Brace yourselves, light rail reality is about to hit home on the southside

Ian Bushnell 22 July 2021 211
Light rail

Light rail in the city. Coming not so soon to Woden. Photo: File.

No train without the pain. The north had its share; now it’s the south’s turn.

That’s what Canberra drivers and commuters have to face up to now that construction of the next leg of the line is in sight.

We’re looking at possibly a decade of upheaval on the southside as first the city stage is built, and then the lengthier and much more complex Woden stage is rolled out through the parliamentary zone and down Adelaide Avenue.

It’s going to take four years from 2022 to complete the line to Commonwealth Park, mainly due to the major engineering feat of reconfiguring the London Circuit/Commonwealth Avenue overpass and cloverleaf arrangement to an at-grade intersection.

Stage 2B across the lake has multiple hoops to jump through and far greater engineering challenges – a new bridge, negotiating the parliamentary areas and Adelaide Avenue and Yarra Glen pedestrian bridges for starters.

Even if a start could be made before the city stage is completed, it’s going to take a fair swag of the Twenties to make it to Woden.


READ MORE: Study to identify potential urban infill along light rail Stage 2B


After three elections, there is no doubt the Barr Government has a mandate to get the job done, but Transport Minister Chris Steel provided a dose of reality this week when outline just what will be required of us.

Lane closures, delays, diversions – for years.

Many of us stuck in gridlock on Parkes Way or Kings Avenue or held up by lollypop people on a much-reduced Commonwealth Avenue may rethink that vote for light rail.

Certainly, a few Liberals might be tempted to say I told you so.


READ ALSO: Years of traffic chaos on the way as light rail construction nears


Transport spokesperson Mark Parton is already taking potshots at the government over the coming impacts on business and commuters, but he would do better to accept the reality of light rail, ensure that the new Disruption Taskforce lives up to its mission statement, and hold the government to account on how the project is managed.

After all, he might have to one day steer the project himself.

Mr Steel knows it is going to be tough. That’s why he is preparing Canberrans now, working with affected businesses and asking commuters to start rethinking their travel routines.

Getting people out of their cars and into buses will be part of the solution and an opportunity to transform commuting habits and increase public transport use permanently.

The pandemic has already opened the way to greater work flexibility. The plea for big employers to embrace staggered starting times could also lead to that strategy becoming part of the city’s traffic management landscape.

Communication will play a big part in getting Canberrans through this, but keep it real, Minister, forget the spin and be upfront with commuters.


READ ALSO: Geocon changes tack with smaller, commercial proposal for Kingston site


We need to remember why the ACT is doing light rail, and that it is a big, long-term project that will improve the way Canberrans get around this city, take pressure off our roads, and eventually connect the city from end to end.

The alternative for a city growing to half a million is simply more congestion.

So there is a great opportunity, but let’s not kid ourselves that the process will be easy.

Living with a construction site in the city, at Woden and in between will be messy and frustrating.

There will be a lot that can go wrong, so the government, whatever the shade, will need to get a lot right.


What's Your Opinion?


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211 Responses to Brace yourselves, light rail reality is about to hit home on the southside
Capital Retro Capital Retro 10:25 am 26 Jul 21

“I have sat on a bus, not moving on Commonwealth Avenue Bridge…….”

I wasn’t aware that there are exclusive lanes for busses on Commonwealth Bridge.

Jason Todd Jason Todd 9:32 am 26 Jul 21

and the final result is a tram that will take about 10minutes longer than the current rapid bus route? the bus route has a dedicated lane already for a major part of the journey, light rail will still need to stop at traffic lights. This is just craziness. but lots more opportunities for apartments

    Bill Gemmell Bill Gemmell 9:47 am 26 Jul 21

    Jason Todd the bus service has around 60% reliability. The light rail is running at 90%. Just saying, what appears on a printed schedule does not equate to what the rubber is doing on the road.

    Jason Todd Jason Todd 10:14 am 26 Jul 21

    Bill Gemmell We could get a few more buses and drivers for the $3 billion stage 2B will cost

    Bill Gemmell Bill Gemmell 10:18 am 26 Jul 21

    Jason Todd be careful not to confuse capital versus operating costs.

    Julie Macklin Julie Macklin 10:19 am 26 Jul 21

    Bill GemmellI I agree. I suspect a lot of people here complaining about the tram, don't use public transport (or rarely at best) and don't know what they are talking about.

    I have sat on a bus, not moving on Commonwealth Avenue Bridge and been half an hour late into Deakin. The only solution for that, would have been to give a car lane to buses. Then imagine the screams from these non bus users.

Daniel Michael Evans Daniel Michael Evans 10:30 am 24 Jul 21

The opposition transport minister said that the train will take twice as long as the bus currently takes, if this is true than this is the stupidest undertaking ever

Malcolm Campbell Malcolm Campbell 9:45 am 24 Jul 21

Does the ACT ever miss out on anything. Or is everyone in the ACT special

Tom Dale Tom Dale 9:08 am 24 Jul 21

Four years to extend the line from Civic to Commonwealth Park. And no target date for crossing the lake, let alone getting to Woden. Oh dear.

