Canberra businesses fight to stay afloat from impact of light rail works

Updated September 07, 2017 15:38:40

Struggling businesses say they are losing out after a light rail stop they thought was earmarked for Mitchell has been taken off the plans.

The industrial north Canberra suburb has been plagued by road closures and diversions for months as track construction continues along Flemington Road.

Local businessman Anthony Manning said his business has taken a financial hit, and without a Mitchell stop the pain has not been worth it.

“The only reason I can survive now is because we have been in operation for so long,” he said.

“If I [had] a new business it would probably be impossible to take the hit.”

Mr Manning said in the last year his gym had copped a 30 per cent loss.

“Thirty per cent means a staff member, it means $70,000 — $80,000 a year,” he said.

It has forced Mr Manning to create a new lobby group backed by 250 businesses in the suburb calling on the Government to consider bringing the light rail to Mitchell.

Their main concern is that without a local stop there would be no benefit after months of construction disturbance.

Mr Manning said a Mitchell stop was originally up for consultation, but did not appear in the final plan – with stops instead on Well Station Drive and at EPIC.

“We just want a stop in Mitchell to make the financial burdens and heartache actually have a carrot at the end,” he said.

“That would give everyone something to look forward to and something to put up with and work through.

“What the Government has done is bypassed the business district that employs 5,000 people, that has 300 businesses and they have put a stop either side, not within walking distance or parking distance.

“Essentially they are going to reduce the business attraction to Mitchell, they are going to make it harder for us in the future.”

But Transport Minister Meegan Fitzharris said a stop at Mitchell was still on the cards — just not in the initial rollout.

“The future Mitchell stop is at the corner of Flemington Road and Sandford Street, where the existing bus stop is at the moment,” she said.

“I would expect we would be able to let them know well before 2020 about when that stop will become operational.”

Impact worse than the global financial crisis

Mr Manning said most of the businesses he spoke to were struggling with the ongoing construction.

Heather Campbell is one of those business owners.

She has been operating a kids’ play centre for more than a decade and her business recently posted its first loss, which was in excess of $80,000.

“We have actually seen a loss in the last financial year which obviously is having a fairly detrimental effect and making me consider my options about what the future is here in Mitchell,” she said.

Ms Campbell said that loss was a direct result of the ongoing traffic changes.

“People don’t want to sit in cars with screaming young kids, trying to get to my business when they can easily bypass the entire area and go somewhere else,” she said.

Another business owner, Quentin Ainscough, said he too had lost out from the tram construction. He is down $1,000 a week on average due to lost sales at his cafe.

After 15 years of trading he had to reduce cafe hours and cut a third of his staff.

“The road closures and traffic disturbance has had more of a negative impact than the global financial crisis,” he said.

“I would have to do something drastic with the coffee shop space, like closing, if it wasn’t for my back of house businesses which are keeping me afloat.”

Topics: small-business, building-and-construction, canberra-2600, act, australia

First posted September 07, 2017 06:12:24