19 February 2024

Extra light rail stop on Commonwealth Avenue in mix as Barr defends keeping route options open

| Ian Bushnell
Join the conversation
render of light rail stop

An artist’s impression of a light rail stop at Kings Avenue on the preferred State Circle route. Is it close enough to the institutions? Images: ACT Government.

Chief Minister Andrew Barr has flagged the possibility of another light rail stop on Commonwealth Avenue as part of the proposed line to Woden.

Mr Barr said another stop on the preferred State Circle alignment could be near the Hyatt Hotel to service the National Cultural Institutions, as well as the Commonwealth departments located nearby.

At present, the next stop on the Stage 2B route after Commonwealth Park is sited at the intersection with Kings Avenue, adequate for public servants at Parliament House and in Barton, but it might be a stretch for those working in Parkes or tourists heading to the institutions.

READ ALSO Up to 1500 homes planned for Causeway, including new public housing

Mr Barr said his prime focus was on the best locations for stops from the point of view of coverage and walking distance on either of the two alignments being considered.

“How much of the workforce, and I guess tourist-desired locations will those stops serve?”

Mr Barr said the National Gallery, the Portrait Gallery and the High Court were the furthest from the Kings Avenue stop.

“Could there then be one on Commonwealth Avenue that is somewhat proximate to the Hyatt? That’s a question that needs to be considered,” he said.

“But then, of course, the more stops, the more journey time.”

Mr Barr defended the government’s decision to resurrect the Barton dog leg as an option, saying it was better to have done the work on an alternative route if the preferred one fell over.

“I think we need to just keep options open in case the preferred alignment is not possible from an engineering perspective, rather than go through this process, find that there are either heritage or other constraints that don’t allow that and then have to go back and go through the whole thing again.”

Mr Barr said it was a case of derisking the project, possibly saving years under a worst-case scenario.

He rejected claims that the decision had injected unwanted uncertainty into the project.

“It shows a degree of due diligence when I absolutely know what would happen if the EPBC process came back with, ‘Oh, sorry, you can’t do that'”, he said.

“Then there’d be a massive pile-on about why didn’t you consider alternatives.”

Light rail in Sydney Avenue on the so-called Barton dog leg route. It’s difficult to compare routes, says Andrew Barr.

Mr Barr said the Barton route would not necessarily be cheaper, take longer to build or have a much longer journey time as there were many factors to consider, including the number of stops, the cost of overcoming engineering hurdles, the gradient and the speed at which a light rail vehicle can travel.

“If you just wanted the fastest point-to-point, then you would have no stops between Civic and Woden,” he said.

But that would mean many people would not be able to use it.

READ ALSO Robot takes city centre’s temperature to tackle urban heat effect

Mr Barr also lamented that many people were talking about light rail as if Canberra would be frozen in time.

“How is the road network going to be performing in 2045 because it’s not just travel time now,” he said.

“That Civic road and bus journey will grow in length in terms of time every year, as more traffic is on that corridor. It will continue to extend, and then obviously there will be more people that we will need to move, and that would necessitate more buses if buses were the only public transport on that corridor.

“In 2024, we need to think about 10, 20, 30, 40, 50 years because this is infrastructure that’s going to be there for a century or more.”

The Canberra Liberals will scrap light rail after Stage 2A is completed if they win power in October but have not yet released its public transport policy.

But alternatives aired have included trackless trams, which Mr Barr said would still need dedicated corridors and a bridge crossing.

“And if they’re not in their own dedicated lane with no other traffic, they offer no more benefits than a long bus,” he said.

Join the conversation

All Comments
  • All Comments
  • Website Comments
Leon Arundell8:50 am 22 Feb 24

If the government extends Adelaide Avenue’s transit lanes to reduce Civic-Woden travel times below 18 minutes (compared with more than 27 minutes for a $billion+ extension to Canberra’s only “light” rail line) one “extra” stop will not be an issue. When the transit lanes start to become congested, in about 2046, we can upgrade them to even faster bus rapid transit for less than half the cost of light rail.

