MAX LRT is $2 billion project is under construction

MAX LRT is $2 billion project is under construction :THE $2 billion light rail plan to connect Perth to suburban areas could stop short of the CBD.Informed sources have told The Sunday Times that Premier Colin Barnett is becoming increasingly concerned about extending the light rail through either of the malls on Hay St or Murray St.

It comes after Perth Lord Mayor Lisa Scaffidi’s publicity campaign saying the project would “obliterate” foot traffic in the area and affect heritage landmarks.

Under the Government’s pre-election light rail plan, a 22km network would be built from Mirrabooka to the CBD and then branch out to the western and eastern suburbs.

But, sources now say there is a widening difference of opinion between Mr Barnett and his Transport Minister Troy Buswell about the route.

The Sunday Times has been told that in the past few weeks, Mr Barnett has met with Perth Lord Mayor Lisa Scaffidi to discuss the project – at which they discussed stopping the line from Mirrabooka at Kings Square, located within the Perth City Link Precinct.

Any future stops, such as the University of WA or Victoria Park, would be put on the backburner for future discussion.

It’s understood Mr Barnett, who is struggling to come up with the money for the project, was sympathetic to the new plan.

Planning Minister John Day also shares concerns about running trams in Perth’s busy malls.

Ms Scaffidi said yesterday: “The City of Perth would be very happy with a decision from the State Government that confirms the delivery of a Stage One of a MAX light rail service from the northern suburbs to Kings Square.

“This would see a fulfilment of a major election commitment by the Barnett Government and one that is for a service and form of public transport that we the City of Perth solidly support.

“It would leave the decision for a city route to service the central, eastern and western parts of our great city for a future time when we believe we could work on finding a better circuit system that would save our malls but also be a smarter plan to allow better services to other city precincts and future growth considerations to assist our capital city’s growth needs.”

Mr Barnett has faced recent pressure from within his own party not to run trams through Perth’s malls.

Upper House politician Peter Katsambanis and Perth MP Eleni Evangel have openly opposed the plan.

Mr Buswell and Mr Barnett announced the ambitious rail plan during the March election campaign, promising to start construction in 2016 and foreshadowing millions of dollars in commonwealth funding.

But new Prime Minister Tony Abbott has said he will not fund urban rail projects.

If Mr Barnett does shelve half of the light rail project, it will put him at odds with Infrastructure Australia and the Property Council of Australia, which believe that linking the CBD to the eastern and western parts of the city – particularly the universities – was vital.

“If the government stops this project at the City Link precinct it will be a disaster for the city,” PCA executive director Joe Lenzo said yesterday.

“It would defeat the whole purpose of this project which was to link the northern suburbs to the CBD as well as out to the east and western parts of our city.”

Today, Mr Barnett responded to The Sunday Times story and reiterated that the project was still in the planning stages.

“I’ve said previously, because of some of the financial constraints on the states, we’re looking at the timing of major projects,” he said.

“Transport projects form part of that and decisions will be made either at next year’s budget or maybe some decisions made at the mid-year review.

“But those decisions are in the process of being determined now.

“I think the important thing is it serves people within the city travelling around it.

“Now the City of Perth has argued against using the malls. The Public Transport Authority thinks that the use of the malls is absolutely essential.

“Primarily the government will make a decision but we want to make a decision that is acceptable to the City of Perth and we want to have a decision which makes best use of what will be a very big public sector investment in transportation.

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MAX LRT is $2 billion project is under constructionSource : www.perthnow.com.au

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