Passenger Rail

Opponents hate light rail, and then they try it: Broad

Danny Broad at Light Rail 2016. Photo: Oliver Probert

Australasian Railway Association (ARA) boss Danny Broad believes opponents of Canberra’s proposed light rail line will change their minds, should the project come to fruition.

Broad spoke at the Light Rail 2016 conference in Melbourne a week ago.

The relatively new ARA boss referenced the recent success of light rail around the country, citing – among other projects – the Glenelg extension in Adelaide, and the confirmation of funding for stage two of the Gold Coast Light Rail line.

Despite such successes, he said, “strong opposition to light rail proposals seems to be commonplace”.

“The Gold Coast [line] and Glenelg extension both faced strong media opposition until operation began,” he recalled, before pointing out that the Glenelg project boosted public transport patronage by 40% to and from Glenelg, with today’s line now carrying 20,000 people every day.

“The Gold Coast Light Rail is another success story,” he added, “with patronage exceeding expectations. In the first 14 days: 238,000 passenger trips.

“Stage two is obviously a must for the Commonwealth Games.”

Broad said the same criticism which plagued stage one of the Gold Coast project, and the extension in South Australia, is now dragging down enthusiasm over light rail in the nation’s capital.

“Canberra Light Rail still suffers from possible political intervention,” he noted.

“In becoming the ARA CEO, Canberra has recently become my home.

“The city was designed for light rail. The main avenues all have wide median strips that sit ready and waiting for Walter Burley-Griffin’s vision of rail.

“It’s also the most car dependant city in Australia. The ACT Government has invested more than a billion dollars in ACT’s roads over the last decade, without any public protest.

“And yet, the light rail proposal – like you’ve seen with other light rail projects around Australia – has attracted opposition.”

The Canberra Metro consortium was chosen as the preferred bidder to construct the project at the start of February.

Canberra Metro is made up of CAF, Deutsche Bahn, Pacific Partnerships, CPB Contractors, John Holland, Mitsubishi and Aberdeen Infrastructure Investments.

But the Territory’s Opposition has said that they will cancel the contract, should they come to power at the election later this year.

“I’m confident, like with the Glenelg extension, and Gold Coast Light Rail, Canberrans will soon be calling for phase two of the Canberra Metro project, as they realise the transformational capabilities of light rail,” Broad predicted.

ACT’s minister for Capital Metro, Simon Corbell, spoke after Broad at the Light Rail 2016 conference, and warned the Opposition of the dire consequences that might come from cancelling the project.