly reinstall them (Sydney).
It is encouraging to have this form realised in Canberra before delay would increase the difficulty.
Rail travel was in the initial plan, but development lapsed in the economic slump of the 1930s and post WWII our population became overwhelmed by individual car ownership that signified enhanced personal status.
Original planning was lost and the corridor parallel to Northbourne Avenue was blocked.
Our current administration, in a determined step forward, is ignoring the lingering car prestige to construct the beginnings of a modern city transport system.
It is fitting that the first stage boldly proclaims the entrance to the city.
Despite constructional inconvenience, Northbourne Avenue is emerging as a spectacular entry, with the avenue of trees bordering the tram route which boldly proclaims our contemporary modern status in a sophisticated manner.
Inevitably, growing up can be painful, but as we emerge, the protests of the peasantry will gradually diminish.
Letter, The Canberra Times, February 7 2019 from Fred Pilcher, Kaleen
The best signal to use for the tram or "lie rail" is not the controversial "T" light. It should be a pair of burning pants.
Letter, The Canberra Times, February 6 2019 from John L. Smith, Farrer
Your news item "If it's not a tram, why are there T-lights at Canberra's intersections?" (canberratimes.com.au, February 4) highlights deficiencies in the so-called light rail that were addressed several years ago by CanTheTram.
You can talk about a "dedicated corridor" but the Gungahlin-Civic corridor passes through more than 20 road intersections.
T-light priority to trams at these intersections will deliver overall travel time advantages while the service interval of the trams is restricted to six minutes.
However, as the city grows and there is a need to increase the frequency of services, giving priority to trams will be highly problematic.
I understand that tram priority has already been precluded at the Federal Highway-Barton Highway intersection.
For light rail "not to get stuck in any road congestion" requires the route to be grade separated from the road system. In their rush to pursue corridor development and gross infill, not only is the Barr-Rattenbury alliance destroying everything that is good about this unique city but what it is delivering is second rate.
Letter, The Canberra Times, February 5 2019 from Phil Nicolls, Monash
I think the infrastructure for the light rail is the ugliest eyesore I have seen in a long time. The same is true of some of the ugly, high-rise, unit complexes also under construction. Andrew Barr is turning Canberra into a slum. I wish we could turn back the clock 10 years.
Letter, The Canberra Times, February 4 2019 from Adrian Jackson, Middle Park, Vic
Canberra car drivers are going to have to learn the trams take priority over cars. That's the way it works in Melbourne.
Letter, The Canberra Times, January 30 2019 from John Mungoven, Stirling
Thank you to the ACT government for the best new bicycle track in town: the light rail corridor from Gungahlin to the city.
Features include a smooth concrete riding surface, its own traffic lights, cyclists separated from road traffic, easy passage across intersections (no gutters), floodlit at night and no tolls or fares.
Enjoy the panoramic views of Canberra’s new and prestigious boulevard. Even if the trams start, they’ll be infrequent and easy to dodge. Watch out, however, for phone-distracted pedestrians crossing and falling limbs of brittle gums.
Letter, The Canberra Times, January 30 2019 from Angela Walker, Lyneham
Why do Metro employees have carte blanche over all and everything to do with roadworks on Northbourne Avenue, and further along the track, during this tedious stretch of light rail work?
Each day of the week you will see witches hats blocking off parts of lanes north and south, with visibly no workers working within the confines of the hats. Why is this so and why is this allowed to bring peak hour traffic, AM and PM, to what appears to be a totally unnecessary gridlock?
Is it fair that this work behaviour is tolerated and not commented on or acted upon by the ACT government?
This is another issue being disregarded and tolerated by commuters up and down Northbourne, including the Federal Highway and Flemington Road. And will this continue through until April? I have no doubt it will given the disregard shown to date since the works began.
Letter, The Canberra Times, January 25 2019 from John Mungoven, Stirling
Isn't light rail supposed to start on April 1?
Letter, The Canberra Times, January 25 2019 from Sue Dyer, Downer
In December the ACT government and the NCA reneged on their earlier promise of a far more pleasant, less noisy, better landscaped and more pedestrian- and cyclist-friendly boulevard along the Federal Highway and Northbourne Avenue.
Yet they were more than happy to leave us with a plethora of cheek-by-jowl high-rise apartment and hotel complexes, an increasingly busy six-lane motorway, two rail lines and many negative impacts on the quality of life of thousands of existing residents living along or near to what will now be a basic yet densely populated transit corridor.
Scope and space for the inclusion of significant lush, green and naturally-shaded public and private landscaping to counteract the many extensive vertical and horizontal heat-trapping environments that will fill the whole corridor, were taken away, probably forever.
The development "solutions" to date and many artists' impressions of other parts of the kilometres-long massive rebuild, with its vast expanses of hard surface surrounds and a few tokenistic trees dotted here and there, do not engender confidence in the interest or ability of the NCA or ACT government to deliver a highly visually attractive, appealing or "putting people first" boulevard that would place our national capital's main entrance on a world map of places to envy or stop at and wander around ("Feedback sought for 'visually stunning' gateway to Canberra", canberratimes.com.au, January 23).
As for transporting tens of thousands of extra residents, let alone anyone else, along the corridor, will Stage 1 light rail require an overhead storey of extra tracks within a decade?
Letter, The Canberra Times, January 23 2019 from R Wright, Greenway
It is good to see the criticism of the ACT Labor/Greens government both editorially by The Canberra Times and in numerous letters.
In the past 12 months rates have risen more than 100 per cent of what they were five years ago. In the same period the Emergency Services levy paid by ratepayers has exceeded $150million with an ongoing amount of in excess of $45million p.a.
This is to an organisation which relies heavily on excellent volunteers. Perhaps the government can advise ratepayers how these levy funds are used or are some of the levy funds used for things other than emergency service?
The ACT health system has really declined under this government with a minister that does not appear to have any solutions only apologies.
Similarly the streets and roads are in need of repair which will require vast sums from ratepayers to bring them back tonormal.
Quite obviously the contractor for mowing is unable to fulfil its obligation to keep verges and parklands in a presentable condition.
In regard to the light rail project this government had banners all along Northbourne Avenue stating the project would be up and running in October 2018.
When it became obvious the October date would not be realised all the banners seemed to disappear.
Now we have the chief minister coming out and saying petrol prices will drop with competition. How naive can you get when the firms that provide cheaper petrol in towns and cities other than Canberra are the very same firms that are robbing ACT motorists.
A further cost to ratepayers was the increase in the Legislative Assembly to 25 members.
I have not seen any improvements in the assembly’s performance with the increase in numbers.
Letter, The Canberra Times, January 22 2019 from David Denham, Griffith
Glenys Byrne (Letters 18 January) asks why the welfare of Belconnen commuters is disregarded?
Government policy since 2012 has been to encourage urban intensification along transit ways.
An outcome of this policy will be increased traffic congestion.
There will also be Parramatta Road lookalikes along roads such as Northbourne and Adelaide avenues.
It has nothing to do with good planning.
It's simply because the government thinks it can raise a heap of money by encouraging development along these transport corridors.
Letter, The Canberra Times, January 20 2019 from Jack Kershaw, Kambah
ACT Labor-Green’s continuing West-Basin-real-estate-driven inclusion of Commonwealth Avenue in the Civic-Woden tram route remains a basic mistake.
The Commonwealth recently applied valid pressure to exclude the Parliamentary Zone, where foreign-body trams would unacceptably pre-determine future development.
The ACT’s latest iteration (at least until after the federal election) uses the whole length of Commonwealth Avenue, with massive engineering/urban-design/disruption problems, and costs at each end, and on the bridge itself. And, the tram would wreck the heritage, ambience, and arboreal splendour of Commonwealth Avenue, and destroy the important symmetry with Kings Avenue Bridge.
Better to go politics-free, via New Acton, Acton Peninsula south; a new Griffin-esque, sailboat friendly, tram/bike/pedestrian bridge; a shared zone across an expanded and developed-for-people Lennox Gardens; Flynn Drive; and the State Circle cutting – partially express at peak hours.
Letter, The Canberra Times, January 19 2019 from Jack Kershaw, Kambah
ACT Labor-Green’s continuing West-Basin-real-estate-driven inclusion of Commonwealth Avenue in the Civic-Woden tram route remains a basic mistake.
The Commonwealth recently applied valid pressure to exclude King George Terrace and its alternative, King Edward Terrace where foreign-body trams would unacceptably pre-determine future development), and the Barton office precinct, from the ACT’s original route. The ACT’s latest iteration (at least until after the federal election) uses the whole length of Commonwealth Avenue, with massive engineering/urban-design/disruption problems and costs at each end (getting up from London Circuit, and achieving two-way integration with State Circle), and, of course, on the bridge itself.
However, there remains the tram’s wrecking of the heritage, ambience, and arboreal splendour of the main body of Commonwealth Avenue, and the destruction of the important symmetry with Kings Avenue Bridge (also not a tram option for the same reasons).
A politics-free, credible route, gaining in popularity, includes Edinburgh Avenue/New Acton; Lawson Crescent; West Basin west; ANU; Acton Peninsula and its attractions; a fine new Griffin-esque construction-untrammelled curving (horizontally and possibly vertically) tram/bike/pedestrian bridge (avoiding the West Lake sailing course); a shared zone across an expanded and developed-for-people Lennox Gardens, possibly encompassing some lake reclamation (matching Bowen Place) plus the Flynn Place cloverleaf land; Flynn Drive; the State Circle cutting; around that circle; part of Capital Circle; and on to Adelaide Avenue and Woden.
Letter, The Canberra Times, January 18 2019 from Eric Hunter, Cook
What a great idea from Maria Greene (Letters, December 14) for horse-drawn trams.
It would be a marvellous public attraction, especially if the animals could be trained to deliver horse-laughs as they pass the Assembly building.
There's one environmental down-side though to this extension of our already outdated light rail.
Oh, I forgot the ameliorating (back)side. Think of the employment opportunities for an army of pooper-scoopers.
Letter, The Canberra Times, January 17 2019 from Angela Walker, Lyneham
The landscaping surrounding the light rail was finally beginning to look promising, once the selected native eucalyptus were planted, until the dry native grass was planted both sides, along the rail corridor among the wood chips.
That particular native grass looks good when it is first planted, it then takes on a depressed, sheep paddock, dried out appearance. And a type of wheat weed appears to be growing among the grass to take on an even more desolate, depressed appearance.
Were the people of Canberra consulted on the choice of plants for the light rail landscaping?
So many other choices would have worked so well. Why have we not seen the selection of species to form part of the light rail landscaping as shown in The Canberra Times on March 10, 2017, and pictured with the Canberra Metro chief executive, at the Yarralumla nursery, along with the growing Eucalyptus Mannifera.
The plan, which at the time was awaiting final approval, was for muted tone native grasses and lower shrubs peppered with native flowers.
We can live in hope that those are yet to be planted.
Letter, The Canberra Times, January 15 2019 from Peter Toscan, Amaroo
A drive along Flemington Road brings back fond memories of traversing country NSW... long grass and a few dying gum trees.
With the country still in the grip of a worsening drought, perhaps Barr, Fitzharris and co would like to contribute to the drought-relief efforts by allowing our suffering farmers to graze their starving livestock along the "long paddock".
There could be a great photo op for our pollies patting a cow or two.
Letter, The Canberra Times, January 14 2019 from Maria Greene, Curtin
Fred Barnes ("Bring back the punt", Letters, January 11) makes a good suggestion for Stage 2 light rail. To avoid overhead wires in Stage 2 why not use horse-drawn trams? It would avoid any shonky electrical work and deliver a truly 19th century solution.
Letter, The Canberra Times, January 13 2019 from Brian Smith, Condor
I am wondering why you put last Sunday's article about light rail ("White elephant fears") in the "news" section of the paper. After all, most Canberrans have known this from the day the project was announced.
Letter, The Canberra Times, January 13 2019 from JR Ryan, Phillip
Good to see Electrical Trades Union ACT officer Mick Coppie and his members calling out the poor installation of the inground electrical cables associated with Canberra's light rail ("Safety concerns with the depth of the electrical cables", Sunday Canberra Times, January 6).
Two things: Firstly, I hope he's wrong that it will take additional millions from the ACT taxpayers to fix the issues – we've spent enough on Barr's folly. The light rail will never turn a profit. My granddaughter, who's only 9 years old now, will still be paying for this for many years.
Secondly, I can't agree with Coppie's comment that "the government may have egg on its face but this wasn't their making, it was the builder who did this". The government can't contract out its legal obligations to provide a safe environment for members of the public and other users of the light rail. Where were the many government employees from various agencies providing oversight of the construction stage? For example, electrical inspectors, third-party certification officers, superintendents for the works, project managers, construction managers, construction supervisors etc etc.
How did it get to this point without some of these parties, through a quality assurance process, picking up these major non-compliances or was it simply the rush to get things completed due to the light rail construction completion date being blown out by many months?
Further to that, I believe the government knows it will never turn a profit, but is simply interested in maximising taxes from the developers along the Northbourne Avenue corridor.
Safety before profit.
Letter, The Canberra Times, January 13 2019 from Douglas Mackenzie, Deakin
The cables in the photograph accompanying the report "White elephant fears" (Sunday Canberra Times, January 6, pp1,2) are certainly of concern. While they appear to be a few centimetres below the surface rather than "a few millimetres" and have now been covered with concrete, they are still at a fraction of the depth required by the Australian standard.
Any hazard represented by this shallow depth is added to by some pits similar to the one illustrated filling up with water, as pointed out by Mick Koppie of the Electrical Trades Union ACT.
The possible electrocution risk is not the only problem facing Canberra's outrageously expensive light rail project. This rather slow means of transport and its unsightly poles and wires represent technology that belongs in the early 20th, if not the late 19th, century.
Letter, The Canberra Times, January 12 2019 from G. Wilson, Macgregor
Compliance defaults in the tramway's underground high-voltage cables reported by several electricians raise more than one problem ("'White elephant': Fears light rail won't be certified", January 6, p1,2).
It will be expensive to validly certify the depth at which the cables are buried where the trench has reportedly been filled with concrete, likely requiring something similar to ground-penetrating radar.
Further is the inadequacy of the ACT's construction certification to verify compliance with all relevant Australian standards. All work should be inspected in detail before being covered in concrete.
Apparently not all of the cabling is enclosed in concrete because, according to Electrical Trades Union ACT officer Mick Koppie, "some pits containing high-voltage cables filled up 'like a swimming pool' and needed to be drained whenever it rained.
The trial runs already reported should never have occurred with high-voltage cables exposed.
Additionally, this could be a serious design flaw which should not have passed development application scrutiny if some of the cables are not to be sealed within concrete.
Letter, The Canberra Times, January 12 2019 from Chris Mobbs, Hackett
Canberra Metro recently waxed lyrically about their drone footage of the light rail "great corridor" in a way only afforded to "perhaps a high-flying magpie or currawong" in the past.
I wonder if these drones picked up the prolific growth of weeds that have rapidly appeared in the landscaped verges?
As I recently drove along Flemington Road and then Northbourne, I was impressed by some of the finest, healthy looking weeds I have seen for some time in Canberra.
While there seemed to be a good cover of paspalum-like plants growing very well, the most notable for me were the tall Fleabane (Erigeron spp) and Thornapples (Datura spp), the latter being highly poisonous to humans.
I guess that now there will be the additional costs of ongoing weed removal by either gangs of gardeners, or regular spraying with weedicides.
The former will be a high safety risk given the closeness to traffic, while the latter will contribute negatively on the environment. And I thought the light rail was good for the environment?
Letter, The Canberra Times, January 11 2019 from Fred Barnes, Watson
Stage Two of Canberra’s light rail needs to get to the other side of the lake. In keeping with its 19th century use of overhead wires, how about stretching a couple more across the lake and attaching the old Nelligen Punt?
Letter, The Canberra Times, January 10 2019 from M. Flint, Erindale
Thomas Natera and J. Kershaw (Letters, January 8) are quite correct in what they say, respectively, about "self-assessment" of light rail by the ACT government and PPPs.
The question of any government inspecting the standard of its own work has always been a farce perpetrated with the presumed aim of saving money rather than doing the correct thing by independent accreditation. In the case of Public Private Partnerships (PPP), governments love them because they can kid themselves that they are passing the project risk to the contractor/s (wrong!) and that they can hide behind the confidentiality of private contracts.
This is exactly what the ACT government has been doing all along with light rail – how much critical or even important data does the public really know about the $1.8billion 20-year cost of Stage 1? Virtually nothing, upon critical examination.
A nasty aspect of PPPs not often talked about is that they automatically cost significantly more.
The contractors are expected to carry all financial risk and cannot borrow money as cheaply as the government.
Letter, The Canberra Times, January 10 2019 from Barry Faux, Kingston
Thank you, Howard Carew (Letters, January 4) for your details about the light rail costings.
With Canberra's population density of 445 people per square kilometre, there is no way of justifying the building cost of light rail when there are better and cheaper alternatives available. Light rail, which is virtually 200-year-old technology, is about as sensible as reintroducing a landline telephone system.
Although light rail is currently fashionable, I cannot find any justification for its enormous cost. I have discovered that there are only two main arguments to support light rail:
1. People like light rail as they know where the trains go.
2. It is supposedly cleaner than diesel. However, the argument is no longer valid.
Take the city of Shenzhen in China as a comparison.
Shenzhen has multiple transport systems as it has a population of 12.53 million, with a density of 5963 people per square kilometre.
Canberra has a population of less than 390,000 and a population density of 444 per square kilometre.
In Shenzhen, they have 16,359 electric buses and have just opened their first light rail.
The cost of the Shenzhen light rail was $245,700,000 per km or $19.60 per capita.
If the cost of the Canberra light rail is $1.4 billion (similar to the Gold Coast project), the per capita cost to Canberrans is $3590.
If we assume that the light rail will attract travellers from the surrounding square kilometre, that is 500m each side of the light rail; the figures become truly scary.
For Shenzhen, with a population density of 5963 per square kilometre, the per capita cost per kilometre is $3522.
For Canberra, with a population density of 444 per square kilometre, the cost per capita per kilometre is $286,650.
Letter, The Canberra Times, January 8 2019 from Thomas Natera, Ngunnawal
Are our fears to be realised about flaws in the certification process for light rail? ("White elephant: fears light rail won't be certified", January 6, p.1).
It would seem that the ongoing light rail project fiasco, under the stewardship of Canberra Metro, including the latest about the underground electrical cabling possibly not meeting industry standards, is supposedly subject to the existing Transport Canberra and City Services Directorate's contract and regulatory framework.
I wonder if this is what Andrew Barr's government and Minister Meegan Fitzharris want us to believe? That is, that the overall regulatory functions of Transport Canberra and City Services Directorate seem to have robust systems that are able to detect flaws in the processes employed to implement and complete major infrastructure projects such as the light rail project.
What the ACT government and bureaucracy fail to recognise is the notion of "independence" and how critical it is, rather than thinking that "self-assessment" is an efficient and effective mechanism, in the interest of completing major infrastructure projects in a timely fashion, and thereby meeting project milestones.
It seems obvious to me the light rail project has failed miserably to stick to timelines and adhere to industry standards.
The "self-assessment" mechanism is open to abuse by contractors and subcontractors, who may have developed a "mateship" camaraderie with the bodies responsible for scrutinising work standards.
We need an independent audit by the ACT Auditor-General that would focus on the planning and implementation phases of the project. These are two of the four stages of an evaluation process.
The other two phases, such as the completion evaluation, dissemination and reporting of the project, would also provide the taxpayers of the ACT with an assurance that there is going to be independent scrutiny.
If the Barr government and Canberra Metro fail to act, then Canberra taxpayers are going to be burdened with imposts through rate rises and other penalties for quite some time. After all, the Canberra Metro has a 20-year term contract, in the order of some $700 million, which has to be fulfilled by the government and paid for by us.
Letter, The Canberra Times, January 8 2019 from J. Kershaw, Kambah
PPP's (Public Private Partnerships) have been used for the delivery of our new Cotter Dam, our new courts, and our tram.
They can be typified by "might is right" uncompetitiveness; expedient but poor design and siting decisions; potential conflicts of interest in the engagement of design professionals; serious cost and time overruns; quality problems; impenetrable legals; spurious claims of extra costs for "remote construction activity factors"; sub-contractors carrying the can; costly post-construction arrangements in the B.O.O.T. (Build, Own, Operate, and Transfer) format.
Time for PPPs to go.
Letter, The Canberra Times, January 7 2019 from Barry Peffer, Nicholls
I cannot agree with Ian Warden's comments in his article ("It's time to let capital picturesquely decay", January 5, Panorama p2) as there are numerous locations all over the city where the commencement of decay is obvious.
Look at weeds growing out of gutters, trees growing out of bridges, footpaths breaking up, weed-infested roundabouts, decaying parks for a start.
Have a drive along Canberra's main entry called Weedbourne Avenue. View the new light rail area and it can be seen to be already decaying even before a light rail vehicle has traversed its rails.
Weeds are taller and larger, and soon will be more prolific than the planted grasses. Whilst these signs of decay would probably not draw the tourists like a tour of a decaying six-storey building, they all show signs that the city is in a gentle state of decay that could soon become ruinous.
Letter, The Canberra Times, January 5 2019 from John Mungoven, Stirling
I really like being a bird. Think of some of my advantages.
I can pretend to be a drone, relatively a noiseless one and the residents of Bonython are actually pleased to see me.
I am free of the burden of Mr Barr's increasing land and general taxes and I never have to pay a bond or stamp duty for my home. No McMansions for me, I am perfectly happy with a little tree hollow.
I used to like living high in the trees in Northbourne Avenue but just like the poor people living nearby, I became a nuisance (especially when I chirped an opinion to Mr Barr). We all had to move far away from city services. Home is a remnant tree near Kambah Pool for me now.
Some days I fly over the city watching all the cars carrying only single drivers banking up along the roads. No problem for me. I don't like the new tall buildings, I can remember when the trees were the highest things in the Bush Capital.
My best fun is perching on a ledge near the ACT Assembly building and cackling loudly at the rubbish spoken by the pollies in there. Caw caw caw!! And I can't wait to poop on the new light rail.
Free as a bird. That's me.
Letter, The Canberra Times, January 4 2019 from Howard Carew, Isaacs
To quote Walter Scott: ‘‘Oh what a tangled web we weave’’ etc. The original cost of light rail was estimated at a bit over $600 million. The latest forecast by the ACT government is about $939 million.
Taking Surfers Paradise light rail as a comparison, its cost was about $1.4 billion. They are both about the same length.
One would have to be very gullible to imagine that we could build light rail for even half the cost of the Gold Coast project.
Moving on to financing each project, Surfers light rail was financed by a one-third contribution from Infrastructure Australia, the Queensland government and Gold Coast Council. Our light rail is financed by the firm building it at a high rate of interest, which, with the cost of building, interest, operations and maintenance will amount to well over $2billion over the repayment period.
As in the case of other tramways, our white elephant will run at a loss.
This will be paid by ACT ratepayers. If these rough figures leave you feeling rather ill I sincerely hope the deluded souls who voted our present lot of economic illiterates into government at the last election have a different approach at the next one.
Letter, The Canberra Times, January 3 2019 from K. Wark, Watson
Before light rail Northbourne Avenue was a beautiful grass and treed vista, a welcoming entrance to Canberra. If Flemington Road is anything to go by, what we will have now is a concrete railway route lined with wood chip mulch, 60-centimetre native grasses going to seed, invasive couch, paspalum and other common Canberra weeds.
Give it a year and the mulch will be overgrown with long grass and weeds, be a home to snakes and other vermin, not to mention a fire hazard. Maybe common sense will eventually prevail and it will be re-landscaped with low maintenance park grass as before. Or, it could be maintained by serving as a travelling stock route.
Letter, The Canberra Times, January 3 2019 from Ron Edgecombe, Evatt
How ironic that Canberra Metro sees fit to spend almost $30k on drone shots of the Northbourne Avenue light rail path and equate it to the view that a high-flying bird would see ("$7.7m of extra costs added to light rail contract", January 2, p1). With the barren wasteland that the avenue has now become, devoid of its former majestic gum trees I seriously doubt that any currawongs or magpies will ever frequent this zone again.
Letter, The Canberra Times, December 31 2018 from Bruce Paine, Red Hill
The Chief Minister's reported comment that his longevity in the role "really hinges on being able to get things done" has similarities to his previously reported disdain for The Canberra Times, and confirms that he does not like any scrutiny or questioning of his agenda. This trait is detrimental to moving to good government in the ACT.
The federal government's performance has descended into farce – however I suspect its questioning of stage two of the tram and the City to the Lake may be at the core of the Chief Minister's personal angst towards the current federal government.
What Canberra needs is a chief minister, and more of the MLAs, who are willing and able to answer questions (rather than relying on spokespeople or ACT public servants to try to defend often poor policy or administration) and to stand up for the Canberra community's interest – regardless of where the threat is coming from.
For example, the federal government (don't imagine federal Labor will give the ACT a free pass – the federal Labor conference wouldn't even commit to giving the ACT a vote on euthanasia, presumably for fear of offending its conservative rump), developers and the construction industry making a quick buck and leaving us with sub-standard apartments, and/or the petrol giants charging us 10+cents more per litre than Sydney.
Letter, The Canberra Times, December 31 2018 from Mike Quirk, Garran
Katie Burgess (canberratimes.com.au, December 27) posed the question "So what did our ACT politicians actually do this year?".
One thing they did not do was provide competent urban management. In particular the government demonstrated an inability to undertake evidence-based land use/transport planning or undertake genuine community consultation.
These failings were most apparent in the inadequate ACT planning strategy refresh and in the profligate light rail project.
The deficiencies were also reflected in the failure to provide a bus system capable of reducing car dependency; supply sufficient greenfields land or social housing; undertake adequate city maintenance; prepare a costed infrastructure plan showing when and where development will occur; or demonstrate how its policies improve sustainability, liveability or affordability.
Why does the government rely on superficial argument rather than detailed assessment to justify its priorities?
Is it the result of arrogance and laziness stemming from being in power since 2001? The lack of an effective opposition?
The limitations of its parliamentarians?
A result of the persuasiveness and its indebtedness to developers and unions?
Or servile advice from an inadequate bureaucracy?
Improved planning outcomes in 2019 require the establishment of a well-resourced planning and development authority with skills and power to recommend and implement evidence-based and community-supported planning strategies.
Unfortunately, this is less likely than the resurrection of Malcolm Turnbull as PM.
Letter, The Canberra Times, December 27 2018 from Lud Kerec, Forde
As noted by David Denham (Letters, December 19), the ACT's Land Release Program will apparently require the release of 12 "homes" a day to meet the territory's housing demands by 2041.
The term "homes" is unfortunately used with a little licence.
Most of these homes are in fact units in high-rise developments (flats by any other name).
The Stuart Flats Redevelopment is tentatively earmarked for a mix of nearly 400 six and three-storey unit blocks, adding significantly to traffic congestion in the quiet suburbs of Griffith and nearby Manuka.
And Gowrie Court in Narrabundah will apparently have 177 "apartments" replacing the current 72 public housing units.
And who knows how many high-rises there are to be built along Northbourne Avenue to service the tram, not to mention those being built in Gungahlin.
And all of the above existing public housing is to be replaced by private developments.
Finally, part of David's penultimate sentence needs to be highlighted, where indeed will the recreational facilities be located?
Are the children of families crammed into these units to be confined to annoying others by running up and down corridors, and/or throwing paper planes (or other implements) off the minimum-sized balconies, or will the Barr government provide the necessary open spaces for them to lead a healthy life? I doubt it!
Letter, The Canberra Times, December 27 2018 from Douglas Mackenzie, Deakin
The report "Going up for a grand entrance" (December 20, p1 and p4) states that buildings with heights of "almost 50 metres" will adorn "parts of Northbourne avenue" and will "create a 'visually stunning boulevard' befitting the national capital."
How the sight of railway lines, poles and overhead wires can be construed as "stunning" eludes me, unless that word is meant in the negative sense.
The same could be said for the new buildings, especially those up to 50m high, if the architectural merit of most of Canberra's new multi-storey buildings is anything to go by.
They are hardly in the class of buildings along the grand avenues of other national capitals, for example the Avenue des Champs Élysées in Paris.
Adding 37,000 new dwellings to the corridor between the Barton Highway intersection and Civic is likely to add considerably to traffic along Northbourne Avenue and other nearby arterial roads. Not all of the occupants of those new dwellings will want to to go to places close to the light rail route.
The whole light rail and redevelopment plan could be somewhat of a disaster in the making.
Letter, The Canberra Times, December 24 2018 from Mike Quirk, Garran
Your editorial ("The ACT is in the slow lane to transport reform", canberratimes.com.au, December 20) is correct in suggesting the Barr government is engaging in some long-term development and planning.
The quality of the planning, however, is poor.
Where, for example, are the assessments demonstrating:
(a) Light rail is the best option for inter-town public transport?
(b) The urban renewal benefits of light rail are superior to those associated with a busway?
(c) Kowen has greater environmental and infrastructure costs than the preferred greenfields development options to the west of the city?
And (d) The 70 per cent infill policy is superior to alternative infill shares of say 50 or 60 per cent?
Also absent is a plan indicating the infrastructure required to accommodate the projected growth, its cost and where and when it is to occur.
Sadly the Barr government has not been prepared to undertake the assessments necessary to ensure the future development of Canberra is on a sound footing. It is unlikely the needs of the community will be met in the most socially, economically, financially and environmentally responsible manner.
The good news is the government has the time to undertake the assessments to demonstrate it is not an incompetent administration. Please put some substance behind the rhetoric.
Letter, The Canberra Times, December 22 2018 from Gordon Fyfe, Kambah
I'm increasingly exasperated at being governed by this mob of (mainly) bright young things ("Slower and dearer future for drivers", p1, December 19).
Plenty of older people assist with their grandchildren and/or their own parents and/or undertake volunteering or community activities, often on the other side of town from where they live.
Plenty of older people also need to attend frequent medical appointments to address health issues and to keep them living independently.
Try doing all that, in Canberra, using only public transport.
Public transport is simply not a viable option on many occasions.
Clearly, members of the ACT government don't know, or don't care, about the transport needs of older people, juggling multiple responsibilities and activities, and are plainly dismissive of the very real value to the community of those activities.
Their contempt for people needing to travel by car for worthwhile reasons is demonstrated by their attempts to make car travel less viable.
As for the Transport Minister's attempts to "provide genuine alternatives to the car", those outlined in the article are laughable when one tries to apply them to the above scenarios.
I look forward to all the bright young things reaching an age when they realise that personal transport is necessary, in this town, to meet all their family, health and community obligations.
Of course, by then they'll all have their decent parliamentary pensions to help them manage their various transport requirements.
Letter, The Canberra Times, December 22 2018 from John Mungoven, Stirling
So Northbourne Avenue is to be a spectacular and visually stunning boulevard. Great news.
"Something quite grand" and "the most important corridor in Australia", gush the NCA's CEO and chair. (I wonder what Brendan Nelson thinks of that in comparison with the AWM and Anzac Parade).
I've just returned from Sydney. Light rail there is at last making significant headway, particularly in the CBD/George Street. To my surprise there are no poles and wires along the whole CBD strip there, from Circular Quay to Bathurst Street. Sydney Light Rail website states that without poles and overhead wires, the CBD's historic buildings and pedestrian boulevard will take pride of place.
Sound familiar? So why then in Canberra's so-called premier boulevard has the ACT government proceeded with poles and wires? The illustration in The Canberra Times, provided by the ACT government, shows tree heights fairly equal to adjacent buildings. If, as the government plans, some building heights will be near 50 metres, I suggest we urgently acquire huge Karri eucalypts from south-east WA and get them growing fast.
As a footnote, a good number of the newly planted brittle gums in Northbourne are looking rather brittle (in fact are dead).
Letter, The Canberra Times, December 22 2018 from John Widdup, Lyneham
The authors of the City and Gateway Urban Design Framework, that includes a long-term plan for the strategic direction for the Northbourne Avenue corridor, are taking a very short-term view and missing a golden opportunity to make it into a great people-friendly boulevard.
It was reported ("Going up for a grand entrance", December 20, p1) that the decision to reduce Northbourne Avenue to two-lanes in each direction had been scrapped (for now) – a golden opportunity missed.
Removing a lane and producing wider verges would make it a safe and comfortable street for everyone using all modes of travel (walking, riding bikes, driving cars, using light rail) and, for the increasing numbers of people who will live and work in the area, make it a people-friendly place that is inviting, fun and interesting and where people will linger, talk to neighbours, sit outside cafes and shop.
The road has effectively been operating on two lanes in peak traffic times for many years with the left-hand lane being occupied by buses that stop regularly and the light rail works closing lanes most of the time.
When the light rail comes into operation there will be no bus stops and then one lane could be removed with no real adverse effect on motor vehicles traffic flow.
Come on city planners — close a lane in each direction, widen the verges, make it people friendly and stop pampering to people who want to drive everywhere.
Letter, The Canberra Times, December 22 2018 from Leon Arundell, Downer
The 2012 Transport for Canberra strategy offered no incentives for us to travel as car passengers rather than as car drivers.
Canberra became more car-dependent. The 2016 census recorded Canberra's highest-ever proportion of car-driving commuters.
For the first time, the number of passengers in cars fell below the number of passengers on public transport.
The strategy's centrepiece — the frequent bus network — achieved a small increase in bus patronage.
But the number of car drivers who switched to public transport was exceeded by the number of car passengers who decided to drive their own cars to work.
"Moving Canberra" offers more of the same blinkered thinking.
Letter, The Canberra Times, December 21 2018 from J. Bodsworth, Phillip
Chief Minister, it appears the new proposed route for the second stage of the light rail to Woden is all too hard and costly.
Abandon this folly and move forward. The money we (ratepayers) save could be spent on additional ACT Policing resources to combat the many complaints and possible rise in criminal activity due to your proposed legislative changes in regard to individuals growing four marijuana plants in the 2019 period.
