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Light rail will propel capital into new era as train did for Goulburn: heritage chief

By John Thistleton - 10 January 2017 25

Caption: Chair of the ACT Heritage Council, David Flannery, at Goulburn’s early rail infrastructure that coincided with a golden era, similar to the potential growth on offer from light rail in Canberra. Photo: John Thistleton.

Chair of the ACT Heritage Council David Flannery believes light rail will herald a new era for Canberra, just as the introduction of a train line did for Goulburn, John Thistleton writes.

David Flannery admires the exceptional workmanship in Goulburn’s 1869 brick piers, built for the first railway line into the town.

“These early bricklayers were true artisans proud of their trade,” the Canberra architect and urban planning researcher says.

The piers construction coincided with the start of Goulburn’s golden era of grand public buildings. They reinforce Mr Flannery’s view that light rail will similarly propel Canberra into a new era.

Architect and Chair of the ACT Heritage Council Mr Flannery is a long-term champion of light rail. He is aware of transport’s relationship to planning, most especially the impact cars had on Goulburn and Canberra.

Canberra is full of planning commentators but few have articulated as consistently as Mr Flannery the insidious nature of car-induced urban sprawl, particularly in the territory’s new northern suburbs. Observing Goulburn over recent decades, he said the Hume Highway had once turned the heritage city’s main thoroughfare into a car sewer.

The earlier arrival of rail had a far better impact.

“When rail arrived in 1869, Goulburn was already a prosperous town based on agriculture, I guess, and the arrival of rail guaranteed ongoing prosperity of the town,” Mr Flannery said.

“The city after [the] 1870s and 1880s had a golden age of development. If you look at the court house, the cathedrals, and all the other grand public buildings all happened about that time. I would maintain that would not have been possible had there not been a rail connection.”

Mr Flannery says when Canberra’s first stage of light rail is completed, and the network becomes citywide connecting the town centres and airport, the national capital will flourish.

“Strengthened development will happen in those transit corridors. Hopefully it lessens the amount of land grab that happens because of urban sprawl, that we have more inner city development,” he said.

He says Canberra is one of the least dense cities in Australia.

“The distance from the top end to the bottom of Canberra, from Bonner to Banks, is the same distance as the crow flies, just over 42km, as it is to Bondi Beach from Blacktown. But Sydney has 10 times the population.

“Hopefully that will slow down in the coming decades as more intense development happens in the inner part of the city.”

Graduating from the University of Sydney as an architect, Mr Flannery worked for the NSW Government Architect in Sydney and Newcastle before arriving in Goulburn for 18 months.

He lived in Goulburn from 1981-82, when Australia’s busiest highway had turned the main street into a “car sewer”, before moving to England for postgraduate studies in conservation of the built environment. He took slides to show an audience of international fellow students a history of architecture in Goulburn.

“I have had a fascination of the life and culture and history of Goulburn ever since that time,” Mr Flannery said.

The dominance of cars since the 1950s changed transport and planning in Goulburn and Canberra.

Mr Flannery says the highway bypass in 1992 was built not before time and relieved Goulburn of congestion. A keen photographer, he had trained his telephoto lens from one end of Goulburn’s main street to the other before the highway bypass, capturing the predominance of commercial signs all trying to out-do one another and catch the attention of passing motorists.

“These days with the town returning to a greater awareness of its built heritage, it has tried to tone down the prominence of commercial advertising in the main street,” he said.

“Two and a bit decades after the bypass the city is starting to realise the great benefit of all the beautiful old building stock, a legacy for the city to hang onto for future generations.”

Pictured above is David Flannery, the Chair of the ACT Heritage Council, at the site of Goulburn’s early rail infrastructure. Its construction coincided with a golden era, similar to the potential growth on offer from light rail in Canberra, the architect argues. Photo: John Thistleton.

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25 Responses to
Light rail will propel capital into new era as train did for Goulburn: heritage chief
1
switch 3:27 pm
10 Jan 17
#

This is 2017, not 1869. All I see are beautiful trees along Northbourne being destroyed by a supposedly “Green” government, to impose a tram which doesn’t even get from A to B any faster that existing services.

