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Canberra Today 11°/13° | Wednesday, October 20, 2021 | Digital Edition | Crossword & Sudoku

Tram 2A, an ‘unforgivable’ waste of public money

Letter writers are unhappy with the revelations by the auditor-general of the government’s lack of transparency in the costings for light rail  2A stage.

THE auditor-general’s report on the “economic analysis” of Light Rail Stage 2A, released and reported on citynews.com.au (September 24), is excoriating. 

Even the previously announced and ridiculously low benefit cost ratio (BCR) of 0.4 will clearly not be achieved because of already known increases in costs such as the need to retrofit the trams to run on battery power only, as required by the NCA. 

The economic analysis also failed to account for the massive disruption costs of raising London Circuit, to provide an acceptable gradient for the steel-wheeled trams.

The supposed benefits are “predicated on the project being a catalyst for the acceleration of development of the Acton Waterfront” but, as the A-G says, no evidence has been provided to support this dubious proposition. 

A scenario that assumed Acton Waterfront would occur regardless of Light Rail 2A saw the BCR falling to 0.21, even including unexplained and abnormal “land use and wider economic benefits”. 

This project is obviously based on appallingly flawed analysis and is an unforgivable waste of public money. It must be stopped immediately.

Richard Johnston, Kingston

This government should be ashamed 

THE auditor-general’s recent report on the Light Rail Stage 2 Business Case of August, 2019, highlights the absurdity of the Stage 2A of light rail. 

However, it will be simply ignored by this ideological government, as was the A-G’s report in 2016 on Stage 1. 

One may recall that the Stage 2 Business Case, when made public in August 2019, had all cost estimates redacted out. However, the A-G has obviously gained access to the redacted costings, which helps a great deal to further explain how absurdly uneconomic Stage 2A (let alone all of Stage 2) really is.

First, the A-G’s report cites a figure of $23 million for development costs, for which the government has recently let a contract for $98 million. 

For the 1.7-kilometre line, the report cites $162 million for construction, $82 million over 14 years for operations & maintenance (O&M), plus the $23 million for development, for a total through-life cost of $268 million, in $2019, all discounted at 7 per cent per annum. It should be noted that this assumed discount rate grossly underestimates the real projected cost. A 7 per cent per annum discount rate is patently in error as it implies that the government will be paying that rate of interest on capital borrowed (all of it, given that the government is in deep debt already). 

Note though, as pointed out by the A-G, that the business-case estimates cited exclude several very large costs, outside construction and operations, such as those for raising London Circuit, even though this is being done only to accommodate the tram. 

Nor do estimates include the cost of extra trams, wire-free operations, and certain infrastructure.

To put things into perspective, my estimates for Stage 2A (excluding London Circuit etcetera), made in and discounted to 2019, assuming 20 years of O&M, were $290 million for construction and interest, $150 million for O&M, for a through-life cost of $440 million. Adding $98 million already committed for planning, gives a cost of $538 million. 

This is a very long way from the $268 million cited in the A-G’s report. What a bargain for 1.7 kilometre of line that is going to take twice as long for commuters to use!

To add insult to injury, the business case itself says the expected benefit-to-cost ratio would be only 0.4 to 0.6 and it would be a waste of time to comment on the rubbery patronage figures. 

This government should be thoroughly ashamed of itself for its wanton waste of our taxes.

Max Flint, co-ordinator, Smart Canberra Transport

Letter writer Denis Wylks’ alternative route for the tram south. 

Covid means we can’t afford more trams

IT is now perfectly obvious to me that, in the current covid financial crisis, we ACT ratepayers cannot afford Shane Rattenbury’s now obsolete toy tram, nor can we accept:

  • The years of traffic chaos caused by the absurd proposal to raise the level of London Circuit so that another set of traffic lights can be installed to further disrupt traffic in Commonwealth Avenue,
  • The demolition of the existing mature trees lining Commonwealth Avenue south of the lake and
  • The replacement of the existing trams with “wire free” trams required within the Parliamentary Triangle.

However, if this Labor/Greens government insists on continuing its attack on the poor and needy of Canberra, I would suggest an alternative route for the tram, which will alleviate these three problems.

