A REPORT into traffic congestion in Canberra has confirmed the need for light rail between City and Gungahlin, according to ACT Capital Metro Minister Simon Corbell, with the cost of congestion potentially reaching $700 million per year by 2031 if no action is taken.
In a statement last week, Mr Corbell said the report by Infrastructure Australia (IA) shows also highlights Northbourne Avenue as the transport corridor of major concern because much of Canberra's growth will happen in Gungahlin and Canberra's north.
"This report confirms that light rail is the right choice for Canberra and it confirms that City to Gungahlin is the right place to start," Mr Corbell said.
"Business as usual, or relying on putting more vehicles on our roads, is not a solution and will do nothing to prevent or reduce the loss of $700 million annually from the ACT economy.
"Previous modelling done by the Bureau of Transport and Regional Economics had put the cost of congestion in Canberra at $200 million a year by 2020. This new work by IA shows that congestion will get even worse than previously predicted if we don't take action now.
"Light rail will get people out of their cars and into a comfortable, reliable, high-capacity mode of public transport that is separate from general traffic.
"Not only is light rail capable of carrying large numbers of commuters as we head towards a population of 600,000 but it can also integrate into the landscape in a way that lets us maintain the character of Northbourne Avenue as the gateway to Canberra."
The IA report also said that public transport use was expected to increase, with passenger loadings expected to grow substantially on Northbourne Avenue by 2031.
"The Liberals have no plan to deal with this looming transport crisis except to increase congestion by putting more cars on the road," Mr Corbell said.
"The Liberals' blind opposition to a project that will create $1 billion in economic benefits, more than 3500 jobs and helps prevent the loss of $700 million a year from our economy is fiscally irresponsible.
"Putting more buses in among the traffic on Northbourne Avenue won't solve the problem, even if you give them priority at traffic lights. The only way to make buses work would be to give them their own lane. To do this you would need to remove a lane of general traffic in both directions. This would make congestion worse for private commuters.
"A transport plan for Canberra's future needs to make transport better for all commuters, those in their cars as well as those on public transport. Light rail achieves this.
"Light rail will deliver transport benefits, social benefits, health benefits and significant economic benefits while changing the way we use one of our most important corridors."