9 August 2022

Commonwealth backs light rail Stage 2B with funding for new vehicles

| Ian Bushnell
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Commuters on light rail platform

New light rail vehicles will support the Stage 2A extension and eventually the push to Woden. Photo: File.

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.

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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.

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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.

ACT Transport Minister Chris Steel and Infrastructure Minister Catherine King

ACT Transport Minister Chris Steel and Infrastructure Minister Catherine King at the light rail, depot in Mitchell. Photo: ACT Government.

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.”

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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.

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Naah, would definitely prefer to stay with the much faster bus network we currently have.

Leon Arundell9:41 am 19 Aug 22

The good people of Woden will no doubt be pleased that they will at last have access to Canberra’s public transport network 😉

Capital Retro12:18 pm 19 Aug 22

They already do have access to public transport.

Also good to see they’ve released the updated Light Rail patronage figures for those who claim Stage 1 is a roaring success because “people use it”.

Whilst definitely affected by COVID, the numbers are way down on where the government’s own business case said they would be and with hugely increased amounts of working from home now occurring are unlikely to recover anytime soon to remotely near the levels assumed to promote the public transport benefits of the first stage. Even before the 2021 lockdown, average usage was way behind. Future stages are even worse off due to the existing well serviced bus route.

https://www.transport.act.gov.au/about-us/planning-for-the-future/transport-canberra-patronage

Capital Retro2:29 pm 12 Aug 22

Not unlike Brisbane’s failed road tunnel.

In 2016, the Clem7 tunnel was meant to have 67,053 trips a day, according to Brisbane City Council’s “conservative” pre-construction estimations.

In reality, the average daily usage was 33,443 – less than half the expected patronage.

Like to see how much overhead they give to the battery section. Continuous cycling of lithium batteries reduces their range. It seems they will initially only just make it over the wireless bit. 5 years down the track we will need new batteries, or suffer from blocked trams.

Incidental Tourist9:51 pm 09 Aug 22

Just imagine… If – a few years later – there will be an unfortunate tram fire, then some commission studying the incident may eventually report that batteries were too unsafe for a public transport. It will be a good reason to spend more $$$,$$$,$$$ to remove batteries from all trams and install poles and overhead wires. Will this also require rebuilding all rail tracks and perhaps the bridge as they have not been designed to be retrofitted with poles..?

Wireless operation….. like a bus!

HiddenDragon8:28 pm 09 Aug 22

“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.”

So no new money, just a re-allocation or not even that – just a re-announcement of funding from the Morrison government…..?

Very hard to see serious Commonwealth funding for Stage 2B being provided by a government which has much higher priorities (such as finding a few billion a year extra for aged care workforce pay increases) in a debt-laden budget – but given the level of spin applied to today’s announcement, Commonwealth funding to remove the trees on Commonwealth Avenue would probably be spruiked as “co-funding” of Stage 2B.

thoughtsonthesubject5:20 pm 09 Aug 22

Ms King. Before you offer further finance for the light rail extension to Commonwealth Park, could you ask Mr. Steel to supply answers to questions in the Auditor General’s report of 24 September, 2021? Surely the Auditor General is not tasked with the lengthy work of making a detailed report so that it is ignored. Do we have to have another scandal in a couple of years’ time when the absurdity of raising London Circuit and destroying the present smooth access to Commonwealth Avenue becomes evident before anybody speaks up? Mr. Steel isn’t too good at examining financial details, as the CIT affair has shown.

Currently a bus from Woden to the City takes 15 minutes. When the tram is done it will take between 25 and 30 minutes for the same trip. People already spend enough time commuting to work so why would the Government expect people use a service in the future that will take twice the time to get from point A to B?

Not sure about what sort of Government your’e talking about- pretty sure Governments of all persuasions give the people choices to make and base those choices on research and survey. Do you honestly feel your life is ‘governed’ by expectations or choices?

Maybe when Ms King made this statement on behalf of the Federal Government, she wasn’t aware that the ACT Government already had a public transport system that extended to Woden?

“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, Canberra already has a bus network and running through to Woden (and beyond). The old orange diesels have been replaced with newer cleaner vehicles, many of them complying with the tough Euro pollution standards. There are even plans to replace the existing fleet with battery-powered buses.

Ms King, did you ask the ACT Minister why they just didn’t go with BEV type buses, given the enormous cost to lay a fixed rail line and the longer commute time on LR?

Not sure how required infrastructure for Stage 2A equates to support for 2B but hardly surprising to see the spin from the Light Rail boosters.

Regardless, it will truly highlight the hypocrisy of the ALP’s call for more integrity in government if they give a cent of funding to Light Rail outside of the Infrastructure Department’s own guidelines for project assessment and funding.

After repeated negative finding by the Auditor General on the local government’s attempts to justify their pre-determined position to expand the project, surely no one still believes a robust business case will be produced that can withstand even the most cursory of review.

At least if the Feds pay for a large chunk of it, local taxpayers won’t bear the burden for this white elephant. Shame about the rest of Australia though.

Vinson1Bernie3:09 pm 09 Aug 22

The left just thinks this is great because they are not paying for it today but their kids will be paying for this folly

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