The alternative route south from the city centre continues in a southerly direction from the western leg of London Circuit and proceeds parallel to Commonwealth Avenue, to the west of its existing cloverleaf exits, to cross Parkes Way with a new bridge and to cross the lake using the existing northbound carriageway of Commonwealth Avenue Bridge, with the existing northbound traffic lanes relocated to a new bridge between the existing two bridges (more on this in a future letter).

South of the lake, the route will avoid the parliamentary triangle by diverting to Flynn Drive and up to State Circle, thence to Woden via the existing Adelaide Avenue median strip.

Denis Wylks, Holder

One less place to spend a penny

DURING lockdown, my wife and I have been walking about two kilometres each day to a coffee and a toilet stop, and then walking home.

Lyneham has been one of the few places, within about two kilometres, that offered both coffee and a public toilet.

Today (September 30) as we approached Lyneham we discovered that, apparently, without notice, the Lyneham public toilet has been demolished and turned into a building site.

We had to beat a hasty retreat, to a nearby shopping centre that still has a public toilet.

Leon Arundell, Downer

Just like NSW, Andrew?

IN the recent past, Chief Minister Andrew Barr said there is no way he wanted the ACT to go the way of NSW. Yet on Monday, September 27, when he revealed the territory’s path out of lockdown, he warned the ACT faced hundreds of cases a day once restrictions were lifted. 

That’s a couple of thousand cases a week! Sounds very much like NSW when comparative populations are considered.

Murray May, Cook

‘Ruthless and insensitive’ timing

FURTHER to Belinda Strahorn’s report “Seniors angry at sinking of swim session” (CN September 30), while the AIS is for training of our elite athletes, one of its major functions was also to provide support and encouragement for healthy Australians of all ages through sporting activity. 

Even elite athletes age and good health and fitness should be encouraged in all phases of life for all of us.

Unfortunately, the introduction of the Sports Commission reduced the effectiveness of the once great AIS, breaking it down to fund another layer of bureaucracy. 

As a government institution, it is most important to oversee that our taxpayer money is not to be wasted. However, that should not be at the expense of its vital community service and, for that matter, it is not the role of the organisation to run at a profit. 

So any comparison to commercial enterprises, gyms, etcetera, which must remain viable, would appear to be no argument.

An economic fact is keeping people fit and healthy throughout their whole life, not just in their senior years, reduces stress and expense on the health system and also raises general mental health and well being. Our health system works very hard to avoid stress and peak demand.

The timing of the closure of this facility would have to be the absolute worst, planned and executed by the most ruthless and insensitive administrators.

With the hidden realities and outcomes of the covid pandemic barely having reached the surface, we are sitting on the edge of the abyss of social, mental and emotional turmoil.

It is at this time that these sporting/activity facilities and programs should be looking to expand and be encouraged, not shut down. Next minute there will be grants given to encourage such activity!

There are probably many, many people hiding away in fear from this pandemic, too embarrassed and not wanting to dent their egos any further to admit their situation needs some help. 

The necessity for gentle encouragement, to “leave the cave” for physical, mental and emotional stimulus and recovery is paramount and should be everyone’s priority and duty of care.

In this instance with the AIS there is probably an even bigger agenda at play. For example, when the facilities are deemed to have little or even no further use, they will be targeted for a speedy demolition, making way for the developers’ grand new plans! All too common a trait in Canberra in recent times.

David Hunter, Belconnen

We have to accept responsibilities

I AM very willing to accept Hugh Dakin’s “right” (“I disagree with the lockdown”, Letters, CN September 23), and just as willing to accept the position of people who protest, violently or otherwise, for their “right” not to be vaccinated.

But, I do so only if he, and all such “freedom lovers”, take responsibility for their choices. 

At a minimum, I believe such people should provide an absolute acknowledgment that they would not be entitled to any medical assistance, at any level in Australia, should they become COVID-19 infected. 

They should also agree that they similarly will not be entitled to any government assistance whatsoever. And they should be required to compensate fully anyone else that can be shown to have been covid infected by their (selfish) choices.

The point is obvious: we all have to accept our responsibility to take all possible measures to protect everyone in the community. We can’t just pick and choose which of the properly formed medical and governmental decisions we “agree with”.

Lawson Lobb, Kingston

Letter writer David Hunt’s photo of a speed-van.