Perhaps we might even be able to see fewer rate rises or at least a flatter trajectory.

Doesn’t make sense. Light rail Civic to Woden is about the stops on the way to Woden too, about taking tens of thousands of car journeys off the roads during the week, freeing up buses to do rapid services along other arterials.

Heaps of money for the tram. Meanwhile the city police station declared no longer a safe workplace. Pretty clear where the Government’s priorities lie. Not good enough.

It’s not a case of either-or. We need an efficient transport system, hospitals, fresh air, art and police stations. You might as well be arguing that we can’t have roads maintained because police stations need funding.

You haven’t been in Canberra long, have you?

Wasn’t that stop always in the plans? I am happy he has confirmed it. Would be even happier if construction had actually started, because at the current rate of progress Stage 1 will be fully paid for before this stage is completed and we start paying.

Next step is the progressive intensification around the LR stations on Adelaide Ave. Hopefully some interesting mixed use will occur.

How are they going to get the tram from State Circle onto Adelaide Ave? The climb is steeper than getting from London Circle onto Commonwealth Ave and with existing housing and the Lodge there is no where near as much room to raise State Circle up to Adelaide Ave height.

Trams can go up quite steep hills, for example Collins St between Swanston and Russell in Melbourne. The case for raising London Circuit is to eliminate the offramp llop to eastbound LC so that land can be sold for development

There’s a rise percentage difference between the capability of various Tram, Light Rail and Boxcar vehicles.

Canberra’s light rail vehicles can’t do the gradient climbs

Incidental Tourist5:57 pm 20 Feb 24

ACT budget is deep in red. ACT is paying $2 millions a day just to cover its debt interest payments which is $730 millions a year. For that dead money we could have hired 5000-6000 teachers and nurses, build new hospital, or extra 2000 public houses or thousands more electric busses each and every year. Is the tram line to Hyatt or parliament house such high priority to get ACT even more in debt? Is Barr buying a very expensive toy we don’t need with money we don’t have instead of focusing on essential services like more busses, accessible health, better education and affordable housing?

Of course he is, because he won’t be here to deal with the consequences.

This is a project that will support the city for at least a hundred years, as Canberra gets bigger, car traffic jams get more frequent, and there’s a increasing need for fuel-efficient and air-friendly transport. When I came to Canberra in 1976, the road network was built for the city fifty years into the future, and now it’s showing the signs of strain, and the world requires climate-friendly transport. We are building a city that’s liveable for future generations as well as useful right now.

GrumpyGrandpa3:50 pm 20 Feb 24

I don’t get Mr Barr’s logic.
Introduce LR, a slower form of public transport, because bus travel will be slower than what it currently is, in 50 years time!

Mr Barr’s argument seems to be at odds with his Minister. Minister Steele has said that the R4 and R5 would continue to run, for those who wanted a faster trip.

What happens in 50 years time is somewhat dependent on future government planning.

Bus would certainly become slower than they currently are, if the routes were altered or the dedicated bus lanes removed.

I’m OK with LR, but I’m more interested in getting from A to B quickly and for me that means bus.

Yep that was both a surprising and revealing comment from the Transport Minister that the R4 and R5 Rapid buses from Tuggeranong would still run after Light Rail to Woden is built.

It’s like keeping your old Alarm system after installing

Katy Said that it wouldn’t cost more than $475 million. and she didnt stick around. They’ll base that promise on Steel and throw him under the tram when the time comes.

The light rail doesn’t just serve nodes; it serves stops on the way, and moves a much great number of people. This will make it quicker for many people. It’s hard to say what direct non-stops may also run in the future, but they don’t necessarily have to go from Woden, but from other centres. Even if one goes from Woden, it will be made available through the light rail transporting many-times more than buses can transport on their own, freeing them up for extra services.

The light rail should go from Commonwealth Park across to Kings Avenue and then straight up to State Circle instead of Commonwealth Avenue. This would go very close to the Art Gallery (and other institutions) and cafes down near the wharf. It would also service a lot of the Government departments located in Barton so you’d have an immediate uptake of patronage.

