As contractors laid the final piece of track in Stage 1 of light rail, the ACT Government revealed that the while the project was still due to finish in December, it would not start taking passengers until early in 2019.
Transport Minister Meegan Fitzharris told ABC radio that Canberra Metro had only given her formal advice in the last couple of days that services would not be able to start in December.
She said Canberra Metro would need to obtain third party rail accreditation from the Office of National Rail Safety Regulator and the Independent Certifier before the system could begin operations.
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Transport Minister Meegan Fitzharris helped lay the final piece of the stage one light rail track in Civic this morning (26 October). She also revealed delays will mean the project won't start taking passengers until early 2019.
Posted by The RiotACT on Thursday, 25 October 2018
The scale and complexity of the project had also meant there had been construction issues and delays.
“As with any complex infrastructure project, there are also risks that affect timing such as weather, the testing and commissioning of rail and signalling systems, and finalising of the stops,” she said.
Under the terms of the light rail contract, Canberra Metro will not receive availability payments until services start. Ms Fitzharris said there was a range of options the Government could take under the contract including extending the time of the contract and penalties.
The Minister would not provide a specific date for services to start, saying that with Canberra Metro going through the process of regulation, particularly around rail safety, it would not be prudent to do so.
“I can’t give you a date today and if I were to give you a date it’s likely at this point that it may change. Canberra Metro will continue to provide us with monthly scheduled updates,” she said.
She expected that the starting date would be in the first quarter of 2019 and committed to be open with the community about that, adding that the Government was planning a launch weekend so as many Canberrans as possible could experience light rail.
Ms Fitzharris said that with construction still due to finish in December the disruptions to traffic and businesses along the route were getting very close to ending.
“Construction is going well. Electrification of the full system will happen very soon, we’ll see light rail vehicles all the way along the length of the route. So some of those issues people have had around construction, disruption to roads, some of the night works – those are getting very close to ending and taking pressure of the road network,” she said.
This morning the Minister helped install the last section of rail along the Gungahlin to the City corridor in Civic.
“Just over a year after the rail installation began on the project in Gungahlin, this significant milestone today brings Canberra’s light rail system one step closer to reality,” she said.
“The final installation of rail is a very significant moment in any rail project. From here we expect to see more of the light rail vehicles being tested along the alignment over the coming weeks.”
Ms Fitzharris said all the light rail vehicles were now in Canberra, the track slab had been laid and landscaping was being done across the project.