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Motion: Adelaide's Tram Network

21 February 2024 

The Hon. R.A. SIMMS (16:19): I move:

That this council—

1. Notes that:

(a) in 2016, the Weatherill state government undertook a multi-criteria analysis of a proposed tram network for Adelaide, AdeLINK, which proposed five tram routes radiating out from the city; and

(b) AdeLINK and the tram to the eastern suburbs were abandoned after the change of government at the 2018 state election.

2. Acknowledges that:

(a) the tram extensions to the Botanic Gardens and the Adelaide Entertainment Centre have been successful public transport projects for Adelaide;

(b) over 7.4 million journeys were taken on Adelaide trams in the 2022-2023 financial year;

(c) until the 1950s, Adelaide was serviced by a comprehensive network of trams connecting outer metropolitan areas with the centre of the city;

(d) there is a demand for additional public transport across the metropolitan area; and

(e) trams would reduce congestion and greenhouse gas emissions.

3. Calls on the Malinauskas government to conduct a feasibility study to explore options to extend the tram network including to the eastern suburbs.

This motion calls on the Malinauskas government to conduct a feasibility study to explore options to extend the tram network, including to the eastern suburbs.

In considering this motion it is worth reconsidering the history of the tram extension project in our state. Back in 2016 the then Weatherill government undertook a multi-criteria analysis of a proposed tram network for Adelaide. That was AdeLINK, which had a series of tram routes that would radiate out from the city. The Greens were certainly supportive of seeing trams back on the agenda.

As we know, the Labor government was not re-elected, and the incoming Liberal government abandoned the AdeLINK project. However, from the perspective of the Greens we have continued to be concerned about the lack of investment in public transport, in particular the potential for trams. It is for that reason that I took to the airwaves earlier this week to spruik the benefits of a tram extension and, in particular, talk about the potential to extend the tram from the city to Norwood.

I understand that in Labor's original proposal they were talking about extending the tramline up to The Parade. We in the Greens said, 'Let's look at all the options, let's look at potentially extending the tramline from the Botanic Gardens stop, up Payneham Road and up to the Portrush Road intersection. We could allow cars to run on the tramlines, as we have seen in Melbourne, which would reduce congestion.'

It has long been the policy of the Labor Party that they are supportive of trams; indeed, in Labor's election policy document from 2022 they make a statement about the benefits that flow from trams. The policy document states that, 'Each train or tram in South Australia could take up to 540 cars off the road.' The policy document reads that they are some of the most energy-efficient modes of transport, 'with greenhouse gas emissions per passenger kilometre up to five times less than that of cars.'

With that in mind, when I suggested that the Greens would be moving for a feasibility study in the parliament this week I assumed I would get enthusiastic support from the relevant minister, the Hon. Tom Koutsantonis. Well, I nearly choked on my cornflakes when I heard the minister's response, where he flatly rejected the idea and said that he was ruling it out and that there would be no tram up to Norwood. He went further to say, 'I don't think a tram would do anything to decrease congestion, it will make the problem worse.' That is a real contradiction with the policy position the Labor Party has had for some time.

Of course, he was backed up by his ideological soulmate in the party, the Hon. Vincent Tarzia, who came on the airways as well to support the Labor Party's policy position, their 'do nothing' position, on trams. We have heard about Thomas the Tank Engine; well, we have Thomas the car engine in Minister Tom Koutsantonis in South Australia, because he does not want to look at trams. He is committed to cars; indeed, this is a government that is pumping billions and billions of dollars into the north-south road corridor project but will not even consider a feasibility study to look at how we can get trams back on the agenda.

Trams cost approximately $120 million per kilometre, whereas a six-lane highway, which would carry the same number of people, costs $150 million per kilometre. The route that the Greens have proposed in terms of extending the tram network down to Norwood would cost 3 per cent of the total budget of the north-south corridor project—just 3 per cent—so it is a question of priorities.

Most of the issues that are raised with trams are solvable. People say there is a loss of car parking or that there could be a loss of grass and the like; all of these things can be solved. After all, we are not talking about sending a man to the moon, we are talking about laying some tram tracks and I think we can do that. What we do know is that when you build tramlines people use them—they are popular. Last financial year, 7.4 million trips were taken on Adelaide trams.

The extension to the Botanic Gardens and the Adelaide Entertainment Centre has been a very successful public transport project for Adelaide. Let us put trams back on track for our state. It is really disappointing to see this U-turn from the Labor government. I hope that the minister, the Hon. Tom Koutsantonis, was misspeaking. Perhaps he got it wrong and has taken the wrong turn on behalf of this Labor government. The Greens are here to help, as always. If he has made a mistake he can of course support our motion and we can work together to explore this.

It is some time since an analysis was done of the potential to expand the tram network in South Australia. We are recognising that the costs may have increased due to inflation and the like, and that is why I have proposed to do this study. Let us look at what options are available and at how much it would cost to get this happening again.

To say that in this era of climate crisis, to say that in this era of cost-of-living crisis, that trams are not going to play a role in terms of the public transport solution for South Australia is a real shame. I hope the minister is less like Thomas the car engine and a bit more like Thomas the Tank Engine in terms of turning his mind to the potential for trains, trams and public transport to really deal with the climate crisis and to reduce the pressure that South Australians face at the bowser.

Debate adjourned on motion of Hon. I.K. Hunter.