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No matter where one stands on the light rail issue, everyone agrees that the next stage to Commonwealth Park and beyond to Woden is going to cost a motza.
Last week’s announcement that the Cabinet had backed the business case for Stage 2A and the Government was getting on with extending light rail didn’t come with a price tag due to commercial negotiations with the operator of Stage 1, Canberra Metro.
It makes sense to stick with Canberra Metro and maintain continuity and consistency along the light rail route. There’s no need to reinvent the wheel but the Government rightly wants to get the best deal it can, so it can’t logically flag how much it thinks the project, including the raising of London Circuit, will cost.
The question is, and the Canberra Liberals will no doubt be raising it, can the ACT afford it?
The Government believes it can, and, with the community on board for Stage 1 and the cost benefit ratio tipped to be the same for Stage 2 (1:2), it sees light rail as a long-term economic generator and electoral winner.
But we are a small jurisdiction, with limited revenue options and growing demands on services.
So it would be to the ACT’s advantage for it to get all the help it can to roll out light rail, which many should remember was aided in Stage 1 by the Abbott Government’s asset recycling scheme.
The May election dashed the ACT’s hopes of a Commonwealth windfall from a Shorten government, but the parlous state of the national economy and calls for more infrastructure spending offers a fresh opportunity for some of that possible treasure to come our way.
Perhaps there was something in Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s reported supportive nod to Chief Minister Andrew Barr last week on light rail.
This article first appeared on the-riotact.com
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