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

Ian Bushnell 22 July 2021 200
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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200 Responses to Brace yourselves, light rail reality is about to hit home on the southside
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

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?

    Scott Abela Scott Abela 7:08 pm 23 Jul 21

    Jane Kim and 10 times more expensive, 100% less flexible, 100% non-redeploy able to other routes etc.... In a town this size, it makes no sense.

    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

    Scott Abela Scott Abela 7:37 pm 23 Jul 21

    Nigel Jackson There isn't much difference in the operating costs of different size busses, we tried that here and found the other costs are the ones you can't remove. Also in peak times small busses are next to useless so a standard size plus a few larger ones is the best option.. You can power a diesel bus on Bio-Diesel as a drop in virtually carbon neutral fuel right now and become way more clean in a single stroke of the pen. I prefer buses because they use community infrastructure thats already built and remains useable by cars, bikes trucks etc, and a bus can turn corners and has the flexibility to adapt and respond, and at about 1 tenth the cost of light rail. The Unions love it of course..

    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

    Scott Abela Scott Abela 8:10 pm 23 Jul 21

    Nigel Jackson Thats precisely what they are doing here, vomiting up cheaply built apartments like thats the only job in the world... nothing else gets the construction effort like apartments.. The bus from Woden to civic takes 16 minutes, the new tram will take 26 minutes.... thats their own spin on this expensive white elephant..

Grampy Darren Grampy Darren 5:13 pm 23 Jul 21

Piss it off we don't what it

Martin Smith Martin Smith 4:39 pm 23 Jul 21

I just hope the trams are a lot bigger than the toys now running.

Grga Norman Grga Norman 4:18 pm 23 Jul 21

The CFMEU or sorry organised Racketeering love the light rail

Pat Orr Pat Orr 4:07 pm 23 Jul 21

Light rail is a great idea but seeing as it will be disruption with building it, should be free public transport.

Tina Tsiros Tina Tsiros 3:45 pm 23 Jul 21

Electric bus would have been better!

Mike Lee Mike Lee 3:36 pm 23 Jul 21

can someone explain to me why we need to swipe our card after exiting the tram?

    Peter Jovanovic Peter Jovanovic 7:17 pm 23 Jul 21

    So that data can be collected on where people travel. Knowing where they got on isn't that much use without knowing where they got off.

    Mike Lee Mike Lee 7:45 pm 23 Jul 21

    Peter Jovanovic so just for data? why does it charge more if you dont swipe off then

    Peter Jovanovic Peter Jovanovic 11:10 pm 23 Jul 21

    Because then the data isn't collected.

Mike Lee Mike Lee 3:34 pm 23 Jul 21

was a good for gungahlin but not a good idea for woden as it will be slower than the bus!

thoughtsonthesubject thoughtsonthesubject 3:32 pm 23 Jul 21

The construction of the light rail line was part of a deal struck between the Labor Party and the Greens following the 2012 Assembly election, when Labor required Greens support to form government. At that time it made some sense as trams were the only above-ground transport without C02 emissions. Recently there has been an important change. Electric buses are now considered a reliable alternative and Transport Canberra has ordered its first shipment of 90 battery operated buses. With that, the reason for the Greens’ demand that the light rail be an essential element of their conditions for Labor support has been removed. Since the new electric buses can provide faster and more flexible transport than the light rail, there is now no need to burden taxpayers with the two billion dollars the rail’s infrastructure will cost. Nor is there any need for commuters to put up with years of traffic chaos during the building phase. As the party claiming to protect the environment, the Greens must now answer the question of why the vast amount of CO2 generated by the establishment of the tram tracks plus importing 16 trains from Spain should unnecessarily be added to the greenhouse gases that hasten the effects of climate change. The tram, taking twice as long as express buses, will not take private cars of the road. Free public transport, however, will. And that, moreover, at a fraction of the cost.

    JC JC 8:47 pm 23 Jul 21

    Actually there is years of pain ahead lightrail or not. Bit surprising but seems only the ABC has picked up on the fact a lot of the disruption and reduction in traffic capacity on Commonwealth Ave is whilst they upgrade the road bridges. This is seperate from lightrail which at this stage is on stage 2A.

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