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Belco, Airport and Tuggeranong next stops for Canberra’s light rail journey

Ian Bushnell 17 October 2019 231
Light rail will be extended

Construction of light rail Stage 2 may not have even started but the government is preparing for the rest of the envisaged network. Photo: File.

Further stages of light rail will include an east-west link from Belconnen to the Canberra Airport, and continuing the already planned line to Woden further to Tuggeranong, the ACT Government’s $14 billion Infrastructure Plan has confirmed.

The plan, launched today by Chief Minister Andrew Barr, outlines already announced projects such as the $500 million Canberra Hospital expansion, Stage 2 of light rail to Commonwealth Park and Woden, and a new Canberra Theatre, but it also takes a longer-term view of what the ACT requires to service a population of half a million people.

It looks at projects to be considered over the next five years and beyond, including developing the light rail network, duplicating major roads, extending cycling paths and lanes, expanding northside hospital services, new schools and works to support more residential land releases.

Mr Barr said the plan was all about health, education, housing and transport, but the building of the light rail network will likely be the most expensive project government will have to fund over the coming decades.

The plan says that with light rail Stage 2 to Woden up and running by the mid-2020s, Stage 3 would first connect Belconnen to the City and then extend to Canberra Airport via the Russell Defence precinct.

It says a line to Belconnen will link key facilities like Calvary Hospital, the University of Canberra, the Australian Institute of Sport and the Australian National University, and with 30,000 new residents at Ginninderry in the coming decades, it was the ‘natural choice’ for Stage 3.

Stage 4 to the Tuggeranong Town Centre will travel via Mawson, and will set off a new round of development along the line that the plan says will support local businesses and provide an economic boost for group centres in Mawson, Wanniassa and Kambah.

The ACT Government’s light rail master plan aims to deliver a new stage of light rail roughly every five years, and Mr Barr said the timeline for Stage 2 remained realistic.

He said Stage 2 was still on track to be running by 2024, and there were indications from the Prime Minister that the Commonwealth was ready to assist state and territory infrastructure projects, encouraging them to bring suitable projects forward.

“I don’t see the kind of political interference that was the case in 2016 repeating itself in the 2020s,” Mr Barr said.

He said the Stage 3 and 4 routes reflected a sensible approach to the progressive expansion of the light rail network as Canberra’s population moves beyond half a million people.

“People want to know that there is a long-term commitment to the light rail network and that we are doing the forward planning and thinking about future stages,” Mr Barr said.

The light rail network

The planned light rail network as set out in the Infrastructure Plan. Image: ACT Government.

Mr Barr said the government would be borrowing to pay for many of the projects but with interest rates at record lows “there has never been a lower cost of borrowing in global history, so it is a good time to be in the market for new infrastructure financing”.

Mr Barr said the Budget remained on track to return to surplus over the forward estimates.

Already budgeted items include the Surgical Procedures, Interventional Radiology and Emergency (SPIRE) project which aims to future-proof Canberra Hospital, but long term the government is looking at beefing up services in the north to meet demand from a growing population.

This could mean upgrading and expanding the existing public hospital facilities on the northside and/or delivering a new hospital.

In the city, the government is prioritising redeveloping Canberra Theatre, which was built when the ACT’s population was only 80,000, and repurposing it with a flexible flat floor to seat about 2000 people at a cost of $100-250 million.

“Our preferred order for new infrastructure of that social and cultural kind is the Theatre Precinct first, the stadium second and a convention centre third,” Mr Barr said.

The only thing that would change that order would be a funding partner coming forward with a viable offer, he said

Longer-term, the government is looking at a 7500 seat enclosed arena, either as part of a new stadium, convention centre or a stand-alone facility.

Chief Minister Andrew Barr

Chief Minister Andrew Barr at the Canberra Hospital before launching the ACT Government’s Infrastructure Plan. Photo: Ian Bushnell

The convention centre remains on the government’s wishlist with land set aside, but it will only go ahead with private sector and Commonwealth support. Without that, the current facility will need to be upgraded.

The plan outlines works to support the ongoing development of new suburbs in Gungahlin and the Molonglo Valley, including new schools, but also new housing in central Canberra on the Acton Waterfront in West Basin, and in the former industrial area of East Lake in Kingston.

It says the first land releases for East Lake are expected in 2022-23, with more to come over the following decade.

The plan also points to the CSIRO-owned, 700-hectare Ginninderra Experiment Station in Belconnen as a prospect for future residential housing.

