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Sunday, July 14, 2024 | Digital Edition | Crossword & Sudoku

A rude shock to return home to Canberra buses 

On holiday, letter writer COLIN LYONS, of Weetangera, enjoyed terrific pubic transport across the world. Returning to Canberra was a “rude shock… to find the interval on all off-peak services, apart from the inter-city R routes was 60 minutes.”

I’VE just returned from an extensive holiday in Europe and North America. In Europe, I visited 16 countries including 14 on the continent. The quality of the public transport services provided varied from good to excellent. This is great for tourists.

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The standout was Switzerland where buses and trains arrived and left on time; furthermore they were regular and very reliable. These services were well patronised, in a country with a high standard of living and car ownership. 

It was a rude shock to return home to Canberra and find the interval on all off-peak services, apart from the inter-city R routes was 60 minutes! No wonder so many residents use cars almost exclusively.

Of course, high patronage was aided by sound urban planning and future urban development policies designed to limit sprawl. High rise was conspicuous by its absence.

Cities in the Balkans, Poland, the Czech Republic and Hungary also had impressive public transport services that were very well supported by the public. 

In nearly all cases the drivers accepted cash (unlike Canberra) and inspectors were active and fines stiff. Furthermore, in many cities, passengers had to enter buses through front doors next to the driver, to prevent fare evasion.

Given the massive and growing debt of the ACT as highlighted by Jon Stanhope and Khalid Ahmed in “CityNews” (“Debt downgrade: Barr is asleep at the wheel”, CN August 14), you would think Transport Canberra would be keen to avoid policies that enable widespread fare evasion on the buses. 

But debt clearly is of little concern to this government, otherwise they would not be squandering millions on this outdated and exorbitant tram fiasco that has caused so much disruption to the inner city.

Colin Lyons, Weetangera

Irony of the Greens wanting a busway

I find it deeply ironic that, in 2023, the Greens and the Public Transport Association are arguing for bus rapid transit to Belconnen.

The ACT Labor-Greens government’s August 2012 submission to Infrastructure Australia concluded that a $249 million busway to Gungahlin would replace 4800 car journeys a day while light rail, despite costing more than twice as much, would replace only 200 more car journeys.

The government kept that submission secret until nine months after the 2012 election. In the meantime, Labor and the Greens committed to build light rail.

The government now plans to spend billions of dollars to build a light rail extension that will add 10 minutes to the time public transport takes to travel between Civic and Woden.

If Labor had published its August 2012 submission, we could by now have had a fast busway from Gungahlin to Woden. A busway to Belconnen would be nearing completion, and we would be discussing when to extend the busway network to Tuggeranong, Molonglo, Fyshwick and Queanbeyan.

Leon Arundell, Downer

‘Titanic’ Canberra debt: start looking for a lifeboat

JON Stanhope and Kalid Ahmed have been drawing attention to the increasingly precarious ACT financial situation. When they draw attention to the $13.2 billion of ACT debt in 2025 most people no doubt go, “ho hum”. The tram itself is actually financed “off balance sheet” through a PPP (Public Private Partnership) agreement with the contractor which has now, according to accounts, reached about $13 billion in liabilities. 

What does this mean?

What is relevant is the ratio of interest payments to tax revenue. If interest payments exceed a critical amount that prevents other necessary government expenditure, on say police, hospitals, schools, things rapidly fall apart. This is called a revolutionary situation.

So what is the ACT interest/revenue ratio? Currently it is around 14 per cent, rising fast, (roughly $4.24 billion revenue and about $600 million in interest payments), not counting the interest payments on the tram construction. How the latter is being financed is clouded in mystery. Whether or not the interest is being accumulated and paid at the end, it must be paid.

When do these nasties happen? Looking back at history, the French Revolution occurred when interest payments reached 60 per cent of revenue. So, we may be half way there.

Will the Federal Government come to the rescue? Maybe, if it is capable. Will the Reserve Bank print the necessary money? From overseas experience, Germany and Zimbabwe, there is a limit on the amount of money they can print. Don’t bet on a rescue.

To use a frequently used analogy, the decks on the “Titanic” may be level now, but people should be seriously thinking of looking for a lifeboat.

Tim Walshaw, Watson

Failed ‘local council’ mentality of the ACT government

THANKS to Mike Quirk for his marvellous article “Thank you, Canberra – the regions are booming” (CN August 14), which highlighted the parlous state of cross-border co-operation between the ACT and NSW. 

Another illustration of this is the new suburb of South Jerrabomberra (formerly Tralee or Environa). Through lack of co-operation and planning there is no immediate plan to have any direct road link between it and the adjacent ACT suburb of Hume. 

It is 100 metres as the crow flies to the industrial precinct of Hume, yet a 10.2-kilometre road trip. What stops you from currently even walking between the two is a 5-kilometre chainlink fence that follows the old Cooma railway line. 

When the developers of the future Hume section upgrade of the Monaro Highway gave a public presentation to the Jerrabomberra Residents Association they admitted that no plans were under consideration to join South Jerra with Hume for the purpose of connection to a new Isabella Drive intersection or new Mugga Lane bridge. 

This is ridiculous and demonstrates the failed “local council” mentality of the ACT government. 

Mike Quirk mentions the housing situation, yet a co-operative approach not only in the north-west but also around Beard and Oaks Estate near Queanbeyan could see sensitive residential in-fill and development of the Molonglo River precinct for ACT/NSW public amenity. 

Mike also mentions an upgrade of the heavy rail line from Kingston Station. There are many jurisdictions worldwide that have combined heavy and light rail on the one corridor. Alas, a future light rail from Kingston to Fyshwick to  Queanbeyan and to Bungendore may be a project beyond the capacity of this partisan, parochial territory government.

Robert Curtis, via email

Dual-occupancy won’t fix housing crisis

IT’S amusing to see the Greater Canberra group now say the ACT government’s new dual-occupancy policy, which was a response to fierce lobbying by that group, is “ineffective and insufficient”. 

It will be very costly and is not likely to result in many additional dwellings. It is totally unrealistic to expect the housing “crisis” to be resolved through individual house block redevelopment for two dwellings, with the loss of open space and mature trees. 

What is required is more and better planning, rather than less, to facilitate redevelopments in appropriate locations with smart controls allowing substantial increases in dwelling numbers in moderate-height buildings with generous communal open space. 

The recently approved housing project for 403 new dwellings at 1 Dairy Road, Fyshwick, shows the way, and should be a model for the East Lake Urban Renewal Area as well as the completion of the Kingston Foreshore, which together should yield several thousand new dwellings without touching established residential areas.

Richard Johnston, president,

Kingston & Barton Residents Group 

Thanks for the musical memories, Clive

MANY thanks to columnist Clive Williams for reviving memories of the wonderful “Lili Marlene”(CN September 14). 

I was only a schoolboy during World War II, but this beautifully haunting song captured me then and has remained with me ever since. I was equally enraptured by both Vera Lynn and Marlene Dietrich’s versions, with a slight edge to Marlene for her husky and very sexy accent (even at my prepubescent age). 

It also made the ordinary German soldier seem just that little bit more human than the propaganda was insisting. Unfortunately, Hitler and his megalomaniac associates were not impressed either.

Eric Hunter, Cook

Praise for columnist Costigan is echoed

SUE Dyer’s letter (CN September 14) sincerely thanking columnist Paul Costigan for his important contributions to Canberra’s community is echoed.  

There must be a legion of his followers to whom we can confidently hand the baton to continue to keep the conversations going, and give Paul the honour of valuing his achievements. We wish him well.

Ilona Crabb, via email

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