7 May 2024

Commonwealth commits $50 million to designing light rail stage 2B, with more to come

| Ian Bushnell
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six people in hi-vis standing outside

Finance Minister Senator Katy Gallagher, Member for Canberra Alicia Payne, Member for Bean David Smith, Infrastructure Minister Catherine King, ACT Transport Minister Chris Steel and Member for Fenner Andrew Leigh on the interchange site in Woden. Photo: Ian Bushnell.

The Federal Government has made its first cash contribution to the next light rail stage with a $50 million down payment that will go towards designing stage 2B to Woden, the approvals process and developing a business case.

The ACT Government also released new renders of proposed light rail stops and opened consultation on the project’s environmental impact statement.

Making the pre-budget announcement on the Woden interchange construction site, federal Infrastructure Minister Catherine King said light rail could not happen without federal assistance and flagged further funding in subsequent budgets when the business case was submitted and the ACT Government put in its requests.

“We’re investing in mass public transport systems right the way across the country,” she said.

Ms King dismissed questions about the ACT election and the Canberra Liberals’ opposition to stage 2B.

“The ACT Labor government has been an absolute champion of public transport, of light rail, of actually thinking really purposefully about how you build the urban infrastructure and move people around Canberra,” she said.

“It’s pretty clear that only Labor cares about public transport, cares about making sure we actually have those transport routes.

“We’re getting on with the job of building Canberra.”

light rail render

An artist’s impression of the proposed Kent Street stop for Deakin and Yarralumla passengers. Image: ACT Government.

Mr Steel welcomed the funding as a sign of the Commonwealth’s commitment to light rail and a contribution to a critical stage in the project.

He said the government wanted to hear from the community as the project moved through the development of a draft environmental impact study.

“The development of the draught EIS will be informed by consultation on a precinct level, with communities that live along the line in Woden, in the Yarra Glen precinct in the inner south, people who live and work around the parliamentary precinct and Commonwealth Avenue as well,” Mr Steel said.

“We’ll be engaging them in pop-ups this week and over the coming weeks to get an understanding about how we can maximise the benefits for the community and how they’re going to visualise going down to the stops.”

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Mr Steel said the funding would allow the ACT Government to develop the design, move through each of the multiple approvals, and then develop a business case to present to the Commonwealth and release to the public.

He again would not provide a ballpark figure for the cost of stage 2B, saying he would not give that kind of information to potential bidders.

Mr Steel said the scope of the project needed to be understood first, particularly the section through the parliamentary zone before it could be properly costed, which was why this funding was so important.

He said government land sales, particularly for housing along the route, would offset some of the cost, but the ovals on Yarra Glen were off-limits.

“We want to consult with the community about what the opportunities are to provide well-located homes close to public transport, close to services and what the opportunities are to provide additional infrastructure and enhance the quality of our public spaces and landscaping along the route as well,” Mr Steel said.

light rail render for Curtin stop

An artist’s impression of the proposed Carruthers Street stop, which will serve Curtin.

He attacked the Canberra Liberals for opposing light rail stage 2B.

“What we know is that we’re going to have a population in Canberra of 780,000 by 2060,” Mr Steel said.

“In order to make sure that we can move more Canberrans more efficiently around our city, we need a mass transit system, and that’s why today’s announcement is so critical.

“This is about delivering the mass transit spine north to south, making sure that we’ve got that higher capacity transit that doesn’t get caught up in traffic as our city grows.”

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Public Transport Association of Canberra chair Ryan Hemsley hoped the $50 million in Commonwealth funding would speed up the project, which is not due to start construction until 2028.

“We understand that this particular funding will go towards further planning and design work that occurs after the EIS,” he said.

“Having that work funded means that Major Projects Canberra can continue after the EIS is complete and move towards getting the approvals from the National Capital Authority and from Federal Parliament to ensure work on stage 2B,” he said.

Mr Hemsley said the Commonwealth was committed to the project and would benefit in many ways, including better access to new government departments being built in the parliamentary zone.

He said that while supportive of light rail, the association also believed the government needed to step up when it came to the bus system and welcomed some of the recent Liberal and Greens initiatives.