What a joke.
Nothing wrong with being progressive, but surely commonsense should prevail.
Letter, The Canberra Times, December 21 2018 from Mike Quirk, Garran
Cameron Gordon ("Canberra rapidly showing potential to develop into our own version of Los Angeles", December 18, p18) identifies the need for the conscious adjustment of policies for Canberra to develop as a liveable city.
In this quest Canberra is fortunate to have the legacy of the Griffins' "city in the landscape" and the NCDC's planning based on detailed assessment of alternative land use arrangements.
The NCDC's legacy includes the new towns, each with a town centre with major employment and facilities; a supporting centres hierarchy; the provision of local schools and integrated pedestrian and cycle networks and the facilitation of cross-town movement by peripheral parkways and an inter-town public transport route linking the town centres.
Since the early 1990s the difficulties of dispersing employment, demographic change, greater environmental awareness and gradually changing housing preferences have been recognised and a people-to-the-jobs policy adopted to complement the jobs-to-the-people strategy.
Despite sometimes genuine efforts, Canberra has become a more congested and less affordable city.
Unfortunately the recently released Planning Strategy does not provide a sound basis for future development as it fails to analyse the merits of alternative residential and employment strategies; or housing preferences or demonstrate why the massively expensive light rail is the appropriate technology for inter-town public transport.
Unless an authentic metropolitan assessment is undertaken, Canberra will continue its descent into mediocrity and will be far from an exemplar of a liveable, financially, socially and environmentally sustainable 21st century city.
Letter, The Canberra Times, December 18 2018 from H. Dakin, Griffith
Peter Sherman "cannot fathom why the ACT government is so obsessed with proceeding with Stage 2 of Light Rail..." (Letters, December 15).
I suggest the old question "cui bono?" (to whom the benefit?) gives the answer.
The responsibility probably lies with those having something to gain.
Clearly, these are (1) the CFMMEU and its members because of the lucrative continuing jobs it would provide, (2) the construction industry and (3) the Labor/Green government, which would not be stuck with the manifest absurdity of a forlorn orphaned Stage 1.
The citizens are not included, though required to pay for it. As Mr Sherman notes, "electric buses are far more efficient and versatile and much cheaper". Self-interest would trump common sense once again.
Letter, The Canberra Times, December 17 2018 from Dr Douglas Mackenzie, Deakin
Let me assure Mr MacMillan (Letters, December 11) that I have not been seduced — at least not by the Barr government — and that I do understand what its 100 per cent renewable-energy target means for night-time power.
By 2020, the ACT government’s target for 100 per cent renewable energy, we may well be able to afford a large battery similar to (but smaller than) the highly successful Tesla battery in South Australia.
We could easily afford such a battery if the government were to drop its incredibly expensive plans for stage two of the light-rail project and use electric buses instead.
Coal-fired power stations do, as Mr MacMillan writes, handle shortfalls in energy supply at night. However, as the cost advantage of wind and solar energy continues to increase, and the cost of storage batteries decreases, this will probably no longer be true by 2020.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has warned that the world may have as little as 12 years to avoid passing the point of no return. In this short time we must reduce global CO2 emissions by 45 per cent from 2010 levels. Renewable sources should be supplying up to 85 per cent of global energy by 2050, and we must reduce the role of coal to near zero.
Australia simply cannot afford to be left behind in action on climate change.
Letter, The Canberra Times, December 15 2018 from Peter Sherman, Aranda
I cannot fathom why the ACT government is so obsessed with proceeding with Stage 2 of Light Rail, given the ballooning deficit to fund Stage 1 and this project’s glaring logistical and technical deficiencies (e.g. electric buses are far more efficient, versatile and cheaper as they don’t need ugly overhead wiring or expensive steel tracks that make intersections hazardous for cyclists and motorists on wet days).
The tram’s financial viability is not helped by the lack of free parking for commuters who live in Yass, Murrumbateman, Hall and Canberra’s north-western suburbs (having to pay for parking and a tram ticket will be too expensive for most folk).
Congested York, England, has free parking at outlying locations, so why not in Gungahlin and Mitchell?
Increased travel times is another negative (Giralang and Kaleen residents will lose their direct bus service and have to travel via Dickson to Civic).
The budget deficit will inevitably worsen as, unlike the Gold Coast, there aren’t any tourist attractions, hospitals, universities or mainline stations along the route to attract passengers.
It is crazy not having a link to the airport.
As Stage 1 is already showing signs of being a financial disaster, there is absolutely no hope for Stage 2.
Inevitably, both will prove to be as ineffective as an ash tray on a motorbike. I find it galling that many generations are going to be saddled with having to pay dearly for a stranded asset. This lose-lose-lose scenario will inevitably increase the risk of the Chief Minister and his team being voted out of office.
Letter, The Canberra Times, December 12 2018 from Murray May, Cook
I can strongly sympathise with Angela Walker's concerns about sleep disruption caused by significant overnight noise pollution from the tram construction along Northbourne Avenue (Letters, December 8). Such noise overrides her fundamental human right to have a good night's sleep, a very important issue well recognised in the health literature now. One hopes there are no surgeons living along Northbourne Avenue.
Letter, The Canberra Times, December 10 2018 from Jack Kershaw, Kambah
Contrary to some political and academic opinions ("Battle for the bush capital", December 4, p1), ACT residents, especially families, can continue to afford living happily and sustainably in suburbs, including across the Murrumbidgee in the south, and in parts of Ginninderry to the north-west, and Kowen to the east, without destroying the bush capital ethos.
This can be achieved by continuing and facilitating our dispersed-town-centre arrangement; encouraging more eco-friendly transport systems, including electric or hydrogen-powered self-driving/parking cars; and having more sensibly designed subdivisions (less space given over to roads, etc); more energy-efficient, generally smaller houses; fewer unsafe "linear" parks that never get used; more autonomy and power for home makers in land purchasing, and in the design and construction of their houses and small to medium multiple-dwelling projects; better noise, vibration, dust, and air-pollution prevention through landscaping; more private open space (mostly decent back yards — shockingly missing in our current new suburbs) for recreational and food gardens, sheds, trampolines, pools, etc; and related to that, more use of steeper land for subdivisions.
A much-loved beneficial lifestyle must not be killed off in the name of retailing commercialism, disguised as sustainability.
Letter, The Canberra Times, December 9 2018 from Sue Dyer, Downer
Encouraging more Canberrans to cycle to work and other destinations is admirable, desirable and cost effective ("Investing in attitudes key to cycling", editorial, December 2), yet it is clear some features of the new 2019 "integrated" transport system may well discourage cycling take-up across the northern suburbs.
With the start of light rail, many will find it would be more efficient and flexible to ride to and from rail stops and also use their bike to reach their final destination after arriving in the CBD, instead of using at least two buses and light rail to make one journey. Yet each light rail vehicle leaving Gungahlin for the CBD will accommodate only four bikes.
There is still no indication adequate support infrastructure will be provided at or near light rail stops for those who wish to cycle to these stops and require access to safe and highly secure bike storage facilities. It is clear adoption of the ACT government's much lauded "active living principles" by more Canberrans requires a more holistic and supportive approach.
Letter, The Canberra Times, December 9 2018 from Douglas Mackenzie, Deakin
The "compromise" route now proposed by the Barr government ("Taking the path of least resistance", December 4, pp1,6) is, apart from its horrendous cost, undesirable and illogical.
The proposed route along Commonwealth Avenue between the bridge and State Circle will deface another beautiful Canberra avenue by resulting in the removal of most, if not all of Charles Weston's cedar trees. These trees may well survive for another 50 years if left untouched.
Barr's proposed route along State Circle is also illogical and, perhaps, irresponsible. This is because while there are several office blocks on the eastern sector of State Circle, there are few houses within easy walking distance.
The same problem applies to long stretches of Adelaide Avenue and Yarra Glen.
In my opinion it would be far preferable and far less of a burden on ACT taxpayers to use buses – ideally of the electric variety – to carry commuters from the Civic light rail station to Canberra's southern suburbs.
Letter, The Canberra Times, December 8 2018 from Angela Walker, Canberra
I live no more than five metres from Northbourne Avenue and would like to vent over the tram works, which seem to have been going on forever.
Each morning I walk out our front door and expect to see something resembling the Taj Mahal considering the amount of noise and activity heard throughout the night but alas, it has all looked the same for the past couple of years.
It’s a good thing these people overseeing the tram works weren’t contracted to build this city back in approximately 1913 or we might still be waiting to start moving in.
On one of the many noise-addled nights, at approximately 2am, the noise level was recorded by my iPhone app at 103 decibels (cutting into steel and concrete plus the use of jackhammers).
In desperation to get sleep in order to work that same day I called the police thinking they would be able to put an end to this at this time of the night/morning.
After explaining the situation they told me there was nothing the police could do as the tram workers had a permit.
I called Metro and somehow tracked down a very lovely and sympathetic communications person.
He told me I was the only person to complain from that night of 103 decibels.
Seriously?! This same Metro person has ensured I receive daily updates on the works, for my information and to pass on to other residents within my townhouse complex ‘‘as a warning to batten down the hatches etc’’ (my words not his).
There has been no acknowledgement from the ACT government, at any stage, of the impact on residents and/or acknowledgement of our rights to peace and good quality of life.
I would also like to know why roadworks and lane closures are normal practice morning and afternoon during peak hour. Why can’t the roadworks be put on hold during these times?
A trip that would normally take no longer than 10-15 minutes from where I live can take up to 40 minutes. Traffic is at a standstill for most of the trip. The people of Canberra, who mostly didn’t want this tram in the first place, endure. We need to find our voice and learn to speak up, although a little too late now.
Letter, The Canberra Times, December 7 2018 from Howard Carew, Isaacs
In reference to the amended light rail route from Civic to Woden.
Taking as a given that the existing bus service from Civic to Woden takes around 15 minutes, the idea that it will be replaced by a light rail service that will take about 40 minutes is beyond ridiculous. The unfinished Gungahlin — Civic light rail should make all of us aware that our city planners and ACT Government are hopelessly fixed into 19th century ideas.
The exceedingly ugly tramway under construction has spoiled Northbourne.
The idea that it should be allowed to spoil part of the parliamentary triangle is utterly abhorrent.
China has developed public transport systems that are battery driven and follow road markings rather than rails.
This is without doubt the way our city planners should be thinking.
The full cost of light rail has not yet hit ratepayers.
However it is already way over budget and if we go forward with Stage 2 our children will be paying it off through higher rates for most of the next century.
Letter, The Canberra Times, December 7 2018 from Roger Smith, Scullin
We don't need more beds or staff for the emergency departments, we need more trams.
Letter, The Canberra Times, December 7 2018 from Geoff Nickols, Griffith
With the confirmation of Canberra's dismal health performance ("Condition critical for ACT patients", December 6, p.1) surely it's time to divert the funds for stage 2 Light Rail to health infrastructure and staffing.
Letter, The Canberra Times, December 6 2018 from John Mungoven, Stirling
You can take the Barton dog leg out of Light Rail 2 but it's still a mutt of an idea.
Letter, The Canberra Times, December 6 2018 from Dr Mark Drummond, Garran
University of Canberra professors Jon Stanhope and Khalid Ahmed observe ('Far from rosy, ACT budget at its weakest in a long time', November 29) that: "the territory's finances are ... their weakest in a very long time"; "analysis by ANU academics shows Canberra high school students are lagging up to 16 months behind their peers from similar backgrounds"; "The health system gives every appearance of being in crisis"; and "The ACT budget ... does not appear to allocate sufficient resources for priority services particularly for the vulnerable and the disadvantaged", with "significant costs of light rail stage 1 ... yet to hit the budget".
Mary Robbie of Aranda (Letters, November 19) said similarly that: "Canberra has a health system in crisis, an education system ... failing our young people"; and "The cost of the light rail has meant huge increases in our rates", with "no increase in funding for other important and essential services such as housing for our homeless"; and laments that the priorities of the Labor-Greens government "reflect their lack of an understanding of the social justice issues affecting the community they are supposed to represent".
The ACT could ill afford Light Rail Stage 1 and the Labor-Greens government will inflict even more fiscal and social destruction upon ACT citizens if Light Rail Stage 2 goes ahead, in light of government finance and service crises which, in the main, ironically, were as apparent throughout Mr Stanhope's decade as Chief Minister as they are now.
Letter, The Canberra Times, December 5 2018 from Mike Quirk, Garran
Recent ABS population projections suggest that Canberra could have 500,000 residents within a decade, up from 419,200 in March 2018.
The Chief Minister is claiming his government had been planning for the increase, to avoid the congestion and strain on infrastructure experienced by Sydneysiders and Melburnians.
The reality is different: increasing congestion, decreasing housing affordability, the failure to undertake a thorough review of the ACT planning strategy, inadequate land supply, ad hoc rural lease purchases, inadequate school and retail planning, the failure to influence employment location, the inadequate management of development and the provision of light rail that does little to reduce greenhouse emissions and diverts funds from more effective and responsible projects. Light rail does not a strategy make.
Mr Barr, your words are hollow. High-quality, evidence-based planning is urgently needed to accommodate projected growth. Please do some.
Letter, The Canberra Times, December 5 2018 from D. Just, Campbell
Surely before proceeding with stage 2 of the light rail there should be a detailed cost-benefit analysis conducted.
If this is not to be done, then we should wait until stage 1 has been running for 12 to 24 months. The cost to the ACT budget of light rail is very significant. We need some certainty of its effectiveness and efficiency before blindly committing to further expenditure.
Letter, The Canberra Times, December 5 2018 from Jack Kershaw, Kambah
The route of light rail stage 2, Civic-Woden, is still not right ("Taking the path of least resistance", December 4, p.1).
For the same reasons the tram line has now apparently (and rightly) been removed from King George Terrace and Kings Avenue south, it needs to be removed from Commonwealth Avenue altogether.
Using that avenue would: pander to inappropriate property development; cause traffic delays; destroy the architectural and engineering integrity of the bridge (and its match with King's Avenue bridge); cause massive construction cost and disruption; and ruin a cultural landscape (notably superb established trees).
And there's still the problem of getting the tracks up to Commonwealth Avenue from London Circuit, and installing two-way tracks at the intersection of Commonwealth Avenue and State Circle.
Better, cheaper overall, faster at rush hours, more inclusive, and less construction-disruptive, to go via: Edinburgh Avenue; Lawson Crescent; a beautiful new curving bridge (á la Griffin's missing third central lake crossing) springing from south-west Acton Peninsula (preserving the West Lake yacht course); a shared zone across expanded Lennox Gardens; Flynn Drive; the State Circle cutting; and around to Adelaide Avenue, serving Barton and Parliament House on the way.
Back from "good" to "perfect", Mr Barr.
Letter, The Canberra Times, December 5 2018 from Bill Bush, Turner
I know I shouldn't believe everything I read on the web but I am brought up short when I see Prof Peter Newman, the urger of 19th-century trams on Canberra, compare their "high cost, long construction period", with their trackless, wireless 21st-century Chinese descendants described as "low-cost, short construction period, huge volume, energy efficient and environmentally friendly".
I ponder the lost opportunity cost of $1 billion and the endless months of construction chaos and loss of a Northbourne avenue of urban trees.
Today I read that the Property Council "want stage 2 done as quickly as possible". ("Taking the path of least resistance", December 4, p.1 ).
I pinch myself in astonishment when I read that "a business case for a trackless tram route ... between Canning and Stirling is being prepared" and that "work is also being done with the cities of Stirling, Vincent, Perth, Victoria Park and Canning, the Property Council and local community groups on how the system could pay for itself".
Is the real fantasy not the new technology but the degree of community co-operation?
Letter, The Canberra Times, December 1 2018 from Mike Quirk, Garran
Professor Barbara Norman, chairwoman of the ACT Climate Change Council, identified reducing emissions from transport as the next major challenge in combating climate change ('Transport emissions the next big challenge', November 26, p6). Increasing the use of public transport is a key element of any strategy to reduce transport emissions. In this context the comment from Damien Haas, chairman of the Public Transport Association of Canberra, that he does not know where the government should get the revenue to fund better infrastructure and services necessary to get more people to travel on public transport ('ACT government rejects call for road tolls in Canberra, November 27', p6), is concerning. I have a suggestion – don't extend the light rail to Woden and use the savings of $1.3 to $1.6 billion to identify and fund the most cost-effective strategies to reduce car dependency. These could include increasing the attractiveness of public transport by improving its comfort, frequency and coverage; facilitating a land use distribution that supports its use; parking strategies that discourage car use; bus priority measures and the provision of busways including the investigation of technologies including the trackless tram. The latter could be much cheaper than light rail, provide similar functionality and city development benefits.
Letter, The Canberra Times, December 1 2018 from Ron Edgecombe, Evatt
Jon Stanhope and Khalid Ahmed's article 'Far from rosy, ACT budget at its weakest in a long time' (November 29, p18) should ring clear alarm bells for the ACT populace.
In particular of concern, the comment that public private partnership contracts, totalling $1.605b, primarily for light rail stage 1, will not impact on the territory's budget until after 2022. If that is the case, what will be the future budgetary impact of similar public private partnerships contracts for the proposed light rail stage 2 if it proceeds? This impact will last well into the next decade.
The ACT government is already presiding over a clearly marked deterioration in service delivery outcomes in the core service areas of health, education, public and low income housing, And this against the background of the massive year-on-year increases in rates, taxes, fees and charges which the Barr government is continuing to implement and which is impacting increasingly on all ACT citizens.
In contrast to those core service delivery areas listed above, light rail is very much a discretionary budgetary expenditure item, particularly when other much cheaper, more efficient and future-proof transport mode options exist. On the basis of these arguments alone the ACT clearly cannot afford light rail stage 2.
It is also politically naive for the Chief Minister to think that a potential future federal Labor government will blindly approve the ACT government's preferred parliamentary triangle route for light rail stage 2. My previous experiences with the various federal parliamentary committees on the National Capital and parliamentary triangle suggest these committees take very seriously their responsibilities to preserve intact the integrity of these areas.
Letter, The Canberra Times, November 30 2018 from Graham Downie, O'Connor
There must be no government subsidy of private motor vehicles, as suggested by Douglas Mackenzie (Letters, November 28).
Increasing use of private motor vehicles, even if powered by electricity, is a major economic and environmental cost to this city. They require roads, parking places at both ends of their journeys, and congestion during their journeys all come at a major cost.
That there is a need for private vehicles in Canberra is testament to this government's abject failure to provide effective and efficient public transport. Its commitment to extend the tramway, without a business case or even a clear plan of its route, is indicative of political ideology lacking genuine commitment to public transport. Government subsidy would encourage manufacturers to maintain the high cost of electric vehicles. And with more than 80 per cent of Australia's electricity generated by fossil fuels, there is considerable doubt whether the claimed saving on emissions from electric vehicles would be achieved.
That there is a place for such vehicles is not disputed. But Canberra's hard-hit ratepayers would get better value if government policy were to reduce private vehicle use, not subsidise it.
Letter, The Canberra Times, November 28 2018 from Jack Kershaw, Kambah
Someone said, "All planning is political". However, the planning and design of the most revered part of our national capital must surely be above politics.
Nevertheless, a defeat of the current federal government by Labor at the coming election could smooth the way for the ACT Labor government's stage 2 light rail, Civic-Woden, a significant section of which runs through the Commonwealth-controlled national triangle.
Regardless of the outcome of the election, if Australia is to maintain a world-class national capital, many agree that a significant section of the currently planned light rail in the central national area needs to be relocated.
Evidence on this topic recently presented to the Parliamentary Joint Standing Committee on the National Capital and External Territories, supported that.
A light rail system has unique physical characteristics as a form of local public transport. Its route is fixed in place, and involves a range of elements more suited to, and redolent of a typical urban environment. Increasingly, light rail's intent is to facilitate, control, and express property and commercialism. However, the national triangle is not and never should be an "urban" nor a "commercial" place.
Accordingly, many regard the ACT government's preferred route as unsuitable, because light rail is destructive of, and not compatible with the heritage, form, function, semiotics, and ambience of that place. Naïve, image-driven, commercial factors are clearly driving the choice of the ACT's route.
Letter, The Canberra Times, November 28 2018 from Leon Arundell, Downer
Properly located transit lanes would address the Prime Minister's concerns about traffic congestion ("Morrison must avoid population populism", November 22, editorial) and help ACT Labor to meet its commitment "to increasing the public transport share of all work trips to 16 per cent by 2026." They would encourage more people to travel as car passengers rather than as car drivers. They would also increase patronage on buses using the proposed underground bus interchange ("Going below for bus interchange", November 21, p1).
Locating the interchange directly under the Alinga Street light rail terminus would allow bus passengers to get to light rail, and to east Civic and west Civic, without having to cross up to six lanes of 60km/h traffic ("Northbourne Ave speeds to remain", November 18, p5).
Letter, The Canberra Times, November 27 2018 from Leon Arundell, Downer
The best place for an underground bus interchange ("Going below for bus interchange", November 21, p1) would be directly under the Alinga Street light rail terminus. That would allow bus passengers to transfer direct to light rail. It would also allow them to get to east Civic, or west Civic, without having to cross several lanes of 60km/h traffic. As a bonus, it would provide a faster, safer way to cross Northbourne Avenue.
Letter, The Canberra Times, November 27 2018 from Mike Quirk, Garran
The Canberra Business Chamber ("Not fit for purpose", November 22, p1) wants the government to commit to rejuvenating the city precinct and deliver on projects including a new convention centre, a new theatre complex and sports stadium. The relative merits of these projects and others including the extension of light rail to Woden, a city bus interchange, the revitalisation of Woden and Tuggeranong town centres, improvements to the health and education system and the bus network need to be assessed to ensure the best use of limited public funds. Projects supported should maximise benefits to the community and therefore require an evidence base. They should not be prioritised (as is likely in the case of light rail) on the basis of their potential to win votes and provide ribbon-cutting opportunities.
Letter, The Canberra Times, November 24 2018 from Mike Quirk, Garran
Bob Bennett (Letters, November 20) observes the reluctance of Canberrans to reduce their reliance on cars.
Such a reduction is essential to reduce greenhouse emissions. A range of land-use/transport strategies need to be investigated including a) abandoning light rail stage two to fund an increased frequency and coverage of the bus network; b) the feasibility of the potentially more cost-effective high-capacity electric buses on the high-volume inter-town bus routes; c) increasing long-stay parking charges and reducing long-stay parking supply at major employment centres; d) directing employment to town centres and locations well-served by public transport and discouraging employment at locations difficult to serve by public transport and e) providing additional housing near employment.
The government is not seriously pursing an integrated land-use/transport strategy with the current review "analysis light" and not comprehensively addressing key challenges including determining and delivering an optimum distribution of population and employment to reduce overall travel and greenhouse emissions, improve housing affordability and best use limited funds.
This failure, in part, is a consequence of the government's irresponsible, ego-driven focus on the superficially attractive, horrendously costly and soon to be outdated light rail.
Mr Barr a "Big ACT" requires the effective management of population growth based on an evidenced-based strategy accompanied by an infrastructure plan indicating where and when development (including housing, schools, shops, roads, public transport) is to occur and its cost.
Letter, The Canberra Times, November 24 2018 from Chris Emery, Reid
It is a waste of money to pay millions for a business case examining the proposed underground bus station.
The ACT government ignored the business case for rapid transit to Gungahlin and chose the doubly expensive, less frequent, less seats, less stops and much slower option of light rail.
Perth could afford an underground bus station after rejecting three light rail routes as too expensive.
Pity Canberra didn't stick to its buses, which can now be made 100 per cent electric and thus meet the Greens' main argument for light rail.
Letter, The Canberra Times, November 23 2018 from Ian Pearson, Barton
Perhaps I have missed it, but so far there hasn't been any discussion about names for the tram stops between Gungahlin and Civic.
So here's an idea that both sides of the debate should be able to support.
In the spirit of giving credit where credit is due, how about naming the stops after the tram line's architects.
First among these names would be "Mitchell Traders" for their outstanding role in lobbying for a station where incredibly the architects of the line thought none was necessary. Then, at either end of the line, we could have the stations "Rattenbury" and "Barr" to recognise the alliance that made the tram line possible. In between, we could have stations named after the various bit players, including "Fitzharris" and "Gallagher" in recognition of their respective roles.
Of course there will be other station names in between, which will have to be decided, but one of those would have to be be "Cody" in recognition of the important role Bec Cody will no doubt play in ensuring that all the names are appropriate, and not encumbered by inappropriate historic baggage.
Enjoy the ride between Gungahlin and Civic (and return) and don't forget those who made this ride possible.
Letter, The Canberra Times, November 20 2018 from Bob Bennett, Wanniassa
Apologies to M. Flint of Erindale, (Letters, November 15) but I am not after a rise in ACTION fares though I would not object to one either. My November 12 letter draws attention to how little ACTION raises in fares and how much it is funded by rates and taxes. I was cautioning against retaining under-utilised services or venturing upon new ones. As M. Flint suggests, bus and light rail do share a common problem – the reluctance of most Canberrans to reduce their reliance on cars. Government has tried to change that attitude but it's proven an expensive losing battle.
It's a measure of how disinclined we are to "bus it" to work that the 25 per cent real fall in ACTION fares since about 2005 has not lifted patronage. In 2012, the ACT government produced a plan to raise ACTION's share of the work commute from about 8 per cent to 10.5 per cent by 2016 and 16 per cent in 2026. The result to date: zero progress.
Higher bus fares would help strike a fairer balance between ratepayers at large and the minority of Canberrans who use ACTION regularly. Further reducing "dead time" running could help too, as might paring back access to concessional fares. But such necessarily incremental savings won't have a big or immediate effect. Somehow, the service needs to be made more attractive, especially at times of highest demand. A peak hour fare rise could even prove "popular" if it came with a guarantee of more seats and many more direct services on existing rapid routes.
The jury remains out on whether light rail can make some difference. But thankfully, not for too much longer.
Letter, The Canberra Times, November 19 2018 from John Mungoven, Stirling
It appears the ACT government's preferred route for stage two of light rail via City Hill, Commonwealth Avenue, the Parliamentary Triangle and on to Kent Street, Deakin, will need to do so in pole/wire-less mode. This apparently exceeds the tram's electrical capacity and may require additional stops for charging. Good news week! Transport Canberra director-general Emma Thomas is quoted as saying "there's a slight sort of hill from my memory of that area". Are they planning this project from some vague recollection? I'm happy to drive or walk her over the proposed route.
In true Yes Minister tradition, could I suggest all/any passengers be forced to alight before the hilly section. Strangely, Woden to Civic buses seem to zip up that "hill" and don't even need to stop or refuel.
Letter, The Canberra Times, November 19 2018 from Mary Robbie, Aranda
Canberra has a health system in crisis, an education system that is the most expensive in Australia and failing our young people. It has an unacceptable level of homelessness, and our once lovely bush capital is dirty and neglected.
We had a great transport system until the Barr/Rattenbury and union-driven government decided to put in the light rail and reduce the number of bus services. The reduction in bus services has hit the most vulnerable in our community. The cost of the light rail has meant huge increases in our rates and other essentials and it is apparent that there has been no increase in funding for other important and essential services such as housing for our homeless.
It was no surprise therefore to read that Megan Fitzharris stated ("Stealthy arrival of light rail tram means testing imminent", November 16, p2) the focus for the government for the next few months would be planning for the launch of the light rail on Northbourne Avenue. Then we have Bec Cody, who is very concerned that our street and suburb names may offend some people. Their priorities reflect their lack of an understanding of the social justice issues affecting the community they are supposed to represent.
I fear that unless the Liberal party steps up and articulates its policies and starts to challenge the direction of the current government, we will continue to watch the destruction of Canberra and pay more and more through taxes imposed on us by a government that has no understanding of the real issues facing Canberra.
Letter, The Canberra Times, November 15 2018 from John Mungoven, Stirling
Does the person who designed the space age structures at the new light rail stops live in Canberra? I guarantee you will never see him/her at one on a cold, sleeting, windy Canberra winter day. Based on what is visible at present and on images on Canberra Metro's website, there is no side protection from the elements and a flat open roofline to capture the wind and slanting rainfall. Not to mention minimal shade on hot days.
Just wait for the reaction of miserable commuters to this design after work on a dark sleeting winter evening.
The wind from the Brindabellas should fairly rattle down Northbourne Avenue now that those pesky trees providing wind protection (and shade) are gone. The minimal spacing between the new high-rise buildings should add to this wind funnelling. I'd love to see Shane Rattenbury, Andrew Barr and Meegan Fitzharris chained up there for a wet day next winter.
Letter, The Canberra Times, November 15 2018 from M. Flint, Erindale
What I distil from Mr Bennett's letter (Letters, November 12) is that, while the ACTION bus fleet is necessary, the users are not paying enough and less than they used to. There is scope for riders to pay more as Mr Bennett implies. Taxpayers should note that the Gungahlin-Civic tram, with a projected subsidy of about $14 per passenger, will replace the rapid bus services at a subsidy of $8.60 per passenger (for ACTION network in 2017-18). The Rattenbury/Barr government thinks that's a great deal for taxpayers. Ideology trumps rationality and good city administration every time.
Letter, The Canberra Times, November 14 2018 from Graham Downie, O'Connor
With the annual operating cost of Canberra's public transport projected to about double in 10 years, with little if any patronage increase, ACT ratepayers are certainly entitled to condemn the government's mismanagement of this important service.
In 2012, ACTION's operating cost was about $120million. It is projected to increase to $186million by 2022. By then, the annual operating cost of the 12-kilometre light rail is projected to be $63.5million. That is about half the cost of operating the entire ACTION fleet in 2012. The combined annual operating cost of tram and bus will then be $249.5million. This does not include capital costs.
The folly of light rail and the government's effective rejection of the highly credentialled MRCagney report are two major contributors to this rapidly escalating cost and inefficiency of the service. The report recommended steps to reduce ACTION's annual operating budget by about $47million within 10 years. Instead, the government said then it was developing a fare strategy for consultation in 2016 and it would consider fare options including distance-based fares. It also said it would renegotiate an enterprise agreement in 2017. Neither has occurred. This despite the MRCagney report highlighting the enterprise agreement contains specific clauses that give rise to and/or maintain less efficient practices within ACTION.
In 2010, a consultant's report commissioned by the government found ACTION was spending more than 30per cent of its $100million annual operating budget on waste and inefficiency.
Clearly, nothing has changed, and this government has no will to require change, preferring instead to double our rates.
With the proposed bus routes to coincide with the introduction of the tram, many more passengers will be required to make one or two changes to complete their journeys, giving even less incentive to use Australia's most expensive public transport.
Letter, The Canberra Times, November 12 2018 from Bob Bennett, Wanniassa
Debate on the ACTION network needs to be informed by facts as well as sentiment.
ACTION presently has direct costs of about $180 million per year. But it raises only a token $15 million in fares.
The $165 million gap is mostly filled by government payments (aka a ratepayer subsidy). That subsidy is about $1100 annually for each Canberra household, rich or poor, whether they use the service or not.
Only a fraction of households use ACTION and around 8 per cent of workers are bus commuters.
Most forms of public transport are subsidised by government and therefore by taxpayers. The rate of subsidy varies widely but it's usually in the range of 30 to 70 per cent.
That means commuters, as is only fair, make a contribution to the service they use (but others don't).
Up to a decade ago, ACTION patrons paid about 30 per cent of the service's costs. By 2015 that was down to 17 per cent. Now it's closer to 8 per cent. That's well below what's considered a reasonable user contribution nationally.
In 2014-15 a government-commissioned study (the MRCagney Report) and the ACT Auditor-General each looked at ACTION and found that it was not meeting its service targets and that patronage levels were stagnant.
Nothing much has improved since then. ACTION, for all the laudable efforts to boost services — holding down fares, upgrading the bus fleet, increasing parking fees etc — is a financial basket-case.
A root cause of the problem is, to paraphrase Professor Jenny Stewart in The Canberra Times a year or two back, "Canberrans love their public transport but just not quite so much that they'd actually use it".
More buses might be nice for some, and possibly viable in peak hours, but someone will have to pay for them.
Letter, The Canberra Times, November 10 2018 from M. Flint, Smart Canberra Transport, Canberra
I do wish deluded tram supporters like Victor Isaacs (Letters, November 8) would get their facts straight before showing their ignorance. The tramway in Caen France (also in Nancy, France) is not a ‘‘trackless’’ tram. It is a Guided Light Transit system, using a single, central, non-supporting guide rail in the ground.
It was commissioned in 2002, is now obsolete, and has absolutely nothing to do with the modern steel-trackless, autonomous, rubber-tyred trams now available and already operating in China.
Letter, The Canberra Times, November 8 2018 from Victor Isaacs, Downer
What proponents of a "trackless tram" for Canberra do not tell us is that this technology has only ever been implemented in one city in the world, Caen in northern France; and that there it was a complete failure due to unreliability. It is now been pulled up in Caen at great expense and replaced by a conventional tramway.
Letter, The Canberra Times, November 7 2018 from Elizabeth Chisholm, Red Hil
What a strange government we have here in Canberra. We need more buses, not fewer and yet under the new bus network we read far too often that the very people who need and use buses regularly are having their bus services taken away. University students, school students and the elderly all dependent on public transport, now seem to be struggling to find ways to get to their destinations. Our new bus network may take some cars off the road in some places, but will add more in other areas.
The end result will be greater congestion on our roads, which will only get worse until we have a reliable regular bus service within Canberra that serves all people in all areas.
Only then will we leave our cars at home and those without cars will be able to travel within this fine city on a public transport system that actually works.
Letter, The Canberra Times, November 4 2018 from Gina Pinkas, Aranda
Mike Quirk (CT letters, October 30) is spot on when he asks, "Why has the government failed to evaluate busway alternatives including the feasibility of large-capacity electric buses (trackless trams)?"
