The ACT Government has welcomed a funding injection of $132.5 million from the Commonwealth for the next stage of the light rail network, the first section of an extension of the line to Woden.
Stage 2A will add 1.7 km of track and three new stops, operating wire-free from Alinga Street through to Commonwealth Park. An additional 2,500 to 3,000 passengers a day are expected in the first operating year.
Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Development Michael McCormack announced the funding on Wednesday morning, saying it would help make the project a reality for Canberra.
“Extending the light rail will also create jobs and bust congestion in the ACT by improving public transport and pedestrian and cyclist safety,” he said.
“This is what the Australian Government’s $110 billion investment pipeline is all about – getting Australians home sooner and safer whilst boosting local economies as we bounce back from the COVID-19 pandemic.”
ACT Chief Minister Andrew Barr said the contribution from the Federal Government emphasised the importance of the project for the Territory.
“The Commonwealth’s support for the project is welcomed, and it follows in the footsteps of the financial support received for Stage 1 of the ACT’s light rail network,” he said.
“The project is critical to the Territory’s Jobs and Economic Recovery plan, and I look forward to working with the Commonwealth on progressing the approvals for the entire Stage 2 project.”
ACT Minister for Transport and City Services Chris Steel said the ACT Government had already seen great results for local jobs, transport and the economy with Stage 1 of light rail, with further benefits from Stage 2A.
“Light rail is seeing more Canberrans choose public transport, with more than 43 per cent of people surveyed stating they had never used public transport before catching light rail,” Mr Steel said.
“Stage 2 of light rail will extend the benefits of better public transport by extending the line to create a north-south spine for our city-wide light rail network.
“Whilst this project will be very disruptive during construction, it will deliver long-term transport and economic benefits for our city, with better quality, mass transit, powered by 100 per cent renewable electricity.”
The Public Transport Association of Canberra (PTCBR) says the funding is more than double the Commonwealth’s contribution towards Light Rail Stage 1, and a very welcome sign the Commonwealth has realised that public transport investment keeps cities vibrant and moving.
“We hope this signals an ongoing partnership between the ACT and Federal Governments as light rail rolls out through the parliamentary zone and towards Woden,” chair Ryan Hemsley said.
ACT Liberal Senator Zed Seselja said that for Canberrans, extending the Gungahlin-City light rail made sense.
“It is important we get light rail right for Canberrans. Today’s announcement boosts the Australian Government’s infrastructure bonanza in Canberra to more than $1.4 billion in recent years,” he said.
The funding boost doesn’t appear to have altered the timeline, though, with construction of the first works, involving raising London Circuit to meet Commonwealth Avenue, expected to start next year, with the first track laid before the next election in October 2024.
Master Builders ACT CEO Michael Hopkins said local contractors were looking forward to the opportunity to help deliver the project.
“This project has the potential to create thousands of local jobs, and the MBA is pleased to see the ACT and Federal government working together to deliver infrastructure and support the local construction industry,” he said.
“Twelve months ago the MBA had called for major projects to be brought forward as an economic stimulus initiative. We are pleased to see the ACT and Federal government support infrastructure building as a key driver of the ACT’s economic recovery.”
Stage 2A has cleared the EPBC hurdle but still requires NCA and ACT planning approval.
The longer and more complex section across Lake Burley Griffin to Woden is still going through the various approvals processes and will require federal parliamentary approval.