In January 2018, a group of Australian Government ministers, led by Infrastructure Minister Brad Hazzard, launched the $3.4 billion Public Transport Strategy.
The government had decided to spend the $2.6 billion the previous year to upgrade Australia’s public transport network.
The plan called for a $4 billion investment to improve the state’s public transportation system.
“I want to see us take a real step forward in public transport,” Mr Hazzards chief of staff, James Wilson, said in a press release.
In March 2018, after the launch of the Public Transport Plan, the Government announced a $1.5 billion upgrade of Canberra’s public transit network.
At the time, the plan said the upgrade would involve new trains and buses and improve public transport capacity by 50 per cent.
It also said a $2 billion fund would be established to help local councils build new rail lines, a project that would create over 2,000 jobs.
It was not until the second quarter of 2018, when the Government unveiled the Regional Transit Strategy, that the Government finally announced that the $1 billion investment would not be used to build new lines.
Instead, it would be used for upgrading existing rail lines.
Infrastructure Minister Andrew Constance said the Government was “fully committed to improving regional rail service and delivering the high quality regional transport services that are a hallmark of Australia”.
However, he acknowledged that the upgrade to Canberra’s rail network was not part of the $4.2 billion project.
“The Regional Transit Plan will focus on improving regional transport capacity,” Mr Constance told reporters.
“This will include new and improved regional train services and a range of other improvements to regional rail, including improved signalling, upgraded track and track-laying capacity, and improved signalling and signalling upgrades.”
How long does it take?
The Government has estimated the project will take five to seven years to complete.
It is currently seeking approval from Canberra Council to proceed with the project, which is due to be finished by 2025.
What does it cost?
The upgrade to the rail network in Canberra would cost $4,400 per passenger.
However, that does not include any cost for the $400 million project to replace existing rail and improve its signalling and infrastructure.
What is the Government planning to do about the air pollution?
The project is one of the biggest infrastructure projects in Australian history.
Transport Minister Andrew Conroy said the government would “fully engage” with local councils and local community groups on the air quality issues surrounding the proposed rail upgrade.
“We are committed to ensuring that the public have the opportunity to voice their concerns about the impact of air quality on Canberra and our regional region,” Mr Conroy told ABC Radio Canberra.
“Our priority is air quality and public health and we will engage with local communities, including our regional council, and community groups to get their input.”
What is a ‘super’ rail line?
The Federal Government has been exploring a “super” rail line for years.
It would be the largest rail project in Australia.
It involves a total of five rail lines: a high speed line connecting Sydney to Melbourne, the line connecting Brisbane to Perth, the high speed rail line between Adelaide and Canberra, and the high-speed rail line from Melbourne to Brisbane.
The proposed super line would cost around $5 billion and would connect the four cities.
The rail lines are expected to be operational by 2035.
Why did the Government change its mind?
The government originally wanted to upgrade Canberra’s existing rail network, which had been in place since the mid-1990s.
It later changed its mind and decided to delay the project.
How long is the project likely to take?
At the launch, the government estimated that the project would take around four to five years to build.
However the Government later changed the estimate, saying the project could take up to three years to finish.