Valerie Foster Valerie Foster 8:56 am 24 Jul 21

A waste of money.

goggles13 goggles13 6:54 am 24 Jul 21

So glad that I live in the Tuggeranong Valley and work in Woden, although it seems that the Govt is going to make a mess of the roads around Woden Bus Station.

By the time this tram is finished, I will be retired and ready for the 2032 Olympics 🙂

Ted Hennicke Ted Hennicke 8:36 pm 23 Jul 21

Seems to be a lot of light rail experts in this comments section. Buses cost a lot more to maintain than trams, are noisier, are limited in capacity, have to share the road with cars, and are nowhere near as scalable. There are times when buses are a better solution, but this issue is not so cut-and-paste.

    Colin Vivian Colin Vivian 11:43 pm 23 Jul 21

    Ted Hennicke if you’re doing a like for like comparison: Trackless Trams. Good enough for transport to new Sydney airport, 1/10 the cost of the tram, much lower carbon footprint, won’t require years of expensive construction...

    1 lane dedicated to Trackless Tram (which we’re losing for the tram anyway) provides the same commuter capacity as 8 lanes of traffic.

    Ted Hennicke Ted Hennicke 11:54 pm 23 Jul 21

    It's not a silly suggestion, but there are a number of drawbacks. Tires make a lot of noise and particulate pollution, and often need replacing (unlike steel tram wheels). They're also less energy efficient. If we're going with trackless trams we may as well just use automated electric buses. The ride would never be as smooth either, running on a road. It's probably a good thing in the long run to be losing a lane of cars; this encourages mode switching. Rail systems of various kinds work well across the world; I see no reason to reinvent the wheel.

Wayne Howden Wayne Howden 8:27 pm 23 Jul 21

Complete waste of money.

Roy Jones Roy Jones 7:50 pm 23 Jul 21

Waste of money

Ben Koster Ben Koster 7:49 pm 23 Jul 21

So 4 years to build a couple of k’s of light rail. Crazy

Doug Hearne Doug Hearne 7:28 pm 23 Jul 21

Sorry guys out of my Zone being a Queenslander lol

    Malcolm Campbell Malcolm Campbell 9:49 am 24 Jul 21

    Doug Hearne but now you gotta build a Olympic Games in less than 10 years. Good luck

HiddenDragon HiddenDragon 7:14 pm 23 Jul 21

“Brace” – so often the opening word of a media report about the latest gratuitous infliction from the ACT government.

In this case “assume the brace position” would be more apt – it’s like watching the Sorcerer’s Apprentice segment from Disney’s Fantasia, but without the striking music and with no sorcerer to clean up after the idiot apprentice(s).

Ross Alexander Lloyd Ross Alexander Lloyd 7:11 pm 23 Jul 21

A19th century solution to 21st century transport... If a train had to go in, it should have been a high speed monorail!

    Ted Hennicke Ted Hennicke 10:36 pm 23 Jul 21

    Ross Alexander Lloyd cars are also from the 19th century... and all modern cities have trams, due to their exceptional efficiency, low noise levels, large capacity, etc. Ever seen Europe or Asia? Trams everywhere.

Keith Collins Keith Collins 6:58 pm 23 Jul 21

Pity they don’t fix the roads,bloody disgusting

Ric Hingee Ric Hingee 6:35 pm 23 Jul 21

Completely avoidable if we had gone with electric, rubber tyred trams.

Dylan Car-Key Dylan Car-Key 5:47 pm 23 Jul 21

Just make it a subway

Snez Vujic Snez Vujic 5:30 pm 23 Jul 21

Until another Covid outbreak and they tell you to avoid peak times on public transport 🙄

Jane Kim Jane Kim 5:18 pm 23 Jul 21

What is the point of something that will be slower than the buses?

    Nigel Jackson Nigel Jackson 7:26 pm 23 Jul 21

    Scott Abela we are fighting to stop light rail here on the Sunshine Coast. It is only going to be 13km long cost a heap. The community want buses of different sizes and enviro friendly that are flexible with routes, times and adaptable to change. The council wants light rail as it will allow for high density along the route which will put money in the developers pockets and ruin the beach

    Nigel Jackson Nigel Jackson 8:08 pm 23 Jul 21

    Scott Abela the community want to use the large ones on the main routes and the smaller ones in the suburbs.

    I remember the buses in Canberra during the 70s to be very efficient particularly using the interchanges such as Woden.

    We fear up here it is more about the high density as the Council and State want to put an extra 80,000 people along the 13kms of light rail. Turning us into a Gold Coast

Grampy Darren Grampy Darren 5:13 pm 23 Jul 21

Piss it off we don't what it

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