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Bill for light rail to Woden will be $1.3-1.6 billion, says Government update

Ian Bushnell 20 June 2018 28
An artist's impression of the Commonwealth Avenue median with light rail. Images: Transport Canberra.

An artist’s impression of the Commonwealth Avenue median with light rail. Images: Transport Canberra.

Extending the light rail line to Woden through the Parliamentary Zone will cost up to $1.6 billion with construction scheduled to commence in 2020-21, depending on Commonwealth approvals, according to a mid-year update on Stage 2 released by the ACT Government.

The update confirms that the journey from Woden to the City through Barton will take 25-30 minutes as opposed to the 14-minute trip on the current Blue Rapid bus.

It also says the Government is considering grassed tracks, similar to that in operation in Adelaide, to conceal the rails within the landscape of the Parliamentary Zone, and simplified stops near landmarks such as Old Parliament House.

Windsor Walk in Barton is set to become a central linear park and continuous pedestrian spine connecting transport facilities, offices, a proposed retail plaza and landscaped recreational areas.

Minister for Transport and City Services Meegan Fitzharris said the ACT Government’s spending decision would be guided by a final business case for the project in coming months.

“Our business case can be finalised once we’ve worked through approval processes with the NCA and Commonwealth Government. However initial costings have been developed and are currently anticipated to be in the region of $1.3 to $1.6 billion,” she said.

“This is commensurate with the original cost estimates for the first stage of light rail, escalated to future dollars and reflecting additional costs associated with bridges, wire-free running, additional light rail vehicles and other factors.”

A transformed Windsor Walk in Barton.

A transformed Windsor Walk in Barton.

Ms Fitzharris said that the Government was looking to have the business case approved in 2018-19, procurement in 2019-20, before construction starts in 2020-21, depending on Commonwealth support for the project, and associated planning requirements.

She said the next steps for the project included developing the design in close consultation with the National Capital Authority (NCA), making planning and environmental submissions, and undertaking further community and stakeholder consultation on the project.

$12.5 million had been allocated to progress the project through the 2018-19 financial year.

The update says the Government’s preferred lake crossing is the construction of a new light rail bridge between the existing Commonwealth Avenue bridges so existing road traffic capacity will be retained, and traffic flows will not be significantly affected.

In order to integrate the project with its environment, the Government is investigating similar sites overseas where the stop surface is integrated into the fabric of the area and has no canopy to obscure view lines. This type of approach is planned for the Old Parliament House light rail stop to reflect its iconic location.

It is also exploring a grass surface finish, similar to that in operation in Adelaide, that could be implemented along Commonwealth Avenue and Kings Avenue to conceal the rail within the landscape of the national boulevard. King George Terrace will be paved to integrate the light rail tracks with the new pedestrian environment, with a similar treatment envisaged for Windsor Walk.

An artist's impression of Adelaide Avenue with a treed median and light rail.

An artist’s impression of Adelaide Avenue with a treed median and light rail.

Light rail will also have a big impact on parking in the Parliamentary Zone with the project initially displacing 130 spaces or 4 per cent of available parking. With the ability to pour 4000 people into the area during the morning peak hour, light rail will change the parking dynamics and facilitate the anticipated development of surface car parks, the update says.

The introduction of the light rail will change the demand for parking and helps with the orderly development of the area, in line with future developments identified by the National Capital Authority,’ the update says.

The project will impact 28 ‘ageing’ trees in the Commonwealth Avenue median from Lake Burley Griffin to Coronation Drive, but about 40 new trees would be planted between the carriageways, including 20 between Lake Burley Griffin and Coronation Drive south of the Lake. An ‘industrial looking’ Adelaide Avenue will also be landscaped and planted with trees.

The light rail Stage 2 project will be considered by a Commonwealth Parliamentary committee inquiry in the coming days.

Ms Fitzharris said the Joint Standing Committee Inquiry currently underway provided the ACT Government with an exciting opportunity to explain how light rail benefited Canberrans while supporting the Commonwealth Government’s national objectives and plans for the Parliamentary Zone.

“Light rail from the City to Woden will not only enhance access to the precinct, but will serve to demonstrate the Commonwealth Government’s commitment to our cities through its support of a modern, well-integrated mass transit solution, helping to make our nation’s capital an even more liveable and sustainable city,” she said.

“The ACT Government will continue to work closely with the Commonwealth to progress these planning approvals.”

The full mid-year update can be accessed at

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28 Responses to Bill for light rail to Woden will be $1.3-1.6 billion, says Government update
bj_ACT bj_ACT 6:20 pm 20 Jun 18

Wow!!! thats a Total cost of $2.6 Billion over 20 years which is $356,000 dollars per day (and every single day) over the lifetime of the Light Rail. Just to cover Gunghalin to Woden route and capable of servicing just 9% of Canberra population who will live within walking distance of a stop.

