Canberra Railway Station is literally at the end of the line

Ian Bushnell 23 September 2021 20
Kingston Railway Station

Welcome to the national capital. Really? Canberra Railway Station’s grungy setting. Photos: Michelle Kroll.

The national capital’s rail terminus is a long-running joke that complements the snub to Canberra that is its omission from the interstate line and the NSW network.

The line to Canberra ends at a second-rate facility that is inferior to some that grace country towns, let alone befitting the nation’s capital.

The fact that Canberra is still not a major stop between Sydney and Melbourne is a travesty, part of Australia’s seeming inability to see the infrastructure big picture and its predilection for road transport.

Canberra is listed as part of the mirage known as the Very Fast Train or High-Speed Rail route along the east coast but don’t bet on seeing that project taken up any time soon.

More realistic is the push for a faster service between Canberra and Sydney, which the ACT and NSW governments continue to work on.


READ MORE: Is Canberra Railway Station a relic in need of a makeover, or a new site altogether?


The current four to five-hour journey time is an embarrassment, and bringing that back to a reasonable level is essential if rail is to be more a part of our transport choices.

That work also provides the opportunity to rethink the future of Canberra Railway Station and how the facility, wherever it is, fits in with the ACT’s public transport network, particularly light rail.

It may seem a long way off, but eventually, there will be a light rail line through the inner south to Fyshwick that should extend across the border to growing Queanbeyan, where many ACT workers live.

Kingston Railway Station

Not exactly the gateway it should be.

When not in lockdown, they charge down Canberra Avenue every morning to work in the ACT and charge back in the evening to go home, a situation that will need a mass transit solution.

The existing heavy rail corridor offers a ready-made route, especially if, as some suggest, a modified alignment for the faster rail link to Sydney comes off.

Then there is the East Lake urban renewal plan for a medium-density community that will transform the industrial wasteland between Kingston and Fyshwick.

Any new station or multi-modal transport hub should be integrated into that urban fabric, linking to the Parliamentary Zone and the City.


READ ALSO: Is our community starting to crack in COVID-land?


The ACT Government says its investigations have failed to find a suitable or feasible location for a new station at East Lake, and it doesn’t appear too keen to upgrade the present facility.

So the idea of a transport hub that may compare with the architecture and style of Canberra Airport, which is fit for the national capital, seems firmly on the shelf.

But it won’t go away, as the inner south, including Fyshwick, develops and changes form, Queanbeyan and Googong continue to grow, and hopefully, some form of faster rail provides a viable alternative to driving or flying to Sydney.

The conversation sparked by the Inner South Canberra Community Council and the Public Transport Association of Canberra should be food for thought for the government, which should blow the cobwebs off earlier proposals and reimagine what could be possible.

In a Territory jaded by the pandemic and lockdown, a fresh look at least could only enhance the road to recovery.


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20 Responses to Canberra Railway Station is literally at the end of the line
Jak Kanard Jak Kanard 7:38 pm 26 Sep 21

...it’s been the end of the line since it was first established ! Canberra has never been considered a rail destination - except before air travel was established...but back then a population of well less than 50,000 attracted nothing, other than public servants...

Jonno Bazza Jonno Bazza 4:29 pm 26 Sep 21

I know we are in lockdown with many restrictions but imagine if we weren't and had something like the Mag-Lev. Canberra to Sydney in under an hour? Yes please.

Wayne Gartner Wayne Gartner 6:18 pm 25 Sep 21

New railway station is code for "move the train station and put in more high rise in Kingston"

Tramcar Trev Tramcar Trev 10:16 am 25 Sep 21

Would not get too excited about this.

If you look at the draft plan the area is all high-rise from 2025 with not a railway in sight. A new railway station would not improve rail travel at all, what is needed is new technology trains that can handle the grades and curves and figure the odds of Gladys doing that especially as her Chinese suppliers are now out of favour...

