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Summit aims to fast-track Adelaide's tram expansion

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Lord Mayor Martin Haese will call a Town Hall summit to push for the expansion of Adelaide's light rail network, InDaily can reveal.

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Haese told InDaily he would be inviting state and federal government representatives, mayors from every inner metropolitan council and business groups to the summit before the middle of the year, in an attempt to secure consensus on an expansion of South Australia’s tram network.

He said that while increasing the reach of the tram network around the CBD would meet several of the city council’s objectives – including its carbon neutral city, business and residential growth goals – it was “premature to suggest” Adelaide City Council would be willing to part with cash to achieve it.

“I don’t want to suggest at this time that Adelaide City Council will be funding light rail across the city,” Haese told InDaily.

“Light rail is a very capital-intensive endeavour,” he said, adding that railway tracks, poles and wires can cost “tens of millions of dollars per kilometre”.

He rejected any accusation, however, that the summit would amount to merely talk.

“If we don’t at least start this discussion together how do we know (the benefits of light rail),” he said.

“I’d like to see the benefits of light rail quantified.”

Haese said some of the councils surrounding the city had yet to decide on an official position regarding light rail, and much of the evidence he was aware of regarding the benefits of light rail for Adelaide remained “anecdotal”.

The summit, he said, would help solidify light rail policy in local government, and consolidate evidence for the efficacy of expanding the network and encourage commitments from all levels of government.

Haese said that, at the very least, the summit would be a “fact-finding mission”, but hoped it could produce “a strategic plan, a business scenario … or a business case” for expanding the network.

He said a “city loop” and “spurs” of railway tracks emanating from the CBD was the long-term goal.

“It would be a success if there was full participation by all surrounding mayors … if there was a consensus (and) specific ‘actionables’.”

An expanded tram network was the centrepiece of the Government’s Integrated Transport Plan, released in 2013, but little has happened since on the plans to restore Adelaide’s light rail network.

Transport Minister Stephen Mullighan welcomed the summit, and said the State Government had been encouraging local government to help expand the network.

“The State Government is committed to expanding our tram network, following the successful extensions both to the Adelaide Railway station and the Adelaide Entertainment Centre,” Mullighan said.

“I welcome the Lord Mayor’s proposal and look forward to further engaging with the Adelaide city Council and other councils … to progress our plans.”

The Transport Plan's map of the five proposed tram routes

The State Government’s Integrated Transport Plan proposed five tram routes for Adelaide.

Property Council SA boss Daniel Gannon told InDaily that “any forum (promoting) light rail infrastructure needs to be welcomed”.

He said that “if we can get local government on the same page as the federal and state government,” it would be an important first step towards light rail growth.

Gannon told InDaily that Adelaide needed a light rail network similar to that which criss-crosses Melbourne.

“Adelaide right now really is at a junction (where) we can embrace … infrastructure or we can ignore it and let things fester,” he said.

Gannon said the Federal Government had a large role to play in funding the expansion of the network since the Turnbull Government had “made it very clear that cities are at its policy forefront”.

Haese said he hoped the Prime Minister’s regular support for public transport on social media indicated a willingness to back public transport projects.

Though both men were hesitant to recommend any particular funding model, Gannon suggested that an approach based on the UK City Deals program – where local regions that exceed growth targets are rewarded with financial incentives – could be a viable way forward.

Urban Development Institute executive director Pat Gerace told InDaily that the institute would “very much welcome a discussion on tram extensions with all levels of government”. 

“In terms of the successful urban renewal it will critical  to engage the development sector and we look forward to the discussion.”

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