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Imagine: politician stops rail plans when costs blow out 

UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak… the rail project was draining the economy. Photo: Lauren Hurley / No 10 Downing Street

Letter writer SUE BRUDENALL, of Crace, points to a UK example of getting out of a rail project that’s draining the economy and says, similarly, it’s time for the ACT government to rethink its light rail plans.

IN 2009, the UK announced plans to develop a high-speed rail network at a cost of some 20 billion pounds. 

In 2023, that cost is expected to be 100 billion pounds ($A193 billion) at completion.

This is a now familiar story; projections for the ACT light rail suggest a $3 billion cost figure, more than doubling the original projection of $1.3 billion in 2013.

UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has recently announced that the London-to-Manchester leg of the proposed network will not proceed due to the fact that the costs are draining the economy. Instead, he will put a large injection of funds towards other existing transport systems, and to the improvement of roads.

It is time for the ACT government to also reconsider its options. 

Cancellation of Stage 2B, given the technical difficulties of the route and the likely cost blow-out, would allow for much needed extra funds for our hospitals, schools and roads.

The 11 kilometres from Civic to Woden could be serviced in a more cost effective way by fast and efficient electric buses or even the trackless trams being adopted by many other cities, such as Perth, WA.

Sue Brudenall, Crace 

Questions the government needs to answer

DR Douglas Mackenzie (Letters, CN, October 5) mentions about the light rail that is a “disaster in the making”. The ACT Labor/Greens government needs to answer these questions.

  1. What will be the likely cost blow-outs?
  2. How will they fit it across Commonwealth Avenue Bridge?
  3. How will they reconfigure and raise the intersections of State Circle and Commonwealth Avenue and Adelaide Avenue?
  4. What would be the impacts of traffic during construction?

With the government forgetting about investing in essential services, maybe it’s for them to focus on other investments in the ACT such as fixing roads, hospitals, schools and more front-line police.

Anton Rusanov, via email

We won’t be here to witness the mess

JOHN L Smith (Letters, CN October 4) takes me to task over my support for the judgement of Senator David Pocock who “has backed the left and other transient independents in an unwarranted rush into clean energy”.

If there is a “rush”, it most certainly is not “unwarranted”: all the most respected climate scientists, the secretary-general of the United Nations, NASA and America’s National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration have concluded that, having already passed important “tipping points”, there is no time to waste.

The remainder of Mr Smith’s letter refers to what may, or may not, happen – and why – by 2050. He indulges in pure speculation. With the oceans and atmosphere becoming ever hotter and chaotic (disordered in thermodynamic terms), no one can predict with any confidence what may happen in 27 years’ time. In any event, neither he nor I will be here to witness the results of humanity’s mismanagement of this once-beautiful planet.

Mr Smith is welcome to place his faith in Zed Seselja, but I seriously doubt that Mr Seselja’s most well-meaning efforts could have the slightest effect on this planet’s future.

Dr Douglas Mackenzie, Deakin

Banana benders, all for one to the very end 

MY old journalism mate Rob Macklin (CN October 12) is, like me, a Queenslander who can’t help retaining a life-long affinity with our mutual birth-state. 

We Hunters left our pineapple and banana farm in 1942 to escape the feared consequences of the 1942 “Brisbane line” (my eldest brother later convinced his children that the term banana-benders originated from his farm job which was to put a curve in otherwise straight bananas). 

We grew up in Melbourne’s far-from-rural Footscray, where it was mandatory to follow the local VFL team, known simply as the Bulldogs. That, too, has become an eternal devotion, despite the Dogs winning only two premierships in almost a century. I still live in hope, but I’m not sure who I’d barrack for in a grand final between the Western Bulldogs and the Brisbane Lions. 

Actually, I tell a lie because the latter used to be the Fitzroy Lions, with whom the old Footscray Bulldogs shared a few seasons vying for the wooden spoon of the VFL ladder. 

At heart, I’d always have to cheer on the red, white and blues. We all hated, though, the third working-class team, the Collingwood Magpies. Actually, that’s not quite true either. We loved Collingwood – when, on rare occasions, we thrashed them. Whatever, and forever: “Carn the Dogs” – and Queensland.

Eric Hunter, Cook

Thank you, Mr Cornwall…

DAVID Jenkins and Trish O’Connor (CN October 5) criticise my concerns about dual English/Indigenous names across Australia without recognising how easily this occurs. Like addressing me as Greg Cornwall.

Greg Cornwell, Yarralumla

…and to you, Mr Marris

Well might Greg Cornwell be weirdly exercised by his dual-naming as Cornwall by dual correspondents David Jenkins and Trish O’Connor (Letters CN October 5).

Frank Marris (or Morris), Barton

Red-faced apology: I know Greg Cornwell, how I let the misspellings of his name through, I know not. But it spawned a couple of pithy letters. –Ed. 


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3 Responses to Imagine: politician stops rail plans when costs blow out 

Greg says: 17 October 2023 at 10:42 pm

Ms Brudenall is ignoring quite a lot of context on rail. Despite the cost overruns of HS2 (due to Tory mismanagement from the very start), its cancellation is an unmitigated disaster for the UK. It’s a massive waste of opportunity and money that will see more pressure on existing rail and roads, which are already themselves in a hugely degraded state due to underinvestment and privatisation. A comprehensive light rail network is essential to improving so many facets of life for Canberrans now and into the future, and will return investment (and cost overruns) many times over in economic activity, higher density living, and accessibility for people throughout the city. Replacing difficult sections with other modes of transport just gets you a fragmented, second or third rate public transport system that is complicated and time consuming for users.

Learn the lessons of Europe, not the foolish UK. Half-arsed solutions don’t end up working for anyone and end up costing more in the long run (see Turnbull’s NBN vandalism).

Build it once, build it properly.

Jim says: 18 October 2023 at 10:11 am

Yep – the UK example is a dreadful one to try and justify cancelling light rail (which is of course a questionable project). The HS2 project in the UK has been horrendously managed, and messaging (much like the voice) has been awful, with very little ability to actually sell why it is needed (capacity not speed). They will end up with an utter mess as a result.


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