30 April 2021

Government awards $93 million design contract for light rail Stage 2, releases new details

| Ian Bushnell
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Light rail

The proposed intersection of London Circuit and Commonwealth Avenue, one of three new sets of traffic lights planned for the light rail Stage 2A project. Image: ACT Government

The ACT Government today (28 April) released updated delivery plans for light rail Stage 2A and announced that international infrastructure consulting firm AECOM had been selected to facilitate the design and planning approvals for the whole of Stage 2 to Woden – a $93 million contract.

The government is calling it a major milestone that will accelerate the work on the project over the next six months.

It says the first early works for 2A from the City to Commonwealth Park will commence before the end of 2021, with planning and works approvals planned to be lodged around October this year.

The start of work to raise London Circuit to meet Commonwealth Avenue is scheduled for early to mid-2022, but the government has not said when construction of the 1.7 km long wire-free alignment will start or when the project will be completed.

When pressed earlier this year, Transport Minister Chris Steel said the first track would be laid before the 2024 election.

The government has also developed a new virtual tour of the upcoming works that further detail the designs that the government will be taking forward for Commonwealth and Territory planning approvals later in the year.

The flythrough video shows three new traffic light intersections – with London Circuit at West Row, University Avenue and Commonwealth Avenue – which will prioritise light rail vehicles and make the area more pedestrian-friendly.

As the route turns onto Commonwealth Avenue, its shows tracks laid on grass separated by a line of trees in the middle of the median strip.

Mr Steel said that AECOM has been selected as the project’s technical adviser because of the firm’s proven track record delivering light rail projects and securing high-quality infrastructure outcomes for the community.

Light rail Stage 2A timetable

Light rail Stage 2A timetable. Image: Transport Canberra.

But Mr Steel said the government remained committed to local industry participation in the project, with AECOM establishing an office in Canberra where they will engage more than 160 locally based specialists to deliver the different stages of the project.

“It’s exciting to see our city’s biggest infrastructure project kicking into gear, which we expect will create over 6,000 jobs during design and construction,” said Mr Steel said.

“The benefits of this project will be long lasting for Canberra, with the creation of a frequent and reliable transport spine that better connects our major town centres and residential and employment hubs.”

AECOM’s Canberra Area Manager Karen Billington said the company was looking forward to sharing its insights from other light rail projects and working on this “transformational major infrastructure project which combines urban design, placemaking, heritage, sustainability, environment and engineering”.

At the same time, planning for the new public transport interchange and light rail station at Woden will continue, with construction works set to commence before the end of 2021.

Planning and design for the more complex Stage 2B across Lake Burley Griffin to Woden will also proceed in parallel with the Stage 2 A works, which should allow construction of 2B to get underway as the first three stops on Stage 2 become operational.

The Federal Government has contributed $132.5 million to the City to Commonwealth Park stage.

The Public Transport Association of Canberra has welcomed the government announcement, including news that the concurrent planning and approvals for Stage 2B will enable construction to flow seamlessly from Stage 2A.

“What is also significant is the clear support being given to this project by the Australian Government. This is further confirmation that an ongoing partnership is developing between the ACT and Federal Governments, which will hopefully simplify the roll-out of future light rail stages across Canberra,” PTCBR chair Ryan Hemsley said.

“We look forward to learning more about the proposed timeframes for the commencement of light rail services between the City and Commonwealth Park once the National Capital Authority has granted works approval.”

The government is seeking more feedback on the project. To learn more, visit the YourSay website.

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Finally Relented8:50 pm 29 Apr 21

Still think it should’ve all been underground…yeah, yeah, yeah…cost.

Stephen Saunders11:30 am 29 Apr 21

Armchair transit-nazis, check Ottawa sometime. There, the light-rail rollout really has been a serious botch, and punters really do have something to whinge about.

Or Sydney. Their last bit of light rail was about 2 years over time and about $2 billion over budget. Canberra has done a pretty good job so far.

Sounds like a lot of people were happy it went to Gungahlin but now unhappy it will go south. Democracy at work with your taxes. If it went north it should go south. It’s only fair those in the south paid half for the Gungahlin tram.

Finally Relented8:47 pm 29 Apr 21

I think the next stage should have been Tugg to Woden.

Err, why is 18th century technology even being considered when 21st century tech is avail at 1/10th the price?
Please, let’s consider trackless trams that utilize datadot paint tech and save enormous amounts of time, money and environmental impact

A trackless tram is a bus. In order to get a bus up to the quality and reliability of light rail you need grade separated, level, smooth, impact resistant, dedicated corridors, which at that point cost basically the same as light rail. Plus they don’t have any of the massive efficiencies you get with steel wheels on steel tracks.


That simply isn’t true. You’re defining a standard of an extremely smooth ride that isn’t necessary and is an indulgence that should only be considered when the economics stack up, which they don’t even remotely come close to on the stage 2 alignment.

The same reliability for a public transport system can be provided for a fraction of the cost with a bus or trackless tram system with its own corridor and right of way. On the stage 2 route, a large portion of that already exists.

So why are we wasting a few billion dollars?

Umm buses date back further than trams. Sure the technology in use today is not quite the same but neither is it for trams either. So poor argument that one.

Also where have trackless buses made any real impact? A few cities have tried, mostly mostly now removed. The only place it seems to be gaining any pace is in China.