Ted Hennicke Ted Hennicke 9:00 am 25 Sep 21

I know there are state border issues at play, but I've never understood why Canberra isn't the terminus for the Southern Highlands Line. If tickets from Canberra to Sydney ($40 or so?) were as cheap as they are from Goulburn to Sydney ($8.10?), the service would be far more popular, even without improved travel times. And it's easy to take a bicycle on the SH line; no need to box it or pay extra.

    Julie Macklin Julie Macklin 11:11 am 25 Sep 21

    Ted Hennicke Or at least the terminus at Queanbeyan, if they won't make it across the border. I would travel to Queanbeyan for a $2.50 seniors' fare. Plus be able to take my bike aboard. A shuttle train service could be run to Queanbeyan then too. They have a passing loop, so the second train would fit.

David Malcolm David Malcolm 6:03 pm 24 Sep 21

The most practical way to improve the Canberra services would be to eliminate ALL the Southern Higlands stops other than Goulburn and Moss Vale.

    Pat Gagel Pat Gagel 8:29 pm 24 Sep 21

    David Malcolm they aren’t a problem. Believe it or not, biggest issue is a grade crossing on a bend between Bungendore and Tarago!!!! Mt Fairy Road????

Capital Retro Capital Retro 5:15 pm 24 Sep 21

Travel between Canberra and Goulburn could be made a lot faster by using lighter tram-trains which are diesel electric and can be run on tram tracks as well as normal standard gauge rail lines. https://www.wired.co.uk/article/tram-train-uk-sheffield-transport

There are weight related speed restrictions on most curves between Canberra and Goulburn and tram-trains would avoid these.

kmaftoum kmaftoum 2:36 pm 24 Sep 21

Probably the most viable solution is for the NSW Government to begin to electrify the line south of Macarthur in stages, bringing the Southern Highlands into the Sydney commuter orbit, eventually reaching Goulburn. This would bring the commute time down substantially as well as provide a far more effective service. If this was combined with an upgraded line from Canberra to Goulburn, although it would need a change of trains it would provide an achievable solution in the short to medium term, whilst still providing an enormous benefit to both NSW and the ACT.

switch switch 1:58 pm 24 Sep 21

*Another* article about this in only two days? You really have a bee in your bonnet about Canberra Railway Station.

Marco Spaccavento Marco Spaccavento 1:06 pm 24 Sep 21

What for? Aren’t there like 2 trains a day? A new station isn’t going to improve that.

    Pat Gagel Pat Gagel 8:28 pm 24 Sep 21

    Obviously not a user. Three services each way a day, except COVID.

    Marco Spaccavento Marco Spaccavento 8:32 pm 24 Sep 21

    Pat Gagel I’m not a user. 3 a day also hardly justifies a new station…

    Pat Gagel Pat Gagel 8:41 pm 24 Sep 21

    Maybe not. I have regularly used the service since 1992. Love it. Still the most sophisticated form of travel. Much better than the M5 carpark at the other end when you fly, although the airport train is great too.

Peter Hislop Peter Hislop 11:41 am 24 Sep 21

Should the terminus be relocated to a transport interchange at the airport? Bend the line north across the river near Harman ...

    Andrew Bell Andrew Bell 6:23 pm 24 Sep 21

    Peter Hislop There is actually a map indicating an Airport-Kingston-QBN light rail ... all part of an integrated transport plan for the region. We're dreamin' ...

    Pat Gagel Pat Gagel 8:27 pm 24 Sep 21

    Peter Hislop already surveyed in 1965 with the new Majura Valley survey for the Yass line. Newspaper article from 1963 about the new station even refers to it as temporary. Great example of Modernist architectural-discipline though.

Dan Sloss Dan Sloss 11:16 am 24 Sep 21

My vote - one like in Liege.

Shane Westmore Shane Westmore 9:38 am 24 Sep 21

i'd prefer a speedy Canberra Jolimont to Goulburn service & more services on the Southern Highlands train line, it's only 2 hours to Campbelltown on the intercity train which is actually faster than the XPT, and it allows people to link up with the closest train station to their home.... getting from Civic to Kingston & then to Goulburn almost takes 2 hours on its own

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