All aboard for the ACT election

All aboard for the ACT election

B y Tom Storey

The promise of a $939 million light rail system was the controversial centrepiece for the recent 2016 ACT Election.

With ACT Labor holding power in Canberra for the past 15 years, the decision of the Legislative Assembly to implement a costly public transport network divided the community, especially on North-South lines.

The rail network, which will first operate between the City and Gungahlin, has been positioned by the government as the infrastructure that will link Canberra’s regions together, and provide a benefit for many individuals and businesses in the Territory.

Critics of the plan have suggested that the project is only focussed on Canberra’s northern suburbs, but a second stage to Woden has been announced.

While the ACT Greens support the idea from Labor, the Canberra Liberals offered a different suggestion in the lead up to the election; an expansion of the existing ACTION bus network to include rapid bus routes between the capital’s major centres. The Liberals also offered a new hospital and promised to keep rates for home-owners low by discontinuing light rail, saying that a tram would take from areas such as health and education.

However, with major construction already beginning to provide space for the tram, contracts of $220 million would need to be payed to cancel contracts.

Complicating the issue further is the fact that electoral boundaries were changed ahead of this year’s election, with an extra eight members of the Assembly elected.

The first stage of the billion-dollar transport project is expected to be completed in 2019.

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