Surprise election result dampens ACT light rail ambitions

The Coalition Government’s poll-defying victory in last Saturday’s federal election has left the future of Canberra’s light rail expansion project up in the air.

Labor had planned to contribute $200 million for stage two funding of the project in the event of a federal election victory, an investment that no longer applies.

Stage two of Canberra’s light rail project is planned to incorporate an extension running from the city centre (Civic) to Woden by 2025.

But ACT chief minister Andrew Barr on Monday told ABC Canberra the election result would “set back the timeframe, there’s no doubting that”.

“Had the election result gone differently on Saturday I was hoping to sit down this week with an incoming Labor infrastructure minister and an incoming Labor territories minister to get on with fast-tracking that project,” he said. “It will now take a lot longer.”

Stage one of the Canberra light rail opened to the public in April. It is operated by Canberra Metro and links the city centre to the northerly town of Gungahlin via a 12km line.

The ACT Government announced last week that the project was delivered $32 million under budget for a final cost of $675 million.

Stage two is expected to cost anywhere between $1.3–1.6 billion, however, according to figures from Australia & New Zealand Infrastructure Pipeline (ANZIP).

The project would also cross through federal land, requiring the full approval of the Federal Government.

“Depending … on the final outcome of the Australian Parliament in terms of the Senate and the House of Reps, it may not be possible to get parliamentary approval for the second stage in this parliamentary term,” Barr told ABC.

“If we are unsuccessful in that regard, just simply on the parliamentary approval, then we will have to rethink our approach and the timeframe.”