Light rail debate begins to drive yet another election

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WITH an economic slump on its way, Belco Party candidate Bill Stefaniak is calling on ACT Labor to immediately delay Stage 2A and 2B of the light rail, if re-elected next month. 

After discovering that the light rail could cost about $2 billion – three times the cost of Stage 1 – Mr Stefaniak says Canberrans just cannot afford it at this time.

“I again call on the ACT government to immediately delay the next stage of light rail because of the economic slump inevitably coming after the COVID-19 crisis and because of the huge cost blowout,” Mr Stefaniak says of ACT Labor’s plans to push on with Stage 2A and 2B.

“I agree that we will need a major economic stimulus to kick start the ACT economy after the pandemic but it cannot be spent on a lot of expensive imported materials and labor such as occurred with the first stage of light rail.

“We need vital services like hospitals, schools and programs that employ local businesses and people. We need lots of projects and developments that employ young people and apprentices and local tradies. We need projects across the city and especially in the suburbs such as in Belconnen.

“More trams may come back onto the territory agenda in the future, but only after the viability of future stages can be proven and other public transport options are fully investigated. Full cost benefit studies should be done on light rail and the current light rail proposed routes.

“Other transport options should also be fully investigated. I would not rule in or out a range of other innovative options such as dedicated bus routes, wireless trams, autonomous cars or electric cars. This is a space where the world is evolving very fast and we should not lock generations of Canberrans into debt for any outmoded transport systems.

“One thing I can say is, if new tram lines are to be built, the first priority must be Belconnen to Civic and onto the Airport.”

Although, the light rail is already at risk, according to ACT Labor, who accuse the Canberra Liberals of planning to put of the construction of the light rail for decades.

“Light rail to Woden is expected to create up to 6000 new jobs – at a time when our city needs it most,” says Labor spokesperson Chris Steel.

The Canberra Liberals have said they are conducting an independent inquiry into the costs of Stage 2A and 2B, and say they will also look into where the next route should be built as part of the inquiry.

However, Master Builders ACT CEO Michael Hopkins said: “The Canberra Liberals announcement to make a last minute change to the route for Stage 2 of light rail will setback construction of the territory’s largest infrastructure project by years.”

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