21 September 2021

Is Canberra Railway Station a relic in need of a makeover, or a new site altogether?

| Ian Bushnell
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Kingston Railway Station

Canberra Railway Station: calls are growing for a new transport hub. Photos: Michelle Kroll.

Canberra needs a new multi-modal public transport hub with connections to the Parliamentary Zone and the city and beyond to replace the ageing railway station in Kingston, the city’s public transport lobby says.

Public Transport Association of Canberra chair Ryan Hemsley said a recent call from the Inner South Canberra Community Service for the railway station to be upgraded or relocated to create a district transport hub, including park and ride, should restart the conversation about its future.

Mr Hemsley said the railway station was not sustainable in the longer term, particularly if the current low number of Sydney services remained. He urged the ACT Government to continue its work with NSW for a faster train journey between the two capitals.

“The nicest station on that site won’t increase patronage so long as there are only three services utilising the station each day,” Mr Hemsley said.

“The reason there are only three services is that demand isn’t there, and demand isn’t there because the journey time is just too long, so there needs to be a whole of infrastructure analysis that looks at speeding up that journey time between Sydney and Canberra.”

But it still made no sense to retain or build a new station on that site given how much Canberra has changed since it was first built.

Mr Hemsley said a new station site needed to be considered in the context of the proposed higher-density East Lake urban renewal project and connections into and out of Canberra.

“We envisage that any long-term solution for the new railway station would involve a fast mass transit connection linking the new station to other parts of Canberra including the Parliamentary area and the City.

Kingston Railway Station

The current station is not sustainable, says PTACBR chair Ryan Hemsley.

He said one option would be to build a new station adjacent to the growing Dairy Road Precinct near Fyshwick, which is also close to East Lake.

“There is a really good opportunity if they decided to integrate a new railway station with the East Lake precinct, which is still in early planning stages despite being planned for the better part of 10 years,” he said.

The light rail master plan includes an extension to Fyshwick, and it has been canvassed that it be extended even further to growing Queanbeyan.

If a faster Canberra-Sydney rail service used a modified alignment and did not stop at Queanbeyan, the existing heavy rail corridor could be used for light rail, Mr Hemsley said.

“Any long-term solution for extending light rail out to Queanbeyan should consider the new location of the railway station and options to integrate those two modes to enable seamless transfers and good connection between the railway station and Canberra City,” he said.

But government plans for a new station site appear to be on the shelf for now.

A government spokesperson said preliminary planning for East Lake included investigations into the future of the Canberra Railway Station.

“Alternative locations for the station were investigated; however, the current location is supported by community responses and the need to retain efficient connections between interstate passenger rail and the ACT’s transport networks,” the spokesperson said.

The government continued to work with the NSW Government and Federal Government on potential future improvements to the Canberra to Sydney interstate passenger rail service.

Any changes to Canberra Railway Station would include opportunities for the community to provide its input, the spokesperson said.

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Capital Retro12:55 pm 26 Sep 21

It’s impossible to complete this form unless you have an existing MyWay Card:

https://form.act.gov.au/smartforms/servlet/SmartForm.html?formCode=1045&appType=Interstate

No it’s not. When it asks if it’s a replacement answer no.

Peter Curtis6:47 pm 23 Sep 21

I think the train is an excellent service. Most of the travel delay occurs in Metro Sydney because there is no dedicated line Central, so suburban lines take priority.

Capital Retro6:19 pm 23 Sep 21

“the profits made from light rail” wrote someone.

Really? Tell me anywhere in the world where a government run light rail network ever made money.

Where does any bus or city train system make money.

I can only think of one and with COVID even that I would guess isn’t anymore.

Capital Retro9:46 pm 23 Sep 21

I did say “government run” and of course they don’t make a profit but generally they continue to run through taxpayer subsidies and there is nothing wrong with that, up to a point.

Privately run transport enterprises only continue to run if they make money.

The OP wrongly surmised that the Canberra light rail makes a profit.

Leon Arundell9:04 am 23 Sep 21

The Jolimont Centre is a multi-modal public transport hub, in the city, with excellent connections to the Parliamentary Zone and beyond. From the Jolimont Centre you get to central Sydney, by public transport, in 3 1/2 hours.

Capital Retro10:42 am 23 Sep 21

I don’t think Murrays Buses are “public transport”, Leon and the only modes are buses and trams, the latter goes only in one direction and return in the same direction..

Capital Retro8:08 am 23 Sep 21

The Canberra Railway station caters exclusively to travelers, not commuters.