I believe marketing and politics are the only answers, as "trackless trams" can deliver all the outcomes and more, of those achieved by the wasteful, extravagant tracked trams.
Initially, the then newly elected ACT Labor government's transport policy was to build fixed busways. Such busways were similar to those in cities such as Auckland and Brisbane, with built infrastructure including parking stations, high-amenity bus terminals and stations and traffic priority routes.
Under that policy, by having fixed busways or "trackless trams" instead of obsolete tracked trams, we could have achieved, at far less cost, the same development revenues and outcomes along the fixed routes, better carrying capacity, the same or better environmental impacts and provided more flexibility at the end of the routes.
There would have been less cost, less disruption to install, and the capacity to change technology in line with future developments. When I have asked "why trams?" to tram fans, after matching busways with all their claims, at the end of the discussions they lamely say things like "but we love Melbourne's trams". We can even build trackless trams that look like Melbourne's trams, just with wheels instead.
Despite the evidence and findings of some analysis at the time, there was strong opposition within and outside government to busways. Many years later the decision to go with trams was made. I was advised that the busway plan was not supported and so the only way to get a more sustainable public transport system was to go with the easier-to-sell tram plan.
So in comparing the two options, marketing and politics won over logic and cost. I am sad for the future generations of Canberrans.
Letter, The Canberra Times, November 8 2018 from Mike Quirk, Garran
Like the Liberal Party federally and locally, the ACT Greens also need to move to the sensible centre. The inability of the ACT government to respond to the widespread criticism of its failure to consider alternatives to light rail on the inter-town public transport route from Civic to Woden is likely to stem from the Labor-Greens Parliamentary Agreement which states: "Immediately commence community consultation, scoping and design work of Stage 2 of the light rail network, to progress the Woden Stage2 extension to the procurement stage and contract signing in this term".
The Parliamentary Agreement should be reviewed given the extremely high indicative costs of the extension and the likelihood that alternatives such as a busway and the trackless tram would be far cheaper, more flexible and as effective in meeting transport demand and city development objectives.
Abandoning the extended light rail would increase the funds available for what could be considered higher-order Labor-Green objectives in health, housing, education and public transport.
Mr Barr and Mr Rattenbury, demonstrate you lead a responsible government by evaluating alternatives to light rail and, if necessary, change the Parliamentary Agreement.
Letter, The Canberra Times, November 2 2018 from E. Highley, Kambah
n his eminently sensible criticism of the government plan to extend the light-rail system to Woden, J. Lee (Letters, October 31) suggests that "a 15-minute express bus service is the answer between Woden and Civic". We already have that; well, in truth, the journey time is 16 minutes (check the timetable), but who'd quibble about a minute when Shane Rattenbury's "Rocket" will take more than twice as long?
Letter, The Canberra Times, November 1 2018 from John Mungoven, Stirling
Not many federal Liberal politicians have covered themselves with glory recently.
There is at least one exception, Ben Morton, the (Liberal) Member for Tangney.
Mr Morton, as chair of the Joint Standing Committee on the National Capital and External Territories has been serving it up to the ACT government over its obsession with Light Rail 2 and posing difficult questions over the project's efficiency, design, proposed and alternative routing, impact on NCA areas, heritage considerations, congestion issues, outdated technology and much more.
Who would have thought a Liberal politician might save the ACT from stage 2.
Reading between the lines Mr Morton clearly sees this dog of a project what it is — expensive, inflexible, out of date technology, slow, intrusive, ugly, development not transport driven, etc etc.
Good on you Ben. If you succeed in this task, I will certainly support your nomination as Canberran of the Year. Good work by an ex-bus driver as yourself.
Letter, The Canberra Times, October 31 2018 from Murray Upton, Belconnen
Meegan Fitzharris, the ACT Transport Minister, has surely been fixated by the "Gungahlin Tram" for too long.
Many years too late, she has only just realised that: "We need to build the infrastructure first and not wait for congestion to get so bad and to cripple the community and economy with road congestion." ("Final track laid at city", CT, October 27, p10).
Older residents may remember the days prior to the Barr government when that actually happened.
However, I doubt if those trying to escape from Gungahlin every morning now will ever forgive the government for their complete lack of any forward planning.
Letter, The Canberra Times, October 31 2018 from J. Lee, Braddon
Your article "Govt told to ditch Barton tram link" (October 21, p1) describes how not to go ahead with the stage 2 light rail. Recent letters to the editor have outlined the costing of the project.
The money could be used for far more important things that would benefit the people of Canberra.
How many meetings will it take the government to realise what they are proposing is just beyond belief and that they should ditch the Barton tram link?
The travelling public needs a reliable, and fast, mode of transport for the daily commute. A 15-minute express bus service is the answer between Woden and Civic.
The [tram] proposals put forward by the government will be much slower than this.
Letter, The Canberra Times, October 30 2018 from Mike Quirk, Garran
The ACT government needs to respond to the comments of the Planning Institute of Australia and the Productivity Commission (Light rail's mixed messages, October 29, p1).
To date the government has failed to address the widespread concerns surrounding the extension to Woden and, in particular, needs to answer the fundamental question raised by the Productivity Commission, why is the light rail needed at all?
Why has the government failed to evaluate bus-way alternatives, including the feasibility of large-capacity electric buses (the trackless tram)? As noted by the Productivity Commission, government resources are limited and many other calls on the public purse are likely to be more highly valued.
Mr Barr, where is the evidence to support your obsession with the extremely expensive, inflexible and outdated technology?
Letter, The Canberra Times, October 29 2018 from Gail McAlpine, Griffith
I have read that the journey time currently by bus to Woden from Civic is 15 minutes and if constructed, the light rail journey time will be 40 minutes.
I have not read any comments by the Barr government to challenge this fact, so why on earth does it think people want to spend more time travelling to work?
People will only get into their cars.
Could a member of the government explain the logic in what appears to be a gross waste of money?
Letter, The Canberra Times, October 29 2018 from Brian Hale, Wanniassa
James Mahoney (Letters, October 24) fails to add that Northbourne Ave now has a concrete tram track at considerable expense. Probably over $1 billion? Will we ever know?
I am sure the removal of trees and dressing up the area could have been done at much less of a cost and purchased more buses.
RIP light rail stage two before the world ends!
Letter, The Canberra Times, October 28 2018 from James Allan, Narrabundah
'm one of those tram NIMBYs James Mahoney speaks of (Letters, October 24), and if you extend that definition to include NWWDMBYs (not within walking distance of my backyard) even Blind Freddy can see why a clear majority of Canberrans view the whole tram exercise as profligate waste and can't wait to see the back of this dishonest, contumacious, rent-seeking, development-addicted government.
Letter, The Canberra Times, October 26 2018 from Bob Bennett, Wanniassa
The ACT government should rethink the proposed light rail line linking Civic, Barton and Woden.
The cost, at $1.5 to $2.0billion, is high and [it is] encountering considerable political headwinds.
There is no obvious groundswell of public support for building Capital Metro Stage 2 without the Gungahlin to Civic service first having been shown a winner.
Nor is there a shortage of alternative opportunities for enhancing public transport in and around Canberra. Some might even attract federal support and funding.
In the run-up to the NSW election, the major parties have committed to investigating upgraded rail services between Canberra- the Southern Highlands and Sydney and even restoring the former Canberra-Tuggeranong-Cooma rail line with a spur to Canberra Airport.
Each opens up fresh options for dealing with road congestion and parking issues inside the ACT. Unlike the much promised and multibillion-dollar Very Fast Train, these medium-speed rail options are already progressing.
For a fraction of the cost of Capital Metro Stage 2, the ACT could link such services to a light rail line from Kingston Railway to Barton via Kingston and Manuka oval.
This could be paired with new long stay parking facilities on presently under-used land near the Kingston railhead.
Trams this link could be battery-powered and wouldn't need overhead wires.
And the feds might even help pay for it.
Letter, The Canberra Times, October 26 2018 from Jack Kershaw, Kambah
The ACT government can't continue to allow engineering criteria to dominate if it wants National Capital Authority approval for the Civic-Woden tram.
With Commonwealth Avenue, the National Institutions area (notably King Edward Terrace), upper Kings Avenue, and Windsor Walk in Barton involved in the ACT's preferred route; surely, vital aesthetic, urban-design, heritage, landscape, and national-significance considerations have been relegated.
The ACT still has major engineering problems such as getting the tracks up from London Circuit to Commonwealth Avenue, and integrating them into Commonwealth Avenue Bridge.
The NCA seems to be encouraging the use of Constitution Avenue and Kings Avenue. Surely, that's also seriously problematic re the above national-significance criteria.
It is time to look at taking the route south-west from Civic on Edinburgh Avenue (serving New Acton); along Lawson Crescent around to the far south-west shore of Acton Peninsula (serving West Basin, ANU, National Museum, and The Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies); across the lake on a fine new curving bridge redolent of Griffin's missing third crossing and more straightforward and probably cheaper than integration with an existing bridge; to popular Lennox Gardens, which could be expanded, encompassing Flynn Place, to enable some sensitive development, and a better site for Floriade); up short Flynn Drive; through the State Circle cutting, with a stop at the top of Kings Avenue serving Parliament House, the National Institutions, and Barton; and on around State Circle to Capital Circle, and on to Adelaide Avenue – overhead-wires-free around Capital Hill.
Letter, The Canberra Times, October 26 2018 from John L Smith, Farrer
Despite your report "ACT govt urged to stick to main avenues on second stage of light rail" (canberratimes.com.au, October 22) it is clear that the Chief Minister Andrew Barr has other ideas.
He disclosed on ABC Radio on October 23 that he has been in discussions with the federal opposition about relatively unfettered approval for his preferred route for light rail Stage 2, should the opposition win government next year.
In the same radio session Duncan Edghill, Deputy Director Transport Canberra, said that the rapid development of technology would ensure that any requirement for wire-free operation could be satisfied by the time construction began (2020-21).
Surely it is irresponsible not to consider what other transport technology is likely emerge before the 2020-21 decision time.
Before then, it is highly likely that trackless trams will be in service in some Chinese cities and commercial ride-sharing services in driverless vehicles will be available in some US cities.
Thus, there will be mature technology that would make it far cheaper and more effective to dismantle the overhead wires on the Gungahlin-Civic route, dispose of the Urbos trams, and develop any Gungahlin-Woden corridor for trackless trams than to persevere with an antiquated light rail network.
Moreover, such a development option could be readily adapted to more flexible driverless services in the future.
Letter, The Canberra Times, October 24 2018 from Howard Carew, Isaacs
The front page article ("Govt told to ditch Barton team link", October 23, p1) stating the ACT government's intention to use the Barton route for its stage 2 section would leave many of us shaking our heads.
Taking a logical view the idea of replacing a good bus service that takes approximately 15 minutes to travel from Woden interchange to Civic with an already outdated tram that will take 40 minutes is economic and financial irrationality.
Our bus network already covers Barton and, in fact, all of Canberra very efficiently.
New transport systems being developed in China can move people more efficiently than trams and at half the cost.
The Barr government was advised about them when it first floated the idea of light rail for Canberra. Infrastructure Australia advised it against light rail for Canberra.
Unbelievably the government has pursued light rail in a lemming-like rush to jump over an economic cliff.
If you drive into Civic from either north or south you will be getting a taste of what lies ahead.
The increasing centralisation of Civic even without light rail is leading to gridlock.
With light rail and its priority over cars at 10 sets of traffic lights on the way in and the same 10 sets on the way out will be the final straw that snaps the patience of people who have Civic as a destination.
Letter, The Canberra Times, October 24 2018 from Mike Quirk, Garranr
As the ACT government is reconsidering the route of the light rail extension to Woden ("Govt told to ditch Barton team link", October 23, p1) in response to the Joint Standing Committee on the National Capital and External Territories report, it should also reconsider the appropriateness of the project.
The government has failed to demonstrate the project is superior to busway and "trackless" tram alternatives, both of which would be considerably cheaper and likely to provide similar urban renewal benefits.
It also needs to assess whether the funds being allocated would be more effective in reducing car dependency, and associated greenhouse emissions, than extending the frequency and coverage of the bus network and providing policies to bus use and encourage employment at locations that support the bus network.
There are urgent education, health, housing and disability services issues facing the territory and concerns about the levels of rates.
A competent and independent reassessment of the project would help restore the community's confidence in the government.
If the reassessment indicates the project is a poor use of public funds, kudos would be obtained by the government abandoning the project. The Barr government needs to be particularly responsible given the ineffectiveness of the conservative Liberal opposition.
Letter, The Canberra Times, October 24 2018 from James Mahoney, McKellar
Those dastardly Canberra tram constructors have planted healthy and appropriate eucalypts along Northbourne Avenue and other parts (where they weren't) of the light rail route. They've also planted native grasses and laid mulch where once was just plain old weeds and dodgy scrub. Must rattle the tram NIMBYs who reckoned the world would end when the old, inappropriate, unhealthy trees came down.
Letter, The Canberra Times, October 22 2018 from Renee Goossens, Turner
Oh no, not more excavation. We are exhausted, living close to Northbourne Avenue beside Condamine Street. Night after night we've had the droning sound of excavation.
By day we have detours wherever we go. Canberra, prior to losing a thousand trees, was lovely.
It was considered, with reason, to be a beautiful city.
Then we had cages everywhere, detours difficult to remember as they're changing almost daily. The place looks, 10 months on, like a permanent detention centre.
For those of us who tried to vote against the tram, it was already too late.
Documents were pre-signed to ensure the Chief Minister with his Napoleonic delusions of grandeur, making a folly of democracy, would get his 19th century tram.
By the time it arrives it will be so out of date we should be protesting more than we have.
The cost to a community stretched to breaking point to pay for this folly for now and decades to come, with a route eschewing the airport, the hospitals and the universities will go down in history as a vile deed against the population of a city originally planned for beauty and environmental sense.
For shame, Andrew Barr and all who cover for him.
What goes around in cruelty comes around. And so it will.
Letter, The Canberra Times, October 9 2018 from David Purnell, Florey
I have been using Canberra's bus system for many years and have been disappointed it has not attracted more users despite various promotions. The light rail will have one big advantage — it involves "steel on steel" rather than "rubber on road". Thus it will be more comfortable to travel on than buses will ever be. Hopefully this will attract more users.
Letter, The Canberra Times, October 8 2018 from Jenny Lee, Braddon
When are they going to stop procrastinating about whether stage two of the light rail project should go ahead.
Is there anyone among the heads of government who can stand up, make the decision, do the right thing and just stop it.
Letter, The Canberra Times, October 6 2018 from Graham Johnson, Weetangera
Your readers Kent Fitch, Leon Arundell (Letters, September 29) and Mike Quirk (October 2) highlight significant shortcomings in the current transport planning regime in Canberra.
There can be no doubt that a massive amount of money is being wasted on light rail when far cheaper options are available.
I, too, heard the interview with Professor Peter Newman referred to by Kent Fitch. Newman was formerly a strong advocate of light rail but now asserts that the so-called trackless tram is a far better and cheaper option.
Why can’t the government be honest and now admit that any extension to the light rail network would be a big mistake?
It can hardly make them any more unpopular with informed taxpayers on this issue.
Cost recovery and bus patronage of the Canberra bus system is also an ongoing concern; the light rail service to Gungahlin can only make this worse.
Letter, The Canberra Times, October 5 2018 from Anne Prendergast, Reid
As a long-standing member of the Liberal Party I must congratulation Errol Good on his letter ‘‘Who wins from light rail’’ (Letters, October 3). Errol, you have written like a champion and I agree with every word of it, right down to the last sentence.
We must stop Stage 2 crossing the lake. Imagine the traffic congestion there will be on Commonwealth Avenue if it goes ahead. And it will be an accident waiting to happen.
Letter, The Canberra Times, October 5 2018 from Roger Gottlob, Kaleen
This is not a criticism of the light rail, merely an observation.
Is it just me/my car that experiences electrical interference when driving on Northbourne Avenue alongside the recently electrified power infrastructure servicing the Light Rail. Has anyone else experienced this?
It only happens on the AM band, as I am a daily ABC 666 listener on my otherwise mundane drive to work.
I hope I’m not forced to switch to the FM band to avoid this imposing static/electrical interference impacting my radio. There is ABC JJJ I ’spose ...
Letter, The Canberra Times, October 4 2018 from Peter Moran, Watson
Mike Quirk (Letters, October 2) says ‘‘Abandon light rail stage 2 and use the funds to increase ... bus network’’. I may have missed a government announcement on the matter, but I do wonder, apropos the funding of light rail stage 2, what increases in government prices, costs and rates we are facing in the next ACT budget.
Letter, The Canberra Times, October 3 2018 from Errol Good, Macgregor
Congratulations on your article ‘‘Big names light rail winners’’ (October 1, p1).
But it was no surprise to most of Canberra ratepayers that this was a money-making exercise whose beneficiaries included Labor government, building companies and the union movement – especially the CFMEU.
While the ratepayers of Canberra bear most of the cost of all these projects, the other parties are reaping in the benefits.
Union members and local people may be walking around with patches in the seat of their pants and trying to survive, but the three elites will still put their hands out and take your last dollar.
If our local government had any gumption they would have taken the Parramatta or Gold Coast option and saved us a lot of money, which could have been spent on tidying up some of streets and parks.
All I can say to our Commonwealth government, you stick to your guns and refuse entry across Commonwealth Avenue bridge and advise Mr Barr where he can shove his second stage of the light rail.
Letter, The Canberra Times, October 2 2018 from F. Chivas, Scullin
So the light rail is being tested. We, the citizens of Canberra, are being sorely tested by the whole fiasco.
Letter, The Canberra Times, October 2 2018 from Allan Gibson, Cherrybrook, NSW
And is that likely to include a light rail through the main street of the island's Kingston ("The ACT government could deliver Norfolk Island services", canberratimes.com.au, September 29)?
Letter, The Canberra Times, October 2 2018 from Mike Quirk, Garran
The reluctance of the ACT to take effective action to increase bus patronage is bewildering given its commitment to reduce greenhouse emissions by targeting the transport sector.
The analysis by Brendan Halloran indicating only 36 per cent of Canberrans would be within 800 metres of a light rail or rapid bus stop under the proposed bus network, highlights the inadequacy of the coverage of the bus network, which is a product of the under-resourcing of bus-based public transport.
The new bus network is unlikely to increase patronage as it does not deliver an attractive alternative to the car.
If the government is serious it would:
(a) Abandon light rail stage 2 and use the funds to increase the frequency, comfort and coverage of the bus network.
(b) Investigate the feasibility of the trackless tram (a high-capacity electric bus) on the high-volume inter-town bus routes (why is the government silent on this technology?).
(c) Consider reducing parking supply and increasing parking charges at major employment centres.
(d) In the context of the community's housing preferences, investigate the impact of alternative residential and employment distributions on the use of public transport.
This would involve consideration of residential density, the level of employment at centres and strategies to implement an optimal distribution including the provision of incentives to attract employment to the town centres.
This analysis should be a key component of the review of the ACT planning strategy.
Letter, The Canberra Times, October 1 2018 from Kent Brown, Ngunnawal
I saw a new tram, oops light rail car, rumble past and each window was emblazoned with "Your light rail is being tested". Given all the roadworks, road closures, diversions, reduced speed limits etc, associated with the project a memo to the Minister for Transport: please add another line after the word tested — "And so are you"!
Letter, The Canberra Times, October 1 2018 from Greg Cornwell, Yarralumla
Look out, Norfolk ("ACT called on to deliver services to Norfolk Island", September 29, p6). You'll get a tram, high-rise development to rid you of those pesky pine trees and as for health ...
Letter, The Canberra Times, September 29 2018 from Kent Fitch, Nicholls
The Canberra Times casts doubt on Meegan Fitzharris’s transport plan (Editorial, September 26) after her claim that 55 per cent of Canberra residents will be within 800 metres of a light-rail or rapid bus stop was debunked.
If the Transport Minister were genuinely interested in advancing effective public transport, she could heed the advice of her government’s former chief spruiker for light-rail, Professor Peter Newman. During an interview on ABC Radio National Breakfast on September 20 he asserted there are ‘‘better ideas now’’, and Sydney’s light-rail was ‘‘probably going to be one of the last in the world, because it is incredibly expensive’’.
In an article in The Conversation (‘‘Why trackless trams are ready to replace light rail’’, September 26), Newman described the advantages of these battery-electric, rubber wheeled vehicles without overhead wires that automatically follow a track painted on the road, carrying 300 people at 70km/h with half the weight of a conventional bus and a smoother ride than light rail. Tellingly, he claimed they cost less than 10 per cent to build than light-rail, are very fast and simple to construct and operate. By this reckoning, for the currently estimated cost of the 12km stage two light-rail, Canberra could instead deploy over 100km of fast, quiet, electric, smooth and high-capacity ‘‘trackless tram’’ routes fed by regular and short feeder service loops and begin planning for the transition to door-to-door, on-demand shared autonomous public transport.
Letter, The Canberra Times, September 29 2018 from Leon Arundell, Downer
Your September 26 article, ‘‘More doubt cast on claim we’ll be better off under transport plan’’ (p14) says that ‘‘just 7.1 per cent of Canberrans reported taking public transport to work in the most recent census, the third lowest rate of public transport use of any Australian capital city’’.
If we include Canberrans who combined public transport with other mechanised travel, the total becomes 8.3 per cent and Canberra has the second-lowest rate of public transport use.
These figures are equally unimpressive when compared with the 9 per cent target for 2011, that the government set in its 2004 Sustainable Transport Plan, and its Transport for Canberra target of 10.5 per cent for 2016, to which the Chief Minister committed in 2012.
Of equal concern is the government’s failure to support the Canberra tradition of travelling to work as car passengers.
The 2012 Transit Lane Warrants Study found that Canberra’s poorly designed transit lanes were ineffective. Rather than design and build better transit lanes, the government built none at all.
Not surprisingly, the proportion of car passengers fell by 1.3 per cent. This eclipsed the 0.4 per cent increase in public transport. Transport for Canberra has so far produced greater traffic congestion, more air pollution and increased greenhouse emissions.
Letter, The Canberra Times, September 26 2018 from JFred Pilcher, Kaleen ACT
Health services in the ACT a basket case? So what – we've got a tram. Public spaces falling into disrepair? Who cares – we've got a tram. Fences and facades covered in graffiti? No problem – we've got a tram. Urban forest being buried under concrete? Stop complaining – we've got a tram. Government in the pocket of developers? Oh look – here comes the tram.
Letter, The Canberra Times, September 26 2018 from Warwick Davis, Isaacs
The plastic bag problem is not how many we use ("Plastic usage returning to pre-ban levels", September 21, p3). The problem is we do not use the best available disposal method in theACT.
Some states have extensive plastic waste collection and a recycling program. For more than 20 years the plastic recycling company has produced a range of products and has grown to become Australia's leading plastic product manufacturers. Replas has since developed world-leading technologies at our plastic recycling centre to reprocess Australia's waste into robust recycled plastic products for outdoor use. Instead of chopping down trees for so-called "treated pine" sleepers we could utilise sleepers made from recycled plastics.
The next ACT election is due in two years. Voters would do well to remember that Mr Green, Shane Rattenbury, has given us the tram: slow, inflexible routes at great expense. We could have had modern buses serving every conceivable route by now. While Mr Rattenbury forced the ALP to give him a tram, our plastic wastes piled up in landfill. Thick plastic, thin plastic, plumbing and electrical poly pipe waste, polystyrene foam – oh, so much polystyrene foam. Only by exhuming our landfill dump areas can we establish just how much plastic waste has been buried, out of sight, away from every government's mind. Then we can start to know our plastic problem.
Letter, The Canberra Times, September 22 2018 from Jack Kershaw, Kambah
Here comes the Rattenbury rumbler, replete with naff ruby livery, suppository styling and billion-dollar Barr-code. With its slug-like aspect, wheel bells clanging, gum leaves in its pantograph, and bark in its bogeys, it'll greet you in the adenoidal tones of a private-school prefect.
Letter, The Canberra Times, September 20 2018 from Stephen Saunders, O'Connor
I struggle to recall a single, useful, recent intervention from the National Capital Authority.
I'm only just recovering from their inane interventions into the ACT Government's duly constituted and electorally endorsed light rail project.
"My good man", they pontificated, "what of the poles and wires, the ethereal lines of sight, and, by the way, why not route it over the Queanbeyan River bridge, instead of the bleeding obvious Commonwealth Avenue bridge?"
Now, we have this year's 'policy' on pill-testing which, lo and behold, is exactly the same as last year's evidence-free war-on-drugs 'policy'.
With 70 staff beavering away there on a visionary National Capital Plan, that's really the best that they could come up with?
Why would a legitimate National Capital Plan even care about ACT pill-testing, whether or not on 'Commonwealth land'?
Do they also have a forthright position on our green bins or dog parks?
I call on the incoming Shorten Government to nominate a reform platform for this useless and meddlesome agency.
Letter, The Canberra Times, September 18 2018 from Mike Quirk, Garran
The report "No room for ACT battlers" (September 15, p.1) is another example of the government's misplaced priorities.
The government's spokesperson from the EPSD Directorate argued it was not necessary as there were "already high proportions in the inner north and inner south" and that there would be increased affordable housing in Gungahlin, Molonglo, Belconnen and Woden.
What this ignores is the high accessibility a location in inner Canberra offers to employment and services, particularly important to the less well-off members of our community.
The approach would have some credibility if the government was striving to increase the employment opportunities and services available in the new towns or addressing the needs of the less well off. It is not.
The decline in the government housing share of the housing stock from 12 per cent to 7 per cent since self-government reflects the lack of commitment to social justice of governments, predominantly Labor, over the last 29 years.
A Labor government should be addressing the needs of the disadvantaged. Its actions are inconsistent with its rhetoric.
The light rail project is the most obvious example, a project costing billions of dollars, displacing many government tenants and delivering little.
The money should have been used for more socially and economically responsible projects.
The planning strategy refresh offers the possibility of a well researched and informed strategy to guide development.
Mr Barr has the opportunity to correct the perception he leads a poor, arrogant, ill-informed and visionless government serving developers rather than the wider community.
Letter, The Canberra Times, September 17 2018 from J. Smith, Farrer
I do not hold any hope that an ACT parliamentary inquiry that is "Greens-driven" ("Development lobby won't win public sympathy for deregulation call, September 13, p14) can address the disastrous planning/development monster that underpins both the "urban renewal" of Canberra and the ACT economy.
The Greens through Shane Rattenbury are responsible for the light rail.
The Barr government established a light rail-development nexus whereby Canberra will be transformed by ugly dense developments in the town centres and along the light rail corridors that link them.
Woden town is already an urban renewal disaster from which it will be impossible to recover.
Rather than being surprised by little expanses of green and canopy when walking through the town, it is a case of horizontal and vertical masonry, planned to reach higher and higher, and so block out both sun and vista. All this is to serve a tram line.
There are two problems with the light rail-development nexus.
First, it rules out development possibilities that are much more in harmony with the bush capital. Second, as the Commonwealth inquiry revealed, there is no persuasive case for stage two.
The Productivity Commission wrote to the inquiry that there is no business case for light rail compared to busways.
Light rail was always inappropriate public transport for the bush capital. Now there are major alternative transport technologies being demonstrated.
As Jack Waterford reminded those attending the Albert Hall meeting, there is a time to do nothing and wait until you can do something well.
Letter, The Canberra Times, September 10 2018 from J. Mungoven, Stirling
The number of correspondents raising serious concerns with light rail, and in particular the crazy idea of a convoluted route to Woden, seems to be increasing quickly. Likewise, many people I talk to in the community just shake their heads. The southern route, whichever bridge, was ever only an unwelcome election sop to the neglected south at the last election. I'm pleased to see opposition growing to this dog of a project. Welcome to the party. But where were you before the last ACT election when voters could have hoisted this government before it did more damage.
Letter, The Canberra Times, September 9 2018 from Ron Edgecombe, Evatt
The Canberra Times articles on the future of light rail and the Academy of Interactive Entertainment proposal for a new education centre at Watson (September 1) starkly demonstrates the total failure of the Barr government to address more responsibly the future development of the ACT economy.
Whilst the Barr government is more than willing to spend additional billions of ACT ratepayer dollars on the flawed white elephant of light rail, it is not willing to assist or support the Academy of Interactive Entertainment (AIE) in its innovative proposal to grow the technological, gaming, education and film sector.
This has already proven itself as a niche element in the ACT economy.
The AIE has an established record in these key sectors, having established multiple hubs interstate and overseas to grow their business.
Obviously the Barr government is blind to the economic multiplier effects which innovative technological clusters such as the AIE proposal for Watson could achieve for the ACT economy.
Perhaps the government could look at the success of the Queensland Gold Coast and Sydney Moore Park film industry hubs.
Those hubs have been achieving significant growth for their local economies.
The AIE should be given a priority concessional lease of the Watson site (with appropriate financial caveats to protect the ACT taxpayer), and allowed to get on with doing what it has done successfully to date.
The academy has shown it has been able to grow and develop an important niche category of the ACT economy.
Letter, The Canberra Times, September 6 2018 from Yvette Goode, Yarralumla
Many letters and some articles of late in the CT have decried decisions by the current ACT government.
Most often topics refer to the enormous rise in rates over the last few years, the planned bus changes and the light rail. Mr Barr, as our Chief Minister, please listen. The people of Canberra are suffering and face more ahead because you are implementing changes too fast.
The expectation from you seems to be that we will keep paying , no matter how much our rates rise or how much we are inconvenienced.
As an older, fiscally conservative senior citizen, please let me know what the harm would be in slowing the rate of progress, just for a while, until the ACT can manage our ever-mounting debts without more gouging. As a life-long Labor voter I am appalled by our current ACT government's lack of empathy for the inhabitants of this wonderful territory.
Come election day, I can only hope for a new government that will really listen to our wider community. We simply can't afford you any more, Mr Barr.
Letter, The Canberra Times, September 5 2018 from Len Goodman, Belconnen
Minister Megan Fitzharris seems very adept at spinning her way out of situations involving questions about government lack of transparency or tight corners. Health being a case in point. But when it comes to being loose with facts it gets a bit annoying. Like in Saturday's "The Crossing – lake roils waters of priority project" (September 1, pp 14-15) where she blithely spruiks "Federal Labor government's track record of investing in infrastructure in Canberra, including Majura Parkway and Constitution Avenue".
If the Minister wants to score political points it pays to get the facts right.
Either she has a short memory or is just not across the fact that it was the Howard government that allocated $70 million for a proper Constitution Avenue makeover as the "High Street" of Burley Griffin's plan.
However, when Kevin '07 won the 2007 election Labor withdrew the funds – later, given the hue and cry, they announced with fanfare a $40m watered down version whereby we now have an each-way single lane street plus dedicated bus lanes.
Earlier in the article Chief Minister Andrew Barr was confidently "blunt in saying a change in the federal political environment in 2019 would enable his government to get on with a number of projects"? Maybe he should be careful for what he wishes for?
Letter, The Canberra Times, September 5 2018 from Richard Keys, Ainslie
It seems the light rail may not make it across the Lake. The south side will be spared the shambles of Northbourne Avenue, the destruction of beautiful trees, and the peak hour traffic chaos.
Gungahlin is a disaster zone: tramlines fill the main street, it is almost impossible to cross. A Gunghalin doctor told me that her elderly patients can't get to see her, as the bus drops them too far away.
Anyone without tunnel vision could see that a 100 new buses would have been far cheaper and more flexible and less disruptive.
Letter, The Canberra Times, September 5 2018 from Ian W Morison, Barton
Minister Fitzharris is misguided to oppose the Joint Standing Committee's preference for crossing the Lake via Kings Avenue.
Instead of forcing an early commitment to crossing the lake, an extension along office-lined Constitution Avenue to the Russell Defence Centre will guarantee more light-rail patronage and bring it closer to enabling a future extension to the airport.
Contrary to the superficial claims of Minister Fitzharris, the King's Avenue rail route takes out no more trees than it would on Commonwealth.
The Joint Committee's conclusions need to be taken seriously, and be followed up by detailed long-range analysis.
Letter, The Canberra Times, September 4 2018 from Leon Arundell, Downer
Annette Barbetti (Letters, August 31) asks whether the greenhouse benefits of light rail will outweigh the emissions caused by its construction.
The draft environmental impact statement for Stage 1 estimated that its construction would cause 60,854 tonnes of emissions. In their paper "Greenhouse gas emission reductions from Canberra's light rail project", Steffen, Percival and Flannery estimated that people who switch from driving cars to using light rail Stage 1 will reduce emissions by an average of 1.6 kg CO2 per trip.
On that basis Stage 1 would become carbon neutral when it has replaced 38 million car trips.
Capital Metro estimates that Stage 1 will carry 20,207 passengers per day in 2031.
If we assume that one in six of those light rail passengers would otherwise have driven, rather than travel by bus, then Stage 1 would reach carbon neutrality just after the end of its 30-year economic lifetime.
Letter, The Canberra Times, September 1 2018 from Les Bienkiewicz, Kingston
So, the ACT has threatened to pull pin on light rail stage two. There is finally some good news to report.
Letter, The Canberra Times,September 1 2018 from David Nolan, Holder
The tram/bridge problem can surely be easily solved, given the level of intelligence demonstrated so far by our Assembly planners.
Terminate the Northern line at Regatta Point and supply a ferry across the lake.
Oh, wait; perhaps a tunnel under Commonwealth Avenue bridge might be a better idea.
But then again, they could also ...
Letter, The Canberra Times, August 31 2018 from Jenny Lee, Braddon
When will the ACT government realise that the Stage 2 Light Rail is already without a doubt a failure.
Just do the right thing and stop it.
Letter, The Canberra Times, August 31 2018 from Annette Barbetti, Kaleen
While considering the likely cost of Stage 2 of Canberra's light rail, it would also be appropriate to consider the consequences for the environment.
Its construction would involve the use of a large quantity of concrete.
