POST ELECTION OPINIONS
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.