On stage 2B, PTCBR’s focus would be on ensuring safe and convenient connections to the proposed light rail stops on Adelaide Avenue and Yarra Glen.

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Suspended Pod rail from steel gantries could break the deadlock , quicker faster, small footprint SHWEEB

REGARDS; the infamous Melbourne Airport rail link has officially been delayed for at least another four years
We’re starting to think that the promise of this train line is actually just a myth

Google invested in Rotorua SHWEEB ten years ago, do we have any Engineers and Money in Australia?

Margaret Freemantle7:51 pm 08 May 24

Looking forward to Stage 2A and 2B. Light rail runs smoothly, on time, and keeps more bikes and cars off the road. No modern city is without it. Everything costs, so I say, it will be money well spent.

There ought be more bike paths away from the main road, and non-polluting, clean cars are in fact a plus for living. Modern city is about low-cost convenient transport (public and private) on demand using modern technology, not last century trams which cost billions of our tax dollar and over ten years to get going. And it doesn’t solve our present-day problems. The buses from Woden to Civic is faster than the Stage 2B LR.

“non-polluting clean cars”…assume those cars still have rubber tyres loaded with carcinogenic chemicals which are gradually leached into the air (and into our bodies) as the tyres wear. So, Canberran, convenience comes at a cost. Your comment about “last century trams” also applies to cars and buses.

“…that will go towards designing stage 2B to Woden, the approvals process and developing a business case.”

An open admission that despite all the time and taxpayer dollars wasted on this project, they STILL haven’t even done a business case yet. Nice.

“He again would not provide a ballpark figure for the cost of stage 2B, saying he would not give that kind of information to potential bidders.”

That is a ridiculous excuse from people who don’t even have a business case and want to hide how much this junk is going to cost till well AFTER the election.

No business case, no costings, even rough estimates. The “trust us bro” method of project management. Your tax dollars well spent…

“This is about delivering the mass transit spine north to south, making sure that we’ve got that higher capacity transit that doesn’t get caught up in traffic as our city grows.”

OK, where’s the analysis of your gold plated garbage solution vs rapid transit bus lanes to achieve the same thing at half the cost? nothing? “Trust us bro”

William Newby7:45 am 08 May 24

$50 million won’t even cover the first round of cost blow-outs, that will 100% come, as they did on stage one.
Rate payers will all have to kick in $25,000 to cover this over time.
Makes more sense to keep running those empty buses!
Labor have no concern for any of us, their focus is on building this Woketopia theme park.

The Artist forgot to include the development from 2024-2033 in the background or any sort of overhead wire and supporting towers.

The trip from Woden to the city is twice as long, but consider if you want to get from Tuggeranong to Belconnen. You have to change mode of transport at every stop, and every stop there will be a delay and a walk to transition from bus to tram.

Steele if you believe him said we’ll keep the buses. Who is going to want to spend an extra 15 minutes on a tram if you could get there on a bus quicker.

If we wanted mass transit we should have built a train, connecting all the cities.
If we wanted the developers to make $$$ we would build a tram and put shoebox apartments all along the route and sell for a song.

50 million? What a joke.

I’m not sure why the government is bothering with a business case given they are absolutely committed to proceeding regardless of what it says. There you go, saved a few million.

HiddenDragon8:48 pm 07 May 24

“…..federal Infrastructure Minister Catherine King said light rail could not happen without federal assistance and flagged further funding in subsequent budgets….”

Interestingly, those encouraging words appear nowhere in the joint media release for today’s hard hat event at Woden, which is padded out with the usual vacuous spin and platitudes –


Of course, in the absence of a binding agreement between the Commonwealth and ACT governments over light rail funding, encouraging words spoken or written in 2024 will have little meaning for a project which, at best, might get started in the last year of the current forward estimates cycle.

There’s lots of water to flow under the political and fiscal bridges in that time, with a strong chance of different Commonwealth ministers (even if of the same political persuasion) dealing with different budgetary priorities, including demands from other jurisdictions with lots of marginal seats in play.

