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.
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.
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.
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.