Light Rail basic questions go unanswered

This election was far more sedate than I had expected. Candidates stood up and said their pieces and there were some questions asked. There was no robust debate - not in my ward anyway. There may have been stronger clashes elsewhere that I have not seen. But it didn't happen in the mayoral race either - at least not in the half dozen or so mayoral forums that I witnessed.

So why was this? It wasn't as though there was shortage of issues to clash about. Take light rail (modern trams really).  The Greens kept on mouthing the mantra that light rail was the answer; certainly it was to be preferred to motorways, more tunnels and flyovers. Virtually no one questioned this.

But let me ask just three basic questions about it. One where will light rail run? Two, how much will it cost? And thirdly who is going to pay for it?

One version of the route was from the railway station to Courtenay Place and then to the hospital and the airport. Fine. Going to the hospital sounds good. But don't buses go there now? Hello? What's wrong with a bus?

And how will light rail work around the Basin and up Adelaide Road? Both are congested now, and will the good people of Newtown welcome further traffic in their suburb. Putting the track up Constable Street and on to Kilbirnie will not be a small engineering task either. And operating light rail  won't be easy - unless there are no cars on those streets. Perhaps that is what it is all about. 

A more direct route would be through the Mt Vic tunnel and down Ruahine Street. But again trams and cars aren't both going to fit. That route would make a second tunnel inevitable and Ruahine Street would have to be widened - the very two things that the Greens oppose.

Then there is the question of cost. Green candidates told meetings that it would be cheaper than motorways and wider streets.  Not a single scrap of evidence to substantiate that, because no one has yet crunched the numbers.

Finally, who pays. At the Mt Victoria candidates meeting we were all asked if we would advocate for light rail if the government were paying. Well of course. But will the government pay? There's no guarantee of that. This government quite likes roads and is willing to fund those. We might well find that it won't fund what we want, and will only fund what it wants. Where will the promises of light rail be then? Empty rhetoric and a cruel hoax on the voters.

Personally I think it is irresponsible to hold out to people that they can have something merely by wishing for it.  All candidates have a duty to say how their promises will be paid for and by whom? Light rail may have its virtues, but those advocating it have failed in their responsibilities when advocating for it in this council election.