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Chopped again

01 Aug 2000

ON JULY 10 the Queensland government announced it was dropping plans for a light rail line in central Brisbane. This is the second time that local politicians have ditched a light rail scheme for the state capital, the first occasion being when bids for a 14 km Briztram route (RG 6.98 p371) were returned unopened in July 1998 because the then incoming premier Peter Beattie felt that light rail was not sufficiently 'futuristic'.

Transport Minister Steve Bredhauer said that construction would be too disruptive and that the cost was too high. This statement was apparently based on bids from four consortia whose members include Siemens, Alstom and AnsaldoBreda. Some bidders are considering taking legal action, as they have incurred tendering costs of at least A$10m.

Dr David Watson, leader of the Liberal party in Queensland, accused the incumbent Labour government of doing everything possible to make the project unviable, saying that two years had been wasted with the only result being 'an absolute shambles'. Commonwealth funds worth A$65m allocated to the scheme will be lost, although Bredhauer said that 'we have every chance of securing the A$65m being reallocated to other public transport projects in Brisbane'.

As a suggestion, perhaps the Brisbane authorities should call their counterparts in Croydon, England, to see just what a light rail service can do for business. Within six weeks of opening the full network in June, the 28 km network was carrying 40000 passengers a day; it has already brought increased trade to Croydon's large Whitgift shopping centre and cut car usage in the town.