Over the next five years, the government will also spend $600 million on public housing to replace and upgrade 1000 existing homes and build a further 200 new dwellings, funded directly with $100 million through the Budget and $500 million from the sale of aged homes no longer fit for purpose.

In education, apart from new schools and college modernisations, the big-ticket item is building a new CIT to replace the Reid campus, with Woden a mooted site, at a cost of $100-250 million.

The government continues to work with UNSW on its plans for a new campus for 6,000 students in the city on Constitution Avenue that would create a Defence and Security Innovation Precinct.

Mr Barr said the government would certainly be taking the plan’s contents to next year’s election but denied it was a political document, saying many of the proposals were above politics.


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231 Responses to Belco, Airport and Tuggeranong next stops for Canberra’s light rail journey
Peter Paz Peter Paz 1:46 am 26 Oct 19

Good luck paying for it Canberrans. Especially you Tuggeranonganites!

Ron Norton Ron Norton 12:22 pm 25 Oct 19

Wow! Not everything (but almost everything!) going to the north. Tuggeranong to actually get a tram some time in the very distant future. So the north needs a third hospital and Tuggeranong none? Thank you our concerned Tuggeranong members of the ACT Labor/Greens Government. Hope you all remember the names Gentleman and Burch at the 2020 elections!

Julie McIntyre Julie McIntyre 8:34 am 25 Oct 19

The South doesn’t want it or need it. Good luck getting across the lake

BlowMeDown BlowMeDown 7:38 pm 24 Oct 19

If light rail stage 1 was any good it would pay for stage 2, etc. Like any real business. The fact that the government needs to keep borrowing means it isn’t.

This labor government came to power during the dotcom era and they still think that way. Borrow to inflate an idea then sell it off to the public who will take the loss when the bubble bursts.

Lesley Francis Lesley Francis 1:49 pm 24 Oct 19

Somehow I don't think I'll be able to afford to stay in my home come retirement.

Francis Chen Francis Chen 12:23 am 24 Oct 19

Well, we won’t see the stage 3 and 4 until 2040s

Peter Sands Peter Sands 11:00 pm 23 Oct 19

Oh well, better go back to work. Up go the rates again

Cyril Cox Cyril Cox 7:40 am 22 Oct 19

Yeah, get the Federal Government to fund Barr’s ideas! Meanwhile the remainder of the country is stricken by ongoing drought and regional and rural Australians (trying to grow food for Canberrans and everyone is) have no water! Typical NIMBY!

Mark Sloane Mark Sloane 10:30 pm 20 Oct 19

It's a shame the ACT government are unwilling to spend large amounts of money on improving the territories health system, like maybe a new hospital????

Lauren Medcalf Lauren Medcalf 3:46 pm 20 Oct 19

Still not the hard rail line though. Stupid choices

Colin Vivian Colin Vivian 12:33 pm 20 Oct 19

Well done for repeating Barr’s election spin. No delivery dates for Stages 3&4 given here but previously announced it won’t be until 2040s.

And Barr wants to sign a contract to lock ratepayers into stage 2 weeks before the next election. Remember the leaked business case only managed a return of less than 50c in the $1 over 30 years. Utopia wasn’t meant to be an understatement of reality.

Nikos Manikas Nikos Manikas 9:56 am 20 Oct 19

Good idea, to expand the tram to all town centres I would also look into having a branch line from Woden to Weston Creek, then a possible link to Belconnen from Weston going through the new Molonglo town centre and maybe a possible link between Belconnen and Gungahlin to close the loop

Sally Tregellas Wodzinska Sally Tregellas Wodzinska 9:22 pm 19 Oct 19

Perhaps they could get on with the Airport and Belco routes first then tackle crossing the lake...

Frank Italiano Frank Italiano 8:54 pm 19 Oct 19

Another excuse to increase our rates I hope people wake up and kick them out at the next election

Danny Finlay Mackenzie Danny Finlay Mackenzie 6:55 pm 19 Oct 19

Philip the future is now

Jeff Abel Jeff Abel 5:56 pm 19 Oct 19

How many kn for 14 billion dollars has any body done a cost analysis,other than the act goverment

Gavin Kelly Gavin Kelly 1:52 pm 19 Oct 19

Just easier for all the junkies to go suburb to suburb stealing and scoring drugs

Sue Barrow Sue Barrow 1:43 pm 19 Oct 19

Believe it when I see it

Agata Nabagło Agata Nabagło 6:50 am 19 Oct 19

Maddy Weeks why couldn't this have happened while we still lived in Belco

Kirrali Doecke Kirrali Doecke 9:35 pm 18 Oct 19

Kez Olesen belco to the airport 😍

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