Canberrans who are banking on the Commonwealth to make their light rail dreams come true might do well to give Katy the boot at the next election and install another cross-bench Senator who can shamelessly use their vote to bargain for the best deal for Canberra, free of any major party discipline.

The quoted ‘design’ cost is broadly comparable to the fees (in terms of percentage of construction cost) accruing to consulting firms for doing a design and supervising the contractor(s).post WW2.
In that era there were no heritage, planning, aboriginal culture, nature, environment, safe construction, and so on, requirements of any significance compared to today, to investigate and incorporate into the planning and design. It is no wonder the costs incurred now for any construction project before reaching ‘shovel ready’ stage seem unreasonably excessive. Also, as in the post WW2 era, significant preliminary investigations costs are additional to the ‘design’ fees. But some of those tasks may be included in the design brief and thus part of the ‘design’ cost.

Without knowing the precise scope and detail of the ‘design’ brief/process, it is a bit pointless to try and debate the size of the ‘design’ budget.

>live poll: do we need light rail or better bussses

Option 3, if bus fares including subsidies are ~$37 per trip, there’s a massive decentralising option available.

Ubers only cost $35 end to far end for Canberra, and the immediacy is far superior.

Not quite driverless SF automation, but really, do we actually need busses outside peak periods?

Fund $5 Ubers, and aside from the druggo reprobates (who’d never get a second ride from getting -1 star reviews) you’re still paying less and facilitating greater efficiency.

Yeah, modern day is weird, but that weirdness alone is insufficient reason to not leverage best available tech and keep the money in the community…

Gregg Heldon4:43 pm 07 May 24

So stage 2 was announced two weeks before the 2016 election but we still haven’t finished the consultation process? Still won’t give a broad costing? $50 million for design and yet there are two drawings/renderings in the article.
And I’m sure nobody believes Steele when he says that the ovals on Yarra Glen are safe. They have been re-zoned. They may not all totally go but some will.

Capital Retro3:56 pm 07 May 24

More cars than tram passengers depicted in the images and that’s the way it will always be.

Climate change will kill cars if we don’t voluntarilly kill them first. There are only bad alternatives down the road, and present-day private car use ain’t one

Capital Retro, since the tram was installed there’s been a significant reduction in car traffic on Northbourne Ave. Do you remember how often it would take 20 or 30 minutes to get from Dickson to Civic before the tram during peak?

thoughtsonthesubject2:56 pm 07 May 24

When in opposition, Albo promised that Labor would never fund a project that did not have a solid business case. Light rail has not. Pity memories are so short.

OMG, $50 million *just for the design*! How the other half lives, eh?

Martin Miller5:33 pm 07 May 24

Thats only half! The full cost for the design and planning in $100mill

GrumpyGrandpa2:31 pm 07 May 24

“The ACT Labor government has been an absolute champion of public transport….

“It’s pretty clear that only Labor cares about public transport…..

Remind me again whether LR or buses will get commuters from Woden/Tuggeranong to the City the quickest?

If it was about Public Transport, (which is what is being claimed), then buses would win hands down.

LR is about building pokey 75m2, 2-bedroom apartments along a fixed route and enforcing the 70/30.

It’s a pity the ACT Government won’t admit that LR isn’t about public transport.

Leon Arundell2:11 pm 07 May 24

Why is the federal government pouring taxpayers’ money into a project whose costs exceed its benefits? The ACT Auditor-General revealed that the government estimated that Stage 2a of light rail would cost $268 million, and Stage 2b would cost $905 million. So far the government has spent over $800 million on Stage 2a. That brings the expected cost of stage 2 to more than 1,700 million. The government values Stage 2’s benefits at only $1,217 million.

Martin Miller1:10 pm 07 May 24

Major projects have already awarded the contract for planning and design of Stage 2(b) to AECOM which is nearly $100 million . This is the Fed Govs contribution to that. So I doubt whether this will ‘ speed up the process’ here. $100min is a lot of money not to go into other facilities that Woden is crying out for ! https://the-riotact.com/government-awards-93-million-design-contract-for-light-rail-stage-2-releases-new-details/457276

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