23 September 2022

City hub planning crucial for future stages of light rail, says government

| Ian Bushnell
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Commuters on light rail

How will a Belconnen line connect to the existing line in the city? Photo: Region.

It’s been six years since the ACT Government published its Light Rail Network Plan, and as the city edges towards the next stage, it has now decided it is time for a refresh, particularly regarding how the city would operate as a central hub.

Consultancy firm Arup has been hired to update the Plan and prepare the way for future stages of the network, evidence of the government’s continuing commitment to light rail.

Transport Canberra is still saying that a stage a decade will be delivered, despite growing doubts about the government’s timelines and Minister Chris Steel’s reluctance to provide completion dates for Stage 2A to Commonwealth Park and the much more complex leg across the lake to Woden via the Parliamentary Zone.

A government spokesperson said the refresh would not affect the route of Light Rail Stage 2A, which was locked in, but Arup would take on board work being done on 2A, particularly to guide how the city precinct would integrate future stages.

Light Rail Stage 3 is expected to be an east-west link between Belconnen and Canberra Airport, and it will intersect in the city with the north-south spine between Gungahlin and Woden.

The spokesperson said the city would be a critical element of a future light rail network.

“This is where the current north-south and the future east-west lines will connect both physically and operationally,” the spokesperson said.

“This work will inform potential routes that future light rail alignments may navigate into and through the city centre as part of a network and how they integrate with Light Rail Stage 1 and 2 (Woden to Gungahlin) to ensure a seamless customer experience.”

Light rail network

The planned light rail network as set out in the government’s Infrastructure Plan. Image: ACT Government.

The refresh would also guide land-use planning for future stages of light rail, particularly for the Belconnen route.

The Future Light rail – Network Plan Refresh and City Future Proofing contract comes as work gets underway to raise London Circuit, a two-year project that is a prerequisite for Stage 2A, which still awaits planning approval and the conclusion of contract negotiations.

Stage 2A has received federal funding of $132.5 million, some of which will go towards five more light rail vehicles, so the fleet can be progressively retrofitted with batteries for wire-free running on the Stage2 routes.

Stage 2B has multiple approval hurdles to negotiate, including Federal Parliament, but the government is confident that a sympathetic Albanese Government will also come to the party for the haul to Woden.

Last week, ACT Independent Senator David Pocock cast doubt on the viability of future light rail stages. It follows the Canberra Liberals’ dogged pursuit of the government on the project’s time frame and business case.

Transport spokesperson Mark Parton is expected to make an announcement next week, but the party is playing down its significance.

According to the contract, Arup will be paid $98,000 for the refresh.

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I’m surprised there is nothing about Kingston (which easily has the density to justify light rail, and is just about the only place in canberra that is already like that) and on to the causeway and dairy road.

If Barr Announced he was building new pyramids he’d still get voted back in.

While you might say our kids will be paying this off for years they’ll likely just leave and ACT will go broke.

Public housing makes up 1% of New Gungahlin and over 10-13% in the south. Yet North side get most of the public transport budget?

A decent rail system would do Tuggeranong to Belconnen via woden and Civic in 20 minutes.

I just don’t think tuggerenong to belconnen via woden and civic would be possible in 20 minutes? Even if it only had those 4 stops, which would be such a waste. Who cares if it takes an extra 10 minutes or so if it is time you don’t have to be driving and can relax? To be fair, though, catching light rail all the way from tuggeranong to belconnen (or gunghalin) doesn’t really make sense. I would imagine that there would ideally be a direct bus, and the tram line would be for people to go between closer destinations.

A central Hub design for public transport works well for small footprint cities or within the centre ring of big densely populated cities such as London.

A hub design that connects disparate town centres in a low density polycentric city with an urban footprint of 400sqkm is poor design at its worst.

Gungahlin to Civic to Woden to Tuggeranong covers almost 40km in a relatively straight line, that’s not a suitable spatial situation for a hub structure public transport system.

HiddenDragon9:27 pm 24 Sep 22

This government has such form on over-promising and under delivering, and announcing and re-announcing, that the Arup consultancy can only be taken as a commitment to maintaining the pretense that they can deliver a light rail network.

The consultancy will keep the light rail true believers truly believing and serve as another distraction from the sideshow of disappointments and disasters which (unlike so much of what they promise) the ACT government does reliably deliver. It might also come in handy next time they’re rattling the can for federal funding.

Bearing in mind that Arup’s founder made his name with the Sydney Opera House, a slightly more plausible sign of commitment might have been getting someone to cook up a plan for a Light Rail Lottery (a la the Opera House Lottery, which largely funded said building) – with obvious appeal to gamblers and ironists.

Sadly, Dorman, Long & Co. are no longer around to solve the problem of getting across the Lake……..

Good news for the Spanish company that makes the trams. Not so good for ratepayers.

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