Call off the speed traps

FRIDAY, August 13, was more than an unlucky date on the calendar. 

On this date, the ACT government began a lockdown, initially touted as one week. As every ACT resident now knows, we are into October and still into lockdown. 

Since August 13, the ACT has on average had 16 new COVID-19 cases a day. 

While other states and territories around Australia have sought to restrict movement to assist our health-care professionals, the ACT has failed abysmally.

A quick check of arterial and feeder roads will show there is a lot of public movement around Canberra, despite the so-called lockdown.

On Wednesday, September 22, as authorised by ACT Health orders, I drove from Woden to pick up a prescription from the chemist.

I was stunned and shocked as the final insult to the people of the ACT and Canberra, to see the ACT government had authorised the reintroduction of its radar speed-trap vans. 

It seems for the ACT government, that despite its citizens being unable to return to school and people having to stay home, it’s so desperate, it needs to set mobile speed vans on Canberra’s public, who are already weary and fed up with Barr’s government and lockdown.

These vans which number around eight, feature an operator hiding in a white transit van pointing a laser in both directions, trying to catch speedsters. 

While I am sure we all stick to the speed limit, these vans are designed to nitpick and are mostly positioned in highly controversial positions around the ACT. This includes positions such as at the bottom of the slope (pictured photo), behind bushes on a median strip or in a short space of road, (pictured photo) where the speed sign has changed quickly.

I call on the Barr government to get its act together, sort out why there is so much road movement between the townships within Canberra and call off your speed-trap dogs of war during such a challenging time. Operating these speed vans is not a road-safety measure during a pandemic, but an insult to every ACT road user and citizen.

I also call on Andrew Barr to sort out his lockdown mess and to reopen ACT as soon as possible. At this stage, his uncertainty and dithering are costing the ACT business community hundreds of millions that comes in a time when the ACT has already been locked down with losses in 2020.

If the lockdown had been done properly by Labor in the ACT, then Canberra’s ACT public wouldn’t be in this mess.

Meanwhile, almost every member of the public in Canberra is suffering because of the stuff-ups. At this rate we’ll still all be locked down at home with 16 cases a day, in November.

Maybe we can hear a few less laughs and jokes at the covid press conferences, especially when so many people are hurting in the ACT. And not just from COVID-19.

David Hunt, via email

All that in just two years

IN a letter to “CityNews” (September 9), I spoke of the terror of COVID-19 and lava flows. Serendipitously, a few days later parts of the Canary Islands were virtually overrun with lava, with some saying the flows may go on for several months. 

Although the types of harm differ, it is not beyond the realms of comprehension that those refusing to vaccinate may be compared/contrasted to those refusing to stop smoking – the latter affecting others with second-hand smoke. It has taken 50-plus years to achieve about 84 per cent of Australians as non-smokers. It will have taken just over two years for 80 per cent of Aussies to have reached double-jab, anti-virus status. Now that’s worth a contemplative pipe. 

Colliss Parrett, Barton

Filling the fossil-fuel gap

GREG Cornwell wrote: “We need clear and honest solutions, not more confusion” on climate change (CN September 23). 

I have been an Earth scientist since 1968, and I have some understanding of the climate-change action that Mr Cornwell finds so confusing.

According to the IPCC’s Sixth Assessment Report of August 6, at the present glacial rate of emissions reduction, the world has no hope of meeting its various Paris Agreement targets, and some rather drastic action has become necessary.

The first step is for the world to reduce its greenhouse gases as much, and as rapidly, as possible. This necessarily involves leaving most of our fossil-fuel reserves in the ground, beginning with Mr Cornwell’s “black gold”: the coal that fuelled the Industrial Revolution more than 230 years ago, and is 100 years past its use-by date. 

Renewable energy, predominantly from solar and wind sources is filling the fossil-fuel gap, but further efforts must be encouraged and accelerated to displace fossilised fuels as quickly as practicable.

Emissions-free “green” hydrogen, made by electrolysis of water using renewable energy, is making inroads into the transport industry, whether in bulk liquid form (eg, in aircraft) or in fuel cells.

Finally, we must cease our reckless “harvesting” of our native forests, and re-vegetate any land not needed for sustaining life on Earth. Australia and Brazil should take special note.