As part of the case for Stage 1, it was claimed that it would produce no greenhouse gases.
Maybe it will not produce much greenhouse gas during its operation, but it was always clear that the construction phase would produce a lot of carbon dioxide.
Various sources have estimated that concrete contributes between 5 per cent and 8 per cent of the total amount of carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere worldwide each year.
No estimates of the carbon dioxide produced during the construction of Stage 1 have as yet been released, but now that the construction is well advanced, it should be possible to find out how much carbon dioxide has already been produced.
Using that figure as a starting point you could produce an estimate of the amount of carbon dioxide likely to be produced during the construction of Stage 2.
Letter, The Canberra Times, August 31 2018 from M. Flint Co-ordinator, Smart Canberra Transport
So, the Barr government has threatened to pull the plug on Stage 2 of light rail.
Who exactly is Mr Barr threatening – the federal Parliament or Canberran taxpayers?
So, the Rattenbury/Barr government is baulking at the potential cost of Stage 2 over Kings Ave bridge, with its much reduced patronage.
Rightfully so, but it is still prepared to stick we long-suffering taxpayers with a debt for Stage 2 over Commonwealth Avenue bridge of from $3 billion to $3.7 billion, based on its own build estimate of $1.3 billion to $1.6 billion. For 20 years of operations, that translates into $25 to $31 for each of 6 million passengers per annum (based on government estimates).
Letter, The Canberra Times, August 31 2018 Errol Good, Macgregor, Wanniassa
It looks like the federal government has made one right decision this week when insisting that the light rail cross Kings Avenue Bridge.
Our ACT Transport Minister Meegan Fitzharris has spit the dummy and threatened to cancel the second stage of light rail.
This would be the only right decision this ACT government has made all year, seeing the voters and ratepayers didn't vote for any of the light rail in the first place.
Minister, cancel the bloody thing and spend the $1.3 billion to $1.6 billion on our health and education and if there is any left over you could clean up our parks and streets.
Letter, The Canberra Times, August 30 2018 from Brendan Halloran, Wanniassa
Transport Minister Meegan Fitzharris and Transport Canberra director-general Duncan Edghill have been claiming that "more than 55 per cent of Canberrans will live within walking distance of a Rapid bus or light rail stop under the newly proposed bus network".
My experience as a geospatial analyst and economic modeller leaves me questioning the accuracy of this claim. VI combined ABS census data, the Geocoded National Address File with the newly proposed Rapid network routes and bus stop locations. I can't determine how anything like 55 per cent of Canberra residents can possibly live within walking distance to one of the newly proposed Rapid route stops. walking distance of a Rapid bus or light rail stop under the newly proposed bus network".
Just a few examples highlight that: only 2 per cent of Kambah's 15,000 residents will live near a Rapid stop and not a single Hawker, Chisholm or Gilmore resident will live within the commonly accepted "400-metre standard walking distance" of a Rapid bus stop. walking distance of a Rapid bus or light rail stop under the newly proposed bus network".
Even a cursory glance of the proposed Rapid bus map provided online, will highlight many more suburbs and areas throughout Canberra where residents and workers will not be able to walk to a Rapid bus stop. walking distance of a Rapid bus or light rail stop under the newly proposed bus network".
If the ACT government want the trust and support of the Canberra public for the new bus route proposal, they need to provide the information behind their assumptions in an easy to understand, interactive map and data format on their Canberra Transport web page. walking distance of a Rapid bus or light rail stop under the newly proposed bus network".
Let's improve and properly fund Canberra public transport through evidence-based analysis, not via unsupported claims from government officials or stakeholders with vested interests.
Letter, The Canberra Times, August 30 2018 from Jack Kershaw, Kambah
Civic-Woden light rail (if it happens) should be neither via Commonwealth Avenue and across the parliamentary zone (the ACT government's preference, objected to by the National Capital Authority), nor via Constitution and Kings avenues (preference and objection reversed).
walking distance of a Rapid bus or light rail stop under the newly proposed bus network".
Severe environmental, urban-design, symmetry, and heritage damage would occur in both scenarios. walking distance of a Rapid bus or light rail stop under the newly proposed bus network".
That leaves Griffin's missing third central lake crossing – a beautiful low-level, curving bridge (maybe with an opening section), springing from lower south-west Acton Peninsula (not off the point, so as to preserve its important land form), avoiding the yacht course, and preserving the visual dominance, (and traffic capacity) of Commonwealth Avenue Bridge.
Letter, The Canberra Times, August 29 2018 from Russ Morison, Theodore
So our transport planners are building a new bus network from the ground up?
walking distance of a Rapid bus or light rail stop under the newly proposed bus network".
I suggest doing so is like building on sand. It is blatantly obvious that if you speak to all the regular car commuters and ask where are they going from and to, and when, you will actually be able to give the travelling public a transport network that that they will use. walking distance of a Rapid bus or light rail stop under the newly proposed bus network".
Empty buses don’t bring in revenue. Work hand in hand with the councils and residents associations as they are there to help. walking distance of a Rapid bus or light rail stop under the newly proposed bus network".
Delay any further work until that is done, then build your network. Twenty-eight years of low patronage means there is a better way. The answer is the elephant in the room above. walking distance of a Rapid bus or light rail stop under the newly proposed bus network".
Otherwise the Canberra travelling public will continue to wash away the sand from under your feet and turn their noses up at any plans you may have as they always have done.
Letter, The Canberra Times, August 29 2018 from G. Wilson, Macgregor
I am very happy for our town council. It has been given a face-saving excuse to cancel stage two of its tramway (‘‘Kings Avenue light rail a bridge too far’’, August 28, p9). It was a daft idea anyhow.
Letter, The Canberra Times, August 21 2018 from Ron Edgecombe, Evatt
The article in The Canberra Times dated August18 outlining the ACT government’s proposal to run stage two of light rail in front of Old Parliament House, complete with its ugly overhead rail lines, is of deep concern.
I was a member of the inter-departmental committee in 1985-86 which developed the final proposal approved by the federal government for Old Parliament House. A critical element of this proposal was to ensure the architectural and visual integrity of the building within the overall Parliamentary Triangle vista.
walking distance of a Rapid bus or light rail stop under the newly proposed bus network".
This specific objective was also specifically designed to ensure that the sweeping vista down the Campbell Parade mall – from the Australian War Memorial across the lake to Old Parliament House and up to the new Parliament House – would not be impeded in any way for generations to come. This objective was so important that the old and temporary east and west additions of the Old Parliament House were removed to achieve this visual amenity. walking distance of a Rapid bus or light rail stop under the newly proposed bus network".
It is a travesty that the ACT government is now proposing to run light rail complete with its obtrusive overhead rail lines in front of Old Parliament House, apparently with the key objective of ‘‘achieving its urban renewal land use solution’’. walking distance of a Rapid bus or light rail stop under the newly proposed bus network".
The federal government should in no way endorse this specific element of the proposal.
Letter, The Canberra Times, August 21 2018 from John L. Smith, Farrer
Here we go again. Transport Canberra director general Emma Thomas told the inquiry into stage two of the light rail that it was not only a transport solution but an ‘‘urban-renewal land-use solution’’ (‘‘Parliament House architect says tram should be wire-free to Adelaide Ave’’, August18, p1), and in support her deputy, Duncan Edghill, dropped the charmer: ‘‘Enhance the urban realm.’’
walking distance of a Rapid bus or light rail stop under the newly proposed bus network".
We need planning vision for the people, not urban renewal for trams in the Barr realm. Common sense tells us that every job available in a town lessens the pressure on the transport system and that walking to school should be possible for most primary students. In the case of Woden’s proposed intense developments, the nearest government primary schools are well over a kilometre away from these dormitories. walking distance of a Rapid bus or light rail stop under the newly proposed bus network".
As the late Patrick Troy and his colleagues pointed out, and now attested by D.Smith (Letters, August20), there are many questions about the benefits of high-density dwellings. Contrary to the government’s emphasis on population density ‘‘(Developers biggest winners in ACT government’s Woden changes’’, August20), if there is to be an 80-metre-high apartment block, it should be surrounded by a 50-metre-wide restricted band given over primarily to plantings with some single-storey amenities. It is a sad fact that in this urban realm, hundreds of kilometres away from the nearest large city, accommodation for many next-generation families is planned to be in small apartments on the tenth floor, plus or minus a few levels.
Letter, The Canberra Times, August 13 2018 from Chris Mobbs, Torrens
A few weeks back one of your correspondents stated that the trams currently purchased will not be able to traverse the Stage 2 route because of the lack of overhead wires in the parliamentary triangle. If this is true it would render the government’s claim that it is creating a ‘‘spine’’ from north to south a bit hollow – a broken spine in need of major surgery. In keeping with all other commentary on the tram there was no response from government. Mr Barr, come out from hiding.
Letter, The Canberra Times, August 12 2018 from Stan Marks, Hawker
an Warden's two recent articles on light rail have been neither logical nor poetic. His own attempt at poetry in his current article suggests he stick to something he does well, retiring and playing tennis, for example.
I met him on a tennis court and he is much better at tennis than writing. In fact, his two articles illustrate rather well why the opposition to light rail has been so vocal and sustained, since the case for the tram, as set out in Warden's article, is lacking any merit.
He harps back to the "vermillion marvel", one of the themes of his previous article, and rants about the opponents of light rail being all in their 70s, when in fact they are not and, in any case, he is not that far off 70 himself.
And he doesn't seem to understand that the mere fact there are many cities in the world where trams work well doesn't mean they will necessarily work here in very different circumstances. How similar is Canberra to the congested city of Edinburgh, the example he quotes? I, both a lifelong train lover and an opponent of the tram, am also looking forward to the commencement of operations.
I want to watch the residents of this city wake up and start to wonder why we spent so much money on this thing that will deliver so little. Warden spoke, in his last article, about the opponents of light rail being a sub-species of homo sapiens, emphasis on the "sub", I thought. I would say he is also a sub species: homo sapiens idioticus.
Letter, The Canberra Times, August 12 2018 from Mike Quirk, Garran
Ian Warden ('The Sheer Poetry of Light Rail', CT, August 5) has a case of tram fever. The tram is the equivalent of fool's gold, glittering but after examination disappointing, providing few benefits at great cost.
I fear Ian has become like Bert Newton – a once witty observer who is now tiresome and out of touch. Or an ageing tennis player whose serve has lost its penetration.
Letter, The Canberra Times, August 12 2018 from M. Flint, Erindale
t would appear from his article on August 5 that The Canberra Times should consider pensioning off its self-proclaimed bard, Ian Warden.
His articles are getting sillier by the week. He might think $939 million for the Gunghalin tram is a mere bagatelle but many Canberrans do not. He rubbishes the current bus fleet, neglecting (I dare say through ignorance) to say that they will all be replaced as soon as possible with electric buses.
He is still under the strange illusion that the people of Tuggeranong are jealous of their friends in Gungahlin over the tram, when they are actually outraged they have to pay for it, as those in Gungahlin will be when it finally dawns on them they won't be getting much for their taxes either.
Letter, The Canberra Times, August 10 2018 from Murray May, Cook
I had several exchanges with Professor Patrick Troy over the past year prior to his recent passing.
His depth of knowledge on urban planning and ecology went right back to his strong influence on the Whitlam government through his being Deputy Secretary of the Department of Urban and Regional Development (DURD) at that time.
It is ironic indeed that a man with such strong connections to the ALP considered the current state of play in Canberra as a "tragedy" with professional knowledge of planning overshadowed by an ACT government beholden to developer interests.
Moreover, the ACT government continues to ignore important research on water and energy issues that shows that increasing density provides no advantage in either regard.
Further, he said "we could have had a much greener public transport system", which "would have spared us the experience we've had in trying to insert the silly tram 'thing' into our city". (His email of July 13, 2018).
Letter, The Canberra Times, August 1 2018 from Leon Arundell, Downer
Irrespective of where they live, the average Canberran – man, woman and child – will pay an extra $4000 in rates and taxes, to fund the frequent rapid bus and light rail network.
There will be two main groups of beneficiaries.
The first group is the people who are wealthy enough to live within walking distance of frequent rapid public transport stops.
The second group is the businesses and government departments that choose to locate in Civic rather than closer to their employees and customers.
The people most disadvantaged will be the public housing tenants who are being forced to move away from the frequent rapid network.
Is this really the outcome that we want?
Letter, The Canberra Times, July 31 2018 from John L.Smith, Farrer
Ben Hebbes (Letters, July 27) argues that trackless trams cannot deviate from their virtual track. What he failed to mention was that the opportunities to include the virtual track on existing roadway such as a busway are considerable, and unlike some light rail there seems to be opportunity to share the roadway with other vehicles.
Letter, The Canberra Times, July 31 2018 from John Mungoven, Stirling
Contributors to The Canberra Times letters regularly comment on the efficiency and value for money of the light rail project. Here is another issue that I have not yet seen discussed.
The major source of project funding is rates and general revenue raised by the ACT government, including passenger fare revenue. Revenue estimates may well prove to be grossly optimistic, and not only related to projected passenger numbers, which are only part of the equation.
I wonder what allowance is being made for fare evasion.
While most passengers will honestly tap on and off and incur a cost (fare), light rail is a very different arrangement to that for buses and trains.
Buses have a single supervised entry point where the fare must be paid. Trains have multiple entry points but passengers are in fenced stations and must pay before exiting.
Light rail has several unsupervised vehicle entry and exit points (an access advantage) but no supervision of payment.
Stations may be open and unfenced with no supervision of who has paid or not. It is likely there will be fare enforcement officers ("Connies"), but that may be of little concern for those passengers who want a quick free trip.
The temptation to cheat may be quite strong, especially in the zone close to Civic.
I believe non payment on trams in the CBD area of Melbourne by virtue of overcrowding and passengers being physically unable to tap on/off, or the temptation to have a freebie, led to Melbourne's CBD zone now being completely fare free ie revenue free.
The light rail model facilitates the opportunity for significant levels of non payment. Business cases should address this issue seriously.
Letter, The Canberra Times, July 30 2018 from John L Smith, Farrer
Ben Hebbes (Letters, July 27) argues that trackless trams cannot deviate from their virtual track. What he failed to mention was that the opportunities to include the virtual track on existing roadway such as a busway are considerable, and unlike some light rail there seems to be opportunity to share the roadway with other vehicles.
Letter, The Canberra Times, July 30 2018 from John Mungoven, Stirling
Contributors to The Canberra Times letters regularly comment on the efficiency and value for money of the light rail project. Here is another issue that I have not yet seen discussed.
The major source of project funding is rates and general revenue raised by the ACT government, including passenger fare revenue. Revenue estimates may well prove to be grossly optimistic, and not only related to projected passenger numbers, which are only part of the equation.
I wonder what allowance is being made for fare evasion.
While most passengers will honestly tap on and off and incur a cost (fare), light rail is a very different arrangement to that for buses and trains.
Buses have a single supervised entry point where the fare must be paid. Trains have multiple entry points but passengers are in fenced stations and must pay before exiting.
Light rail has several unsupervised vehicle entry and exit points (an access advantage) but no supervision of payment.
Stations may be open and unfenced with no supervision of who has paid or not. It is likely there will be fare enforcement officers ("Connies"), but that may be of little concern for those passengers who want a quick free trip.
The temptation to cheat may be quite strong, especially in the zone close to Civic.
I believe non payment on trams in the CBD area of Melbourne by virtue of overcrowding and passengers being physically unable to tap on/off, or the temptation to have a freebie, led to Melbourne's CBD zone now being completely fare free ie revenue free.
The light rail model facilitates the opportunity for significant levels of non payment. Business cases should address this issue seriously.
Letter, The Canberra Times, July 30 2018 from Chris Mobbs, Torrens
Barr's policy of refusing to respond to questions about the alleged benefits and problems associated with light rail seems to extend to other members of his government. I have written to my local member Chris Steele via his website asking for clarification of claims made in a recent flyer. No reply, including to a reminder.
Letter, The Canberra Times, July 30 2018 from Ron Edgecombe, Evatt
The Barr government's willingness to tax ACT ratepayers to the maximum extent has been laid bare by the articles by Khalid Ahmed, Jon Stanhope and Adrian Makeham Kirchner ("Budget surplus hides problematic deficit", July 25, p17).
Two immediate responses by the Barr government to this must be:
One: Announce a revised policy to either impose a moratorium or limit to CPI any further taxpayer charges including rates, fees, taxes and other charges, until a full independent to government analysis is undertaken and published of the effects of this regime on households.
Two: Cancel any further work on stage two of light rail until a full cost benefit analysis is made and released on the project. This CBA must necessarily exclude any intangible and secondary benefits such as value capture.
Letter, The Canberra Times, July 30 2018 from Valita Muldins, O'Connor
Thank you Greg Carman (Letters, July 21) for pointing out the loss of the number 3 bus route through the ANU.
My surprise at this prompted me to look at the Transport Canberra website and I was appalled at what I found. For any Canberra residents with mobility problems you can forget about using the new bus/tram routes, because you won't be able to walk to a bus/tram stop unless you are physically fit.
Instead, you will need to add to road congestion by using a car, taxi or Uber to be able to get anywhere.
I hope the ANU is lobbying against the demise of the bus service through its campus, not only for the sake of its students, but also to maintain visitor access to the School of Art exhibitions, the School of Music concerts, the Wig and Pen, University House etc. With minimum parking, only those who are physically mobile, or can afford a taxi, will be able to come to the campus.
I also note there is no bus service from Civic to Mitchell and that there is no tram stop at Mitchell. Good luck to all the businesses located there. Again, only those capable of walking long distances, or arriving by car, will be able to use you.
Who thought up this (lack of) transport debacle? This cutting back on public transport through residential areas, together with our Chief Minister's need to push through the tram to satisfy his obsession with covering Canberra in high rises, will only result in more car usage for many Canberrans.
There might be "more buses, more often" but many residents will not be able to access them. So much for a sustainable and accessible Canberra.
Letter, The Canberra Times, July 27 2018 from Ben Hebbes, Launceston
Light rail opponents like John L. Smith (Letters, July 22) reach for unproven alternatives, trackless trams and driverless cars, as a last-ditch argument. The fact is that trackless trams still require their own lane (like light rail) and cannot deviate from it (unlike regular buses) while driverless cars are still killing innocent people in this, their global testing phase.
Letter, The Canberra Times, July 25 2018 from Bruce A. Peterson, Kambah
David Denham (Letters, July 21) asks, what are the benefits of the tram (aka light rail)? The only benefit is the increase in the value of the land along the tram route (which the ACT government owns).
Letter, The Canberra Times, July 24 2018 from Leon Arundell, Downer
John L. Smith (Letters, July 22) claims that "there is no reason to believe that light rail will substantially improve overall patronage of public transport".
Whether he is right or wrong depends on how we interpret "substantial".
Census results for Gold Coast-Tweed Heads show that 7930 commuters used public transport in 2011. The G-line light rail commenced operation in 2014, and by 2016 that number had increased to 11,063.
In an interview on ABC radio on July 18 the chair of the Public Transport Association of Canberra described such increases as "skyrocketing".
In 2016 8.3 per cent of Canberra commuters used public transport.
If the impact of light rail in Canberra is similar to the impact it had on the Gold Coast, then it will increase our public transport mode share to almost 10 per cent.
Letter, The Canberra Times, July 23 2018 from John Hutchison, Canberra
Kent Fitch (Letters, July 18) points out the new generation of trackless trams in China. Another advantage is that they are powered by roof-mounted lithium batteries that can be recharged in 30 seconds when the tram reaches a terminal.
Letter, The Canberra Times, July 23 2018 from Howard Carew, Isaacs
Kevin Cox's letter (Letters, July 19) was a gem.
By a contorted exercise in misleading figures he attempted to establish that a light-rail service from Gungahlin to Civic that replaced a more efficient bus service and will cost in the long term near to $2 billion, was a bargain.
I especially liked his assertion that light rail would do six million trips per year. From ACTION figures, the present bus service does under three million trips per year.
Light rail which, with 10 trams per hour on the circuit carrying 2000 people at peak hours, and far, far less during the remaining 20 hours, would be lucky to equal that. Kevin, it is time to face up to real life and realise you are flogging a dead horse.
Letter, The Canberra Times, July 23 2018 from M. Flint, Erindale
The voodoo economics of some letter writers never ceases to amaze me.
First, contrary to what Kevin Cox (Letters, July 19) says, only business and the self-employed can claim a tax deduction for car travel and public servants do not qualify.
Second, the six million trips a year attributed to the future tram are not by current car travellers who are presumed to gladly start travelling by tram, but current passengers from the rapid bus routes to be shunted by the tram.
Third, capital cost cannot be simply ignored. The $707 million capital for construction of stage one (including the $375 million capital contribution), has to be paid for by a combination of interest, return on equity and the bond rate on government borrowings.
Fourth,that "the significant cost of debt need not be a cost to the community as it can be an internal redistribution of money rather than a loss to the community", whatever that means.
Fifth, "If the government went to the citizens ... for infrastructure, the citizens would willingly provide the money if they received the same return on investment as governments now give to the private parties of public private partnership agreements".
What return on investment? For light rail, the government will be repaying the PPP contractor its capital borrowings plus interest cost and profit including the profit margin on the interest incurred; hardly a bargain when the government could borrow the capital at some 2.5 per cent per annum cheaper than a PPP contractor.
Letter, The Canberra Times, July 22 2018 from John L Smith, Farrer
Dale Welsby (July 16) offers a defence for the light rail on two grounds: (1) the transformational effects in other cities, and (2) that Canberra is an empty city with outdated transport technology. These are two of the main arguments that have been put by the government using the terms "vibrant" and "sustainable". If I were to complete their argument, it is that greenfield development (eg Kowen) cannot be afforded on environmental and economic grounds.
What a load of rubbish! Who wants to transform a unique city recognised around the world for its urban planning (pre-Barr) that integrates the city into its beautiful natural surroundings? Besides, if you want to see a lively and healthy city, just go to the playing fields around Canberra on the weekend and see real mums and dads and kids in community. Furthermore, you could do a lot for the environment by providing jobs for people in their own town.
Investing many billions of dollars into a new transport system demands an evaluation of the alternatives – new transport technology ranging from electric buses to automated systems abounds, all with economic, functional and environmental advantages.
Recent research has cast doubt on how much environmental advantage there is in dense living and there is no reason to believe that light rail will substantially improve overall patronage of public transport, so why not invest in what people value most, their own home and bit of land?
Come on light rail opponents - your silence is embarrassing.
Letter, The Canberra Times, July 21 2018 from Sue Brudenall, Canberra
More buses, more services, more often – but not for one important major group. Questions must be asked about the research done to develop the proposed new bus network.
It has been stated recently by the executive director of Property Council ACT, Adina Cirson, that "the ACT leads the nation in retirement living growth expectations. The latest ACT population projections are estimating the number of seniors aged 65+ will increase from 53,000 in 2018 to 95,000 by 2041. If this trend continues, the number of ACT seniors will reach 120,000 by 2050".
If this is the projection, why then are some existing bus routes past retirement villages being cancelled?
Instead, they should be maintained or improved to take into account the future growth patterns in Canberra.
An example of this is the Route 54 service, which takes residents of Crace, including those in the new Goodwin Retirement Village, to Belconnen in about 20 minutes.
Such a trip with the new service will take nearly an hour, as residents will have to travel first to Gungahlin, then change buses to travel to Belconnen or, alternatively, walk almost one kilometre to catch the fast, direct route between Gungahlin and Belconnen.
This certainly does not fit the Transport Canberra mandate of a convenient and easy travel experience for this 65+ age group.
Nor can it be called efficient or fast as it will take at least twice as long and become a tiring journey, which most will not want to repeat frequently.
Transport Canberra claims to support social inclusion, but this is social exclusion!
Letter, The Canberra Times, July 21 2018 from Greg Carman, Deakin
Forrest is not the only suburb the latest incarnation of ACTION is abandoning ("New network not the ticket", July 16, p1) and it is not the most surprising. Transport Canberra has also decided to cease servicing the ANU.
Coincidentally (or perhaps not) one of the soon-to-be-cancelled buses that will be missed in Forrest, the No.3, currently winds through the ANU on its way to Belconnen. It stops directly in front of all the significant halls and colleges, a much safer alternative for female students returning home at night than walking hundreds of metres from the nearest stop on the new routes.
The university is not just a destination for students, it is also a destination for many Canberrans interested in the many seminars and other events open to the public.
Parking on the campus is almost entirely restricted to permit holders, and every one of them has a horror story about the frustrations of finding a park. How many extra cars, whose owners formerly came to the campus by bus, will now be competing for those few car parking spaces?
As a resident of Deakin, I join residents of Forrest and members of the ANU community as one of many thousands of regular bus users for whom the political slogan "more buses, more often, seven days a week" is just three new lies.
Letter, The Canberra Times, July 21 2018 from J. F. Bishop, Flynn
I have been following the discussion about the proposed new bus timetables and routes in the letters to the editor.
It seems to me that despite more frequent services, having to walk further to a bus stop and change more often will simply increase commuting times and further inconvenience the travelling public.
I also note there has been no mention of the cost of removing redundant shelters, seats and signage. That will not be cheap. I fear a stable genius has been at work once again and reckon it's time for Minister Rattenbury to step in to prevent yet another fiasco being inflicted on the long-suffering ratepayers of theACT.
The electorate will not forgive another public transport disaster.
Letter, The Canberra Times, July 21 2018 from David Denham, Griffith
During peak times you can travel non-stop from Woden to Civic in 15 minutes using the 300 bus route.
The bus provides seats for 65 and standing room for 42. The proposed light rail will take 25-30 minutes with 11 stops. The light rail vehicle will provide 66 seats and standing room for 141 (do you want to stand for half an hour?).
The buses can be deployed anywhere in Canberra. Light rail vehicles will be confined to their rail tracks and overhead power lines. The light rail will cost the ratepayers more than $1 billion plus running costs. Will someone please explain what the benefits are?
Letter, The Canberra Times, July 21 2018 from John L. Smith, Farrer
Kent Fitch (Letters, July 18) has highlighted the fact that the decision to build light rail Stage 1 was wrong.
We are committed to the construction cost of $700 million when the same result could have been achieved at half that by first building the new thoroughfare as the bus-way that was preferred in the government's own cost-benefit analysis and within a few years converting it to one of the automated, rubber-wheels-on-road options.
Now, we have Transport Canberra staff on tour around Canberra spruiking Stage 2 and a new bus network to feed the light rail network.
When asked about new technology they give innocuous answers lest they make a costly slip of the tongue.
Stage 1 was undoubtedly a political decision by Chief Minister Barr to buy Minister Rattenbury's support for his Labor government, but Stage 2 is truly a case of the emperor's new tram.
Letter, The Canberra Times, July 21 2018 from Lucy Schiner, Torrens
If light rail is an outdated technology from the last century, as so many writers desperately suggest, why are other Aussie cities including Sydney, Newcastle and the Gold Coast all rolling out new tram lines right now?
It seems that Canberra is, at worst, at least keeping up with the Joneses.
It's certainly not going backwards.
Letter, The Canberra Times, July 20 2018 from Juliet Ramsay, Burra, NSW
Why would the government embark on the stage 2 light Rail route that does not serve the major work hubs of Russell, ASIO or the new university, but is planned to serve West Basin?
It is unlikely that many people living in West Basin will need to get to Woden regularly or vice versa. Like the Henry Rolland Park, criticised for its lack of children’s playground and public toilets, the purpose of the Stage 2 Light Rail, rather than being a practical efficient rapid transport route, is appearing as another blatant extravagant marketing ploy.
The twisted and damaging stage 2 route will be servicing the exploitation of our heritage to ensure the West Basin apartments can be sold to foreign investors for as much as possible.
As noted in recent press articles, we can expect that 86 per cent of the new apartments will be purchased by foreign investors with a high percentage of those apartments not lived in. Our 2.8 ha of heritage lake, lake vistas, the ceremonial route across Commonwealth Bridge, the beautifully treed Commonwealth Avenue, the significant parliamentary zone will all be damaged by a blinkered romper-stomping ACT government full of fake 'Griffin inspired' spin and questionable consultation.
Letter, The Canberra Times, July 20 2018 from Jack Simpson, Narrabundah
The ACT government is proposing to remove the 90-year-old Cedrus trees planted by Alexander Bruce in Commonwealth Avenue (‘‘Century-old trees to fall for light rail’’, June 28, p4).
The government states the trees were assessed in 2013 to have a life expectancy of five to 40 years. Today the trees appear in good condition and likely to live another 100 years if given some care and a little fertiliser.
Would the government tell us what in 2013 were the agents considered to be killing the cedars? Are those agents still present?
Letter, The Canberra Times, July 20 2018 from Greg Burner, Dickson
Re Stan Marks’ letter about Northbourne being a ‘‘pleasant avenue’’ (Letters, July 19) until light rail and Geocon. Does he believe the rows of housing commission flats were a fitting entry in to the nation’s capital – or was he only talking about the lost trees?
Letter, The Canberra Times, July 19 2018 from M. Flint, Erindale
It’s sad to see supporters of light rail (Dale Welsby, Letters, July 16) refer to critics as ‘haters’. Does he not realise that ad hominem attacks on people as ‘haters’ admits defeat on the policy matter in question?
Letter, The Canberra Times, July 19 2018 from Greg Cornwell, Yarralumla
Kevin Cox (Letters, July 16) is one lucky commuter who can walk, cycle, car share or park and ride as well as make convenient link ups with local buses and rapid routes. Those restricted by age, disability or not having a car will be obliged to travel further to join public transport under some proposed timetables.
Unlucky too is the population of Canberra who, in the astounding words of Mr Cox, can expect ‘‘lower costs to the community that come from an integrated transport plan’’ if it includes light rail.
Letter, The Canberra Times, July 19 2018 from Stan Marks, Hawker
Dale Welsby claims (Letters, July 16) the haters [of the tram] seem unable ‘‘to accept any of the positive transformational effects that having a light rail network has had on all the cities ... lucky enough to get one’’.
The Auditor-General observed, in commenting on these so-called transformational effects, that the wider economic benefits alleged to flow from the tram might or might not happen and, if they do, they might or might not be due to the tram.
In fact, the only transformation we are likely to see is the transformation of Northbourne Avenue from a pleasant avenue to Geocon Canyon and who wants that?
Letter, The Canberra Times, July 19 2018 from Kevin Cox, Ngunnawal
There are many ways of calculating the economics of the Gungahlin light rail. An approach is to compare the cost of using light rail to using cars. There will be 6 million trips per year for light rail, and on average each journey is 10 km. The ATO allows car owners to claim 66 cents per kilometre and for trips along the light rail route we can expect 1.4 people per car.
Using these numbers, light rail saves the community around $30 million a year in car costs. If we add in parking, the direct savings are around $40 million each year. If the yearly operating expenses, ignoring capital costs, of light rail are less $40million each year, the community is ahead.
I have ignored the capital cost because at the end of each year the capital value is the same as the cost to build. Light rail tracks and right of way last a long time, and new carriages and equipment are a capital cost. The significant cost of debt need not be a cost to the community as it can be an internal redistribution of money rather than a loss to the community.
Critics say that building the light rail means we have no money to build hospitals and schools. That is wrong. If the government went to the citizens of Canberra for infrastructure finance, the citizens would willingly provide the money if they received the same return on investment as governments now give to the private parties of public private partnership agreements.
Letter, The Canberra Times, July 19 2018 from Mike Quirk, Garran
Re Commentary by Jack Waterford ('Land deals glow in the dark', Forum, p1, July 14), Toni Hassan ('Evidence should lead planning, not a rush for higher density', July 14, p11) and the Auditor-General’s report on the assembly of rural land all reflect the absence of a strong planning agency.
The planning of the territory has increasingly been influenced by developers, the light rail fanaticism of the Greens and the short-term and limited perspectives of Treasury and the Economic Development Directorate. It is hard not to agree with Mr Waterford that the ALP has created a second-rate, public administration in its own image.
The review of the planning strategy, being managed by the planning agency, will identify a plan to guide the development of the city, including assessment of alternative greenfield settlement areas. It provides the government an opportunity to demonstrate it is committed to evidence-based planning and that it has learnt from its mistakes.
To adequately undertake its spatial planning responsibilities the planning agency should be responsible for transport planning, preparing assessments of housing, commercial and community needs to inform the land release program; and preparing a 10- to 20-year infrastructure plan indicating when and where development is to occur, the planning and environment studies to be undertaken and the cost of infrastructure required.
The depleted strategic planning and design resources of the planning agency need to be increased if it is to effectively manage planning in the Territory.
Letter, The Canberra Times, July 18 2018 from Kent Fitch, Nicholls
The ACT government which has long relied on Professor Peter Newman's prognostications and boosterism to sell the fancy of the tram (e.g. "Light rail will change city, be good economic policy", Times2, June 3, 2015, p5) must be aghast with his advocacy of cheaper and better technology on ABC's Science Show (July 14).
Newman enthused: "The trackless-tram ... follows sensors in the road just painted on, and can do everything a fast tram can do ... carrying 300 people at 70km/h ... doing the work of a light rail system, that sometimes like in Sydney's case, cost $120m/km, we think can be done for $5m/km ..."
Yes, Professor, in Canberra's case too.
When questioned by presenter Robyn Williams: "Are you implying that the system in Sydney which has dug up the roads ... is out of date, unnecessary?", Newman equivocates: "... these rubber wheels on roads can be put in overnight; that does have an appeal. You don't dig up a street and destroy the economy in that street for four years."
Welcome to the 21st-century, Peter Newman.
Given more time, Newman may have touted another advantage of rubber-wheeled "trackless-trams": over 60,000 tons of CO2-equivalent greenhouse gases created by Stage One's construction will never be recovered given the imminent transition of transport to electric power.
Letter, The Canberra Times, July 17 2018 from John L. Smith, Farrer
Last week I received a circular from my Murrumbidgee Labor representative, Chris Steel, notifying me of "Woden's regeneration".