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2
dungfungus 8:20 am
11 Jan 17
#

He is comparing chalk with cheese.

The rail line into Goulburn was the forefront of colonial expansion in New South Wales.

The main thrust was providing freight services in and out of the region, not commuters.

I have a lot of respect for rail enthusiasts but they know little about the business of running a railroad. Witness the failure of our local railway historical society who thought commercial expansion would be a good thing.

Local governments know little about running railroads either as is being revealed every day.

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3
John Thistleton 9:51 am
11 Jan 17
#

Surely there is a correlation of a young city or town gaining more confidence from the investment of new infrastructure. Rail has been under-funded between Sydney and Goulburn and Canberra and would have delivered much more growth had governments invested in track upgrades and rolling stock. Goulburn is now campaigning for electrification of the Sydney – Canberra rail link. Even without this upgrade the service is gaining more patronage. Cars, on the other hand, bring congestion, and investment in road transport brings even more congestion.

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4
bj_ACT 10:14 am
11 Jan 17
#

Mr Flannery’s proposal for the Civic to Woden light rail line in the Canberra Times before Christmas crossed over 64 road intersections, meandered through suburbs and had four sharp right angle turns. It would triple the time taken for public transport to get from Woden to Civic and would cost an absolute bomb in physical build and a squillion in land acquisition.

The article would relate better to Canberra Light rail, if it looked at the terrible impacts on the town and community that ill-informed and poorly planned project funding decisions by the Goulburn Council had on the city.

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5
dungfungus 10:26 am
11 Jan 17
#

John Thistleton said :

Surely there is a correlation of a young city or town gaining more confidence from the investment of new infrastructure. Rail has been under-funded between Sydney and Goulburn and Canberra and would have delivered much more growth had governments invested in track upgrades and rolling stock. Goulburn is now campaigning for electrification of the Sydney – Canberra rail link. Even without this upgrade the service is gaining more patronage. Cars, on the other hand, bring congestion, and investment in road transport brings even more congestion.

In what way would this have delivered much more growth had governments invested in track upgrades and rolling stock?

Rail freight is only viable where bulk transfer from source to seaport/refinery/etc. is required. Examples are iron ore and coal.

Almost everything else is moved by road which enables point to point transport avoiding the double handling that rail requires. Even larger trucks are being trialled to increase efficiency. An example of how things have changed is the elimination of fuel being railed to Canberra and then distributed to local service stations because it is cheaper and more efficient to do it direct from the bulkhead in Sydney to the regional service stations by road tanker.
Intermodal freight still has its place with the new terminal near Liverpool being established to reduce road congestion at the Port Botany container terminal.

There is an existing rail line from Bungendore and Queanbeyan which could be used for commuter transport without a cent being spent but our Canberra government would rather see 10,000 cars continue to enter and leave Canberra every day from the east so they can build a totally unviable and expensive tram line which has no purpose as the route is already well served by busses.

It will be many years before roads in Canberra become so congested that people will be forced to use public transport. In the meantime, cars are what we want and have.

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6
dungfungus 10:54 am
11 Jan 17
#

bj_ACT said :

Mr Flannery’s proposal for the Civic to Woden light rail line in the Canberra Times before Christmas crossed over 64 road intersections, meandered through suburbs and had four sharp right angle turns. It would triple the time taken for public transport to get from Woden to Civic and would cost an absolute bomb in physical build and a squillion in land acquisition.

The article would relate better to Canberra Light rail, if it looked at the terrible impacts on the town and community that ill-informed and poorly planned project funding decisions by the Goulburn Council had on the city.

Yeah, that Civic to Woden tram route suggestion would have required the tram driver to take a compass and cut lunch and have several comfort stops along the way.

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7
dungfungus 10:58 am
11 Jan 17
#

8
John Thistleton 11:57 am
11 Jan 17
#

The XPT trains are about 35 years old, the Explorers 23 years old. Replacing them with trains which don’t break down, have air-conditioning that works and travel faster on straighter tracks will bring more patronage. Even the ageing trains are being used more these days by Canberrans tired of plane delays at airports, and car queues on the F5 Freeway tunnel. The NSW Government is upgrading (slowly) the XPT fleet because it too recognises this will increase patronage and ease road congestion.