It would be very easy to introduce modern 2 – 3 diesel electric railcars to carry commuters and school students daily from Bungendore and return and this would take hundreds of cars off the Kings Highway.

HiddenDragon8:09 pm 22 Sep 21

Difficult to think of a lower priority for a virus-ravaged NSW budget than upgraded rail services to Canberra, so a “multi-modal public transport hub” based on such services will likely be something for the public transport space cadets to dream about for a long, long time.

The value capture enthusiasts would, of course, say they have the perfect solution to that problem, but their bright idea ignores the time-honoured principle of privatising the profits and socialising the losses.

It might be better to drop the public interest window-dressing and get on with explaining the development play which is at the heart of this, and maybe think about uses for this prime land beyond just more of the predictable “Soho/Chelsea/Tribeca/Manhattan-style apartments, lofts and terraces”.

In my fantasy land, the light rail would have a line that deviates off the stage 2 line, through Barton and Kingston, past the markets in Fyshwick and then terminating in ‘main’ Fyshwick, perhaps near the outlet centre. It would capture a huge potential passenger market in one go:
– get people to the train station, as discussed here
– Kingston foreshore venues and bus depot markets. Parking is currently atrocious there and buses aren’t frequent enough.
– Barton workers
– Fyshwick market shoppers (another place where parking is terrible)
– short walk through Telopea Park to Manuka Oval for events
– workers to Fyshwick, and weekend shoppers. Everyone knows what traffic is like around the outlet centre.

It’ll never happen, but imagine what it could add to the city once it was in place.

Below another site that shows the Civic railway we sort of had.

And somewhere are recent photos of some of this old track.
I seem to remember it showed the line near the edge of a road and going into a bit of a park. It was only a couple of years ago. A Riot reader may remember it better than me..

https://www.environment.act.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0006/1034448/City-Railway-Remnants-Background-Information.pdf

Peter Stanley1:35 pm 22 Sep 21

Some good ideas here to discuss. But really: “three services utilising the station each day”. I think that actually they’re ‘using’ the station: why use such a pretentious term?

There were plans to move the railway station into Fyshwick a couple of years ago but commonsense prevailed. It would have made the little station less accessible. It’s great for Kingston and Barton residents to be able to walk to it. Griffin had the train coming right into Civic but some unfortunate floods destroyed the bridges and so, by accident, the railway terminated at Kingston. Having the railway museum nearby also provides a great opportunity for some synergies to help make the area a destination,

ChrisinTurner1:19 pm 22 Sep 21

In most cities the train station is in downtown.

The thing that stood out for me the one time I caught the train from Sydney is that the taxi fare home from the station cost more than the train fare.

Robert Leslie Bennett1:13 am 22 Sep 21

Everyone, including, the ACT Government and Infrastructure Australia rightly recognises that the rail service to Sydney is inadequate and that the Kingston station needs to be re-located.

None of this is new. We’ve now had close to 50 years of inaction marked by the continuing inability of the Federal, NSW and ACT Governments to co-operate or commit.

A Very Fast Train service to Sydney is unviable. It would cost upward of $25 billion and take decades to build. Trains would stop at only two or three stations between here and Sydney.

“Faster Rail” – using tilt train or conventional technology – would deliver sub 3 hour journey times and could be built stages. The cost would be only a tiny fraction of a VFT and far less than what the NSW Government spends on rail works in Sydney annually.

In 2019, the NSW Government commissioned an independent review of the major regional rail corridors in the State including the Campbelltown to Canberra line. It’s had that report for 18 months but refuses to release it. It has new regional trains on order but they won’t increase capacity, service frequency or reduce travel times.

As light rail also runs on standard gauge tracks, there’s scope for using existing and disused rail lines in and around the ACT.

A transport hub located in Tuggeranong on a partly refurbished Queanbeyan-Canberra-Cooma line would allow the inter-capital train to terminate there. It would supplement Kingston.

Queanbeyan-Kingston-Parliamentary Triangle-Civic should be the next light rail project, not Civic to Woden. The latter is a solution in search of a problem.

Extending light rail from Civic to Queanbeyan and Tuggeranong to Queanbeyan could address the cross-border traffic bottle-necks identified by Infrastructure Australia and alleviate chronic parking issues in Manuka and Barton and along the Kingston foreshore.

Ideally the railway line should be extended towards Canberra City (Civic) with a station there. It’s remote and not centralised, which is a disincentive for tourists and passengers. It would probably gain a lot more interest and patronage if moved to Civic.

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