Dr Douglas Mackenzie, Deakin 

They’ve made the world…

THEY’VE made the world a place where family is less valued and connected, which leaves children without core stability; where mums are sent to work, so that the kids can be raised by childcare; where ma ‘n’ pa are shipped off to nursing homes, so that complete strangers can take care of their needs; where porn is everywhere and addictive, and men in particular are divorced from reality; where promiscuity is the norm, and where predation, mistrust and broken hearts all follow; where food is completely filled with crap, and crap is often sold to us as food; where art is now cheap entertainment, and the entertainment is either violent or sleazy; where tantrums and fights have increased in my area, no doubt thanks to the added burden of lockdown; and where the leaders in this country still want me to think that the response to covid is all about our health. 

Victor Bosso, Queanbeyan

Playing ‘spot the stooge’ at the presser

In “Seven Days” (CN September 16), columnist Ian Meikle describes Andrew Barr’s deft sparring with the press as “stepping over” and “leaning… into”. The Chief Minister must be navigating those stepping stones on the pathway forward, outlined on the “Roadmap to Covid Normal Freedom-land”!

May I add a “shout out” to Barr for daring to identify by name and, shock-horror, even the media organisation who asked the question! Apparently this was quite confronting for the 4th Estate. It even had our venerable Aunty ABC reaching for the smelling salts when their Radio 666 text line “lit up” with demands from listeners that the media should show some basic manners by identifying themselves – preferably mid-lob before firing down another question.

This was the day when the two federal bubble-boy insiders gate-crashed “our” local press conference with their rather obvious vested interests on full display.

I mean imagine, the cheek of it! Demanding transparency from the media, excuse us! When did it fall out of fashion anyway? It happens all the time. If the media really are asking questions just in the public interest, then surely what’s the issue? I can’t be the only one playing “spot the stooge” during the Q&A part of the daily “presser”.

Michael A Crowe, Hawker

Lion Sancia Wheeler, a charter member of the Lions Club of Canberra Brindabella, with Wilson the kelpie.

Tale of a dog and a Lion

COME lockdown or no lockdown, the work of the Lions Club of Canberra Brindabella continues.

On hearing of a disabled man in the neighbourhood who was in need of help and, following the recent death of her beloved dog, Lion Sancia Wheeler stepped into the breach by taking his then nine-month-old kelpie for walks.

Sancia has been training dogs for 45 years, on and off. Although a very intelligent dog, Wilson the kelpie, tested her. However, after nine months of twice-daily walks, they are making some progress and, although very easy to teach tricks to, Wilson is not so eager to learn to walk nicely on the lead.

Wilson didn’t see the “outside the yard” world until Sancia came along, so the dog’s had to learn that traffic wasn’t going to hurt, roads could be crossed even if there was traffic, smells were the most amazing thing and jumping koppers logs and climbing up the slippery-dip were the most fun a dog could ever have!

Verlene Marshall, Lions Club of Canberra Brindabella 

All for Kim and her policies

ERNST Willhelm (Letters, CN September 23) erroneously concluded that I did not bother to refer to the Kim4Canberra website. I did. 

My letter merely implied that her time would be more productively spent advocating her policies, which I mostly agree with, instead of on more statues of women. I believe law professor Rubenstein to be an outstanding independent Senate candidate and wish her well in her quest for a seat.

Mario Stivala, Belconnen 

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2 Responses to Tram 2A, an ‘unforgivable’ waste of public money

Jim says: October 6, 2021 at 2:56 pm

“Note though, as pointed out by the A-G, that the business-case estimates cited exclude several very large costs, outside construction and operations, such as those for raising London Circuit, even though this is being done only to accommodate the tram. ”

It is truly laughable that anyone thinks the raising of London Circuit is being done to accommodate the trams. That is an utter nonsense. Trams can easily go up a decent incline, as they do in numerous cities around the world. The real reason for raising London Circuit is to open up where the current clover leafs intersections are for development – that is the primary reason. The tram is just a neat excuse to cover off that real reason for raising a road that is perfectly serviceable in the way it is currently constructed.

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Danny Corvini says: October 10, 2021 at 7:21 am

Has anyone bothered to ask young people living on the Southside what they think for this article? They are the ones that stand to benefit from a future tram and the ones to lose if it doesn’t go ahead.

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