Canberra’s long wait for the arrival of its light rail looks set to end as the ACT Government announces the new transport network will be fully operational next month.
As the project enters the final stages of testing, ACT Transport Minister Meegan Fitzharris announced the network will be launched on a Saturday in April but would not confirm a date. Ms Fitzharris said the ACT Government is looking at mid-April as its start date.
“What we are aiming to do on that Saturday is for everyone in the community to have free access to the whole public transport system so they can travel around the city for free,” she said. “We are really looking forward to being able to announce the Saturday in April to get operations underway.
“We are so close to having light rail here in Canberra.”
The Mitchell light rail depot is now fully operational and light rail vehicles will have priority at intersections and crossings from today (1 March) as the project starts to pick up speed towards its completion date.
Light rail vehicles will now be the first to cross through intersections, pedestrian crossings and median crossings when travelling along the Gungahlin to City route. New signs and traffic signals have been installed to remind motorists and pedestrians that they are now travelling alongside a light rail service.
Pedestrians will now see a ‘don’t walk’ signal when they reach a track crossing and if a light rail vehicle is approaching, pedestrians and cyclists will need to wait for the green signal before crossing the tracks.
Light rail project director Meghan Oldfield said that a new traffic signalling system will provide light rail vehicles with priority as they approach intersections and will change the usual sequence of lights.
“The new traffic signalling system will ensure that light rail passengers enjoy the most efficient journey time when travelling on light rail while helping to maintain frequency,” she said.
“Where in the past motorists may have been able to predict the traffic lights because of the regular sequencing, this will now change. The usual sequence of signals will be disrupted as they approach an intersection and it’s really important that motorists, cyclists and pedestrians pay attention to the signals.”
Over two and a half years since the first sod for the light rail depot was turned, the new state-of-the-art facility is now fully operational and will be the engine-room behind Canberra’s light rail system.
The depot will house a fleet of 14 light rail vehicles and around 100 staff including 33 drivers, 16 customer service officers and a number of operational control centre duty managers who will monitor the light rail corridor day and night.
Canberra Metro CEO Glenn Stockton said the light rail nerve centre has a back-up operations control centre and an automatic vehicle location system that monitors the real-time position of vehicles on the alignment.
“The depot hosts some of the latest security technology including live stream CCTV monitors on board light rail vehicles and at each stop to ensure safety,” Mr Stockton said.
“GPS tracking systems across the network enable us to provide real-time route information so that passengers always know when the next LRV is arriving.
“Within the operational control centre, not only will trained operators manage and supervise the performance of the light rail system, but they’ll also work with emergency services in responding to and providing an immediate response to any incidents along the alignment.”