Barr finally realises that the route proposed was never going to have much usage, so could not be justified.

As for him saying that travel times will increase on the roads so the tram will end up being quicker, the better solution is to have such good public transport that people leave their cars at home.

Barr’s government has degraded public transport for so many Canberrans, increased their journey times, their necessary changes of modes of transport (incl their failure to connect in a timely manner) and their walking times from stops to destinations that many people who used to use public transport, now use their cars. Add to that the reduced frequency of buses on weekends and in the evening and our public transport system is a massive failure!!!

We need public transport that means people don’t need to rely on their cars, transport that gets all people where they want to go, when they need to go there. Not just for those who work public service hours between 8am & 6pm. Others need to get to hospitality, construction and other trade workplaces much earlier in the day and come home later at night. We need to be able to go out at night and on weekends, with safe means of getting home after a few drinks. This is both for locals and for tourists, if we want money flowing into our businesses.

It’s a fair point psycho. Both Barr and Rattenbury repeatedly told us that Light Rail would free up more buses to improve public transport across Canberra.

The day stage 1 started was the day they removed 750 local bus stops and whole bus routes were ripped out of Tuggeranong, Woden and Belconnen. Nowhere near Stage 1.

Light Rail made the bus trip to work much slower for much of Canberra.

Why is it so hard to get the Tram right. Argue whatever you want about building it or not, but the obvious solution is as direct and fast line towards Woden, with a stop somewhere on the run up towards Parliament House where a branch line can then run off into Barton. To begin with it could be a terminus line, but with longer term plans to expand it out towards Fyshwick.

This dog leg idea is going to make a mess even worse.

Actually a fast express service is not the solution. Light rail is about servicing what is along the corridor not providing the fastest end to end journey time.

Problem for Canberra in particular is finding the balance between offering a fast enough service for end to end traffic and also servicing the corridor. Stage 1 they got that spot on. Stage 2 to Woden not so easy which is why it should never have been the second stage. The second stage should have gone towards Kingston and Manuka via the Parl triangle.

Capital Retro6:24 pm 20 Feb 24

New spin JC?

I thought Transport Canberra had made it clear that light rail is about urban renewal.


Hilarious to see Barr talking about thinking long term, yet promoting options that will provide worsening public transport outcomes over time as the city grows.

Nothing new in what I am saying at all. I’ve always said stage 2 should not go to Woden and light rail is about servicing the corridor. I would have thought it was obvious that statement implied development, the two go hand in hand.

The two don’t go hand in hand as you don’t need to “service the corridor” with light rail if there’s no/little demand there.

What you’re actually saying is that “servicing the corridor” is a way obfuscating the real driver of the project, which is land development not better public transport.

Agree with JC. Spot on. It would have been good to have gone with the Belconnen to Russell to the Airport, and it’s always available as an alternative if there are – pardon the pun – road blocks to light rail.

It doesn’t go to the airport, the railway station or either hospital. How is that a transport policy? I would have thought ACT Labor would want to get across National Land as quickly as possible so they can open up the 3 km of land either side of Yarra Glen for high density development to satisfy their real constituency (i.e. developers and CFMEU) rather than the workers. Mr Barr will be expecting the Feds to chip in more for a dog leg and extra stops, which will turn the tram into a meandering snail through the Parliamentary Triangle.

Light rail won’t be built in one stage – it can’t be. And it’s part of the mix of other transport choices. I look forward to the proposal to make a Greenline out of Fyshwick and to the airport and Queanbeyan one day – but I don’t mind when it happens if it can be part of a carefully thought out plan that keeps the network unfolding stage after stage. The gap between Stage 1 and 2 was too long…

So when Andrew Barr removed 750 bus stops he claimed people were happy to walk 800 meters to their nearest bus stop (measured as the crow flies).

I’m sure he has now got the Stats of light rail stage 1 that shows few people will walk more than 400 meters to their nearest stop and he needs to expand access and reduce walking distance from the nearest stop to their office location.

