Canberra Light Rail - 14/10/2019

14 October 2019



It is vital to bust congestion, most importantly because of the impact on our environment. The best way to do this and reduce our environmental impact is by investing in public transport. Aside from the lake and its towering jet of water, the iconic national institutions and the countless roundabouts, Walter Burley Griffin and Marion Mahony Griffin's original plan for this beautiful city also included trams. Over 100 years later, the ACT Labor government has delivered on the Griffins' vision. Stage 1 of the Canberra light rail has now been completed. Running 12 kilometres from Civic to Gungahlin, it has transformed how people get around our city.

Canberra is getting bigger and, with a population of almost 400,000, that means more people getting to work, more people driving cars and more people relying on the public transport system in Canberra, which currently mainly comprises buses. The ACT government, under the leadership of Chief Minister Andrew Barr and transport minister Chris Steel, is planning for the future of Canberra and working to avoid the congestion issues of other capital cities before they escalate. Despite opposition from the old-school Canberra Liberals, the Barr Labor government persevered and, in less than four years from ground being broken, delivered to Canberra world-class light rail. This is quite staggering when you think about it, especially when compared to Sydney's and Newcastle's light rail, which have both seen delays and cost overruns. I might also add that the ACT government has not been sued by the contractors tasked with building the system and instead was able to deliver the project $32 million under budget.

Since it opened in April, over 3.1 million people have utilised the system, and journeys on the whole of the public transport network have increased by 8.5 per cent compared to the same period in 2018. Light-rail trips now make up 20 per cent of all public transport use in our city. The system is having a transformative impact on how people access our great city. More people are getting out of their cars and onto our trams and buses, reducing congestion and its impacts on the environment. Canberrans are jumping on board with light rail.

Stage 2B is about to commence, extending the current line through City West to New Acton and terminating at Commonwealth Avenue Bridge. This section of the light rail will open up the west side of the city and improve access for major events, such as Floriade, which just finished up at the weekend. The ACT government is not finished. Stage 2B of the light rail, which will travel from Civic to Woden, will bring the network to the south and extend access to even more Canberrans. In the future, the light rail network will continue to expand, with lines to Belconnen, Tuggeranong and the airport.

One of the most exciting aspects of stage 2 is the game-changing impact it will have on the Parliamentary Triangle. No longer will public servants be stuck in the morning traffic along Commonwealth Avenue. When stage 2 is delivered, perhaps members of this place will even opt for the light rail instead of COMCAR for their daily commute to represent their community. For tourists travelling to our national institutions, getting from the hotels in the city to Old Parliament House, the High Court and Questacon will become a far simpler exercise.

On the member for Forde's motion, I too express concern about congestion in our cities. There is a need for government at every level to invest in congestion-busting infrastructure, particularly public transport, to improve the lives of our citizens and reduce our environmental impact. That is exactly what the ACT government is doing. The Morrison government failed to spend a dollar from the Urban Congestion Fund in 2019-20, but they did spend $11.6 million on taxpayer funded congestion-busting advertising in the lead-up to the election. Minister Tudge confirmed in September that not one Urban Congestion Fund project had commenced construction and promised that some would start by Christmas. Which ones? Where?

I call on the federal government to join with the ACT government to push forward on stage 2B of light rail. The ACT needs the approval of this parliament to enable the light rail to travel through the Parliamentary Triangle. I call on the government to expedite approval of this project. It will bring congestion-busting infrastructure to Canberrans, it will stimulate the economy and it will improve the amenity of the Parliamentary Triangle for the many thousands of Australians and international visitors who visit each year. Our city is growing, and it's vital we provide the infrastructure necessary to ensure that it does so in a sustainable way. As we move forward we must ensure that our urban centres operate as efficiently as possible, and congestion-busting light rail is one way we can accomplish it. At the May election, the federal Labor Party committed $200 million towards the funding of stage 2 of Canberra light rail, and I call on the government to match this commitment.