Not a mention of any employment initiatives to drive this regeneration, instead we will be the recipients of a new bus interchange to stage the influx of residents in the new high-rise apartment buildings, such as the twin 27-storey towers announced by Hindmarsh developers, into Barton, Civic and beyond.
Never mind the recent research conducted by some of our most eminent ANU researchers ("Evidence should lead planning, not a rush for higher density", canberratimes.com.au, July 13) that shows that "packing people in more densely is good for the environment" may not be true.
In addition, we are to be grateful for the next stage of Woden's regeneration that will be a multibillion-dollar light rail corridor, so that a slower tram service can replace the current rapid bus service.
This is despite evidence, arising almost on a daily basis, about different forms of new autonomous transport technology that will revolutionise the way urban travel is undertaken, and that is far more economic than light rail.
How long can this charade that we call government continue?
Letter, The Canberra Times, July 17 2018 from Howard Carew, Isaacs
Dale Welsby asserted in his letter (CT, July 11) that light rail will be around long after the letter writers who object to it have passed on to that great highway in the sky.
Brisbane closed its 119-kilometre tramway in 1969.
The reason for its closure was that Brisbane people preferred buses. Its rails are now buried beneath bitumen and most supporters of its closure live on.
Closing our 12-kilometre section of light rail to make way for the new generation road tram/buses being operated in China will enable us to have a real transport network at a third of the cost of a tram network. The supporters of a 19th century tram network are our modern-day Luddites.
Letter, The Canberra Times, July 16 2018 from Dale Welsby, Canberra
The problem with the haters is that not one of them seem to be able to accept any of the positive transformational effects that having a light-rail network has had on all of the cities that have been lucky enough to get one.
They selfishly wish Canberra to remain the same empty, over-serviced town that it was when they moved here in the days before self-government – and that includes the transport technology.
Letter, The Canberra Times, July 16 2018 from Steve Salmon, Wanniassa
Why is the government in such a hurry to start the second stage of the light rail project to Woden when the first part hasn't been completed.
It certainly hasn't been able to prove it will be successful in terms of the amount of people using it.
If it is an economic disaster it will have to be paid for by all the ratepayers, many of whom will never have any benefit.
If it does pass all the tests of viability then why don't they have the second stage run from Civic to Canberra Airport via Russell Offices.
At least there are people coming into the airport all day who will probably use the tram and not just peak hours as a majority of the people coming from Gungahlin will be.
Let's wait and see if the first stage is successful before the government inflicts more costs on the ratepayers and unwanted interruptions on our roadways.
Letter, The Canberra Times, July 16 2018 from N. Bailey, Nicholls
The environmental vandalism that has been committed in the guise of the necessity for a light rail network beggars belief.
How many trees from Northbourne Avenue to the Gunghalin Market Place have been uprooted?
How many bird habitats have been destroyed? Hundreds if not thousands I suspect.
Why is a perfectly good dual carriage way between The Lakes Golf Club and the Market Place being turned into a dual carriage way with yet more trees being uprooted for no apparent reason?
Traffic flow around Gunghalin Market Place back as far as the roundabout on the Barton Highway is a nightmare and of course local residents along the construction sites are being subjected to constant noise and dust everywhere.
The lovely bush capital which existed until the light rail construction was agreed is now no more.
Those living south of the lake have got all this disruption, noise, destruction and dirt coming their way very soon. If Andrew Barr and Shane Rattenbury consider this tram to be their legacy and for which they will be remembered, they are right but for all the wrong reasons.
When will the destruction cease?
When will Andrew Barr come to Gunghalin and explain to residents the overall plan? It has nothing to do with climate change as people living in Moncrieff, Taylor and other far flung suburbs will need to drive into Gunghalin to catch the tram and if doing that it is probably more convenient to keep driving especially if employed in Woden, Kambah or Tuggeranong.
Letter, The Canberra Times, July 16 2018 from Michael Roche, Yarralumla
Howard Carew (Letters, July 12) described the Inner South Canberra Community Council public forum on transport on Tuesday last as having an Alice in Wonderland quality.
My view is that there was sufficient material there for an entire new series of Utopia.
Apparently, stage 2 of the light rail to Woden will happen because "the issue was fully canvassed at the last election".
Those of us who thought that what was discussed was a feasibility study must have missed the "exhaustive debate".
Those of us who thought that the process for such a significant decision might have involved an evidence-based feasibility study followed by a cost-benefit analysis leading to an informed government decision have apparently missed the above point and also fail to understand the "transformative" powers of a pair of steel rails as opposed to any other form of public transport.
When asked what would happen if the cost-benefit analysis produced a negative result, the Transport Canberra representative was extremely reluctant to concede that such an outcome was even remotely possible — apparently "other factors" would then come into play and get the proposal over the line. When pressed further as to whether there were any circumstances in which Transport Canberra might advise government that extending the light rail to Woden was not a good idea, the representative said that any such advice was "above his pay grade".
Possibly a wise response given the presence of Shane Rattenbury at the back of the room.
Space prohibits me from covering all the dodgy logic and non sequiturs advanced as reasoning at the meeting, but I particularly liked the claim that the Woden extension had to happen because people travelling south would not like changing to a bus at Civic, when many of the bus route changes involved increased use of interchanges, including for primary school children, and the trams purchased for the northside service will not be capable of wireless operation and therefore will not be able to proceed over the lake.
Letter, The Canberra Times, July 15 2018 from M. Flint, Smart Canberra Transport co-ordinator, Erindale
I see Mr Warden (Sunday Canberra Times, July 8) is not only content to ridicule opponents of the tram but is now happy to ridicule the good burghers of Tuggeranong (some 20 per cent of Canberrans) and to reveal again his ignorance of the horrendously wasteful light rail project (minimum $1.4billion for Stage1 and from $3-$3.7billion for Stage2 to build and operate over 20 years).
For his information, the residents of Tuggeranong are not jealous of Gungahlin in receiving a tram first, just having to pay for it for zero benefit.
Letter, The Canberra Times, July 14 2018 from Ken McPhan, Spence
The writers of letters should recognise that criticism of the tram or of Shane (‘‘don’t confuse me with the facts, my mind is made up’’) Rattenbury is like water off a duck’s back.
Letter, The Canberra Times, July 13 2018 from M. Flint, Co-ordinator, Smart Canberra Transport
On Wednesday evening, senior executives of Transport Canberra addressed a meeting of the Inner South Canberra Community Council on the planned revision of the ACTION bus network and light rail Stage 2 (LRS1) (Civic-Woden), as they had done in the previous week at Tuggeranong and Woden Community Councils.
On buses, attendees at these meetings were not enamoured at all with the planned ACTION service, or lack thereof, to say the least.
On light rail, in response to the question of "How much is too much to pay for LRS2?", no figure was offered but implied "whatever it costs!", ie this Government does not care about how much it will cost. To illustrate the nonsense that is the Rattenbury/Barr election promise of the Woden link, based on the Governments own estimate of $1.3 billion to $1.6 billion for construction only, the total project cost (build+finance+20 years of operations) will be from $3billion to $3.7 billion.
These sums would be repaid over the 20-year operations period at from $150 million to $185 million per annum (on top of the $70 million a year for Stage 1, all out of the infrastructure component of budgets). These figures also translate into a 20-year subsidy of $25 to $31 per passenger who rides this limited form of transport.
All Canberrans should ask themselves the following question: "For $3billion to $3.7billion, would I rather see it spent on a single 12 km tramline to benefit only a very few, or on an extensive network of modern electric, flexible and technologically upgradable buses, capable of servicing all of Canberra and of benefit to all Canberrans?"
With the exorbitant amount of money that light rail will chew up, the ACTION network will never be any more capable than it is right now.
Costings in this letter are based on technical papers accessible on www.canthetram.org.
Letter, The Canberra Times, July 12 2018 from Greg Cornwell, Yarralumla
I haven't heard nor read in your letters pages of anyone in favour of the proposed bus route alterations, so why the changes? Hidden agenda perhaps?
Letter, The Canberra Times, July 12 2018 from Paul E Bowler, Chapman
Yes Dale Welsby (Letters, July 11) the light rail will be around long after we mortals have passed on. However, the rails will be rusted, the wires will be down and the trams will be gathering dust in their dilapidated shed in Mitchell. And just outside the padlocked, rusting gate of the depot will be a large sign reading "How not to improve Canberra's public transport system"!
Letter, The Canberra Times, July 12 2018 from Eric Hunter, Cook
Dale Welsby (Letters, July 11) says the light rail will be around long after its "haters". He may be right, but I'll wager their children and grandchildren will still be paying for it with ever-increasing rates. And that's a key reason why the haters fight on while they're still here.
Letter, The Canberra Times, July 121 2018 from David Jenkins, Casey
Yes, Dale Welsby (Letters, July 11), the tram will likely be around long after its detractors will not, or at least until its impracticality and true cost are revealed. But a little knowledge of Shakespeare would have warned you that "the evil that men do lives after them; the good is oft interred with their bones".
Letter, The Canberra Times, July 12 2018 from John L Smith, Farrer
Transport Canberra has now described the three main features of its new network: (1) frequent services catering to many different passenger trips - not fast services (2) lots of walking at the beginning and end of each journey underlying a claim that it covers almost the entire Canberra region (3) no new transport technology - light rail for the next 50-100 years.
There is a firm resolution for Stage 2 light rail to follow the Barton route, having all stops services consistent with (1) above. The estimate of $1.3billion-$1.6 billion is only for construction of Stage 2.
This was the message delivered to the community group that I attended in South Canberra. The meeting was also attended by Minister Rattenbury and two other MLAs, so they must be nervous.
That more frequent services at the expense of express services will increase commuter patronage is a moot point.
Independent estimates that include the costs for borrowing capital and 20-year operations of Stage 2 amount to a total cost of $3 billion-$3.7 billion in today's dollars. No one really knows if this will cover the expensive blowouts for the many contingencies.
With the likelihood of a $5billion Gungahlin-Woden light rail item in a future budget, planning increasingly in the hands of property developers who are the real beneficiaries, more frustrated commuters wanting to drive their car, and not one iota of transport technology vision, Mr Rattenbury has every reason to be nervous.
Letter, The Canberra Times, July 12 2018 from Mike Quirk, Garran
Adina Cirson ("Property Council boss hits out at Barton light rail detour", July 10, p1) raises valid concerns about the extra travel time caused by a diversion of the light rail through Barton. However, along with the government, the PCA is affected by light rail fever, a condition resulting in irrational and delusional decisions.
Symptoms include supporting light rail despite poor cost to benefit ratios; delusions about its transformative benefits; failure to consider the opportunity cost of the funds not being used for alternatives including improving the coverage and frequency of the bus network which would be more effective in increasing accessibility and reducing car dependency; and failure to explain why it does not support a busway, a more efficient and cost-effective option.
While the PCA sees the light rail as crucial to the renewal of the Woden Town Centre, it does not provide evidence to support the contention. The substantial residential development occurring at the Centre illustrates metropolitan accessibility, rather than light rail, is of greater importance. Instead of supporting the superficially attractive but financially, environmentally and socially irresponsible light rail, the PCA should look what it can do to increase employment at the centre to generate a 24-hour population.
Letter, The Canberra Times, July 12 2018 from Howard Carew, Isaacs
I was invited to a community consultation featuring light rail among other subjects. The invitation was from the Inner South Canberra Community Council.
Truthfully it was a delight in a Ballykissangel sort of Irish way.
The microphones did not work, the computer-driven information screen worked only in spasms, and the consultation had an Alice in Wonderland informality that I found delightful.
One lady from the NCA gave a dissertation regarding rock wallabies that received an appreciative reception. The ACT transport speaker had a way of answering questions that was so informative that after a while you forgot what the original question was.
Light rail complaints were addressed with the fact that it might be a little impractical now but in one hundred years it would be brilliant. Unfortunately some argued that the hundred years should refer to the 19th, not the 21st, century.
I suggested to the main speaker that because China had developed a road train of three carriages that followed a painted line on the road instead of having rails and had the potential to be autonomous and had no overhead wires and moreover was at one third of the cost of the Canberra proposed rail network should he not look at it.
Sadly that was beyond his purview. Truly the good-humoured attendees and the speakers would not have been out of place in an Alice in Wonderland scenario. Like the white rabbit I found I had a very important date and left early.
Letter, The Canberra Times, July 12 2018 from Stan Marks, Hawker
Dale Welsby (Letters, July 11) makes the point that "The light rail will be around long after the many haters writing letters to the editor" and then comments "I think there is something in that".
Yes, Dale, there is. It highlights the fact that light rail is inflexible which is one of its worst features. With buses, if a particular route isn't working you change it or just cancel it. You can't do that with trams.
You are stuck with it. You have to be very confident that you have made the right decision, which is hardly possible given that the tram is being installed to keep Shane Rattenbury happy and not for operational reasons. As for opponents of light rail being "haters", as he says, the ones I know are not. There are plenty of real needs around the ACT without wasting money on trams that are far more expensive than buses and won't do the job any better.
Letter, The Canberra Times, July 11 2018 from Dale Welsby, Calder
The light rail will be around long after the many haters writing letters to the editor. I think there's something in that, don't you?
Letter, The Canberra Times, July 11 2018 from Joy Sanyal, West Macgregor
I am utterly gobsmacked by ACTION's proposed bus network. How can someone with common sense propose such changes to an essential public service?
ACTION is proposing to punish people.
Already, I spend over two hours to commute to Russell from West McGregor.
Spare the XPresso services, ACTION, and show some common sense.
ACTION's survey on the change is deceptive as it ignores to collect data on every day user of the bus and settles on a lower frequency of use (three or four times a week) but includes "never use the bus" as a response category.
I use the bus every weekday and on some weekends.
The current network has already made things worse: commuters running from bay to bay at Civic interchange to catch a bus and missing to locate their service that is hiding at the end of a long queue and preparing to depart without waiting are now common scenes.
I am also concerned by the number of buses that now roam throughout the day flashing the "Sorry, not in service" message (perhaps a reflection of the state of our local government).
The current network has proved to be a faulty change to the previous one.
I have lived here for over 15 years but have never seen such wastage of public money (something for the ACT Auditor-General to consider).
All are happening under our elected representatives' ever "watchful" eyes.
If ACTION continues with this plan, I shall have one response for the minister at the next election, something the government will understand without fail.
Letter, The Canberra Times, July 8 2018 from M. Flint, Smart Canberra Transport coordinator, ACT
In respect of "Future's coming down the track", it is so sad to see such an illustrious wordsmith as Mr Warden describing me and those like me in such disparaging terms as "unhappy homo subspecies" just because we disagree with his ideological and uninformed position.
And, contrary to what he apparently believes, "the vast majority of Canberrans" do not support light rail and certainly not those south of the lake.
On behalf of all Canberrans who have to foot the exorbitant bill for the trams, whether they like it or not, Smart Canberra Transport tries to bring some reality into the debate on light rail to counter the starry-eyed dreamers who seem to care so little for other people's money.
Letter, The Canberra Times, July 4 2018 from Mario Serenellini, Weetangera
Ian Warden has done it again. Abusing the privilege of writing for a popular newspaper, he finds a way to offend whoever disagrees with his opinion, forgetting that a good journalist is allowed to support his ideas but not to offend those who disagree.
This time he has gone too far with his malicious words ("Future's coming down the track", Sunday Canberra Times, July 1), labelling whoever opposes the light rail project as the unhappy homo subspecies, Canberran miserabilist and Canberran beancounterroides, hiding with his macaronic Latin unacceptable insults to a large number of Canberrans.
I am an opponent of the project. I base my opposition on my academic qualification in town planning matters and my involvement with the study of densification of our town on behalf of the NCDC. Therefore I am deeply offended by the way Mr Warden classifies me as an inferior miserabilis human being and ask from him an immediate public and written apology.
Mr Warden supports a public transport system that my grandfather, in Rome 100 years ago, used to call modern, only to justify his own vision of the future of Canberra as the monkey copy of big cities with, in his words, their "swaggers, scandal, vice and glamour".
And why not, I dare to add, increased criminality and destruction of a family-friendly urban setting? That is not my vision.
Waiting for the unlikely apologies from Mr Warden, I suggest he finds a city that best responds to his vision. And stay there. For ever.
I will not miss his insults and his articles.
Letter, The Canberra Times, July 8 2018 from J Sever, Higgins
Ian Warden's article on Canberra's first tram (Sunday Canberra Times, July 1) asks if this is the most exciting time to live in Canberra.
After 50 years here, sadly I can answer yes. Getting a tram probably is the most exciting thing that has happened.
Letter, The Canberra Times, July 5 2018 from P. J. Bewley, Barton
Interesting and entertaining as they may be, letters to The Canberra Times from John Smith, David Jenkins and Jack Kershaw (Letters, July 4) simply encapsulate the fact that no amount of post-hoc rationale for the implantation of a tram network in Canberra will ever justify the folly of the uber-expensive system.
Let's face it, the tram system was the brainchild of the Rattenbury party, and the only reason for committing us to a tram system in the first place was to keep the Labor Party in office. The adoption of trams was the simply price we all paid (through increased rates and taxes, reduction in services, etc) to retain a Labor government.
Letter, The Canberra Times, July 4 2018 from Jack Kershaw, Kambah
From the use of trams to blatantly increase the value of Territory recreational-open-space land along Commonwealth Avenue's West-Basin side, for occupation by view-blocking apartments; to the loss of the wonderful arboreal ambience of Commonwealth Avenue south; to the very high cost, inconvenience and visual desecration of inserting tram lines into the Commonwealth Avenue bridge; to the destruction of the Parliamentary Triangle's important twin-bridge symmetry (especially viewed from Parliament House); to having naff red, slug-like trams going right across the Parliamentary Zone, despoiling its ambience and the important two-way Land Axis (Capital Hill-War Memorial) views; to the largesse (and profiteering) of having trams going deep into Barton; to the high cost of special overhead-wires-free rolling stock; and to the exclusion of people and visitor places like New Acton, the ANU, the National Museum precinct, and Lennox Gardens from the route, the ACT government's planned Central National Designated Area section of its proposed Civic-Woden light rail system is a failure.
Letter, The Canberra Times, July 4 2018 from David Jenkins, Casey
The 2018 Canberra Stupidity Festival continues apace with the recent predictable revelation that the stately cedars on Commonwealth Avenue will meet their demise at the end of a chainsaw as the relentless destructive swath of The Tram continues southward.
Of course, this is just the cherry on top of the absurdity cake, given the tram's ludicrous opportunity cost delivers a pitiful cost-benefit ratio making neither financial or economic sense and, of course, ultimately failing in its most essential criterion by delivering significantly slower travel times between Woden and Civic, all without the flexibility that a bus service offers. I wonder whether the parliamentary committee currently inquiring into the effects on the parliamentary triangle is happy to have the main approach to Parliament House looking like a linear garbage tip similar to the one on the northern approaches to the city.
Meanwhile, the ACT government seems to be overcome by some sort of unstoppable delusional collective hysteria akin to the Miracle of Fatima. Worshipping a tram; who would have thought?
Letter, The Canberra Times, July 4 2018 from John L Smith, Farrer
our reference to the submission by the Planning Institute of Australia (PIA) to the light rail Stage 2 inquiry "Planning experts have raised new options" (Editorial, July 2) neglected to mention its recommendation that "The City to Woden light rail route should not depart from the longer-term ACT Light Rail Network Plan without strong justification and a review of the network".
While this recommendation is sensible, the PIA was adhering to "the framework of the Griffin Plan which was designed for light rail". It is time that we recognised that Griffin's design was governed by a tradition of trams.
He didn't know that the bus and the motor car would begin to revolutionise urban transport a few decades later.
The PIA calls for "strategic planning and high quality urban design".
On the contrary, we just have a policy of dense urban infill propped up by a few tram lines on the assumption that this is environmentally sustainable.
Whether confining people to high-rise dwellings with dwindling open space is good for the environment or their mental health is questionable.
Meanwhile the Google affiliate Weymo has ordered 80,000 vehicles that it will fit with driverless technology to begin the first public transport service of this kind later this year.
One matter that the chairman of the light rail inquiry has to ponder is whether his legacy will be a light rail line crossing the parliamentary triangle that detracts from the national heritage and is testimony that Griffin was no transport visionary.
Letter, The Canberra Times, July 2 2018 from Jeff Carl, Rivett
Transport Canberra is either being very brave with their new network to commence in January 2019 or is very stupid. I suspect it is the latter.
Lots of public transport studies around the world over the past 30 years have shown the biggest hate for commuters is being delayed at transfer stations. These are a ubiquitous feature of the new network. Nearly all commuters will pass through one, and a large number will make two transfers from home to work.
These same studies found patronage drops by 25-30 per cent when commuters need to make one transfer and by up to 60 per cent when two or more are required.
Given that the 2016 census had 6 per cent of Canberrans catching a bus to work, the new network will be doing well if 4-5per cent of Canberrans use Transport Canberra’s services at the next Census.
Letter, The Canberra Times, July 2 2018 from Robin Bell, Garran
So much pain over whether to give priority to tramways Civic to Woden or within Parliamentary Triangle. Why not have a (fast, user-paying) direct Civic-Woden tram service via Commonwealth Avenue and State Circle, linking at only one or two points with a government-funded bus service within the triangle?
The former would suit paying commuters. The latter would suit those on federal government business or tourism.
Letter, The Canberra Times, July 2 2018 from Mike Quirk, Garran
The widespread concern on the letters page about the proposed changes to the bus network, suggests further analysis is needed if the transport needs of the community are to be adequately met. A fundamental assumption is people are willing and able to walk further to catch a more frequent bus. The analysis should re-examine what the distance is.
It is unsurprising ACTION has difficulties in developing a satisfactory network given the number of buses in the fleet (434) is lower than the number of buses in the fleet in 1991 (453). Over this period the population of the territory increased from 291,500 to 415,900.
In this context it needs to be questioned why the funding of the light rail is a higher priority than increasing the frequency and coverage of the overall bus network. Which strategy would be more effective in reducing car dependency? Will electric buses reduce the claimed environmental and capacity advantages light rail? What additional benefits does the light rail extension to Woden provide to justify its $1.6 billion cost, more than double that of alternatives? Is the longer journey time an outcome desired by the community? Could the funds be better used? Does the government really believe light rail is transformational and leading infrastructure necessary for future economic growth given the high demand for higher density housing in locations not served by light rail and the substantial growth in the city’s population since 2005?
Letter, The Canberra Times, July 1 2018 from Roy Bray, Flynn
an Warden has suggested (CT, June 24) that Canberra’s artists should follow the direction of the Italian artist Canaletto’s (1697- 1786) inaccurate rendition of Venice. Canaletto moved the buildings of Venice around for artistic effect.
Ian errs. The professional artists of Canberra have done this. They are the architectural artists portraying our Magnificent Folly, the Gungahlin tram. The tram without overhead wires.
On the theme of visual licence, may I propose that our excellent amateur CT photographers show the tram gantries photographed, from the correct angle and including wires, as gallows against an evening clouded sky. The sky, as the portent of a dark and stormy night.
Letter, The Canberra Times, June 30 2018 from John L Smith, Farrer
Having sat through the two sessions of the inquiry into Stage 2 of the light rail project, two issues kept recurring:
(1) the alternate route for the lake crossing via Constitution Avenue and Kings Avenue (2) the light rail milk run via Barton cannot compete with the travel time of the blue rapid bus service between Woden and Civic.
The chairman was obviously not deceived that the route to Russell was also the ACT government's real preference, if it were not for their 2016 election jitters.
When pressed by the chairman about the travel time between Woden and Civic, Damian Haas, of the Public Transport Association of Canberra, was forced to admit if the government persevered with the Barton route, it would be compelled to maintain the rapid bus service from Woden to Civic.
The Secretary of the Department of Parliamentary Services raised the important issue of walking distance to light rail stops, which the ACT government had managed to conceal by labelling the distance contour that touched on the entry to the Parliament as being 400 metres (figure 11 of the submission), when it is actually at least 800 metres.
Even though other matters, such as Gungahlin residents working in Barton being prepared to stand for a journey exceeding 35 minutes, were not raised, it is clear that the Stage 2 proposal has a long way to run before it gets a green light from the Commonwealth parliament.
Letter, The Canberra Times, June 29 2018 from D. O'Connor, Gordon
There has been much discussion in recent times about Canberra planning, more specifically the merits or otherwise of infill housing versus suburban expansion and public transport versus the necessity to accommodate cars. Currently I am reading Tim Winton's Island Home.
Winton has an interesting perspective on these issues. He writes: "In the first half of the twentieth century automobiles augmented our settlements, now they shape them, determining where they're situated, how they're laid out. Our cities are built to accommodate the car as much as the citizen, and the outward creep of low-density suburbs is the unsustainable price we pay for our enviable new mobility. Even our homes, with their integrated garages, have been steadily modified - disfigured in many instances - to adapt to the primacy of vehicles in domestic life" (page 179).
Winton's description of the evolution of our cities is clearly evident in the inner suburbs where in the 19th and early-20th centuries houses were built on small blocks with very narrow frontages. Provision for motor vehicles was not a consideration in the planning. The growing affluence of the post-war years led to an increase in the size of building blocks and motor vehicle ownership.
The high cost of housing development today is forcing a return to the necessity for much smaller building blocks with narrow frontages. Perhaps we can learn much by revisiting the planning and transport imperatives of the past.
Letter, The Canberra Times, June 28 2018 from M. Flint, co-ordinator, Smart Canberra Transport, Erindale
The government has revealed ("Bridge build part of $1.3b Woden route", June21, pp1-2 and "Light rail trips past House tipped to cost more", June 22, p6) that the expected cost of light rail stage two, Civic-Woden, would be from $1.3 billion to $1.6 billion. Although not stated, it may be presumed that these figures are for construction only, compared with that for stage one of $707 million. However, for stage one, there is an additional $452 million over 20 years for operations, maintenance and capital cost recovery. Proportionally, for stage two, one needs to add through-life costs, bringing the total cost range for stage two from $2.1 billion to $2.6 billion or $105 million to $130 million a year. This would be on top of the $58 million a year to be paid for stage one. In patronage terms, that for stage two is expected to be less than the 6.3 million a year maximum for stage one (business case figure). Assuming a generous patronage of six million a year, each stage-two passenger would cost Canberra taxpayers $18 to $20, over each of the 20 years of operations.
The only way the government can pay for this is with a combination of increased rates and debt (the latter already at $2.1 billion). To add to the absurdity, it would take Woden commuters twice as long to get to Civic if, as planned, the rapid buses are shut down in favour of light rail. Every taxpayer should be outraged at what was a 2016 election campaign thought bubble by Mr Barr.
Letter, The Canberra Times, June 28 2018 from Colin Smeal, Holder
I hope the The Canberra Times will make available as a poster the photo on page6 ("Land Release end of the road for old Northbourne", June27, p6) so as we drive down the "most significant approach route to the city and one of the most important street in Canberra" through bleak canyons of thousands of shoddily built and unattractive apartments we can be reminded of what an actual "urban village", with green open spaces for humans, actually looked like. All the spin about "high-quality design" and "independent design review" will be sacrificed to the god of maximum density and ROI for the developers and their government bedmates.
Letter, The Canberra Times, June 27 2018 from Gary J. Wilson, Macgregor
The editorial's grudging concession, "As the centre of federal government in Australia, there is something fitting about opening the parliamentary triangle to more people through another form of public transport", (June 22) places the extended tram debate in the same arena as the current dissension about the purpose of the Australian War Memorial ("Light rail route should respect Canberra's historic buildings", canberratimes.com.au, June 22).
In fact there is nothing fitting about reforming the parliamentary triangle as a tourist attraction, jokes about the clowns who perform there aside.
The function of the business of state conducted there should remain the primary concern in all design matters. Considered application of the basic architectural ideal that form follows function is sadly becoming alien to our entire town planning system.
Letter, The Canberra Times, June 26 2018 from Mike Quirk, Garran
The ACT government submission to the Senate inquiry ("Bridge build part of $1.3b Woden route", June 21, p1) fails to justify why light rail is superior to a busway between Civic and Woden.
A busway can improve public transport accessibility and connectivity and support the vision of a compact and competitive city at less than half the cost of light rail and is more flexible. The capacity and environmental advantages light rail potentially offers will be eliminated as battery technology improves, enabling the operation of high-capacity electric buses. A busway can also assist in revitalising centres and reducing car dependency. Its greater economy frees funds for purposes including improving the overall bus network.
The extensive renewal occurring across Canberra suggests accessibility to opportunities and housing affordability are more important than transport technology in increasing the demand for higher density housing. Consequently a busway meets the government's public transport system objectives — convenience, efficiency, affordability, reliability and integration.
The submission also claims, without evidence, that light rail could see the development at Woden of an extra 4070 dwellings, 679,000sq m of retail land and 7500sq m of community land. This claim maybe excessive (is there really a demand for 679,000sq m of retail land?). A busway on the proposed light rail alignment would deliver similar opportunities.
The government has time to reconsider, as the current bus service provides a high-quality service between Civic to Woden. A separate busway serving the parliamentary zone could also be considered.
Letter, The Canberra Times, June 26 2018 from Peter Moran, Watson
Re: "But the Barr government warns that the price could fluctuate..." ("Bridge build part of $1.3b Woden route", June 21, p1) in an article about the second stage of the Barr/Rattenbury light rail frolic. Really? I think that a large number of ACT ratepayers would like to warn the Barr government to apply a lot more rigour and openness to the business case for this second stage than it did for the first.
Letter, The Canberra Times, June 25 2018 from Greg Cornwell, Yarralumla
History repeating itself: Amsterdam had its tulip fever, London the South Sea bubble, now Canberra moves to Light Rail Mark II ...? Hmm, just asking.
Letter, The Canberra Times, June 25 2018 from Garth Setchell, Mawson
Transport Canberra's current proposal for stage 2 of Canberra's light rail needs to be drastically rethought. To almost double the current travel time by bus between Woden and Civic is absurd - all to provide a limited service to the Parkes-Barton office area. Surely Parkes and Barton, plus Kingston and Manuka (if light rail is really meant to substitute for buses), deserve a proper connecting loop service off the main Woden-Civic route - even if this has to be Stage 2B or 3.
The obvious route between Woden and Civic is to divert from Adelaide Avenue onto Flynn Drive, across the lake by a new light rail/pedestrian bridge to Hospital Point and then via Liversidge Drive, McCoy Circuit, London Circuit, etc, to the Civic station.
Such a route provides service to the ANU, Llewellyn Hall and all of West Civic, whereas the City Hill/Commonwealth Avenue proposal provides service to virtually nobody and great visual destruction.
An interchange in Flynn Drive, between the rear of the Hyatt and Lennox Gardens would permit connection with a light rail route providing much greater usefulness. Such a loop could operate both as an exclusive loop or as an adjunct to specific non-direct services between Civic and Woden or vice versa.
Letter, The Canberra Times, June 25 2018 from Mike Hutchinson, Reid
So the ACT government is persisting with its light rail folly ("Bridge built part of $1.3b Woden route", Canberra Times, June 21, p1).
Its dismissal of cost-benefit analysis as "simple" is economic illiteracy. Promotion of light rail as opening up land for development is misleading – these development opportunities and their values are not dependent on light rail.
Vague concepts such as "urban realm benefits", let alone this government's "vision for Canberra" are unhelpful - especially if they are code for even more high-rise and the landscape pollution of ugly overhead wires.
Light rail will be less frequent, slower, and less flexible than optimised bus services. There can be little through service from Gungahlin to Woden, because the Stage 1 trams from Gungahlin cannot run "wire free" south of Civic.
Yes, well-located light rail in appropriate urban forms can enhance corridor land values. But, despite ministerial junkets to better projects, that experience does not translate to the badly conceived Canberra model, or indeed to Canberra's low-density dispersed multi-nodal urban structure.
With a properly assessed benefit/cost ratio likely to be well below 0.5 - and possibly even negative - the economics are akin to a public bonfire of at least a further $650 million in used notes. There are far better, more pressing, more worthwhile uses for this money.
Letter, The Canberra Times, June 25 2018 from Mike Quirk, Garran
The Canberra Times article "ACT asks for planning feedback but allows only a yes or no response" (canberratimes.com.au, June 19) raises issues about the commitment of the government to undertake a thorough review of the ACT planning strategy.
It is easy to agree with the generalised statements on the issues raised - Canberra's form and density, transport and land use and sustainable city - and still have no idea what the planning strategy for the city could be other than some increase in density at centres and corridors.
The speakers series focusing on car city or clean transport capital, bush capital and global city and garden city or city in the garden, is unlikely to provide much guidance as to where and when development should occur.
The review of the planning strategy needs to undertake a comprehensive analysis of the economic, environmental and social implications of alternative distributions of population and employment.
It needs to address key issues of housing choice and affordability, housing and employment location and transport choice and be accompanied by an infrastructure plan.
There is no evidence that such analysis is being undertaken and it is difficult not to conclude that the government has a predetermined outcome, which is based on a superficial understanding of planning and development issues.
Letter, The Canberra Times, June 23 2018 from Jack Kershaw, Kambah
With massive tram-driven private redevelopment along Northbourne Avenue, we need a balancing master plan for major new public civic facilities, including a new city square.
It should express the "arrival" characteristic of that avenue, by being axially located between London Circuit and the northern segment of Vernon Circle.
Broadly, it would be bounded to the west by the courts, and symmetrically to the east near the museum and art gallery. It would subsume Northbourne Avenue between London Circuit and Vernon Circle, eliminating the east-west pedestrian divide there.
Through-traffic would use London Circuit (its northern sector widened), its Constitution-Avenue connection to Vernon Circle (made two-way), and the planned Edinburgh-Avenue one, as well as the London Circuit-Commonwealth Avenue connections.
Resultantly traffic-calmed Vernon Circle would allow safe pedestrian access from the new square to the currently isolated hilltop park. The grand sunny square would contain landscaping, fountains, shelters, sculptures, cafes, etc; and would be for recreation, displays, concerts, films, gatherings, and so on.
