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Traditional rail lines and rights of way litter the ACT and its immediate environs like so many broken and discarded children's toys. There is an operational line joining Canberra to the not insignificant population centres of Queanbeyan, Bungendore and all the stations between there and Goulburn.
To the south, there is a disused line that in the recent past extended from Queanbeyan, via Michelago to Cooma. There is even an unused rail siding in the depths of Tuggeranong.
Yet, despite growing populations, none of the existing lines, with all their sunk capital investment, support a regular, high-frequency inter-urban commuter service with Canberra. Little or no freight is carried and the only ongoing passenger service is the thrice daily run on an ageing Canberra-Monaro express to and from Sydney.
As a rail enthusiast, I'd be both surprised and disappointed if options for using the existing infrastructure more effectively to promote development and remove light and heavy traffic from the regional and the ACT roads had not been explored.
Assuming government has done its homework, the state of our extensive but neglected rail network pretty much makes the case against the proposed Gungahlin to (near) Civic line.
Light rail or heavy rail services are, on the evidence around us, simply not viable and would incur heavy ongoing losses while drawing funds away from other worthwhile public works.
Bob Bennett, Gowrie
David Hughes' informative analysis of the Gungahlin to city light rail proposal (Light rail logic is ''flawed'', Times2, October 15, p2) made more sense than anything the ACT government has said on this matter.
Light rail is a great economic transport option in high density living situations, which Gungahlin to the city is not. In addition to the capital cost of the tram being twice that of additional bus lanes, a very telling point in David Hughes' analysis was that the annual payments by the ACT government to the consortium operating this one short tram line will be at least $80 million - more than half the annual cost of $145 million to operate the whole ACTION bus fleet!
The new Majura Parkway, which is already under construction, will provide a direct link from Gungahlin to Canberra airport, Fyshwick, Russell and Queanbeyan. To what extent has the estimated patronage for the light rail taken into account the opening of this new transport artery?
A number of public-private partnership projects, such as is proposed for light rail, have been based on overly optimistic estimates of patronage. When that patronage doesn't materialise, governments are left paying out to the private entity under contractual obligations which guarantee a minimum rate of return on the project.
What protections will Treasurer Andrew Barr be including in any public-private partnership arrangement to ensure the private partner shoulders the risk of unattained patronage rather than the ACT government (read ACT tax/rate payers)?
Bill Crawshaw, Fadden
This article first appeared on www.canberratimes.com.au
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