ACT PT debate heats up

ACT Government opposition will scrap light-rail and prioritise bus if elected in October

A Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) system was proposed as an alternative to Canberra’s light-rail project by the Australian Capital Territory (ACT) Government opposition recently.

The plan involves scrapping the Canberra’s light-rail line altogether and investing in better bus infrastructure and services instead, with eight rapid bus routes across Canberra, city to airport buses and faster non-stop suburban bus services to the major central work hubs.

This solution however has been rubbished by ACT minister for transport and municipal services Meegan Fitzharris, who says nothing will be achieved by cancelling the light-rail project.

"By tearing up the light rail contracts, for a solution committed to before the last election, they will actually be spending hundreds of millions of dollars on nothing, including handing back $60 million to the Federal Government," she says.

In her view, the real solution for Canberra is an integrated transport network, which the ACT Government is delivering in the form of the new all-encompassing agency for public transport known as Transport Canberra, which launches on July 1 this year.

 "Transport Canberra will also be responsible for integrating buses with light rail, taxis, car sharing and active travel, and ensuring a single ticketing system, a central contact for information and coordinated timetabling and we are investing in an electric bus trial already," Fitzharris says.

The ACT Government is also convinced introducing more bus services will lead to increased traffic congestion and that the opportunity to capitalise on property development attached to light-rail stops will be lost.

It seems businesses are more interested in leasing property associated with new light-rail hubs than new bus infrastructure, at least according to ACT Government, so the return on investment for any new bus infrastructure is likely to be less.

ACT shadow minister for transport Alistair Coe however is adamant the territory should be investing in better bus services rather than light-rail and its plan for public transport is a better alternative to what the current ACT Government plans to do.

"Bus public transport has great potential in Canberra and we want a network that services as many Canberrans as possible," she says.

"There are also plans to upgrade bus stops with all-weather shielding and real time information displays, trial electric buses and enable MyWay cards for other purchases."

ACT Government opposition leader Jeremy Hanson is confident that prioritising the bus network is the way forward.

"Our vision for public transport offers much better access and timeliness for all of Canberra as opposed to light rail, which will only service a fraction of the population," he says.

If Hanson is elected in October, the plan will be funded through the existing resources of Action Bus and the reallocation of the funding for the Capital Metro agency.

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