Five new light rail vehicles will be added to the Canberra fleet from 2024 to allow the retrofitting of batteries for wireless operation along the Stage 2A route to Commonwealth Park and beyond.
The Federal and ACT Governments, which are jointly funding Stage 2A, announced the $181.2 million contract today (9 August) with light rail operator Canberra Metro, which will also expand its Mitchell depot to accommodate the new LRVs.
The Federal Government money is part of the existing $100 million contributed by the previous government but points to welcome Commonwealth support for the project when it crosses the lake to Woden.
Federal Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Local Government Minister Catherine King said light rail was a transformational project for Canberra and the type of partnerships the Albanese Government wanted with states and territories.
“We want to be able to work collaboratively to ensure we actually increase public transport offerings across the country,” she said.
She and ACT Transport Minister Chris Steel have spent the past week discussing the project.
Ms King said the funding was not quite 50/50 but “we’re partnering with the ACT Government on Stage 2A, and obviously the ACT Government will come to us when it’s ready to talk about Stage 2B of the project”.
“My view is that this has been a game changer for the ACT,” she said.
“The fact that you have a public transport network, one you want to extend to Woden, shows the foresight of the ACT Government in making sure people have a modern, affordable public transport system for the people of the ACT.”
Ms King said any further funding commitment would be part of Budget negotiations between the Federal and ACT Governments.
The five new LRVs from Spanish-based manufacturer CAF will be progressively delivered from 2024. The existing fleet of 14 vehicles will be fitted with batteries so all vehicles can operate on the wire-free extension to Commonwealth Park and on sections of the future Stage 2B extension to Woden where the line runs through national land.
The five new LRVs will allow existing vehicles to be taken out of service for the work without affecting the light rail timetable.
The expanded light rail depot is expected to be completed in mid-2024 before the first of the new vehicles arrives.
The next step in the light rail Stage 2A project is the imminent start of construction works to raise London Circuit to create a level intersection with Commonwealth Avenue.
This will be followed by the submission of an environmental assessment and works approval application for the Stage 2A project so construction of the light rail line can commence soon after the London Circuit project is complete.
Canberrans will be able to comment on the final Stage 2A design early next year when it goes on public display as part of the works approval application.
ACT Transport Minister Chris Steel said the contract was a critical milestone for the delivery of Stage 2A and would support future services to Woden.
“We need to order new LRVs now, and upgrade our existing fleet and depot, to ensure we have enough vehicles manufactured, delivered, tested and ready to start services to Commonwealth Park when construction of the track is completed,” he said.
“Moving to retrofit all existing LRVs with onboard energy systems for wire-free running shows our commitment to delivering light rail, not only to Commonwealth Park, but right through the Parliamentary Triangle to Woden.”
Federal Member for Canberra Alicia Payne said the LRV modifications and depot expansion would increase the network’s capability to provide services in the southern part of the city.
“This project and associated works are expected to support up to 1000 jobs over its life, which is a significant amount of local employment,” she said.
Early last year the Morrison Government contributed $132.5 million to the 1.7 km Stage 2A extension.
Labor promised $200 million during the 2019 election campaign but did not make any commitment this year.