Emma Thomas, the new Project Director for Capital Metro, attended the Gungahlin Community Council meeting on Wednesday 12 November to talk to the public about the project. She handled her introduction to the community on such an important project very competently. She stood up and talked about what she saw as the benefits and challenges of Capital Metro – without a powerpoint display – just talked and then invited questions.
Most of the questions from the crowd of about 50 people (including a strong turnout by members of ACT Light Rail) were reasonable, there were a few light rail sceptics in the audience and she answered those as well as the questions from believers. One person (who was having their questions texted to them) asked the predictable ‘do we have enough density’ question (we do, especially along the Northbourne Flemington corridor). Some discussion about the challenges (such as the Flemington/Northbourne intersection) involved several people and I’m sure that the duo of communications staff that accompanied Ms Thomas captured those comments for later study.
I especially appreciated her mention of how buses and light rail are used differently by passengers. Bus passengers tend to ride from end to end and not get off along the way, whereas light rail passengers hop on and off and visit multiple places on their journey. Several mentions of Dickson and a transport hub there, were also made. This is not by accident.
It is clear that the project team is still considering several options such as the placement of the Gungahlin terminus, and also taking into account future expansion (including from the town centre) of the network.
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She also assured one person that reading a book on light rail was far easier than on a bus!
After the Capital Metro team left, and much later in the meeting, the GCC were discussing how they had setup a stall in the Town Centre and were surprised how many people they spoke to weren’t Gungahlin residents, but visited to shop. I think that when Capital Metro starts operations, Gungahlin will benefit from more people from Dickson and along Northbourne visiting the Town Centre.
I was impressed at the way Ms Thomas introduced herself to the Canberra public. It is vital that this project be delivered properly by the ACT Government. They do have form in poor project delivery. Capital Metro so far, seems to be the exception. The senior staff that have been recruited to date (Glenn Bain and Emma Thomas) have track records of success, and have been managing their interactions with the public very competently. This bodes well for Canberra.
Chair, ACT Light Rail