Track to the future

Written By miftah nugraha on Sabtu, 16 Februari 2013 | 19.55

Bob Brown addresses the light rail forum held at MONA yesterday, which won a State Government commitment to push for a Glenorchy link. Pictures: SAM ROSEWARNE

THE State Government will create a high-powered taskforce to push the case for a light rail link through the city's northern suburbs.

Sustainable Transport Minister Nick McKim yesterday told a forum of backers gathered at MONA he had ordered a new business case for the link, which he wants to put before the Federal Government's funding process by May.

But in a letter to the meeting, Mr McKim said he would be pushing for a Hobart to Glenorchy link, rather than the proposed Hobart to Bridgewater line.

Mr McKim said shortening the route would increase the cost-to-benefit ratio, which would make it easier to attract critical federal finding.

Participants at yesterday's forum released a joint statement saying light rail had the potential to transform the city and revitalise real estate development, including housing in the northern suburbs, and improve transport options along the corridor.

A delegation is expected to visit Canberra in mid-March to lobby for funding for the project.

Ben Johnston, from the Hobart Northern Suburbs Rail Action Group, believes it will cost $100 million to convert the existing rail corridor to be able to take passengers from Bridgewater to Hobart in under half an hour.

"At the moment your options are bus or car and it's slow, uncomfortable and inefficient," he said.

The state's three major political parties, as well as Denison independent Andrew Wilkie and his Labor and Green opponents at the upcoming federal action, have backed the proposal.

Mr Wilkie said the availability of the rail line gave Hobart the chance to develop a new mass transit system.

"If we do not take this opportunity, the line will quickly deteriorate and the corridor soon disappear, even though it's the obvious route for a light rail system which would take the pressure off the road network, kick start an urban renewal and connect the communities and facilities along the length of the electorate in a clean and affordable manner," Mr Wilkie said.

Liberal party sustainable transport spokesman Matt Groom said the government had dragged its feet on getting the project off the drawing board.

"We consider this to be an important project, it's one which the government needs to make sure it properly assesses," Mr Groom said.

"We are committed to ensuring the northern suburbs have better public transport options".

Dr Gary Glazebrook, from the Institute for Sustainable Futures at the University of Technology in Sydney, said the development had the potential to increase land values along the route.

"The experience from around the world is that light rail projects cause an uplift in land values along the land corridors."

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