It would open up the facades of the historic Melbourne and Sydney buildings. Reflecting their symmetry, would be the two planned hotels at the east and west extremities of the square.
Under it could be out-of-the-weather, sky-lit shops, cafes, restaurants, and the City bus station; and below all that, multi-level car parking. There could be improved pedestrian access to the new square from Petrie Plaza, Hobart Place, and lower Northbourne Avenue.
Letter, The Canberra Times, June 23 2018 from Leon Arundell, Downer
The ACT government must decide whether to achieve its most important public transport commitment, or to convert another public transport route from rubber tyres to steel tyres.
In 2011, 7.8 per cent of Canberrans' journeys to work were made by public transport. In 2012 the Chief Minister committed to achieving the Sustainable Transport Plan's target of 16 per cent in 2026, and also to 10.5 per cent in 2016. Notwithstanding that commitment, the public transport share in 2016 was only 8.2 per cent.
At the North Canberra Community Council meeting on June 20, Transport Canberra was unable to say how much the newly announced bus network will contribute towards achieving the 2026 target.
Although the government determined in 2012 that stage 1 of bus rapid transit would provide almost all the benefits of stage 1 of light rail, at half the cost, it committed to light rail.
The impact of light rail on patronage will depend on the extent to which its advantages of greater amenity and shorter in-vehicle travel times outweigh its disadvantages of longer walks to fewer stops, less frequent services, and need for additional bus-tram transfers. Light rail stage 2 would cost almost twice as much as stage 1, and would increase Woden-Civic trip times from 16 minutes to 25 or more.
That delay would almost certainly reduce patronage, and further jeopardise the government's patronage commitment.
Letter, The Canberra Times, June 22 2018 from John Savin, Curtin
Hasn't the government learnt anything from stage one of the light rail?
What Canberrans don't want is much-loved trees to be removed and that's what's planned again for stage two to Woden - this time being the old European trees opposite Albert Hall and the Hyatt Hotel.
The route needs to be diverted away from Commonwealth Avenue as soon as the tram crosses the lake so that these majestic trees (and hence Canberra's garden character) can remain.
Letter, The Canberra Times, June 22 2018 from Rohan Goyne, Evatt
I refer to the article "Safety fears as students travel on public buses" (June 20, p9), and I note the information from Transport Canberra that a number of existing school services were underutilised by schools. In 2014 Shane Rattenbury cancelled 40per cent of the then morning school services in Belconnen and Weston Creek on public advice that the routes cancelled had 21 or fewer passengers.
My daughter's morning route 445 was one of those. I FOI'd the then ACTION figures for route 445 to test the accuracy of the public statements only to discover that the average boardings for Route 445 was actually 28, hence above the publicly stated cut-off figure.
I would naturally question the transparency of the current decisions based on the history outlined above and I would encourage the ACT P&C to question Transport Canberra extensively.
Transport Canberra has also announced it wants students to travel on an alternative current route bus, in my daughter's case, the Rapid Service from Evatt down Northbourne Avenue to the city will also be cancelled from January 2019 because of the tram and the downgrading of Northbourne Avenue from an arterial road.
What if the $795 million for the tram had been spent on the existing bus network instead? I suggest Transport Canberra may be better advised to buy more buses and employ more drivers.
Letter, The Canberra Times, June 22 2018 from Paul O'Connor, Hawker
Would it not be prudent to wait until Stage 1 of the Light Rail has been running for a reasonable period and passenger usage been judged before committing to the Woden stage?
The planned route ("Bridge build part of $1.3b Woden route", June 21, p1) whilst difficult to read clearly, seems to show very few stops on the way to Woden from the city.
Also, the route appears to run along Constitution Avenue, a busy, narrow road to start with. It will certainly get far more interesting in that bottleneck when the Morris Group commences construction of large blocks of apartments on the car parks near Capital Towers.
Letter, The Canberra Times, June 22 2018 from Don Sephton, Greenway
Your report on the proposed Woden route for stage 2 of the light rail ("Bridge build part of $1.3b Woden route", June 21, p1) said: "In Woden, it is predicted hundreds of thousands of square metres of land could be opened up for development because of the light rail". That's the real reason for the Woden extension of the tram isn't it, property development? It's not really about improved, efficient transport options, especially when a trip from Woden to Civic has apparently been modelled at 25-30 minutes, with multiple stops.
Letter, The Canberra Times, June 22 2018 from Howard Carew, Isaacs
The article on future directions of light rail in Canberra and its design and cost ("Bridge build part of $1.3b Woden route", June 21, p1) would have caused incredulity to most readers. Personally I think the idea is a bad joke getting worse with every retelling.
The sheer folly of replacing an established successful bus service taking around 15 minutes to get between Civic and Woden with a tram that will take twice the time is mind-boggling.
The cost involved, which will top $1.5 billion, would house many of our homeless in public housing. The idea of a new bridge across Commonwealth Avenue is painful to contemplate and the extra congestion that it will cause along its entire route would be a nightmare for commuters to contemplate.
The inherent difficulty of boarding from the middle of a busy Adelaide Avenue in peak times would also be frightening.
Additionally a new bridge is on the books to carry the tram from Cullen Street, Woden, to Adelaide Avenue.
I am amazed that an ACT Labor Party could close their eyes to the lack of logic involved in the concept. The fact is that it is such a folly that the chances of the federal government and our community supporting it are non-existent.
In China, for example, trams as they are now in Australia are becoming obsolete. They are developing a form of road train without rails and overhead wires. Truly we have an ACT government that is moving mindlessly back to the past.
Letter, The Canberra Times, June 18 2018 from Mike Quirk, Garran
When, where and if a new football stadium is constructed is a product of government priority setting. The postponing of the extension of light rail to Woden until it is justified (the bus system currently provides a fast and efficient service) would free up funds for infrastructure. A benefit cost appraisal of alternatives is needed to determine the projects that best meet the community's needs. The extension of light rail is unlikely to rate highly.
Letter, The Canberra Times, June 13 2018 from John Widdup, Lyneham
So the ACT government is to spend a significant amount of money on roadworks to improve connections and thus reduce congestion.
Duplicating roads does not improve connections or reduce congestion. What it does is to allow (encourage) more of us to drive our cars at the same time until the road is again congested - that usually occurs within a few years of the duplication occurring.
What is required to reduce congestion and improve the amenity of our city is better public transport and cycling facilities, as pointed out by Graham Downie (Letters, June 1).
For every person in a bus or tram or on a bicycle there is one less car on the roads, resulting in less expenditure on roadworks and less congestion. Please spend tax money on things like bus lanes and priority for buses at intersections, that will make bus trips faster and so encourage more people to ride, and on cycle paths that will encourage more people to commute by bicycle and not drive their cars.
Letter, The Canberra Times, June 11 2018 from Paul O'Connor, Hawker
Does the ACT government have a valid excuse for the recent closure for reconstruction of Old Well Station Road from Flemington Road to Northbourne Avenue.
At a time when the public of Canberra are suffering inconvenience and frustration because of rail construction in Flemington Road and Northbourne Avenue, to remove an alternative that avoided the one-lane bottleneck of Flemington Road at EPIC is stupid, non-caring or just plain arrogant .
The alternative allowed traffic travelling on the GDE to exit at the cemetery via Sandford Street , cross Flemington Road onto Morisset Road and turn right onto Old Well Station Road then Northbourne Avenue .
This route also assisted traffic from Gungahlin to escape Flemington Road/EPIC and travel north.
Doubtless excuses of concern for traffic control and safety will be raised but why do this at such an inconvenient time?
Little progress appears to have happened over some weeks .
My money is also on an additional set of traffic lights.
Letter, The Canberra Times, June 9 2018 from M. Flint, Smart Canberra Transport co-ordinator
In respect of light rail Stage 2, Civic-Woden, The Canberra Times reported on June 5 that ACT Transport Minister Meegan Fitzharris said "the extra $8 million worth of technical work would provide the National Capital Authority with all the information it needs to understand the benefits of the project and inform the recently announced federal inquiry".
It is very interesting and welcome to read that the ACT government sees the need to convince the NCA and Federal Parliament of the "benefits" of Stage 2. Let us fervently hope the minister produces a valid business case for Stage 2, for consideration by the NCA and Houses of Parliament, not like the farce that was produced for Stage 1. One may recall the Business Case for Stage 1 claimed a Benefit to Cost Ratio (BCR) of 1.2, which the ACT government accepted and acted upon (naively or deliberately?), when external analysts put the BCR at 0.6 at best and which the Auditor-General put at only 0.49.
Letter, The Canberra Times, June 4 2018 from Kent Fitch, Nicholls
Transport Canberra's Duncan Edghill belatedly acknowledges the plan for the stage 1 tram won't have the capacity to meet demand ("First trams to start running soon", canberratimes.com.au, May 24).
Currently 29 ACTION buses with an average fleet capacity of 75 passengers (65 per cent seated) leave Gungahlin for Civic during the 7.30am-8.30am peak. The business case and modelling insisted no buses will travel between Gungahlin and Canberra, so this capacity must be shoehorned into the 10 planned tram services that hour, each with a capacity for 207 passengers (only 32 per cent seated), leaving a capacity shortfall compared to the current bus service of just over 100 passengers.
As the massive developments of flats along the route complete and fill, and city-bound services from Kaleen, Giralang and Watson are also planned to terminate at Dickson, surely Transport Canberra know they'll need at least 12 services per hour, further compounding congestion and delays.
Letter, The Canberra Times, June 1 2018 from Graham Downie, O'Connor
Those who object to money spent on Canberra's cycling infrastructure might compare it with the far greater sum spent on Canberra's inefficient and unreliable public transport, which, according to 2016 census figures ("Canberra's commuting habits revealed" canberratimes.com.au) ferries about the same number of people to work as those who cycle.
According to the census, both transport about 7 per cent of workers to their daily toil, well short of the ACT government's target for cycling and public transport. Transport and City Services revealed earlier this year about 25 per cent of ACTION buses do not run on time while the operating cost alone of the service costs ratepayers about $150 million annually.
In its report to the government in March 2015, transport and planning consultants MRCagney said ACTION was subsidised by about $7.20 per passenger, about double that of other similar public and private bus operations.
As with previous reports, the government rejected major recommendations by MRCagney which would have saved $47 million annually from ACTION's operating budget within about 10 years. Instead it opted for the 30 per cent inefficiency of ACTION's operation, identified in a report to government in 2010.
In late 2015, responding to the MRCagney report, the government said improving the customer experience of ACTION was needed to support patronage and as a result improve financial sustainability.
"This will be a key emphasis of the government's work over the next six to 12 months." Instead, its key emphasis has been to spend about $1 billion on the 12km tramway from Gungahlin to Civic with only marginal improvements to bus operations.
Meanwhile, in a report of June 2017, Auditor General Maxine Cooper said the maintenance budget for cycle paths had been cut from $5 million in 2011-12 to $3.2 million in 2015-16.
As there were now more paths, the budget was $1150 per kilometre, compared with a budget of $1970 per kilometre five years previously.
Letter, The Canberra Times, May 29 2018 from Mike Quirk, Garran
Professor Greg Clark ("Work on branding", May 24, p3) identified Australian cities as increasingly difficult places to live, work, travel around and obtain affordable housing. The responses in his co-authored report Creating Great Australian Cities, include the development of polycentric cities, high amenity, higher density housing areas, infrastructure provision based on merit rather than politics, improved metropolitan governance and high-quality public transport.
The valuable report needs to be complemented by discussion of several issues. The advocacy of polycentric cities (to reduce travel) needs to consider mechanisms to decentralise employment. In Canberra, this requires re-invigorating the new towns policy. The current laissez-faire approach where employers locate regardless of the congestion and other costs they impose is clearly inadequate.
The provision of housing cannot be adequately considered without discussion of whether capital gains and negative gearing concessions (rewarding speculation) are superior to alternatives such as developing social housing. Population growth is identified as a major contributing factor to city problems.
A debate is needed on whether reducing migrant intake, even temporarily, is an appropriate strategy to overcome infrastructure and housing backlogs. To use limited infrastructure funding effectively, the advocacy for infrastructure provision based on merit rather than politics (the dubious light rail provision in Canberra comes to mind) is timely.
Along with addressing the above issues, strong metropolitan governance with decisions based on evidence rather than ideology is needed for Canberra and other cities to avoid a low-amenity, low-liveability future.
Letter, The Canberra Times, May 27 2018 from John L. Smith, Farrer
"One of the operational challenges that we will face when the [light rail Stage 1] system's up and running is how do we cater for more people wanting to ride the system than is available," says the deputy director-general of Transport Canberra, Duncan Edghill ("First trams to start running soon", May 24).
What is the exact challenge to which Mr Edghill refers? Does he mean demand exceeding 150 standing passengers per tram or does he mean demand that exceeds the 66-seat capacity?
Sydney commuters might be prepared to travel on trams with no breathing room, but I think Mr Edghill will be spared that challenge.
Letter, The Canberra Times, May 20 2018 from John Skurr, Deakin
Finally some sunshine into the dark spaces that pervade the current town planning fashion, with Tony Trobe's interview of Ken Taylor, ("Design Matters" CT, May13 ). We all need light, open generous spaces to be, play and think.
Burley Griffin & Marion Mahony were into light and space, what's happened? We don't need wanky high-rise signature buildings jammed onto our road intersections or rows and rows of units looking like boxes made of ticky tacky.
Economical electric cars with solar recharged batteries will be here soon. We need well designed highways so that those who want a quarter-acre block can afford them. Now that Northbourne Avenue will have units side by side from Civic to Watson, Jack Kershaw's vision of changing the entry to Canberra with a spur off Majura Parkway and a road up and over the hill past the American eagle more relevant.
Letter, The Canberra Times, May 19 2018 from Rod Olsen, Flynn
Here we go again. Part of Canberra "must have a facelift". Answer, must be surrounded by multi-storey buildings.
Our city is festooned with countless apartment blocks. Northbourne Avenue is to be lined with them. Yet we hear again and again about apartment blocks with shoddy building work and materials.
Malvina Reynolds said it all in 1962: "Little boxes on the hillsides. Little boxes made of ticky-tacky ... And they all look just the same."
London's Grenfell Tower apartment block burned in June 2017. Afterwards governments here and overseas said high-rise buildings would be tested for flammable cladding.
Since then nothing but silence. Are we really going to let our local pollies reduce Canberra to an "any city", consisting of nothing but flammable concrete canyons?
As for Canberra the Bush Capital, I think I shall never see an apartment block as lovely as a tree (apologies to Ogden Nash).
Letter, The Canberra Times, May 17 2018 from Stan Marks, Hawker
Greg Jackson (Letters, May 16) and others who bemoan Katy Gallagher's departure from the Senate should think again. There was even a caption under her photo that 'Katy Gallagher has genuine concern for Canberra' (May 14, p.16).
No, she is a stock standard politician.
A few months before the 2012 election, she announced the government would not build the tram because, at $614million, it was too expensive. Then, during the election, when the polls were going against her and she needed the green vote, she suddenly announced that they would build it anyway. To save her government and her political career, she was prepared to spend $600million of our money on a project which she had recently said wasn't worth the money.
Then, after the election, she said that she would still pull the plug if the cost of the tram rose too much.
The acknowledged cost of the tram was already over $700million when she went to the senate and she undoubtedly knew it would go further. She didn't pull the plug and now we are saddled with a great, green debacle which will cost us a billion dollars.
She said it wasn't worth $614million; it is certainly not worth $1 billion. Canning the project would have meant the end of her political career but, had she been devoted to the people, that is what she would have done.
No, Greg Jackson, she is just a standard politician, putting her career ahead of the welfare of the people she is supposed to serve and doing it without batting an eyelid.
Letter, The Canberra Times, May 15 2018 from M. Flint, Smart Canberra Transport, Erindale
So, there will be a federal probe into Stage 2 of light rail.
This is welcome news to those who believe that trams are an outmoded transport mode, given rapid changes in transport technology, and that light rail for Canberra is a gross waste of scarce resources but, apparently, not for Mr Haas of the Public Transport Association.
He seems to think that the federal government has no right to "interfere in ... public transport for Canberra", even though 65 per cent of the proposed Option B will traverse designated areas under federal control.
I would like to see how he would make that point to the standing committee.
Letter, The Canberra Times, May 7 2018 from Margaret Lee, Hawker
I love the phrase "fell into disrepair", don't you? "The Northbourne flats were built in the 1950s ... but having fallen into disrepair in recent times" ("Judith digs in as eviction D-Day looms", May 5, p8). They did that all by themselves, did they? Correct me if I'm wrong, but the ACT government owned those buildings, didn't it? Wasn't it its responsibility to maintain them? There are heaps of houses older than that which don't "fall into disrepair" unless the owners neglect to maintain them.
And how convenient the sites have become even more valuable with the tram now running by them, making their demolition so much more potentially profitable? We had friends in the suburb of Redfern before it was "upgraded". They lost their community and ended up in Chester Hill (anyone heard of it?). I have great sympathy for people who have affordable housing in a convenient area who protest at being removed to another location.
Letter, The Canberra Times, May 4 2018 from Ben Hardwick, Bruce
A complete overhaul for the Belconnen Town Centre allowing for genuine skyscrapers - yet no mention of the future light rail? Isn't Belconnen included, even in the future?
Letter, The Canberra Times, May 2 2018 from John Mungoven, Stirling
Oh dear, we seem to be in a pickle over the future route for Light Rail in Canberra. I suggest an alternative plan. Extend the line, not to the south of Canberra, but to the north and out of town.
Letter, The Canberra Times, April 25 2018 from Leon Arundell, Downer
Can Alex White (Letters, April 24) explain why Unions ACT supports a public transport system that, compared with bus rapid transit, employs half as many drivers, costs twice as much, doesn't offer express services, replaces direct services with services that require people to transfer between buses and trams, and further discourages patrons with less frequent services and longer walks to and from stops?
Letter, The Canberra Times, April 25 2018 from Chris Emery, Reid
Stage 1 of Light Rail will see the ACT government's first use of overriding traffic signal priority for public transport.
Hopefully this indicates their adoption of a "move people not cars" policy for our transport system.
Our next step could be providing traffic signal priority for all public transport as occurs in other Australian jurisdictions.
Canberra only needs a small SCATS software parameter change to give our buses over-riding traffic signal priority when a bus is caught facing a red light in their own dedicated bus lane.
Let's start moving people not cars.
Letter, The Canberra Times, April 24 2018 from Geoff Davidson, Braddon
Re Kent Fitch's letter ("Tension over Developer", April 23) and the scuppering of "Active Travel" plans for Dooring Street by huge volumes of consequential traffic, I add additional comments.
There are two development applications out now proposed between Northbourne Avenue and Dooring Street in Dickson.
The adjoined proposals have 760 car parks (which does not meet the required parking) and force all car access onto Dooring Street, which will heavily impact the neighbours and traffic.
If going south to the city they will have cross the lights on Macarthur Avenue.
I suggest they will continue on into the increasing crowded back streets of Braddon, ultimately on to Torrens Street.
Braddon itself is undergoing the equivalent developments on Henty Street (south) and Mort Street (north) plus internal. The impact on these backstreets cannot be overstated.
All further developments on Northbourne on the east side must have car access from Northbourne.
In addition, these developments are residential (greater than 80 per cent) disguised as commercial, avoiding residential codes.
Letter, The Canberra Times, April 24 2018 from M. Flint, Smart Canberra Transport, Erindale Centre
Thank you, Canberra Times, for the insightful editorial "Figures first before cash flows" (April 21, p14).
Not only does a detailed business case for light rail Stage2 need to be made public but, also, it must be open to independent scrutiny before any cabinet decision is taken, not like what happened for Stage 1, where the government decided to proceed without public consultation on the business case and took a decision to proceed based on a fictitious Benefit Cost Ratio (BCR) of 1.2hat the Auditor-General later said was 0.6 at best.
Of course the ACT government is reluctant to provide meaningful figures, knowing that a comprehensive and independent cost benefits analysis would not stack up.
How could it, when it would be much less cost-effective than Stage 1, which itself will prove grossly uneconomic and a white elephant?
Also, this time round, the Greens-Labor government should consider conducting itself with some respect for the taxpayer and not as it did for Stage 1, that is, riding roughshod over critics and simply ignoring all independent valid, objective criticism of the project.
Notwithstanding any and all argument around Stage 2, would its backers and funders of the Greens-Labor government let it off the hook on Stage 2?
I don't think so.
Letter, The Canberra Times, April 24 2018 from Bruce Paine, Red Hill
Recent actions by ACT government ministers again have shown how poorly we are governed, how unwilling ministers are to level with the community, and their apparent belief that repeating spin will change the underlying facts. The Canberra Times editorial ("Government to blame for health crisis", April 20) appropriately laid responsibility.
Rather than establishing clear governance and good culture, the government has parted ways with another senior bureaucrat and will reportedly install even more bureaucrats in her place.
Meanwhile, the minor party's leader hides behind "cabinet-in-confidence, and tells us that reducing funding to CHC provides greater flexibility to fund affordable housing ("Affordable housing", April 19, p2).
A much more logical explanation for the cut is that the larder is bare because of his ideology that a single tram line offers better public transport than a network of buses. Lastly, the Transport Minister is "hopeful we can continue to ... get on with delivering a world-class public transport network for Canberra" ("Government wants Woden light rail via Barton", April 19, p1) despite the NCA reportedly having indicated that "a project of this magnitude requires careful consideration of all of the impacts to the heart of Canberra".
Translation: you are dreaming. The ACT government's ministers do not appear to understand the basic principles of good government or how to make decisions that benefit the whole community.
Letter, The Canberra Times, April 23 2018 from John L Smith, Farrer
If, as I feel sure, the participants were not made aware that the vast majority of experts believe that a bus system is a far more cost-effective public transport investment for the entire Canberra region, and that driverless vehicle technology is predicted to deliver vastly improved public transport within a decade, then only 51.5per cent of respondents supporting light rail is a damning result.
If Senator Seselja can bring about a federal parliamentary inquiry into the construction of light rail stage two in which these wider issues can be fully exposed, he will be doing a great service to all Canberra citizens.
Letter, The Canberra Times, April 17 2018 from Alex White, UnionsACT, Canberra
Max Flint (Letters, May 17) made several unfortunate claims and smears against UnionsACT and our affiliates.
Mr Flint has spent several years heading up the "Can the Tram" group.
He now goes under a new badge, but has not stopped his light-rail bashing or his union bashing.
The truth is that UnionsACT does not have a veto over ACT government contracts.
This is a fever-dream imagined by Michaelia Cash and the Canberra Liberals.
UnionsACT supports light rail because it creates secure local jobs, improves public transport services, and stimulates the local economy. However, Mr Flint insinuates that we receive a benefit ("gravy train").
He is wrong.
Mr Flint also suggests that I am lying about the results.
He is wrong. I provided the results to The Canberra Times, including the question.
The results are also on our website.
The sampling methodology is well known and performed by Reachtel, a respected polling company.
It is sad that Mr Flint still cannot accept that most Canberrans supported light rail stage one.
It is even sadder that he refuses to accept that most Canberrans support stage two.
Letter, The Canberra Times, April 22 2018 from Maria Greene, Curtin
While the ACT government struggles to find the most ineffective way to provide transport for the 21st century, why stop at late 19th-century technology? Horse-drawn trams would be nice.
Letter, The Canberra Times, April 22 2018 from Kent Fitch, Nicholls
Prompted by Kirsten Lawson's analysis of the development applications lodged for the Northbourne "SOHO" project ("Art group forced to drop supermarket plan in Dickson", April 4, p2), I've read comments on those applications from agencies obligated to oversee territory planning.
The tension between the commercial ambitions of developers, seemingly egged-on by our political masters, and our planning protectors are evident.
The Conservation Planning, Strategic Planning and TCCS departments detail non-compliance with heritage trees and building height rules, and inadequate stormwater and traffic studies. The scuppering of "Active Travel" plans for Dooring Street by huge volumes of consequential traffic are lamented.
The developers confidently ignore the Territory Plan's requirement that 70 per cent of dwellings must receive at least three hours midwinter "solar access", acknowledging only 43 per cent of their dwellings fulfil this meagre obligation, with most of these receiving sunlight either early morning or late afternoon due to the chosen density and profit maximising orientation.
Of the 52 units on their typical floor plan, farcically, only eight (15 per cent) have a northerly orientation.
We'll see how much the ACT government cares about well-ventilated, solar-passive, sustainable and human-scale housing, unaccompanied by the constant drone of air-conditioners. While the government agency staff understand the conflicts, Labor has been captured by developers.
The Greens seem disinclined to veto energy-intense or battery-hen housing.
Letter, The Canberra Times, April 21 2018 from Leon Arundell, Downer
Rolf Fenner of the Planning Institute ("Decongesting our cities," April 1) seems to think that the best way to decongest our cities is to build expensive, inflexible heavy rail networks. That can at best be only part of the solution.
The best long-term option is to redesign our cities so that we don't have to travel so far to reach our everyday destinations. That will reduce the distances that we travel by road and rail.
It will also bring more destinations within cycling or walking distance.
A useful short-term option is to make better use of our existing roads.
One way to do that is to designate one lane as a transit lane. That will allow vehicles that make efficient use of road space (i.e. buses and passenger-carrying cars) to avoid being delayed by driver-only vehicles that make inefficient use of road space.
Letter, The Canberra Times, April 18 2018 from M. Flint, Smart Canberra Transport, Erindale Centre
So inner north residents will soon suffer through noisy nights from light rail work as the government is to permit a catch-up of slow progress by the contractor on Stage 1.
This means excavation and tunnelling machinery will be operating throughout the night, possibly for up to three weeks, and workers will collect double and triple time.
So why the slow progress? The cost will be recouped by the contractor; taxpayers can be assured of that. How many more of such hikes will we see, especially approaching scheduled completion at end 2018, when the Government would accede to any demand to finish on time?
Sleepless nights are only the start of woes for residents on both wrong sides of the track. Wait till the rat-running starts past their doors.
Letter, The Canberra Times, April 17 2018 from Ric Hingee, Duffy
I wonder how many of the residents complaining about out-of-hours light rail construction actually voted for light rail. I suspect the majority did.
Letter, The Canberra Times, April 17 2018 from Stan Marks, Hawker
It was no surprise to read that the unions had done a survey which found that a majority of Canberrans want the tram extended over the lake.
After all, the project will provide several years of well-paid work for its members. Then, of course the residents of our city want to put their hands into their pockets and come up with another billion-plus dollars knowing that most of it will go down the tube and not come back to them in terms of benefits.
Of course they want to spend a couple of hundred million to build a new bridge over the lake to take the tram or to replace a couple of traffic lanes on Commonwealth Avenue bridge with tram lines so that traffic congestion will rise to the point that cars can hardly move. And of course they want to replace their fast express buses with slower trams (capable of
70km/h not 80) meandering in the inner south instead of zapping down Yamba Drive.
As a life-long rail fan who spent 10 years working to further the rail industry, it saddens me that this money, which could do so much good, is to be spent to please the madness of green ideology.
Letter, The Canberra Times, April 17 2018 from Mike Quirk, Garran
The validity and usefulness of Unions ACT poll finding that 51.5per cent of the ACT population supported the extension of the light rail to Woden is questionable.
If the question had been framed along the lines of "would you rather see over $1billion spent on light rail to Woden or on health, education, disability services, city maintenance or to reduce rates" the answer would have been very different.
What does matter is the community is fully informed of the costs and benefits of the project and the opportunity costs identified. It is irresponsible for the business case being undertaken to compare only alternative routes.
In the absence of evidence as to the benefits of the extension, it is difficult not to conclude the project is an act of faith and that too much is being sacrificed on its altar. It is unfortunate that the Barr-Rattenbury government's immaturity and lack of transparency and integrity has made it necessary for Senator Seselja to refer the project to a federal parliamentary committee to investigate whether the community is getting value for money.
Letter, The Canberra Times, April 16 2018 from John Mungoven, Stirling
So Brittle Gums will be planted along the Northbourne Avenue light rail corridor to replace the former treescape.
Good luck to their roots when they try to work their way through what is now a very heavily compacted and destructed soil structure. Brittle indeed.
Letter, The Canberra Times, April 13 2018 from Dorothy Filshie, Port Macquarie, NSW
A recent visit to Canberra (where I lived for 37 years) caused me to write this poem.
Poor Northbourne Avenue, deconstructed,
And in its place a tram to be conducted!?
No more the splendid view
Of tree-lined avenue,
They've mucked it.
Letter, The Canberra Times, April 13 2018 from Geof Murray, Ngunnawal
Australians are among the most sceptical in the world about the future of driverless cars, according to the Canberra Times, April 6, page 12. Things might change if we resurrected the British Red Flag Act in force around the time the first cars were terrifying horses, cattle and pedestrians. That provided that a guard with a red flag must walk "not less than 60 yards in front of the vehicle while it is in motion" to warn riders and drivers of horses it was approaching.
The Act wasn't repealed until 1896.
It would be about the only safeguard that would persuade me to ride in a driverless car. Some 16 per cent of Australians agree, as do one-in-four of those over 50 years. (And Leunig too, judging by his Sunday Times cartoon of April 8.)
Letter, The Canberra Times, April 11 2018 from Mike Quirk, Garran
The focus of the Chief Minister's 2018 State of the Territory address was on making Canberra a great city, which required taking sound long-term policy decisions such as those taken by his government on light rail, renewable energy, taxation reform and diversifying the economy.
Great cities he observed worked by getting basic services right, by making sure residents were well connected to urban opportunities and he identified Canberra as having the opportunity to lead the country in long-term policy making and infrastructure planning.
Canberra unfortunately cannot show leadership as it does not have an evidenced based long-term strategy or infrastructure plan – management failure is evidenced by increasing congestion, housing unaffordability, insufficient land release and the poor quality of development.
Light rail is not fundamental to Canberra becoming a great city. Its expense and inflexibility renders it inferior as a means to improve connectivity when compared with busways, increasing the frequency of buses throughout the city and encouraging employment at the Gungahlin, Tuggeranong, Woden and Belconnen town centres. Canberra was an exemplar of urban development before self-government.
It can be great again if decisions are based on a comprehensive strategy. Hopefully the review of the ACT planning strategy will be more than an analysis-free PR document with platitudes masquerading as a plan.
Letter, The Canberra Times, April 9 2018 from John McKeough, Page
Re "At the controls to get capital on the rails" (March 31, p16).
I notice, in the pictures accompanying the article, that Canberra Metro employees either sitting or standing in the cabin of our wheel-chocked, non-electrified tram inside a warehouse are wearing safety goggles, hi-vis vests and hard hats.
I wonder if when the tram is actually moving, the passengers will be obliged to dress similarly and, if so, will the clothing be issued with the ticket to ride, or if the passengers will need to bring their own.
Letter, The Canberra Times, April 8 2018 from Mike Quirk, Garran
Every resident should be concerned about the waste of public funds proposed to be spent on the extension of light rail to Woden.
The funds would be better used to improve community services. Such services would include increasing the frequency of buses throughout Canberra to increase their competitiveness with cars in meeting the community's diverse work and non-work trips. Advertisement Unfortunately the Barr-Rattenbury government will not acknowledge its light rail irresponsibility, compared to which the stadia fiasco in Sydney is insignificant given the size of the ACT and NSW economies.
As an act of contrition, the Labor and Green Assembly members and senior executives should forgo their recently announced increase in pay, an increase that cannot be based on performance given the demonstrated incompetence in relation to light rail and other urban development issues.
I won't be holding my breath.
Letter, The Canberra Times, April 5 2018 from Lee Welling, Nicholls
Most future residents of the so-called village proposed for Northbourne Ave will be yuppies and dinks.
Only people with that level of income will be able to afford to live there.
It was this that precipitated the forcible removal of the inconvenient "poor" who had the misfortune to live on valuable real estate. The new-wave residents will work long, irregular hours and don't want to be tied to travelling in a predetermined route set (quite literally) in concrete.
They might consider a flexible bus route taking them directly to, say, Barton or Russell offices, but they will not use the tram to travel the two and a half kilometres to Civic, where they will then have to change to a bus. What they will do is drive to work, thus compounding the already disastrous traffic congestion in that area.
I really feel for the residents in the environs of Northbourne Ave; the advent of the $1.5billion "green" tram has not only been responsible for the wholesale destruction of a magnificent stand of eucalypts, but the concentration of CO/CO2 levels are also about to climb dramatically.
Letter, The Canberra Times, April 4 2018 from Paul E. Bowler, Chapman
The short answer to your question about when the tram will make it to Tuggeranong, Darren Randall (Letters, April 3), is "Never". Same answer applies to Weston Creek, Molonglo, Belconnen (including the new, massive cross-border development at West Belconnen) and Canberra Airport. Perhaps we should secede from the ACT.
Letter, The Canberra Times, April 3 2018 from Darren Randall, Chisholm
Just wondering when the light rail will actually make it to Tuggeranong?
As I and everyone else in Tuggeranong are currently paying our taxes to fund this expensive project I do not think it is too much to ask the ACT government to explain to the people of Tuggeranong when they too will receive the light rail?
Will Tuggeranong be the last area to receive light rail and the associated benefits?
I would have thought the people to benefit the most from improved public transport are the people who live the furthest from the city, like the people who live in Tuggeranong; not the people who already live close to the city.
Don't you think it is amazing that a working-class area like Tuggeranong votes Liberal and not Labor?
It just shows how annoyed working class people are with elites of the Labor Party who seem to have more support with the inner-city chattering class than the blue-collar working class.
Does ACT Labor ever stop to think about that or does it just dismiss it?
Letter, The Canberra Times, April 2 2018 from Murray Upton, Belconnen
Yet another stumble in the city's planning regime ("Manuka plan quietly shelved", March 27, p1.).
