The gloss continues to come off the ACT light rail project, with the Canberra Times reporting that the Tuggeranong Council, located deep in the city’s south, has voted to oppose the light rail line connecting Gungahlin in the north and Civic, because it does not believe that residents located far away from the project should be levied to pay for it.
Meanwhile, the Liberal opposition has raised more doubts about the rail line’s viability, producing Census data showing that too few Canberrans live within walking distance of the proposed passenger stops to make the rail service viable:
Analysis of 2011 census data shows 7 per cent of Canberra’s population, or 27,084 residents, live within 800 metres of the tram-stop locations being considered by the agency delivering stage one of the network.
Currently 3 per cent, or 12,635 residents, live within 400 metres of the 15 proposed stops.
Transport planners commonly use 400 metres as the distance passengers are prepared to walk to a tram or bus stop, with the figure doubled to 800 metres for trains…
[Opposition transport spokesman Alistair Coe] said travel times to the city by tram would not be fast enough to draw passengers away from existing ACTION bus services.
It is important to remind readers that ACT Light Rail Project only came to fruition because Labor lacked the numbers to form government and needed to gain support from the Greens sole MLA, Shane Rattenbury, who held the balance of power. And the $600 million-plus, 12 kilometre rail link from Gungahlin to Civic was the price paid to gain the Greens’ support.
As argued relentlessly, the light rail project is a textbook case of infrastructure pork barreling, and is exactly the kind of project that Australia does not need if is to alleviate its infrastructure deficit and raise overall productivity and living standards.
The fact is, Canberra lacks the density to make light rail viable from either an economic or social perspective. The city is highly decentralised, with its small population spread-out around six primary centres: Civic (the tiny CBD), the Parliamentary Triangle, Belconnen, Woden, Tuggeranong, and Gungahlin (where the rail line is proposed to travel to).
Canberra is also serviced by the nation’s best road system. Accordingly, the overwhelming majority of Canberrans drive their cars to/from work. Yet, for those that require it, Canberra’s bus system (Action) operates well given the capital’s geography and demography.
Given these inconvenient truths, the Tuggeranong Council is right to oppose the project. Why should the overwhelming majority of residents located outside of the rail corridor be compelled to pay levies to support the project. Surely, using taxpayer funds to extend and improve bus services across the entire city would be a far more efficient and equitable use of funds, rather than focusing on one costly project that benefits only a tiny minority of the population and is likely to be grossly underutilised?
Again, this is precisely the type of politically motivated vanity infrastructure project that Australia doesn’t need.