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9
dungfungus 12:13 pm
11 Jan 17
#

John Thistleton said :

The XPT trains are about 35 years old, the Explorers 23 years old. Replacing them with trains which don’t break down, have air-conditioning that works and travel faster on straighter tracks will bring more patronage. Even the ageing trains are being used more these days by Canberrans tired of plane delays at airports, and car queues on the F5 Freeway tunnel. The NSW Government is upgrading (slowly) the XPT fleet because it too recognises this will increase patronage and ease road congestion.

The improvements you have noted are indeed desirable but but there are huge costs involved in upgrading rail infrastructure and this would necessitate commensurate increases in fares.

The existing Canberra – Sydney bus services are very competitively priced and (I will get criticised for saying this) the Canberra – Sydney Explorer service is over-weighted with concessional fare paying passengers who will scream loudly if there is any attempt to take away their entitlements.

The Explorer train services unfortunately do not include Sydney Airport on their route either.

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10
Vanessa Jones 3:10 pm
11 Jan 17
#

I’d really like to see David Flannery take a strong interest in improving rapid buses to the outer suburbs of Canberra. Not a very trendy issue at the moment, but buses do help many people, and some areas will not get light rail soon. Weekend “blue” rapid buses to Kippax would be good, they currently go every 15 mins from Tuggers to Belconnen on weekends, and should be extended to Kippax, where they go on weekdays. Of course, light rail is a more fashionable topic, but I think the Liberals gave rapid buses more attention. Perhaps David could drag himself to the outer suburbs and try to catch a bus on the weekends- not much fun at the moment.

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11
Arthur Davies 3:48 pm
11 Jan 17
#

It seems appropriate to have a heritage advocate touting the benefits of trams in this day & age. Drag Canberra kicking & screaming into the 1890s!

Electric trams were originally brought in to eliminate the problem of horse manure in the cities due to their reliance on horse transport (500 tons a DAY) in Melbourne for example. There are far faster, cheaper, more convenient modern transport systems now coming on line which should have been utilised. I really thought the horse manure problem was solved but here we go, it is coming up again.

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12
ChrisinTurner 5:20 pm
11 Jan 17
#

David Flannery is right to promote heavy rail and this is what Canberra needs, not Light Rail. Compared with Sydney, Canberra stretches from Hornsby to Heathcote. Can you imagine Sydney without its Metro heavy-rail system? Light Rail looks very pretty but even Sydney is realising it can’t do the job of mass public transport. Someone in Goulburn suggested extending Canberra’s Light Rail to Goulburn, not understanding it has a max speed of 70 km/hr.

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13
Leon Arundell 9:02 am
12 Jan 17
#

David Flannery estimates that up to three quarters of the people who use buses on Flemington Road and Northbourne Avenue will switch to other modes or routes, rather than use light rail.
This may result in Canberra’s light rail being consigned to “heritage” sooner than even Mr Flannery expects.
These estimates are included in “Greenhouse gas emission reductions from Canberra’s light rail project,” Steffen, Percival and Flannery, Australian Planner, 2015.

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14
A_Cog 10:48 am
12 Jan 17
#

Am I the only one who is worried by Flannery’s comments?

This guy is the Chair of the ACT Heritage Council, which makes decisions on whether to protect particular buildings – mostly in the older (ie, most established) parts of Canberra. But he espouses views that are pro-development, and pro-density, which are only economical in the inner (ie, older and more established) parts of Canberra, where the buildings most eligible for heritage are.

So on the one hand he leads the circle of decision on whether to refuse permission to demolish, but on the other he supports development and believes demolition necessary.

Conflict much? Or maybe that was why Barr chose him.

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15
John Thistleton 11:18 am
12 Jan 17
#

I cannot see a conflict in preserving heritage buildings, encouraging density and development. Indeed development is needed to re-purpose old buildings. To get the growth in the right places, decisions must be made about transport, and so far in Canberra’s case investment has favoured cars, as it has throughout NSW.

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