Canberra Liberals Light Rail backflip undermines voter trust: ACT Greens

Australian Greens

As other parties flip-flop on routes and stages, the ACT Greens today reaffirm their support for the next stage of light rail to go to Woden.

The Greens today have called on the Canberra Liberals to explain their overnight backflip on Stage 2 light rail to Woden – a key commitment secured by the ACT Greens at the last election, as the Territory’s longest advocates for light rail.

ACT Liberals Transport Spokesperson Candice Burch reportedly told an election transport forum the Liberals were “absolutely” committed to expanding light rail, but said it was worth investigating whether stage 2 of the light-rail network should extend to Belconnen instead of Woden.” Ms Burch reportedly said.

Yet when speaking to ABC Radio Canberra this morning, leader of the Canberra Liberals Alastair Coe said “the next stage of Light Rail will be from the City to Woden”.

“It’s not surprising that the Canberra Liberals, who for so long fought against Light Rail, would be unclear with the Canberra community about what their intentions are for the next stage of Light Rail – and beyond,” ACT Greens Transport Spokesperson Emma Davidson said today.

“Canberra voters deserve a chance to go to the polls, knowing exactly what they’re voting for.

“The Greens are absolutely committed to seeing the next stage of Light Rail through to Woden, and have been consistent on this throughout – giving certainty to the business sector and to the Canberra community. In fact, we have long committed to delivering a comprehensive Light Rail network across Canberra, over stages, in years to come – including Stage 3 to Belconnen. We also recently proposed an Express Light Rail service, that will make getting across the Lake faster and easier than ever before.

“If the Canberra Liberals want to make a constructive contribution to this process, we’d encourage them to speak with their Federal counterparts and the National Capital Authority to get out of the way of Light Rail to the south, given that an enormous amount of work has already gone into delivering this crucial next stage of our growing, and hugely popular, light rail network.”

The road to Light Rail

  • In 1995, the ACT Greens campaign for a “detailed feasibility study, including environmental and social benefits, of a light rail system… (that would) operate between the town centres (giving priority to Gungahlin).” Kerrie Tucker and Lucy Horodny are then the first Greens MLAs elected to the Legislative Assembly.
  • Then Chief Minister Carnell equivocated on light rail, describes “the option of having light rail between Gungahlin and Civic… is an issue of strong interest to the Greens“.
  • In 1997, the ACT Greens again advocated for light rail as part of the ACT’s transport system in our Transport Strategy.
  • In 2002, a Greens motion in the Assembly saw to it that “Gungahlin would not be forgotten”, ensuring that any future study of light rail included the regional centre.
  • In 2004, the ACT Greens transport policy included “establishing (a) light rail connection between Gungahlin and Civic, along Northbourne Avenue.”
  • In 2010, the ACT Greens released our proposed Light Rail Network, across three stages – including the current stage one Gungahlin to Civic route.
  • In late 2010, yet another study found that “a well-designed (light rail) system in Canberra could prove to be a worthwhile investment“, reducing our carbon footprint and improving transport options.
  • In 2012, the ACT Greens launched a major election commitment to realise a light rail public transport system built in Canberra.
  • By 2012, despite years of discussions, submissions and investigations, the major parties had yet refused to back a light rail proposal. “Now that there is a plan on the table, the lip-service can end: the other parties need to say if they support light rail, or if they don’t,”
  • Greens MLA Amanda Bresnan said at the time. You can read the 2012 Greens discussion paper here.
  • ACT Labor vacillated on light rail for years.
  • In 2012, Greens MLA Amanda Bresnan described this as an ‘election time warp’, seeing the major party consistently hint at action on light rail, while stopping short of delivering: “The ACT Government has made numerous announcements about the findings of public transport studies and engaged in positive rhetoric about the opportunities, only to then take the projects nowhere.”
  • In the same year, ACT Labor watered down a Greens motion in the Assembly which would have committed the ACT Government to deliver on light rail.
  • After years of advocacy, balance of power arrangements changed the state of play in ACT politics. After the 2012 election, the Greens included an item in our Parliamentary Agreement to realise a commitment to deliver ‘the construction of a light rail network’.
  • The 2016 Parliamentary Agreement between the Greens and Labor also committed the Government to complete stage one by early 2019, and to begin design and scoping for stage 2 to Woden.
  • On 20 April 2019, many decades after the Greens advocacy, light rail stage one from Gungahlin to the city began – cementing the Greens’ ongoing leadership in delivering a modern, sustainable light rail option for Canberra.
  • Light rail is now operating very successfully, has performed well above expectations, and has already carried over 5 million passengers.

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