When is our Government going to realise that the stop/start, "thought-bubble", ad-hoc, planning, that Andrew Barr has presided over for far too long, must end?
The Kingston Barton Residents group have every reason to be concerned by the Chief Minister's machinations regarding Manuka, these, on top of the frequent changes being made to the "City to the Lake" project; the extremely questionable land dealings involving both the former LDA and more recently appointed Suburban Land Agency; and the even more questionable Stage 2 tram; all demonstrate the urgent need for an overall Master Plan for Canberra drawn up by a properly established, independent planning body, totally free of political interference.
Canberrans are becoming disillusioned by the deterioration of their City due to ill-considered projects and inadequate infrastructure.
Letter, The Canberra Times, April 1 2018 from Jack Kershaw, Kambah
If the puzzling madness of trams is to continue south, or in any case, we should look to Griffin's missing third lake crossing, using Lawson Crescent, Acton. It would spring from Acton Peninsula's south-west shore, and make landfall near Lennox Gardens, expanded north to Griffin's planned shape, completing his symmetry with Bowen Place, Barton.
The current plan to integrate trams into Commonwealth Avenue and its bridge is expensive and disruptive, especially as overhead wires are banned there.
The new circular crossing (which could tolerate overhead wires) precipitates much needed all-mode (except trucks) connectivity between Civic, New Acton, ANU, Acton Peninsula, Parkes, the Parliamentary Zone, and beyond. The West Lake yachting course, and east-west water craft access would be preserved. The new bridge, and recreational facilities on expanded Lennox Gardens North, would be appropriately located outside the National Triangle, but would be redolent of the nearby National Museum's colourful post-modernist structures.
Because of its new connectivity with Civic (and Parkes), the expanded Lennox Gardens precinct becomes a far better "City-to-the-Lake" solution than the current sun-deprived, very expensive, and apartment-compromised West-Basin one.
Letter, The Canberra Times, April 1 2018 from Ray Edmondson, former chairman, The Federation Line Inc, Kambah
The Christchurch heritage tramway, which so delighted Fred Pilcher (Letters, March 25), was a reference point for Canberra's proposed Federation Line in the early 2000s. Utilising restored tramcars from all Australian systems, the Federation Line would have linked our major public institutions as well as being a tourist attraction in its own right.
Though never actually realised, the Federation Line project progressed to the point of recreating what would have been an original Canberra tram – had Walter Burley Griffin's network been successfully rolled out in the 1920s. The then innovative Melbourne W class design, fitted out in the livery of Canberra's early bus system, would have been the logical vehicle for the national capital's network, a system too small to develop and build a design of its own. Brought here for public exhibition rides on a test track 15 years ago, it became the first tram to run under overhead power in Canberra.
The "Canberra tram" now resides at the Sydney Tramway Museum. Would it not be historically appropriate to bring it back so it could be part of the opening ceremonies for the light rail system?
Letter, The Canberra Times, March 29 2018 from Rohan Goyne, Evatt
I read about the City Gateway Proposal, which includes the intention to downgrade Northbourne Avenue from an arterial road to a two-lane pedestrian boulevard, but this appears to be without any consideration for the future transport needs of residents of North West Belconnen.
I recently FOI'd the traffic impact studies for the Ginderry development situated at the end of Ginninderra Drive.
The study concluded that the impact of the development on Ginninderra Drive would be an additional 10,000 car movements per day or four to five additional lanes of traffic. Ginninderra Drive currently connects North West Belconnen residents to the City via Mouat Street onto Northbourne Avenue.
There is also other development proposed on the CSIRO land bounded by the Barton Highway and Owen Dixon Drive estimated at 10,000 dwellings.
The impact of this development on traffic utilising Ginninderra Drive connecting to the city via Northbourne Avenue is unclear but presumably substantial.
Some questions arise: How are north-west Belconnen residents expected to get to Civic if their arterial road link Northbourne Avenue is downgraded?
Is light rail ever coming to the largest satellite city, which is growing 3.7 per cent from the last census?
Will the capacity of light rail (if it ever arrives) replace the lost capacity of the downgraded Northbourne Avenue? If not, why not?
It appears that the Gateway proposal is proceeding in isolation from the broader city wide impacts, and the scheduled consultation is currently aimed at the inner north only. Finally, does the Belconnen Community Council have a view? If so what is it?
Letter, The Canberra Times, March 29 2018 from Kent Fitch, Nicholls
Would Kevin Cox (Letters, March 27) consider the alarm clock as a hubristic technological solution to the human problem of waking up, or the calculator a hubristic technological solution to the human problem of erratic long division?
Shared electric autonomous cars are a technological approach to reducing pollution, road trauma, congestion, dominance of urban environments by roads and the cost of transport. Manually co-ordinated ride-sharing typically loses the battle against the human desire for flexibility and convenience: transport needs to satisfy a wide range of regular and varied requirements.
At the recent Geneva Motor Show, Renault joined the many other manufacturers announcing their autonomous future, unveiling their "EZ-GO" concept car as the model for their city-based shared door-to-door, 24x7, on-demand service.
Seating six in a U shape, the concept model provides walk or roll-in ramp entry. Renault will focus on encouraging shared trips by making passengers safe and comfortable.
The economics of such services have been modelled by many academic and industry analysts as a key reason they will rapidly displace traditional transport in cities such as Canberra: at around 20-35¢ per kilometre all up, costs are less than half those of private cars.
The most optimistic analysis of the Stage 1 tram business case shows it costing the community around $1 per passenger-kilometre travelled, and two-thirds of peak-hour travellers won't even get a seat.
Stage 1 is now a sunk cost, but digging an even deeper hole is pointless.
Letter, The Canberra Times, March 28 2018 from D. Shirley, Narrabundah
Ross Johnson (Letters, March 26) claims that if in the future 25 per cent of travellers use light rail, 75 per cent will use cars. He has forgotten any other form of transport, such as cycling, buses and walking.
Rest assured Ross, all these modes of transport will still be available to Canberrans. The light rail just adds another choice..
Letter, The Canberra Times, March 26 2018 from Kevin Cox, Ngunnawal
Ross Johnson (Letters, March 26) and John Smith (March 24) exhibit the hubris of many who believe in technological solutions to human problems.
Autonomous cars will only solve the problem of traffic congestion if enough people are willing to share their ride.
There are many technological solutions to moving large numbers of people around a city and the sharing of vehicles is a sensible, low-cost way to get more from our transport infrastructure.
The suggestion is that we work out better ways to get people to share non-autonomous cars to deliver people to shared light rail.
The sharing of driven cars could solve our transport infrastructure today without the need for light rail, trams, buses or taxis.
Canberra has more cars than drivers, and when used most of those cars have one or two passengers instead of three or four.
To imagine that an app together with autonomous cars will automatically change people, so they are willing to share cars, is wishful thinking.
What we can do today is to run trials to understand how to convince more people to share cars. Sharing driven cars to the shared light rail would be a good start.
Letter, The Canberra Times, March 26 2018 from Ross Johnson, Belconnen
Kevin Cox (Letters, March 22) categorises autonomous vehicles and light rail as shared transport. He is using semantics to argue his case but in doing so he fails to recognise the distinct and irreconcilable differences between the two modes, and yet he should because he is a technologist and a self-professed futurist.
LR is shared in time, AVs are shared in use; AVs have agile scalability and flexibility, LR does not; AVs will revolutionise lifestyles and the built environment, LR will anchor us to the past.
If LR in this city ever achieves a truly impressive level of patronage, say 25 per cent, it will be because 50 per cent of the population has been forced to live within the corridors, with half of those having no option but to use the LR, while the other 50 per cent of the population will have no access to it even if they want it.
Still, a 25 per cent patronage will look like a successful conversion from the current 3per cent, and yet 75 per cent of us will be travelling in cars.
Letter, The Canberra Times, March 25 2018 from Fred Pilcher, Kaleen
Last week in New Zealand I had the pleasure of riding on Christchurch's tram which, unlike our overblown folly, runs on a loop around the city's major tourist attractions. A $NZ25 ($23) ticket gives you all-day hop-on-hop-off access and the drivers provide expert and entertaining commentary about the sights and attractions.
Instead of shiny new cars, theirs are beautifully restored historic trams, some locally built and some from overseas, including one from Melbourne. The cars themselves are tourist attractions. They all have plenty of seating and they were well patronised during the several hours we used them.
What a lost opportunity. I reckon that a tram running past the airport, the War Memorial, and around the parliamentary precinct would have actually been a useful, practical, and lucrative proposition while still compensating our politicians for their childhood train-set deprivation.
Letter, The Canberra Times, March 24 2018 from John L Smith, Farrer
Light rail advocate Kevin Cox (Letters, March 22) is wrong when he states that sharing vehicles from a driverless vehicle public transport fleet to the satisfaction of all concerned is not a technological problem.
To the contrary, it is technology in the form of a booking and dispatching system that can apply any sharing restrictions that a rider may want, such as women who may want to ride with other women.
His second point that we should ride-share our existing cars to light rail stops, is based on two false premises.
The first is that trams are the right form of large public transport vehicle for Canberra when clearly buses are preferable.
The second is that driving to a tram or bus stop is the right form of shared trip when clearly the entire journeys can be taken by car to the greater advantage of both driver and ride-sharer.
Cox has also failed to justify his assertion that ride-sharing our existing cars would help us move towards the efficient use of driverless vehicles. This problem has already been addressed in the Canberra context. It was shown that a fleet of 23,000 driverless vehicles could efficiently serve all trips taken by private or public transport today.
If we allowed a premium price of $50,000 per vehicle, a 23,000-strong fleet could be deployed for a total cost of $1.15billion, much less than what just the Gunghalin-Civic link of the proposed light rail network will cost.
Letter, The Canberra Times, March 24 2018 from Howard Carew, Isaacs
The news that the NSW government was interested in running light rail from Canberra to Queanbeyan ("Next stop ... Queanbeyan?" Canberra Times, March 22, p1) gave a light-hearted touch to an otherwise mainly depressing dishing out of what's going on.
Considering first that the heavy rail from Canberra to Sydney is getting rolled by Murrays Bus Service, then taking into account that the Canberra to Cooma and points east heavy rail has been closed for years, the proposal to extend light rail to Queanbeyan will provide a good laugh to anyone who knows anything at all about public transport.
Again allied to the fact that more Canberra people are shifting to Queanbeyan because of extortionate land prices, if I was the NSW government I would consider a better option was to build up Queanbeyan's industrial infrastructure.
If that was to happen I think that we would finish up with a set-up like the border towns Albury-Wodonga. Melbourne which has, second to Moscow, the biggest tram network worldwide has never in well over 100 years ever turned a profit. Three consortiums have been offered the infrastructure free of charge if they could make a profit. The Victorian government is on its fourth consortium at the moment.
To my memory, Melbourne trams run within a 15-kilometre arc from the city centre. Civic to Queanbeyan would be outside that arc with a fraction of Melbourne's users. Truly the suggestion has an Alice in Wonderland quality that I am sure will appeal to the Mad Hatters in our ACT government.
Letter, The Canberra Times, March 23 2018 from Maureen Fisher, Hawker
Light rail for Canberra. Barr humbug.
Letter, The Canberra Times, March 22 2018 from Kevin Cox, Ngunnawal
It is pleasing to see John Smith (Letters, March 18) advocating the idea of sharing vehicles as a way to reduce costs and to make better use of our transport infrastructure.
What is not pleasing is his inconsistent behaviour of attacking shared vehicles where the vehicle is a tram. We do not have to wait for driverless cars to share vehicles. We share them now with family, friends and paying customers.
Sharing vehicles is a human problem. It is not a technological problem. We want to share with others only when there are rules around the behaviour of others. We have some rules for vehicles with drivers. We have not yet worked out the rules for sharing driverless vehicles.
Smith could start working towards the sharing of driverless vehicles by supporting those who are willing to share light-rail vehicles. He could productively spend his time advocating and promoting the sharing of existing cars to get people to the light-rail shared vehicles.
This would serve two purposes. It would increase patronage of light rail and give us a better return on our investment and it would help us move towards the efficient use of driverless vehicles.
Letter, The Canberra Times, March 22 2018 from Paul E Bowler, Chapman
John Davenport ("Critics miss their tram", CT letters, Mar 19) says that we "doomsday" critics of the Canberra light rail project seem to be "out of step with planners and citizens of other smaller Australian cities".
He cites the existing (and soon to be extended) Gold Coast system and the planned system for Newcastle. Dealing with the latter city first, the planned light rail system is only a replacement, by light rail, of part of a standard rail system which served Newcastle well for a very long time! It reminds me of the Croydon Tramlink system in south London.
The Gold Coast system ("GLINK") is a new system, planned properly. It starts in the northwest, at Helensvale rail station (trains to and from Brisbane, including Brisbane Airport), serves the Gold Coast University Hospital complex and then winds its way southwards through the main centres of attraction (for the locals and the myriads of visitors) of Southport, Main Beach, Surfers Paradise and Broadbeach.
As noted it is to be extended to Burleigh Heads – hopefully it will be extended further south again to the Gold Coast Airport!
The (positive) business case for the project was real, unlike the piece of fiction served up for the Gungahlin tram!
The circumstances of both the Gold Coast and Newcastle, in respect of light rail systems, do not and probably will not ever exist in Canberra — so being "out of step" with the good burgers of both cites is not an issue. Getting the right public transport system for Canberra and all its citizens is!
Letter, The Canberra Times, March 21 2018 from Andrew James Grose, Torrens
It's time to talk about moving the Woden bus station from a dying Woden Town Centre over to the dirt car park opposite The Canberra Hospital on Yamba Drive.
I've seen hundreds of empty peak hour buses enter and leave the Woden bus station over the past few years. People simply will not catch a bus that doesn't travel directly to TCH.
Changing buses at Woden Town Centre to get to work at TCH is a big waste of time.
Thousands of people work at TCH. Relocating the Woden bus station there could take thousands of cars off a ridiculously congested Hindmarsh Drive at peak hour and free up car parking spaces at full TCH car parks. It's a no-brainer!
And the new Light Rail has to stop at TCH. Hundreds would use it to get to work on a daily basis. If it stopped at a dead Woden Town Centre, you'd get empty peak hour trams as well as buses.
If the ACT government is intent on revitalising Woden Town Centre as a high-rise residential centre, that's a great idea. A lot of these people are likely to work at TCH. They'll use the bus to get to work many more times than they will on the weekends for leisure – they've got to realise that public transport is predominantly used by people to get to work, so a transport hub should be besides a large employer, not a high-density residential area.
These are obvious solutions to fix traffic problems, empty buses, potentially empty trams and a Woden Town Centre that will no longer be a major employment hub.
Letter, The Canberra Times, March 19 2018 from John Davenport, Farrer
The doomsday critics of Canberra's light rail, which they attempt to describe as 19th century technology, seem to be out of step with planners and citizens of other smaller Australian cities.
Stage Three of the Gold Coast's very successful light rail system is to be extended from Broadbeach to Burleigh Heads.
Newcastle's light rail system is to begin operation early next year from Wickham to Newcastle Beach, and Stage Two is already being planned to operate from Wickham to Broadmeadow.
Letter, The Canberra Times, March 18 2018 from John L Smith, Farrer
"My challenge to everyone in this room is to be at the cutting edge of communication, to put up contentious, risky and interesting ideas ... we definitely have to change ..." ("I hate journalists ... Andrew Barr", Canberra Times, March 12).
Is this the same Andrew Barr who when given control over this unique city chose centralisation, high-rise buildings and trams as the pillars of development?
Just in case Mr Barr's resolve for renewal should extend to urban planning, I would like to quote Jeremy Dalton, an urban planner and strategy technologist invited to a Transport Innovation workshop hosted by the ACT government recently.
In his public lecture on February22, Dalton aligned himself with a widely held view among experts that within 10 years almost all urban trips would be taken by driverless vehicles in shared mobility mode.
Mr Barr, could we have some government funding put to openly investigating this contentious and interesting idea in the Canberra context?
Letter, The Canberra Times, March 16 2018 from Geoff Barker, Flynn
Andrew Barr does not think much of traditional media but he has spent millions of dollars to ensure ACT has a very traditional form of transport in the form of a tram.
Letter, The Canberra Times, March 13 2018 from Patricia Saunders, Chapman
Paul E. Bowler's assertion (Letters, March 11) "We only have the tram because Shane Rattenbury saw one in Portland, Oregon", is incorrect. Light rail for Canberra had its origin in the ACT Greens' response to the Conservation Council of the South-East Region and Canberra's 1997 paper "Canberra at the Crossroads: a way out of the transport mess". The paper is available at the ACT Heritage Library.
Letter, The Canberra Times, March 13 2018 from R. Morison, Theodore
Advertising for the ACT election showed that ACT Labor costed the development of a light rail route at $614 million, and another $30 million for concept and design.
But the Auditor-General indicated the ACT budget will need to accommodate the expected cost of the Capital Metro Light Project of approximately $939 million (present value, January 2016) or $1.78 billion, just for Stage 1 alone. Big discrepancy.
Now, ACT Labor is the party of fairness in Canberra, with a proud record of fighting for equality and of countering discrimination and disadvantage, so says its website. Tell that to the 2000 public housing tenants waiting for a place to call home, or the 2000 homeless without shelter in this most well-off of jurisdictions.
I am so glad we have a democratically elected government that has a proud record of fighting for equality and of countering discrimination and disadvantage.
Letter, The Canberra Times, March 12 2018 from John Mungoven, Stirling
In my view, the likelihood of light rail proceeding to Woden is near zero (unless madness prevails).
The multitude of arguments against are too numerous to fully list here.
Fait accompli to stage one. So, why not make the project more useful and continue the route around London Circuit and backto Northbourne Avenue in a neat circle?
This would access more workplaces, retail areas, theatres, New Acton, the law precinct, ANU etc and encourage usage from the north and return far more than current plans.
One or two additional trams could also be designated to operate free in a continuous-circuit-only "City Loop", encouraging usage by those, including tourists, wishing to avoid a long walk or drive across the city area.
That would really get bums on seats and improve and smarten the city experience.
Letter, The Canberra Times, March 12 2018 from Chris Doyle, Gordon
Contrary to what Mary Robbie (Letters, May 7) believes, there certainly was a mandate for light rail, given that both the ACT elections in 2012 and 2016 were fought on the issue.
The choice for voters couldn't have been any clearer in both elections.
A vote for the ACT Greens or ACT Labor was a vote for light rail.
Prior to the 2012 election the ACT Greens committed to "the first stage of light rail" and ACT Labor promised "a public private partnership to build lightrail".
Prior to the 2016 election both ACT Labor and the ACT Greens committed to Stage 2, whereas the Canberra Liberals took the position that "should the Canberra Liberals win the October 2016 election we will tear up the contracts".
The ACT Greens and ACT Labor received more votes than the Canberra Liberals in both elections, granting them the authority to pursue the policy of light rail for Canberra.
Letter, The Canberra Times, March 12 2018 from Paul E. Bowler, Chapman
Agreed, Bob Salmond ("Northbourne Canyon", Letters, March 8), a disaster is being prepared for us.
We only have the tram because Shane Rattenbury saw one in Portland, Oregon, and decided that Canberra should have one.
On that trip he must have visited Chicago or New York, strolled along State Street or Fifth Avenue and decided that Northbourne Avenue should look like either "canyon".
Perhaps he did not notice that along both "canyons" the metro rail line runs under the street, not along it!
Time to repeal the Self-government Act of 1988.
Letter, The Canberra Times, March 10 2018 from John Rodriguez, Florey
Overall I have always agreed with your editorial comments. However on this occasion ("It's time to build houses, not units", March 7) I cannot agree with your views.
Please, allow me to use an old saying to preface my disagreement with your views: "Affluence causes waste.".
Indeed, thousands of acres settled by three, four, five-bedroom houses inhabited by couples with 1.9 children, or single parents with a child, or a couple of pensioners, or even a single person, is not the most efficient way to use the land and resources available to us. Nor is it the best residential strategy to create communities. Endless rows of "golden cages" with a local pizza takeaway does not make a community.
In these days, when we are so concerned with the effect of our actions on the environment, it is difficult to reconcile the perpetuation of the quarter-acre block culture given the environmental consequences of meeting all aspects of the infrastructure required to ensure reasonable comfort for the residents. So, for example, on a city of scarcely 400,000 people we already "need" a light rail system to move a handful of people from their quarter-acre blocks in woop woop to the city centre every morning! Aside from the dollar cost, in a city like Canberra, to swap a flexible bus system for a rigid rail system makes the same environmental sense as building one house where six units could be accommodated. Well-planned and priced units developments bring people closer together.
Letter, The Canberra Times, March 10 2018 from John L. Smith, Farrer
"It's time to build houses, not units" (Editorial, March 7). Hear, hear!
You note that people are indicating this preference by moving to Googong and Murrumbateman, while developers are encouraged to spoil the bush capital by concentrating employment locations (Mike Quirk, March 8), by spoiling the Northbourne vista (Bob Salmond, March 8) and by the destruction of the lake foreshore (Heather Stewart, March 7).
You did not address the question of where these houses would be built – Ginninderry, Molonglo, Kowen, even south of the Murrumbidgee?
For a century now, people have looked for their own space knowing that the motor car makes it possible. No fleet of trams running between Gunghalin and Woden is going to curb this phenomenon.
Wherever the houses are built, Canberra will remain a sparsely populated region in terms of transport planning, inappropriate for light rail but with basic mobility needs able to be met economically by a well-planned and well-managed bus system.
The car will always be the primary means of mobility. Those of us who follow the rapid development of the driverless car and its deployment as a shared resource have no fear that everyone who wants a backyard can have one without creating traffic congestion or a never-ending demand for road space.
Letter, The Canberra Times, March 9 2018 from John Mungoven, Stirling
Apartment/unit residents in Northbourne Avenue beware.
There will be a multitude of new apartment residents in the Northbourne Avenue corridor in the next few years.
Many will continue to drive to work (beyond Civic) – we Canberrans do love our cars and convenience dies hard, particularly in winter. Parking for residents' vehicles will generally be underground.
Northbourne Avenue is also likely to be reduced to two (congested) lanes each way in a sector near London Circuit. Has anybody thought how difficult it may be to exit underground car parks during peak hour?
I foresee significant delays for those attempting to enter the road from their residences.
I predict increased vehicle congestion, not less, as a result of light rail and the partial narrowing of Northbourne.
This may impact traffic flows reaching back over the whole inner north of the city. Unforeseen consequences indeed.
Letter, The Canberra Times, March 8 2018 from Bob Salmond, Melba
Until recently Northbourne Avenue provided a pleasant pedestrian experience. There was a wide grassed median strip, and the buildings along the avenue were short and in many cases set well back, thus providing a garden setting.
This treasure is currently being destroyed.
The latest proposal provides for a concrete tramway corridor to replace the grassed median strip, for the existing garden-like set-backs to be abolished, and for the short buildings to be replaced with tall ones. The resulting Northbourne Canyon will be pathetic.
Pedestrian numbers will soon increase dramatically, as will distances walked because the tram stops will be far apart. There is a compelling argument to improve the pedestrian environment by providing a garden setting.
A visionary government would allow no further building within 50 metres of the roadway. All current vacant spaces would be converted into gardens or off-road bus stops. Remaining buildings would be removed when their lives expired.
The new closest buildings would be short, with heights stepped back from the avenue.
The government can exploit a once-only opportunity to develop a world-class boulevard, or it can condemn this city to everlasting mediocrity.
Letter, The Canberra Times, March 7 2018 from Mary Robbie, Aranda
There was no mandate for the light rail, neither on the Gunghalin nor Woden route. With the election results tied between Labor and Liberal, and Shane Rattenbury, the only Green MLA, holding the balance of power, Katy Gallagher gave into him and the light rail to retain her job as Chief Minister. She then went on to greener pastures.
Letter, The Canberra Times, March 6 2018 from Lee Welling, Nicholls
As someone who was born and brought up in a council flat in London, I'm constantly reminded of its drab, soulless environs whenever I drive along the tram route. Now, the ACT Politburo is to extend its social engineering project under the guise of creating "Urban villages". There's nothing village-like about these.
The government is merely stacking ratepayers higher and higher, in buildings with a proportionally small footprint, so as to get more bang for their buck and to force the occupants to use the People's Tram.
Young families, who can't afford to buy into the increasingly over-priced market for house/block packages are the big losers in all this.
As Cat Stevens once observed, when a similar process was going on in Britain: "I know we've come a long way, We're changing day to day, But tell me, where do the children play?"
Welcome to Mr Barr's brave new world, kids. Turn on those computers, there's not a lot else you can do.
Letter, The Canberra Times, March 6 2018 from Douglas Mackenzie, Deakin
Lee Welling, in labelling the ACT government's plans for Northbourne Avenue "early 20th century", is closer to the mark than Danny Corvini (both in Letters, March 5), who refers to the ACT government's plans for central Canberra (chiefly the Northbourne Avenue precinct) as "21st century".
Modern cities, especially in view of the increasing pressures of climate change, need more green space, not more concrete pavements and bitumen roads, to help keep temperatures down. Neither do they need more – or any – very tall buildings to overshadow the valuable recreational value of that green space.
I also agree with Lee Welling's description of the Northbourne Avenue transport system – presumably the light rail – as "19th century" and with Mike Quirk's comments about electric buses (also Letters, March 5).
All-electric or hybrid bus networks are vastly less costly to operate than will be our light-rail system. Such buses also have the huge advantages of being very flexible in where they can travel, less disruptive of motor vehicle traffic, and in not requiring an extremely expensive extra trams-only structure across Lake Burley Griffin.
Letter, The Canberra Times, March 5 2018 from Bruce Paine, Red Hill
The announcement of the planned high-rise developments ("ACT hits new heights", March 2, p1) raises at least two important questions.
First, what has happened to the Assembly inquiry into "Better planning processes, consultation and outcomes" that Labor and the Greens promised?
This inquiry was, among other things, "to recommend changes to the Territory Plan".
This inquiry would have been able to investigate the costs and benefits of the high-rise plan and could have engaged in proper community consultation. However it appears the promise, has become "non-core", or given the announcement.
Secondly, it notes Northbourne will be reduced to two lanes each way.
Why didn't we save money by converting an existing lane to a peak hour bus only lane, rather than building light rail?
Letter, The Canberra Times, March 5 2018 from Phil O'Brien, Watson
Congratulations to Bill Meani for his brilliant expose of the proposed removal of the excellent Watson-Civic bus service and it's substitution for a Watson-Dickson service requiring Civic bound passengers to transfer to the southbound tram (Letters, February 26).
I had heard rumours of this change and rang Mr Barr's office to check. I got a recorded message saying my call would be returned. It wasn't.
I therefore emailed Mr Barr asking for verification of the service change and was at first delighted to get an immediate email response. Unfortunately that is all it was — a computer generated email that did not refer to my simple question at all. It featured a portrait of a beaming Mr Barr advising me that I may eventually get a reply or that my query may be referred to another minister and that I would have to be patient as he got a lot of emails.
I phoned Mr Barr's office again and was told it was not possible to reply to all emails because they received so many. I would have thought that answering legitimate simple questions from constituents would be a first priority of any elected representative.
It could be of course Mr Barr and his government feel they no longer have to listen to constituents who do not share their enthusiasm for 19th century public transport.
The only issue Mr Meani did not raise was cost. At present pensioners travel free on the Watson-Civic bus. Will such travellers now be slugged with a tram fare on top of all the other inconveniences that he so well illustrated.
Letter, The Canberra Times, March 5 2018 from Mike Quirk, Garran
Recent letters highlight widespread concern about the extension of light rail to Woden.
Part of the concern stems from the Barr government not having a clear mandate for the Civic to Gungahlin light rail let alone its extension to Woden.
The return of the government is likely to have been a result of the social and economic conservatism of the Liberal party.
The current Tasmanian election is instructive. While poker machines have been the dominant issue, polls indicate it is a vote changing issue for only 14 per cent.
Further concerns derive from the failure of the proposal to consider alternatives, including busways, and trends influencing future travel demand including changing lifestyles, working hours, employment and residential location, electric buses and automated vehicles.
Changes in electric battery technology make light rail a high risk strategy.
Electric vehicle technology has advanced sufficiently for a large electric bus, with up to 300 passengers and capable of travelling at 70km/h, to begin operations this year in Zhuzhou in Hunan Province.
This "trackless tram" potentially meets the objectives of light rail at a fraction of the cost. As battery technology improves its viability will increase.
No decision on the extension of light rail should occur until a detailed assessment of land use/transport futures is undertaken.
Light rail is a technology unlikely to meet Canberra's transport needs.
Funds saved from its non-construction could be used to improve bus services throughout the city.
Letter, The Canberra Times, March 2 2018 from Brian Hale, Wanniassa
Graham Downie and Bill Meani (Letters February 26 and 27) further expose facts of light rail madness.
What are the chances we may soon see something like the following in your classifieds section:
FOR SALE: Light rail system. Brand new under warranty some carriages unwrapped many available, more shipments arriving through 2018. Large quantity of concrete ready for crushing (suitable for filling in parts of Lake Burley Griffin). Tons of steel rails for Street art projects. Pick up only ONO $1 oops $1B, prefer cash!
Contact Andrew or Shane London Circuit ACT.
Letter, The Canberra Times, March 2 2018 from Robert Nelson, Kambah
I wonder how much of Sunday's unprecedented flooding around the Northbourne Ave, O'Connor, and Southwell Park area was caused by the blocked and missing drains as a result of the tram construction?
Letter, The Canberra Times, March 1 2018 from Nick Murray, Evatt
Given that Northbourne Avenue was under water for much of Sunday, could Andrew or Shane please let us know if the tram floats? More seriously, fixed transport infrastructure can't be re-routed if there is a repeat of Sunday's weather. Busses, on the other hand, can go anywhere they like.
Letter, The Canberra Times, March 1 2018 from A. V. Peterson, Kambah
Each time I travel north from Civic, I am confronted by the mess made by the tram works. The possibility the same kind of mess could happen on the south side appals me.
Letter, The Canberra Times, March 1 2018 from Maria Greene, Curtin
Graham Downie (Letters, February27) needs to read Alice in Wonderland. This would explain to him how making public transport less efficient and less convenient encourages people to use it.
Letter, The Canberra Times, February 28 2018 from Neville Exon, Chapman
First the damn tram — now the tram dam. It never rains but it pours.
Letter, The Canberra Times, February 28 2018 from P. Swaffield, Curtin
Mike Quirk (Letters, February 23) complains "The lack of an effective and electable opposition is contributing to poor decisions of which light rail is the most obvious..."
The opposition before the election on the tram was definitely opposed to it. If the electorate which is so vehemently against the tram had voted for it instead of all the offshoot independents such as Can the Tram, we may now have saved a lot of anguish on this matter.
Letter, The Canberra Times, February 28 2018 from James Mahoney, McKellar
What a great idea Kevin Connor (Letters, February 26). If the light rail opponents of the southside don't want light rail, make it work for the east-west axis to the airport like you suggest, perhaps with a spur to Kingston.
The only problem with this is that we'll then have to endure more letters from the southside complaining they haven't got it. But, then, we are becoming used to this as light rail seems to be the reason advanced for every failure in this city. Give it a rest, people. It is happening.
Letter, The Canberra Times, February 28 2018 from David Jenkins, Casey
People such as Bill Meani (Letters, February 26) are finally awakening to the bitter reality of the tram, something about which many Gungahlin residents are already aware.
That is, existing bus services will be cannibalised and a metaphorical gun held to patrons' heads in order to force them onto the tram. The government has to attempt to justify this folly somehow. Who wants to use two different transport modes when one currently suffices? One would assume one fare would cover both modes but, with this rapacious government, nothing can be taken for granted. And no tram stop for Mitchell.
Letter, The Canberra Times, February 28 2018 from Bob Nairn, Hawker
My studies, based on patronage forecasts with internationally recognised modelling, fully credible economic analysis and costing based on the current costs in Canberra, shows that, compared with 0.56 for the City-Gungahlin project, the City-Woden project earns a benefit-cost ratio of 0.47. The whole Gungahlin-Woden project, instead of improving the B/C ratio, actually reduces it to 0.41 as there is insufficient forecast travel between Gungahlin and Woden. It is normal for B/C ratios to be expected to be well in excess of 1 and more than 2 is the normal expectation for implementation of transport projects in Australia. This is partly because many of the benefits are real but intangible and therefore risky.
Therefore it is also normal for the economic evaluation to include risk assessment allowing for the compounding of potential risk effects.
Including risk assessment reduces the B/C ratio for the City-Woden project to 0.39 and for the combined Gungahlin-Woden to 0.32 (City-Gungahlin was 0.48).
I believe this analysis of the probable economic results should be made public.
Letter, The Canberra Times, February 27 2018 from Graham Downie, O'Connor
The madness of Canberra's light rail project has been revealed by myself and many others for several years but generally Canberrans have remained ignorant of this public transport vandalism.
In my report for The Canberra Times of December 10, 2014, "The trouble with Canberra's light rail plan", I made it clear many northside residents would lose direct bus services to Civic and beyond.
I said then, "People from suburbs such as Kaleen and Giralang will probably have to change to the tram at Dickson, as will those travelling from northern suburbs such as Hackett and Watson. Gungahlin residents who have direct services to Civic now will have to join the tram from a feeder bus service to Hibberson Street."
Yet in his letter, "Transport Canberra's light rail madness has finally been revealed" (CT February 26) Bill Meani implies the public has only recently learned that buses will terminate at Dickson to force people on to the tram.
Understandably, people who have not followed this matter closely cannot know all of the government's plan to make its inefficient public transport even more inefficient.
This project is based on the government's obsession with development and has little if anything to do with public transport. So the government does not care that it will make journeys for many people longer and less comfortable.
No supporter of this $1billion project has shown how it will improve public transport or indeed transport generally.
And the dislocation now recognised by Bill Meani has not been widely promulgated by the government or Transport Canberra.
