Investigating Minister Steel’s $77 million claim

Minister Steel claims that $77 million is earmarked for active travel in the ACT over the next four years but in the 2021-2022 ACT Budget we find only $20 million, leaving a large discrepancy. The Standing Committee On Planning, Transport And City Services questioned where this difference is to be found during the Inquiry into ACT Budget 2021-22.

Inquiry into ACT Budget 2021-22

Extracts from the Legislative Assembly For The Australian Capital Territory, Standing Committee On Planning, Transport And City Services, (Reference: Inquiry into ACT Budget 2021-22) from Monday, 18 October 2021 (morning session), page 22.

Minister Steel acknowledges the importance of active travel but seems to tie the infrastructure to roads. Building a road does not mean investment in priority cyclepaths such as the CBR Cycle Routes but rather is driven by road (car) priorities.

Mr Steel:

Obviously, the transport strategy sets out our objectives. Those are the objectives that we are following in terms of our investment in future-focused projects. We want to encourage a load shift, and that means that we need to invest in active travel infrastructure. It means that we need to rethink the way that we look at some of the projects. That is why we are approaching this with a view to delivering strategic transport corridors that can move people quickly and efficiently throughout our city across a range of modes.

PTCS—18-10-21-am session, page 22

As expected, ACT Transport is breaking the costs out of road projects and labelling this as active travel. This is a form of creative accounting (as it relies on estimates) and must be done carefully and consistently (over successive budget) to have any meaning as discussed here.

Mr Pedersen:

We have done an analysis over the next four years of the budget and have had a look at what contributes to active travel. We have some dedicated active travel projects, which is a straight 100 per cent contribution to that $70-odd million that the minister mentioned earlier. We have also looked at some of the bigger projects like William Hovell and so on that have an active travel component.

We have tried to analyse what the estimated spend on things like on-road cycling, off-road cycling, intersections and things like those contributes to the active travel spend. It is a project-by-project analysis of about 40 projects. Some of it is dedicated active travel and some of it is just a contribution percentage.

PTCS—18-10-21-am session, page 22

A short history of the ACT Strategic Cycle Path Network

As we have a limited pot of money and much to do, we need to approach cycle infrastructure strategically. We need to set priorities and build the most important first with the intent of building it all eventually. The ACT had started this process as early as 2012 with the ACT Strategic Cycling Network Plan August 2012. Later in 2015 with the Active Travel Strategy, we found the begins of what became the CBR Cycle Network. This is a network of Principal Cycle Routes (PCR) that would form a backbone network in the ACT and largely built upon the network laid down by the National Capital Authority before 1988. Pedal Power has also had a list of priorities that it has reiterated consistently since the 2016 ACT Election (and possibly earlier). It made sense back then and still does today. Finally, the ACT Greens came up with a list as part of the 2020 ACT Election campaign. This list too makes sense.

The reiteration of the same work has produced similar lists (with differences) but they all have one thing in common: the network has largely not been built. We do not lack plans but we do lack investment! 

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