I did some research on the question of distance from public transport routes. Google “Basics: The Spacing of Stops and Stations,” a US explanation from 2010. I can’t speak for the decision to remove bus stops (doesn’t sound a good idea to me) but if you take a look at the analysis I’ve indicated, you end up with a situation where they might be a sweet spot of around 400 metres for a stop (on a plain, not a hillside), but there are blind spots which are a trade off for density and ridership. You can solve this by having parallel routes. They can have 800 metre stops, speed up the route (fewer stops), increase use of buses (because they can do more routes in a day). By placing the bus stops 800metres apart, but in parallel, you can alternate their placement so that even though the stops are 800 metres apart on each line, for the commuter they have a choice of one 400 metres away (if they don’t mind which parallel they travel along). Anyway, I don’t think this fully applies to depleting the number of bus stops in the way before. The good news about light rail is it frees up more buses for feeder routes. Quicker!

So they weren’t planning to stop between the lake and Kings Avenue? What sort of muppet show is this?

Barr’s Muppets, although I think the puppets on the Muppet Show were smarter and more capable.

Why do the liberals have to release a public transport policy?

The whole concept of the tram is to force development from having an immovable route. This comes with worse travel times and scraping of other routes, creating a lack of direct routes and longer travel times as the tram is slower?

How is that a transport policy? its clearly designed for development. The only reason to put a tram to woden is that its fueling a development spend in woden. However Labor doesn’t have to build the tram if they think its coming and will build anyway.

“Why do the liberals have to release a public transport policy?” Because people want to know what the alternative is going to be if they scrap the tram extension. It will help people decide which way they will vote. Whatever the plan (be it buses; new or upgraded roads; tram; or whatever) it is going to take time to deliver (usually longer than any 4 year term of government). We do not want the planning system to have to start again on square 1 every time we have an election.

That’s why for long term infrastructure projects, governments typically produce rock solid business cases that outline the problems, the options available and the recommendation of the best solution.

The opposite has happened with light rail, the government chose a solution for political reasons without a solid evidence base that it was needed or that it would work for Canberra.

And that is only being exacerbated by their political unwillingness to consider that perhaps their policy is the mistake.

As Gooterz says, Light Rail isn’t a transport policy either, it’s mostly around land development, with worsening public transport outcomes for the whole city being driven by it.

GrumpyGrandpa6:11 pm 21 Feb 24

Hi Megsy,
Historically, political parties have released plans or promises as part of campaigns, but how often are we left let down or dissolutioned?

Athllon Drive has been promised since 2016. The Government can’t tell us the route for 2B, Minister Steele is talking up running the R4 & R5 in addition to 2B, for those who want a faster service. Put simply, plans mean nothing, when history

I’m not saying the Canberra Liberals shouldn’t release a Plan, because they should, but is it necessary?
Their Plan could be as simple as scrapping LR after 2A and simply continuing the existing bus network; a network that can be expanded or re-routed as growth and demand necessitates. It’d be a

GrumpyGrandpa6:20 pm 21 Feb 24

Politicians make plans and promises at every election.
Locally, we are still waiting on the duplication of Athllon Drive from 2016.
The ACT Government has a plan to take LR to Woden, but they don’t know how. Hardly a plan.
What we have recently learnt is the possibility of the “dogleg” and the suggestion that R4s and R5s will continue to run, in conjunction with 2B, for those who prefer a faster service.

When the government hasn’t delivered its own plan, I’m not sure why the Opposition need to detail its plan, other than to say it intends to cancel 2B.

GrumpyGrandpa6:24 pm 21 Feb 24

Plan? The ALP-Greens can’t even tell us how 2B will get to Woden.

If the Canberra Libs plan is nothing more than scrapping 2B, at least that plan would some certainty about it.

Transport and development strategies affect each other. So a transport policy will have measurable impacts on development, and development will drive transport choices. So that’s why light rail needs to be part of the city’s thinking.

Daily Digest

Want the best Canberra news delivered daily? Every day we package the most popular Riotact stories and send them straight to your inbox. Sign-up now for trusted local news that will never be behind a paywall.

By submitting your email address you are agreeing to Region Group's terms and conditions and privacy policy.