Liberals promise bus rapid transit over light rail

northbourne trees

ALISTAIR Coe has released a paper canvassing alternative options to the Barr government’s proposed light rail on the Northbourne Avenue corridor.

“The purpose of this options paper is to show that the transport debate should not be light rail or nothing. There are other infrastructure options using the existing bus network, that can improve public and private transport on Northbourne Avenue,” Alistair said.

He proposes three options:

    1. Moving the cycle lane into the Northbourne Avenue median strip, with the construction of bus priority measures along Northbourne Avenue.

    2. Building a bus lane in the Northbourne Avenue median, with the cycle lane remaining as is. The bus lane would be one-way, and would transport people into the City in the morning and away from the City in the afternoon.

    3. Building a bus lane in the Northbourne Avenue median with cycle lanes built on both sides of this bus lane.

“Options 2 and 3 will save bus users 10 minutes at peak time and deliver a faster service than light rail at a fraction of the cost.

“These options will be further explored by the Opposition, along with ideas to improve the operation of the bus network. I encourage Canberrans to comment on these ideas,” Mr Coe concluded.

Simon Corbell has penned a lengthy rebuttal:

The Canberra Liberals’ options paper for Northbourne Avenue is a band-aid solution that will leave Canberrans with ongoing traffic congestion, no long-term public transport solutions and no plan for the development of Canberra.

Deputy Chief Minister Simon Corbell said the proposal ignored the price of tearing up light rail contracts, which the Canberra Liberals have said they would do at any cost.

“Not only is the proposal a band-aid solution for Canberra’s public transport, it also ignores many millions of dollars of potential cost for tearing up light rail contracts, which the Canberra Liberals have said they would do at any cost,” Mr Corbell said.

The Federal Liberal party has previously dismissed the Canberra Liberals’ threats to tear up light rail contracts as ‘economic lunacy’.

“When the Federal branch of your party is rejecting your toxic policies that will increase the ACT’s sovereign risk and waste taxpayer funds there is something very wrong,” Mr Corbell said.

“With average 57-minute travel times from Gungahlin to the City in 2031, the Canberra Liberals’ proposal would have Canberrans stuck in congestion on Northbourne Avenue and Flemington Road instead of solving the problem.

“The Canberra Liberals’ proposal has no plans for beyond Antill Street through to Gungahlin, which will leave Gungahlin residents with the same transport options and congestion they have now.

“This is a band-aid solution to a problem that Infrastructure Australia says will cost the ACT $700m per year by 2031. The Canberra Liberals’ plan is too little too late to fix the growing cost of congestion in our city.”

Minister for Roads and Parking Mick Gentleman said that these proposals would do little to relieve congestion in the short term, and has no plan for Canberra’s expected growth.

“What we’ve seen from the Canberra Liberals is a half-baked document with numerous mistakes and inconsistencies that doesn’t even attempt to solve our long-term problems. The proposal at this stage can’t be taken seriously,” Mr Gentleman said.

“With any of these three options, buses would still need to regularly interact with traffic. Adding more lanes of traffic will only increase congestion.”

There are few dedicated priority traffic signals for buses on Northbourne Avenue included in the proposal, which will increase travel times for buses on Northbourne Avenue.

“The proposal fails to recognise that many trees on Northbourne Avenue will still need to be cut down, and doesn’t address how the Canberra Liberals will put a roadway down the median without removing trees or utilities,” Mr Gentleman said.

The trees on the median of Northbourne Avenue will need to be removed soon due to health issues, and are expected to be replaced with 4-5 metre tall semi-mature plantings during the construction phase of Capital Metro stage one.

“We know light rail fits with the National Capital Plan and the National Capital Authority has been willing to come to the table and work with the ACT Government to find a design that fits with the Griffins’ plan,” Mr Gentleman said.

“The Canberra Liberals have proven with this proposal they have no idea how to improve Canberra’s public transport network.”

The Transport Canberra – Light Rail Network plan, which outlines possible future stages of a light rail system, including to Woden, Canberra Airport, and the Parliamentary Triangle was released for consultation by the ACT Government in October.

The ACT Government is in the final stages of assessment of bids from two international consortia to build, maintain and operate Capital Metro stage one, with a preferred bidder expected to be announced early next year.

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