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Who benefits from the Trojan Tram going south?

ACT government’s illustration of the planned urban intensification along the tram going south.

“The bus service to Woden has been successful and could be upgraded to electric buses. The far more expensive option is probably going to happen as it’s a matter of faith within the closed shop of the government,” writes “Canberra Matters” columnist PAUL COSTIGAN

HERE’S some news the ACT Labor/Greens coalition government may not appreciate. 

Paul Costigan.

The model they use to enable for development and for getting the tram done, builds on the way trains and trams were introduced in and around Sydney in the late 19th century. 

There’s a book, published in 2017, titled “Shady Acres – Politicians, Developers and Sydney’s Public Transport Scandals 1872-1895” by Leslie Muir. Reading this book will reinforce your view on how things have not changed in NSW.

One revelation is how Sir Henry Parkes operated both as an entrepreneur and as a politician. Often failing in both but always managing to connive his back into being elected and into another financial project that most likely failed. Many politicians were involved with the development of the rail and tram networks and many of them either profited themselves (being both politicians and developers) and/or made sure that their developer friends benefitted from where the rail and tram lines were routed. 

Some of the routes were designed purely to ensure that they ran by a politician’s or a friendly developer’s land. In some cases, lines were not delivered (eastern suburbs) because it did not suit developers and some stations were sited purely to increase the profits of the proposed development nearby. 

Nobody would have argued against the introduction of these important transport links, but how they were delivered was very convenient for the politicians involved. Very shady, indeed!

Then there’s Canberra and how the ACT Labor/Greens government has been making development and transport decisions. There is no evidence nor suggestion that ACT politicians are using their position to bring about profits for themselves or their own companies. But just how much do development decisions seem to favour developers over responsibilities to residents is my question.

For instance, the tram going south to Woden. The ACT auditor-general recently reported dubious benefits to the public and the problematic linking of the need for the tram and the developments along West Basin. 

What the report did not say was that the beneficiaries after all this expenditure of public monies will be the developers who get their hands on the land to the right leading to Commonwealth Bridge plus others along West Basin. These inevitable tower developments are usually not mentioned in the mindless spin by the Labor and Greens politicians about wonders of the West Basin developments.

The bus system serving Woden to Civic has been successful. One day it could be upgraded to electric buses using the same road infrastructure. The far more expensive option of the tram going south is probably going to happen as it is an ideological, not-negotiable matter of faith within the closed shop of the current government. 

Any chance of changing this would require the elder Andrew Barr to overrule the naive decisions of his younger self when these things were made Labor/Greens policy. Can anyone see that happening any time soon?

Development along the corridor will be inevitable. What style that development takes is the matter that residents need to be concentrating on. The land near the North Curtin land swap will be first. Expect more of what you see along the tram in Gungahlin or towers as plonked endlessly along Northbourne. Something to note – according to the government’s intensification diagram, the Prime Minister will be asked to move out to make way for apartments.

Tram or not, the corridor could be developed sensibly and with some innovative and aesthetically pleasing architecture with homes for the later 21st century (think climate). Sadly, there is almost nothing in the DNA of this government that will deliver such new residential developments and suburban infill redevelopments. 

The tram will be the Trojan Horse for developers to run amok with the laissez-faire planning system allowing any rubbish to be approved. All this will happen, unless the residents get organised now and take on the local politicians with some independent thinking candidates for the 2024 ACT elections. 

Paul Costigan is an independent commentator and consultant on the visual arts, photography, urban design, environmental issues and everyday matters.

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8 Responses to Who benefits from the Trojan Tram going south?

Palmerston's Masked Lament (keeping out the pollen) says: November 3, 2021 at 9:16 am

You must understand I read this piece expecting t read the critics’ bias that Costigan only wants a return to the 1950s Canberra. Yet this article again flags points that seek to improve the lifestyle for future generations by designing a city that meets the needs of a growing and modern community while keeping “the Bush Capital” concept alive.

Hamba says: November 3, 2021 at 3:59 pm

No, Mr Costigan. All this will happen, full-stop. It’s too late. And your repeated calls for ‘independent’ candidates will only help make sure that more of the same happens on the watch of the next Labor-Greens government too.

weal and woden says: November 3, 2021 at 4:39 pm

Like the vast majority of people Southside, I look forward to the tram coming to Woden and densification along the transit corridor.

You’d never guess this from the pages of Citynews, of course.

Des says: November 10, 2021 at 6:18 pm

You can have it.

My hope is it will be as ugly as all hell, on par with the valley of Wright and Coombes with a Macdonalds ontop. And by the One-party state of Canberra, you will have it.



Neil, of Queanbeyan says: November 5, 2021 at 9:32 pm

Hamba is right. This will happen. It is too late. Before the last election I spoke to an ‘independent’ candidate who had been on the Woden Community Council for some years. I asked her directly who she would support if she got in and had the balance of power. It was very clear that she supported the Greens/Labor vandals. I had to walk away telling her that she was part of the problem. It really annoys me when people claim to speak for the majority (Zed Seselja does this a little too often), but unfortunately, weal and woden might be right. Maybe even a majority of Southsiders want a tram and a corridor of ugly apartment buildings. Multiple election results suggest that Canberrans like that sort of rubbish. Formerly Neil of Fisher, now …

Robert Henderson says: November 12, 2021 at 11:06 pm

It’s disappointing to see such retrograde critisism after the great success of stage one of Canberra’s tram. How are electric buses any upgrade or different to regular buses? They would just be less polluting and quieter than diesel buses. The cost savings in trams are many including cheaper staffiing costs per passenger, infrastructure to last a hundred years (many times to the life of a bus) and a greatly enhanced passenger experience. Our trams are so fast, comfortable, frequent and reliable. I’m only disappointed it’s taking so long to get to Woden.


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