That’s a cost of $63,000 per resident within walking distance of the Rail. No wonder Infrastructure Australia said the project didn’t stack up.

    JC JC 8:23 pm 20 Jun 18

    Now factor in the new bus routes and how many people are services by those two routes?

    bj_ACT bj_ACT 10:32 pm 20 Jun 18

    Yes you’re correct, there should be a measured and reported cost shift from the Busses to the Tram over this route. But the Government has stopped providing open data and transparency.

    The issue is the Bus is much cheaper and provides a much better cost benefit ratio.

    JC JC 5:28 pm 21 Jun 18

    And the bugger issue isn’t actually on cost benefit ratio it is the unmeasurable issue of public amenity and thinking of the future.

    Ps I still don’t agree with stage 2 as planned but at least I can see what the government is attempting to achieve.

Lucy Baker Lucy Baker 7:10 pm 20 Jun 18

No mention of cheek-by-jowl apartments all the way along Stage 2… so what’s going to fund this tram, that will deliver a 30-minute ride Woden-Civic for commuters( current bus ride 16 minutes)?

Queanbeyanite Queanbeyanite 7:38 pm 20 Jun 18

Yeah, sure! Stage 1 was announced at $340 million, for something that could have been done with $20 million of bendy busses. The last figure I heard was $950 million and with the inevitable stuffups will top out at $1.2 billion. So it will cost another $6 billion, if you’re lucky, I’m so glad my great grandchildren won’t be paying this off!

yosh yosh 9:12 pm 20 Jun 18

I think there’s an error in that headline – it might be more correct to say the bill will be 1.3+1.6 billion…

Capital Retro Capital Retro 9:32 pm 20 Jun 18

What does it take to get these urban renewalists to realise that Canberrans don’t want to use public transport?

gooterz gooterz 12:09 am 21 Jun 18

Each 12km leg takes 30 minutes.

So in the future a leg between Belconnen – Civic – Woden – Tuggeranong will be 90 minutes.

Welcome to Sydney 2.0

gooterz gooterz 12:11 am 21 Jun 18

Its cheaper to build a tunnel!

mcs mcs 9:51 am 21 Jun 18

For that money we should of built an underground….

chewy14 chewy14 10:59 am 21 Jun 18

interesting that they’ve claimed the business case will ignore traditional cost benefit analyses.

I’d probably go that way too considering how bad the first stage CBA was as a transport project.

Wouldn’t want the public to see how relatively expensive this will be compared to the benefits or the fact that (same as the first stage) there were far cheaper options available.

Lucy Baker Lucy Baker 11:31 am 21 Jun 18

So, the light rail is delivering a traditional ha-ha in the grass, to maintain the Parliamentary Triangle’s “look upon verdure” aesthetic…

aussie2 aussie2 5:51 pm 21 Jun 18

Light rail for Canberra has nothing to commend it. $2B/13km laid track without a bridge. Didn’t Simon Corbell say we have to compete with the car? I know he did in the Transport Plan to 2031 yet for the past 28 years Labor have delivered a public transport system that no one wants to use -BECAUSE IT IS NOT OPERATING NEAR THEM AND IT TAKES TOO LONG TO GET FROM A TO B. When I mentioned that to the TAMS Transport Planners they just laughed it off. Well, boys and girls, the proof is in the pudding. Welcome to another Labor stuff up at huge cost. I warned Canberrans back in 2012 that their rates would skyrocket and no one believed me. Well, you voted for this lot. Now you pay the price. Also thanks for the reminder about knocking off homelessness, providing affordable homes for firstys, etc and keeping the place looking good.
What a disserviceto the esteemed citizens of our fair city!

Wing Nut Wing Nut 8:50 pm 21 Jun 18

Ms Fitzharris said that the Government was looking to have the business case approved in 2018-19. There you have it, the “business case” approval is done and dusted. What waste of money given there are any number of service issues that need fixing.

gooterz gooterz 6:43 pm 09 Aug 18

Every decision is another trip away overseas.

Hanson got the job for ‘Commissioner for International Engagement’. However Barr seems to go on every trip.

2902 2902 8:40 am 10 Aug 18

Why on earth would anyone want to use a tram if it will take up to twice as long to get from the City to Woden as the current bus service? I want public transport that will get me from point a to point b in a timely manner, not spend additional time on a scenic route.

    bj_ACT bj_ACT 10:04 am 11 Aug 18

    According to ACT Governments own data this means a Total for Stage 1 and 2 combined is $356,000 a day for every single day of its 20 year operational life.

    Wow that’s a new 4 bedroom house build each day.

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