For the most part it is all talk no action. And where used needs its own infrastructure built just like light rail.

Gawd, just go straight ahead from Northbourne, with a cutting through City Hill, then straight onto Commonwealth Avenue. The only people who visit City Hill are the gardeners.

Graham Byrne8:54 am 29 Apr 21

Another attack on individuals who want to use their cars in Canberra as our elected officials rush to spend taxpayer dollars on a white elephant. Notice the proposed loss of parking in favour of new high rises while London Circuit is slashed to a single lane bottleneck. Flexibility suffers wherever trams go. I just see traffic chaos in this plan.

It works fine in Melbourne. It works fine in stage 1 to Gungahlin.

Capital Retro10:44 am 30 Apr 21

You can travel at an average speed of 11km an hour in Melbourne city. That’s by tram or by road, sharing with a tram.

The carpark changes are nothing new and not related to light rail. As for lo do. Circuit being single lane, that’s not gonna make one bit of difference. In fact making it single lane now would be an improvement.

underwhelmed8:20 pm 28 Apr 21

So let me get this straight. We are about to spend hundreds of millions of tax payer’s dollars on a tram that goes slower, on a route that is far longer, and it will travel through 20 plus more traffic lights than the current service, and the Government thinks this is somehow a good outcome and that more people will want to use it????? Seeing the current bus service already takes a long time to get to the city from Tuggeranong, the lost productivity of the proposed tram route is going to force people into their cars in droves and clog the roads that they are busily planning to undermine as part of this ridiculous planning outcome. When they were planning on building the tram to Gungahlin, it was all about minimum stops, priority lights and the most direct route. I’m wondering why the south side of Canberra doesn’t deserve the same kind of outcome. To top things off, for some strange reason you won’t be able to turn right onto London Circuit (what’s with that!), and they are planning on removing the west clover onto Parks Way, which is probably the most used of the cloves and the one that is important for people living south of the lake, but keeping the east clover to once again prioritize the people who live on the north side of the lake over those who live on the south side of the lake, which really sums up the Barr Government.

I still can’t believe they’re replacing an existing and fast dedicated bus lane on Adelaide Ave with this very complex solution.

To compensate the loss of the dedicated bus lane for passengers from Weston and Molonglo surely it would be worth adding a bus transit lane along the Tuggeranong Parkway from Cotter road and through Parkes Way to Civic. The earlier costing suggests it would only add 15% to the potential cost of stage 2 light rail.

I don’t think Weston Creek or Molongolo are loosing a dedicated bus lane. The city bound bus lane has already been (mostly) lost to extra car lanes and southbound I doubt it will loose that lane around capital circle as light rail isn’t going to use that.

Besides not seen plans for Adelaide Ave proper but would have expected the tracks to be in the centre of the median strip rather than be in the current bus lane anyway.

Will be interesting to see how many of the rapid routes get scrapped to force people to change into the light rail.

Obviously the Woden ones will go on this route but I wonder about the R7 and R10 from Weston/Molonglo.

What makes you say they are not removing the bus transit lane between Woden and Civic?

It’s also a T2 lane, so you’d assume it would remain the same. Why do you think it would change?

Hey chewy, I ride that commute a couple of times a week and I’d be shocked to see a private car in T2. It’s mbikes,taxis and buses. Sans buses, they’ll use that space for LR.

I drive in that lane fairly often I a private car. I see many others doing the same.

And the same question as to BJ, why would they get rid of the T2 lane when the median strip is sufficiently big for light rail all the way to Parliament House? It would make zero sense to lose a lame of traffic when the grassed median is far easier.

I presumed the bus transit lanes were going because that’s what I thought the Transport Minister said on Radio when a caller wondered why they couldn’t have both bus and light rail on the same stretch. From memory the response went something along the lines of “Light Rail would replace buses down the trunk route and buses will instead get residents from Tuggeranong, Woden and Weston Creek to light rail stage 2 to continue their journey into Civic or Gungahlin by rail” .

I’ve tried some internet searches and these are all I could find from actual ACT Gov sites that seemed to relate somewhat to the future plans – but they don’t clarify the plan, so it’s probably all up in the air.




I have no doubt the bus routes themselves will be canned as I’ve said below. It makes little sense to run both buses and light rail on the same route.

But the physical road lane itself will remain for most of the route because light rail can fit in the grassed median of Adelaide Avenue.

My guess is it will simply be converted from a Bus/T2 lane, to a solely T2 traffic lane.

I made the original claim that the bus transit lane was going because I thought it had already been announced. But it doesn’t look like it’s been decided yet according to those links. My memory is that maybe they just said Woden and Tuggeranong buses would take commuters to the main Woden interchange to catch the tram.

I would say R7/10 will remain as is. There is nothing in the plans for en reroute interchange like was done at Dickson on the R1 (light rail route).

The video shows the removal of the cloverleaf turn for northbound Commonwealth Avenue cars going west into Parkes Way. Surely this road is in the top 1% of road use in Canberra.

I wonder what the traffic impacts will be because of this change?

cognitive1dissonance1:48 pm 28 Apr 21

I think you mean East bound as West bound just take the turn prior to the overpass….. If East bound, take the Parks Bridge – this get rid of all that traffic that congests that part of the city…. love the new layout and traffic flow….. and I live in the city….

Yes you’re right. West to go Eastbound.

No wonder tourists get confused.

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