Far less expensive and far more efficient options were available but Canberra has been saddled with this project which in all likelihood will see a net loss of public transport passengers.
Letter, The Canberra Times, February 26 2018 from Kevin Connor, Kaleen
As a long-time proponent of light rail for Canberra I believe it would be a waste of money to construct light rail infrastructure to Woden when there are so many critics of it (the majority of whom live on the southside).
The second line should be an East-West line from the airport to a city west terminus (as near as possible to the ANU).
Unfortunately, this suggested line has to traverse "designated land" that belongs to the Commonwealth.
This is the downside to our city. The adversarial nature of politics, including the planning systems.
Letter, The Canberra Times, February 26 2018 from Colin Lyons, Weetangera
Patrick O'Hara from Isaacs (February 19) chastises Zed Seselja and says he just does not get it with regard to the proposed light rail extension. It is instructive that on the same day as Mr O'Hara says Zed is out of touch, three other correspondents to the paper sharply criticise the light rail project and highlight its fundamental shortcomings.
O'Hara's logic appears to be that just because voters voted for one stage of a project (nearly 18 months ago), then irrespective of cost blowouts and subsequent revelations about the dubious merits of the project, we should give the ACT government a blank cheque to waste even more money on it. The opportunity cost of this project is enormous and the taxpayers of this city, already slugged with high rates and charges will pay a heavy price for this foolhardy transport infrastructure investment. Perhaps Patrick O'Hara just doesn't get it.
Letter, The Canberra Times, February 26 2018 from Jan Darby, Isabella Plains
As Patrick O'Hara states (Letters, February 19) and was indicated irrefutably by the postal survey, the majority of Canberrans want gay marriage. However, I query how he justifies his claim that "the majority of Canberrans want light rail".
Has he done a survey? Let us remember that just 38.4 per cent of Canberrans voted Labor and 10.3 per cent voted Greens and this certainly does not represent a majority.
In my (admittedly) limited and anecdotal survey of Tuggeranong residents, even rusted-on Labor voters, light rail isn't popular.
While northerners may benefit directly and therefore think it is a great idea, the majority of southerners I have spoken to think it is a complete waste of time and (our) money.
As the tram rolls along, Canberrans are now better informed about the many everyday charges that have had to be increased to pay for it and their hip pockets are being hit. I now wonder how many are still genuine supporters of this seeming obsession of Messrs Barr and Rattenbury.
Letter, The Canberra Times, February 26 2018 from Bill Meani, Watson
Existing bus services such as the route 39 from Watson to Civic will terminate at the new Dickson Bus Interchange with passengers forced off the bus on to the light rail service. This is going to add a minimum of nine minutes to the journey to Civic during peak periods and up to 30 minutes in non-peak periods.
There are only 66 seats out of 207 on each light rail service, so passengers forced off their buses at Dickson will have no chance of finding a seat.
Added to this, passengers will be forced to cross over Northbourne Avenue to get to the light rail stop at Dickson and again to cross over Northbourne Avenue at Civic to go to the Canberra Centre. The elderly and disabled will be hardest hit with no shelter in wet weather and during the cold winter months, forced off a comfortable bus to cross a dangerous road on to a crowded tram.
What other northside bus services are going to terminate at Dickson just to make the passenger numbers on the light rail service look good?
Give the passengers a choice; retain the existing bus services on the northside. There will be enough passengers using the light rail from Gungahlin to make it viable instead of putting bus passengers' lives in danger.
Letter, The Canberra Times, February 24 2018 from Mike Quirk, Garran
The announcement by Minister Mick Gentleman of a review of the ACT planning strategy later this year is welcome.
For meaningful outcomes the review needs to be well resourced to enable the complexity of the interaction between housing, transport, environmental and employment variables to be fully understood. In particular, it needs to identify the travel, social, environmental, financial and infrastructure implications of alternative residential and employment distributions and identify the most appropriate transport mix to accommodate these land use distributions. Inadequate resources would indicate the government is not fully committed to the review and would result in a strategy short on analysis and long on platitudes. It would provide limited guidance as to when and where development should occur.
The strategy, to be credible, requires a strong evidence base and have an associated implementation plan indicating agency responsibilities and the likely timing and cost of infrastructure. In doing so, it should minimise the chance of projects with poor social, economic and environmental outcomes being approved.
The success of the strategy requires well informed community input. The effectiveness of previous strategies has been reduced by limited and superficial information available to the community. Decisions on the extension of light rail to Woden and on the next greenfields settlement area should await the completion of the review. Let's hope the Assembly, the bureaucracy and the community are up to the challenge so that Canberra can be an exemplar of 21st century city development.
Letter, The Canberra Times, February 23 2018 from Mike Quirk, Garran
Patrick O'Hara (Letters, February 19) just doesn't get it. The Canberra community was grossly misled by the Barr-Rattenbury government about the costs and benefits of the Civic to Gungahlin light rail and is committed to its extension to Woden despite the absence of any assessment of its costs and benefits.
As was the case with light rail stage one, the government is refusing to respond to genuine concerns about the extension.
Unfortunately, to paraphrase Donald Trump, Andrew Barr could shoot somebody and wouldn't lose any votes.
The lack of an effective and electable opposition is contributing to poor decisions of which light rail is the most obvious. Public funds are limited and should be used responsibly.
It is highly unlikely that the extension of light rail would be a higher priority than pressing demands in housing, health, education, public transport and disability services.
While it is disappointing that it could take a federal inquiry to assess the merits of light rail, something has to be done to constrain the Barr government as it is performing as a mediocre local government responding to the interests of developers rather than those of the wider community.
The government's credibility can be restored if it defers a decision on the light rail to Woden until the completion of review of the planning strategy, mooted to commence later this year.
Letter, The Canberra Times, February 22 2018 from Kevin Cox, Ngunnawal
, like Bruce Paine (Letters, February 19), would welcome a Senate inquiry into light rail stage 2. We all have a pretty good idea of the total cost, but we have little idea of the details of cost and benefits calculations, and we have no idea of funding costs. However, Bruce Paine should leave any calculations to others. His cost per metre is off by at least an order of magnitude.
Letter, The Canberra Times, February 20 2018 from John L. Smith, Farrer
Your editorial "Chief Minister's light rail election hint raises questions about stage two" (canberratimes.com.au, February 14) should have read "the network", not just "stage two".
The light rail network for Canberra is a dead duck and the Gungahlin-Civic link will be a white elephant adorning whatever "iconic" gateway to Canberra that Malcolm Snow can bring about while pleasing property developers.
When you state with respect to stage two that "it is hard to see how an expensive tram service would be able to match a well-planned express bus service on either a travelling time or cost basis" this has always been the case for the entire Canberra region.
When "Mr Barr said if necessary he would seek a mandate for the [stage two] proposal at the next territory election in 2020", what he means is that by 2020 the prospects for a future public transport system using driverless vehicle technology will have become so apparent that building light rail in the 2020 decade would win about as many votes as building the gas-fired power station in Hume.
It is interesting that Mr Barr is sending his Deputy Director-General Transport Canberra, Duncan Edghill, to speak at the MaaS (Mobility as a Service) conference in Sydney in May. I don't know what he has to offer, but hopefully the ACT government will become better attuned to technology than when it made the decision to build light rail stage one.
Letter, The Canberra Times, February 19 2018 from Peter Toscan, Amaroo
Re "Rates rise may force unit owner to delay retirement" (February 15, p2).
Whilst we all have sympathy with Ms Young and other apartment owners, I believe all ACT voters were warned what would transpire if Barr/Rattenbury were returned to government at the last ACT election, ie rates would skyrocket.
How else were they going to pay for their white elephant, the Tonka Tram.
If you think it's bad enough now, just wait till they sign off on the Woden link.
Oh and while we're at it, the free kick to developers in the postponing lease variation charges. Sorry Ms Young ... this is your life.
Letter, The Canberra Times, February 19 2018 from Patrick O'Hara, Isaacs
Zen Seselja just doesn't get it. The majority of Canberrans want light rail. His personal conservative base didn't. The majority of Canberrans wanted gay marriage. His personal conservative base didn't.
Being one of the political representatives of the ACT in federal parliament should involve representing the interests of all Canberrans. The decision to have a light rail system has been made. Canberra voters have told him what they want, twice.
Is Mr Seselja's prime interest the people and future of the ACT or simply the interests and the future of Mr Seselja?
Letter, The Canberra Times, February 19 2018 from John Griffin, Hughes
I see that Chief Minister Barr (February 15) has told the Legislative Assembly that he wants to give up Canberra's unique urban planning advantages — the admiration of Australians and foreigners alike — so that Canberra can look like "anywhere else in the world".
May he live to see it.
And no, I'm not from the 1940s.
Letter, The Canberra Times, February 19 2018 from Bruce Paine, Red Hill
A Senate inquiry into the proposed stage two of the light rail should be welcomed since it should publish a proper cost-benefit analysis (never available for stage one), reduce the excessive construction cost apparent in stage one (around $700,000 per metre), or encourage Canberrans to think about what more we are giving up if stage two proceeds.
Regarding the last point, stage one has already resulted in continuing pressure to develop and sell public land irrespective of the detrimental impact on the community's wellbeing (eg, West Basin), "re-profiling" (the government's term — meaning defer and defer) of other projects, and a general run-down in services resulting in, for example, longer hospital waiting lists (essentially forcing families to maintain or increase their private health cover, at a cost of thousands per year) and the much commented on lack of mowing.
It will be ironic if the Senate saves the ACT government from itself.
Letter, The Canberra Times, February 19 2018 from Jack Kershaw, Kambah
Re "Seselja to push for inquiry into stage two of light rail" (February 13, p1): Light rail can't go on just one of the two matching central lake crossings, such as the Commonwealth Avenue Bridge, because they need to express themselves strictly identically and symmetrically, and to have trams on both would be stupid, because they converge.
If the madness of trams is to continue, or in any case, we should look to Griffin's missing central crossing.
It would take the form of a gently curving (circular) low-level car/tram/bike/pedestrian (no heavy vehicles) bridge, springing from lower Lawson Crescent on Acton Peninsula to the south of the Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies, and making southern landfall tangentially on a significantly-increased-in-area Lennox Gardens.
This crossing preserves the Commonwealth-Kings Avenue Bridge symmetry; the yacht course in West Lake; the integrity of the Acton Peninsula land form (by not having a intrusive bridge sticking off the end of it — never in Griffin's plans); completes his circular form of West Basin to the south; provides much-needed connectivity between Civic-Acton, Parkes, the Parliamentary Zone, and beyond; stimulates a better, more lively development plan for the peninsula and the adjoining Australian National University land; and delivers new good circular-edged, sunny, north-facing Lennox Gardens lakeside land for recreational use, which would be far better than the currently proposed West Basin apartment-compromised, south-facing (sun-deprived), expensive (with Parkes Way vertically duplicated) City-to-the-Lake precinct.
Letter, The Canberra Times, February 17 2018 from Mike Quirk, Garran
Mr Barr in his arrogant and ageist dismissal of concerns about building height "nostalgia among a certain generation of Canberrans ...small town, backwards 1940s mindset" displays his superficial understanding of planning, transport and housing issues.
His attitude of "higher the building the better" ignores issues that need to be considered in determining building height including overshadowing, scale, energy and water use, traffic, parking and street impact.
His vision of a high-density future Canberra is predicated on the majority of the population wanting to live in high-rise apartments in accessible areas. While this is the lifestyle choice of some, predominantly singles and couples without children, no evidence is presented that this is the dominant choice of Canberrans.
Indeed work undertaken for the government by Winton (2015) indicates a strong preference by those surveyed for detached dwellings.
While demand for higher density housing is increasing, it is unclear how much is a result of lifestyle changes and how much is a response to reduced housing affordability and increased congestion caused by government ineptitude.
The government's superficial understanding of urban issues is also indicated by its random land purchases (reflecting an absence of a development strategy for the city) and its obsession with the monumentally expensive light rail project.
The transport task could be adequately met by a busway on which electric buses, with progressively increased passenger capacity would operate.
Funds saved could be used to improve public transport services and to fund the construction of community housing.
Letter, The Canberra Times, February 16 2018 from Mike Quirk, Garran
Recent commentary by Caroline Le Couteur about the need for a comprehensive renewal strategy for the Woden Town Centre, Jack Kershaw on "cuckoo" office development at the Airport and Zed Seselja concerning the desirability of a parliamentary committee into the extension of light rail to Woden, all point to the urgent need to review the ACT planning strategy.
Residential and employment location and transport serving that land use distribution are key components of any planning strategy. The ACT government has considerable influence on residential location through land release and planning policies and one can hope (perhaps optimistically) that it makes decisions after a detailed consideration of infrastructure and environmental costs.
If the ACT government is to increase employment at the town centres, in order to reduce overall travel, infrastructure and environmental costs and support business, it needs to lobby the Commonwealth to consider land-use transport issues when decisions are being made on department location, have serviced sites available and provide incentives such as land grants, rates holidays. In parallel it needs to reduce car usage by increasing the frequency of bus services across the city.
Unfortunately its light rail obsession (why does it advocate an unnecessary, extremely expensive and a technology likely to be superseded shortly by large battery-powered buses) will reduce funds available for such expansion. The government urgently needs to review it priorities if Canberra is to develop as a more sustainable, liveable and inclusive city.
Letter, The Canberra Times, February 16 2018 from M. Flint, Co-ordinator, Smart Canberra Transport, Erindale
Thank you Canberra Times for an excellent editorial on February14 that, among other things, questions whether the mooted stage two of light rail should proceed at all unless there is a compelling economic case.
The sad fact is that, while the government business case for stage one (Gungahlin-Civic) claimed a misleading Benefit Cost Ratio (BCR) of 1.2, experts in the field and the Auditor-General put the BCR at 0.6 or less.
But that did not deter the Rattenbury/Barr government.
Given that the stage one route was undoubtedly the 'most' economic of any at the time, albeit with a BCR of only 0.6, all other planned routes must have been inferior, which is certainly the case.
If a business case for stage two (whenever produced) can prove a genuine BCR of better than 0.40, experts (not including the government) would be astonished, for the reasons given in the editorial.
Stage two light rail is nothing but a shameful, puffed-up election promise.
A second very important point raised in the editorial is that, "The Gungahlin route has gained traction from a noticeable shift in our demographic centre of gravity to the north."
While the tram may have helped in this shift, it is really the result of lopsided social engineering done by this government, namely the generous grants and deductions offered to first-home buyers who can get the grant only on new properties.
Over the years, this has had the very ill effect of sucking the younger generations from the south to the north.
Look no further for evidence of this than the Canberra Times article on underutilised schools, of which 85 per cent of those cited are in the south.
The social disruption to families and real estate values in the south has been profound.
Letter, The Canberra Times, February 15 2018 from Paul E Bowler, Chapman
People seem to have forgotten that up to about six weeks before the 2016 ACT election, "Stage 2" of the light rail project was expected to be from Civic to the airport.
However, ACT Labor received "intelligence" that they could be in difficulty getting enough members returned in the south and — hey presto — Stage 2 suddenly turned ninety degrees and headed to Woden instead.
Of course, that "intelligence" proved wrong and the "political" case for the Woden tram disappeared.
Hopefully, members of the Big House on the hill will ensure the disappearance of the Woden tram is permanent.
Letter, The Canberra Times, February 15 2018 from Mike Hutchinson, Reid
It is disappointing to see such a well-credentialed economist, Andrew Leigh ("Leigh tells Seselja to get on board on rail" February 14, p.4), ditching economic rigour to score a partisan point.
The light rail issues put to the 2012 and 2016 ACT elections were commitments to study ahead of commitments to build.
The reasonable expectation was that adverse study outcomes would end the matter.
Despite clearly material adverse economics (before the fallacious inclusion of urban development benefits that were available anyway), the Gungahlin project was rushed prematurely to irrevocable commitment ahead of the 2016 election.
Net economic effect, around $0.5 billion burned in present value.
The economics of the mooted Woden extension – a transparently political sop to appease the south – will be worse.
While no amount of taxpayers' money is too much to sustain the Barr/Greens faction in office in the ACT, we expect better from the grown-ups in the Federal Parliament.
Bullying is not a good look, Dr Leigh.
Letter, The Canberra Times, February 14 2018 from M. Flint, Co-ordinator, Smart Canberra Transport (SCT), Erindale
I write in reference to your article "Seselja to push for inquiry into stage two of light rail" (February 13, p1).
Senator Seselja said: "I want ... Canberrans to get bang for their buck." The same article reports that Minister Fitzharris advised of $53.5 million committed for Stage 2 in last year's budget but neglected to add that there would be a further $50 million or so to be spent on planning etc before any build contract is let.
Note that the government spent $150 million before the Stage 1 build contract, putting the effective cost of the Stage 1 build to $850 million for 12 kilometres.
Minister Fitzharris appears to stretch the truth a little in saying that "... the federal government had spent $63 million on stage one [sic] of light rail".
In fact, the then federal treasurer, Mr Hockey, under an asset divestment agreement with the states and territories, reluctantly agreed to pay 15 per cent of the value of ACT public assets sold before June 30, 2019, if spent on Stage 1, being about $65 million promised.
Has the ACT government yet sold the $375 million worth of public assets it had forecast?
What relevant public assets the government has actually sold and for how much and how much the federal government has actually paid is yet to be made public in a formal statement.
Letter, The Canberra Times, February 13 2018 from Felix MacNeill, Dickson
Keith Pantlin (Letters, February7) proposes and Bruce Taggert (Letters, February 12) seconds a new rhetorical currency: the Light Rail Dollar.
But a more useful coinage would be the Light Rail Dolor: any time you are feeling dolorous about a perceived government error or a pet project that is not being funded as generously as you would like, you can just roll it out.
The Dolor has many advantages. It is almost universally fungible, in that blaming investment in high quality modern public transport for any particular one of the ills of the world is about as reasonable as blaming it for any other. It minimises the expenditure of effort as one need never again come up with a new idea to explain the cause of any new problem. It is sustainable, being almost infinitely recyclable. And the Dolor is already beginning to burst like a tiny Bitcoin bubble among the noisy minority.
Letter, The Canberra Times, February 8 2018 from Howard Carew, Isaacs
Regarding the proposal to send light rail drivers overseas to learn to drive a tram, the average ratepayer would be torn between laughter and tears. The Royal Australian Air Force has an expectation that a trainee pilot would take only six hours flying with an instructor before he goes solo.
For an experienced car driver to pick up the knack of driving a tram would be approximately an hour.
It would seem commonsense to send one of the 16 to Sydney to take whatever tram driving course they have there and return to Canberra and share the knowledge with the other prospective drivers.
Light rail is a silly idea, which is getting sillier as it progresses.
With self-driving cars on the way there will come a time when tram drivers will be only on the tram in case of a malfunction.
Letter, The Canberra Times, February 7 2018 from Keith Pantlin, Downer
I have recently discovered an amusing pastime. Whenever a new, large project is announced, for example Snowy 2.0, replacement submarines or the Melbourne to Brisbane inland railway, I convert the estimated cost to light rail dollars, each worth $1 billion, the approximate cost of our 12-kilometre light rail.
In this currency, Snowy 2.0 will cost four light rails, each submarine will also be four light rails, and the 1700-kilometre inland railway will cost 10 light rails.
When expressed in light rail dollars, it seems that these huge projects are remarkably cheap, or ... is there another possibility?
Letter, The Canberra Times, January 30 2018 from Howard Carew, Isaacs
Your editorial on the plight of the homeless (January26) was very much to the point.
Over the past two decades we have had primarily an ACT Labor Party which, with the support of the Liberal Party, reduced the supply of public housing by around 3000 units.
The editorial made the point that the billion dollars invested in light rail is a complete waste. The project is against all recommendations from Infrastructure Australia, which invested heavily in the Gold Coast light rail, and prominent economists and transport experts.
St Vinnies and other church welfare organisations are doing their best to help, where this ACT Labor government is shutting its collective eyes.
Canberra had affordable housing from the 1950s to the late 1980s.
Primarily, the Labor government – by dropping over-the-counter sales of land in favour of developer-biased land auctions – sent the price of a housing block soaring beyond the reach of the battlers. Our ACT government is more a real estate agency than a Labor government.
I dearly wish that I could say the Liberals would be a better alternative, but sadly I cannot.
My recommendation, for what it is worth, is to vote independent at the next election.
Letter, The Canberra Times, January 22 2018 from M. Flint, co-ordinator, Smart Canberra Transport, Erindale
In the article "One tram a week ...", (January 18, p.2) I see the Chief Minister again claiming the tram was the secret of his success at the last election. He would do well to stop drinking the government's Kool-aid.
He then refers to "Those sceptics also said there wouldn't be this sort of investment and renewal of the Northbourne corridor ...".
Given that the government is spending $600 million (the government's own figure) to relocate some 1300 public tenants from Northbourne Avenue and elsewhere, Mr Barr's claim may have more credibility if he were to publish a 'balance sheet' of gains/losses for Northbourne Avenue development as a result of the tram.
In respect of Stage 2, Mr Barr expects the Cabinet to consider the business case this month. The business case for Stage 1 was not worth the paper it was written on and that for Stage 2 may not be any better, should the public ever be able to view it.
Letter, The Canberra Times, January 20 2018 from Stan Marks, Hawker
Your article "One tram a week ..." (January 18, p3) quotes Andy Barr as saying that the first tram should be named "Cam", but there are more appropriate names than that.
I think that the first tram should be called the "Katy Gallagher", after the mother of the project.
It was Katy who, in 2012, gave in to Green blackmail and agreed to build the tram for $614 million in order to retain government, even though she must have known that work done under Stanhope found that the project was not viable.
The second tram should be the "Andy Barr", after the project's father.
As Chief Minister, he should have been asking whether there were other places where $900 million could be better spent.
The third tram should be the "Shane Rattenbury" after its spiritual father.
The whole tram project needs a name. I think that the "Great Northern Green Elephant" would do just fine.
Letter, The Canberra Times, January 19 2018 from B. M. Cooke, Latham
We used to proudly call Canberra "The City of Trees" now it is "The City of Weeds".
The managers in charge of the area that looks after the weed problem need to get out of their offices into their cars and drive around Canberra's suburbs.
In Belconnen there are sapling trees and weeds growing out of the drains.
They need also to drive the length of the Tuggeranong Parkway going south, and then coming north continue up William Hovell Drive and the length of Kingsford Smith Drive. Hopefully, they may realise that these areas are just as important as the tram and the city tourist spots.
Letter, The Canberra Times, January 19 2018 from John Davenport, Farrer
Bryan Cossant (Ready To Strike, Letters, January 16) doesn't appear to know the difference between a tram and a train and industrial relations under a Labor government in the ACT and a Liberal/National government in NSW, a government that recently closed Newcastle's railway station and privatised Newcastle's government bus services.
Letter, The Canberra Times, January 11 2018 from Jack Kershaw, Kambah
Who's going to clean the Mannifera bark out of the tram tracks on Northbourne?
Letter, The Canberra Times, January 8 2018 from Murray Upton, Belconnen
One can only ask how much longer it will be before the ACT Legislative Assembly wakes up to the rapidly increasing decay of the city caused by the ACT government's refusal to establish a properly constituted, independent planning authority.
Emeritus professor Patrick Troy of the ANU (Letters, December 26) must be congratulated for once again bringing the assembly's attention to the complete absence of any proper planning in the nation's capital.
In May 2017 Tony Powell, a former commissioner of the National Capital Development Commission, commented that "the ACT government is incapable of improving the dishevelled state of the city and doesn't know how to develop a plan for a town centre".
He felt then that the city we knew and loved may have gone forever.
Although this matter has been raised regularly since by numerous correspondents all bitterly disappointed at the steady decline of the city's liveability and mounting chaos, there is no sign that the assembly recognises the problem. Planning in the ACT government is a total and utter shambles, with no single minister in control.
An inquiry to a minister in May last year brought the response: "Our office has just been clarifying the ministerial responsibility of this issue".
No minister ever responded.
Letter, The Canberra Times, January 6 2018 from Kevin Cox, Ngunnawal
Brian Stone and M Flint (Letters January 4) have misrepresented what I proposed in my letter (Letters, January 2).
I am not discussing the merits of Light Rail. What I am debating is the best way for Canberra residents to arrange the financing of community infrastructure whatever that infrastructure might be.
The ACT government has entered into a Private Public Partnership with a consortium including financiers to fund and build Light Rail. With a PPP the government guarantees a financial return to the private party.
My suggestion to the ACT government is that it goes into Public-Public Partnerships to finance all infrastructure. The first Public in Public-Public is the ACT community. The second Public is the ACT government. Many ACT residents are either on allocated pensions or are saving up for them.
I suggest they go to the Money Smart ASIC website and find out how long their superannuation money will last. They will be surprised at the low rate of return on allocated pensions.
Putting savings into a Public-Public Partnership annuity for ANY community infrastructure will return at least twice the amount of money compared to an allocated pension.
The high return from Public-Public Partnerships annuities comes because it removes the private financial intermediary. With today's technology we do not need financial intermediaries. Implementing a Public-Public Partnerships is low-cost and quickly deployed.
A Public-Public Partnership can finance it, and it could be operating within six months.
Letter, The Canberra Times, January 5 2018 from Simon Cobcroft, Lyneham
I have recently learned that the new light rail network is being built to connect to the node rather than the premises. What sort of antediluvian cost-saving is going on here? I don't want my speed slowed by having to walk to the nearest interchange each time I want to use high-speed transit. The next thing they will be telling us is that the service speed will be shaped during peak periods. What ajoke.
Letter, The Canberra Times, January 5 2018 from Christina Faulk, Swinger Hill
Over the holiday break, a Sydney bus driver rang into 2CC to inform listeners that the city's light rail would be "out for a month".
Realisation dawns, yes?
Light rail, heavy expense, not-so-regular service?
I hope our Chief Minister enjoyed his Spanish trip.
The trains from Spain may yet cause lots of pain.
Letter, The Canberra Times, January 4 2018 from Trevor McPherson, Aranda
Mr Cox (Letters, January 2) outlines a sensible way for the public to invest in light rail – and a good idea should be extended if possible.
There is just enough time to do this before the Woden light rail stage is built.
If you've not heard about Woden, it is thought by some to be the basis for a sequel to the movie Dumb and Dumber but the location is still under discussion.
Every resident/ratepayer should have the opportunity to vote on ... lets say three propositions: 1. Allow resident/ratepayer investors the opportunity to invest in light rail, as Mr Cox suggested – with returns to them like those that would otherwise go to the private-public partner involved.
OR 2. Allow as for 1 above but with the capital costs saved by implementing an O-Bahn type rapid bus system rather than light rail to be added into investor returns.
OR 3. Allow as for 1 above but delaying five years, then moving to either autonomous vehicles or 1 or 2 above after that time – with investors getting the rate of return in 1 above for the first five years, then as calculated on a rational basis consistent with this approach the approach finally adopted – this would most likely be options 2 or 3.
There are other options, and one could be a zero capital cost autonomous system.
But for now for the options as above, why not?
Letter, The Canberra Times, January 4 2018 from M. Flint, co-ordinator Smart Canberra Transport, Erindale
Letters by Kevin Cox (Dec 24, 2017 and Jan 2, 2018) on how light rail should be financed by citizens 'investing' in the system, leaves me somewhat bewildered.
Mr Cox seems to be proposing that ACT taxpayers should fund light rail by investing in shares in some government sponsored 'firm' to buy and operate light rail. Given that light rail stage 1 will be a complete financial flop, let alone later stages, who in their right mind would voluntarily waste their money in that way.
No, we prefer to let the government waste our money for us. The reality is this. The government cannot build it itself so has to contract out the job to private industry. For stage 1, it has negotiated contracts with private firms, with the 'help' of UnionsACT and the CMFEU, to build the stage and to operate it for 20years.
We suckers do not know any significant detail of the contracts, eg whether they fixed or variable price, but it would be a sure bet that if costs blow out, ACT taxpayers will be paying, not the contractors.
In respect of the operations and maintenance contract, we do know that the government has accepted virtually all of the risk, including 100 per cent of the 'patronage risk', ie lack of paying passengers.
Consequently, the contractors and their unions buddies are on a gravy train at our expense and it will get progressively worse as other far less economic stages may be approved. For stage 1, the government is committed to pay a down payment of $375million of the ostensible $710 million build cost, "when the trams start running", all of which has to be paid for, including very substantial interest and operating subsidies, over the 20 years of operation.
The government can in fact borrow money much cheaper than a private enterprise, so why is the government not paying for all of the build cost, as it will pay for all of the operating subsidies? I have asked this question of government in the past, without response.
Letter, The Canberra Times, January 4 2018 from Brian Stone, Weetangera
Kevin Cox (Letters, January 2) has written a mixture of good sense and sheer nonsense about public-private joint finance for such infrastructure as light rail. Probably all Canberrans outside the developer and politician groups will feel as I do.
He is quite wrong to say that "cost/benefit calculations ... have little to do with financing". In any properly governed city, projects for which the cost/benefit ratio is predicted to be poor should never be financed.
However in his next paragraphs Kevin is quite right that "[he] and any other Canberran should know what the investment terms are", and that "we should have robust discussions on what infrastructure to build".
It's even true that financiers of big projects like light rail "are guaranteed a handsome return" if interest on the total project debt greatly exceeds the initial contract cost as he assumes. That's where the sense ends, though.
Who guarantees that return? Answer: the government controlling the project, and so ultimately the taxpayers. The infamous South Sea Bubble of the early 1700s, after ruining many investors in its non-projects, led to the Bubble Act requiring all such public-private partnerships to obtain a Royal Charter or their own Act of Parliament.
In modern terms, that meant firstly that only predictably profitable schemes should be approved, and then that investors in them would buy government bonds rather than shares or bits of bitcoin.
Why would a citizen buy a light rail bond (by any name), for $1000 or whatever the issue price might be? Why, when that citizen is already propping up the scheme with increasing rates and taxes?
It must be the "high-value annuity payments" that Kevin offers (as did the South Sea Company). But when the project is a long-term loser, the higher the annuities, the higher the rates and taxes!
Kevin wrote "the history of money shows that communities who fund infrastructure from internal sources are always better off", but that is nonsense unless the project is truly profitable.
Letter, The Canberra Times, January 3 2018 from Howard Carew, Isaacs
The recent horrifying accidents on our roads prove three things: an increasing population driving an increased amount of vehicles causes more deaths on the roads; humans are too human and need help to drive safely; and the transition to driverless cars cannot come soon enough. We are an ingenious lot and whatever form it takes it will be better than what we have now.
Letter, The Canberra Times, January 3 2018 from Dale Fletcher, Kambah
Mike Reddy, a supporter of the ridiculous light rail project, (Letters, December 31) says it doesn't need to service the Canberra Hospital, already serviced by several bus routes. Fair enough.
Using the same logic, how is it then that the tram route currently under construction, from Gungahlin town centre to Civic is necessary?
This journey is already serviced by a frequent, virtually direct bus service, Red Rapid route 200, which runs seven days a week.
We do not need this over-hyped, ludicrously expensive and redundant Green's vanity project.
I'd rather go to the Canberra Zoo to see a white elephant.
Letter, The Canberra Times, January 2 2018 from Kevin Cox, Ngunnawal
Stan Marks (Letters, December 29) says that I would not get a return on my money if I invest it in Light Rail.
He is wrong because he is looking at cost/benefit calculations and they have little to do with financing.
The investors in Light Rail get a guaranteed return on the money invested. I and any other Canberran should know what the investment terms are and be able to invest in Light Rail or any other infrastructure. Once the community has decided to invest in something, then community members should get the first option to invest because we are the ones left with the debt.
We should have robust discussions on what infrastructure to build, but once decided we need to fund it ourselves.
The way government contracts work is that the builders of Light Rail have a fixed price and the government will pay for the Light Rail plus the interest on the debt. The total interest on the debt is much higher than the initial cost, so the Light Rail financiers are guaranteed a handsome return.
We the members of the community could get that interest through high-value annuity payments rather than give it to financiers.
The history of money shows that communities who fund infrastructure from internal sources are always better off.
We should eliminate all external government debt, but not by austerity methods. Instead, we borrow from ourselves and give savers in our communities high returns on infrastructure loan investments.
Letter, The Canberra Times, January 2 2018 from Leon Arundell, Downer
The best option for public transport between Woden and Civic is to extend the existing bus priority lanes.
Stan Marks (Letters, 29 December) says that the Auditor-General estimated that the people of Canberra will get back 47¢ of every dollar invested in light rail.
That estimate was based on Capital Metro's unrealistic assumption that the alternative to light rail is no road or bus improvements other than those that are "already approved and planned".
Bus rapid transit is the real alternative.
The ACT government's submission to Infrastructure Australia said that stage 1 of light rail would cost $276million more than bus rapid transit, but would generate less than $44 million in extra benefits. That's a return of less than 16¢ for each extra dollar spent on light rail.
Letter, The Canberra Times, January 1 2018 from Murray May, Cook
Leon Arundell is right about the advantages of bus rapid transit over light rail for Canberra (Letters, December 28). One critical factor affecting travel behaviour is convenience.
Leon refers to the lack of a stop at Mitchell for example. How convenient is that?
Add to this just getting to the tram in the first place, having to change to buses, overall trip time, two-thirds in the tram standing rather than sitting.
To increase the perceived benefits, public transport must meet people's needs well.
As inconvenience factors mount up, avoidance is the result.
Letter, The Canberra Times, January 1 2018 from Peter Robinson, Ainslie
As an opponent of light rail, I'm saddened and alarmed that the first tram has been vandalised and the Canberra Times saw fit to publish Bryan Cossart's letter (Letters, December 22) joking about the incident.
Now that the Gungahlin-Civic segment is literally cemented, surely it's in all our interests that this section is built well at minimum cost and maximum speed.
Anyone with a further axe to grind, and I include myself, should direct their energies at preventing the ludicrous Woden section and the foolish decision to deny Mitchell a stop on the existing section.