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

Ian Bushnell 21 September 2021 177
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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177 Responses to Is Canberra Railway Station a relic in need of a makeover, or a new site altogether?
Capital Retro Capital Retro 12:55 pm 26 Sep 21

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

    JC JC 6:58 pm 26 Sep 21

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

Peter Hatfield Peter Hatfield 9:36 pm 25 Sep 21

Or just go to the Jollimont and catch a comfortable coach and be in Sydney an hour faster, and at a fraction of the real cost. But the Public Transport Association is just a renamed light rail lobby group for whom value for money is a meaningless concept

    Julie Macklin Julie Macklin 10:13 pm 25 Sep 21

    Peter Hatfield Not faster if the bus gets stuck in peak hour traffic in Sydney, as has happened to me. I used to catch the bus purely because it was cheaper. Now I can get half fare on the train, I catch the more comfortable train.

    Peter Hatfield Peter Hatfield 6:17 am 26 Sep 21

    Julie Macklin Even with traffic it has never taken longer than the four hours the train takes. And there are more coaches a day so there is usualy less waiting time.

    For long trips the train is more comfortable but to Canberra , any difference in comfort is marginal.

    I referrers to the real cost of the train which is far more. Mostly they are used by concession holders. If NSW reforms its Seniors and pensioner concessions the high cost of the train will compared with private coaches, will be a lot clearer. I don't know why NSW is subsidising Canberrans' travel to Sydney when services from many other rural areas is poor and expensive.

    Julie Macklin Julie Macklin 10:17 am 26 Sep 21

    Peter Hatfield NSW seniors can also travel for free in off peak in the ACT, so reciprocal.

    "Interstate seniors can travel for free using their Interstate Senior MyWay travel card on all Transport Canberra services during the off-peak travel period, which is between 9:00am to 4:30pm and after 6:00pm on weekdays, and all-day weekends and public holidays."

    We all can in each other's states.

    I can remember a five plus hour trip in a bus stuck in traffic, as we attempted to leave Sydney.

    Peter Hatfield Peter Hatfield 10:24 am 26 Sep 21

    Julie Macklin Five hours is an exeption. I have never faced delays and there are times when trains are delayed with track problems. I'm well aware of the reciprocity. I have a place in Canberra too. The problem is a NSW one, with very heavy subsidies for those who have XPT services while other rural public transport is poor. We would be better served with the money put to a good network of coach services, with the trains operating on a less frequent full cost recovery basis like the Perth and Darwin trains if the demand is there.

    Julie Macklin Julie Macklin 11:21 am 26 Sep 21

    Peter Hatfield My mother would physically not be able to get on a coach, but she can a train. Others like her.

Gail Annette Tregear Gail Annette Tregear 6:14 pm 25 Sep 21

Canberra Airport has mow come of age but the Railway Station is much as it has always been. Most visitors don't know it exists!

James Ballard James Ballard 4:24 pm 25 Sep 21

Once the train gets out Bungendore way it chugs along just fine. The problem is bridging the Molonglo gorge in which the train is crawling along at about 10km/hr. It'd cost a fortune and I doubt either NSW or ACT gov'ts have any appetite to fund upgrading and modernising the line.

    Nicholas Elizabeth Swain Nicholas Elizabeth Swain 4:39 pm 25 Sep 21

    No problem with funding if it was lite rail!

Julian Hayes Julian Hayes 12:47 pm 24 Sep 21

a bus is about 200% cheaper than rail

Warren J Grzic Warren J Grzic 10:37 pm 23 Sep 21

This feels awkward. There was in fact a line to where the city centre lies in the city's early years, until a bridge over a river was wrecked in a flood and was never rebuilt. I guess that the demand was never there to rebuild or extend the line as the city grew over the following decades. Now I wonder if the existing station even has a future, given its remoteness from the city centre and the airport - even if it could be linked by light rail. At the same time, while lots of people talk of high-speed rail linking the city, a station for that would surely need to be in the centre of town, and I can't see where it could be built there. Would locals object to losing some open space near the centre of town, or even a lot of the carpark near the two historic buildings at the London Circruit/Northbourne Avenue intersection, to allow for a new railway station, and something without any connection to the existing station?

Ross McConchie Ross McConchie 10:04 pm 23 Sep 21

High speed PASSENGER trains are simply not viable, because the population density is far too low for far too high a mileage.

So you either get Cbr to Syd/Melb non-stop, which is direct competition with the airlines, who don't need to maintain/travel 100's km of track (so costs the airlines less); or you have to stop every 50km to pick up enough passengers to break even, which defeats the high-speed concept and again loses to the airlines.


We SHOULD be taking 100s (1000s) of trucks off the road; loading the trucks, their loads AND their drivers onto trains, and moving them efficiently from location to location.

- Reduces wear and tear on the trucks and the roads;

- Reduces driver fatigue, and the pressure of shorter and shorter "turn around times";

- Trains can travel "overnight", delivering trucks/cargo/(rested) driver at their destination "at the start of the day".

- Saves fuel;

- Allows small owner/drivers to keep working;

- Savings from the road/fuel costs can fund the rail costs, probably directly by trucks paying for tickets rather than fuel/rego/etc/etc/etc...

Because the physical "area" of Cbr station (and many other stations) is still available, trains can load/unload without the need for extensive "land grabs".

BUT it needs Government(s) support to encourage both the trucking industry AND the rail industry to adopt it.

    Toby Töb Toby Töb 5:16 pm 24 Sep 21

    that's a really sensible idea, I like it a lot. I would really love for it to be viable for me to jump on an affordable train to sydney, but your points are very good. I hope both can be possible

    Ross McConchie Ross McConchie 6:17 pm 24 Sep 21

    Toby Töb thanks

    Greg Myat Greg Myat 7:15 pm 25 Sep 21

    Ross McConchie I agree with you entirely about using rail more to get trucks off our main routes. But trains are the most efficient way to transport people and cargo despite the maintenance of the lines. Much cheaper than air travel.

    Peter Hatfield Peter Hatfield 10:37 am 26 Sep 21

    Greg Myat What nonsense. The real cost of passenger rail is as much or more than air, particulary over longer distances. A coach to Sydney is much cheaper than either, faster than the train and you can provide more frequent services.

    Greg Myat Greg Myat 4:38 pm 26 Sep 21

    What about cargo?!? Per tonnage of cargo compared to a plane. Plane might be quicker, thats all. Where you get your info from.

Vale Tina Vale Tina 7:13 pm 23 Sep 21

Add more train? like speed trains?

Peter Curtis Peter Curtis 6:47 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 Retro Capital Retro 6:19 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.

    JC JC 8:23 pm 23 Sep 21

    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 Retro Capital Retro 9:46 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.

Harold Fryar Harold Fryar 3:49 pm 23 Sep 21

Put the money to help build a high speed train Sydney -CANBERRA -Melbourne. Many other countries have them a great way to travel not everyone wants to travel by plane ..MF.

    Ross McConchie Ross McConchie 10:06 pm 23 Sep 21

    Harold Fryar see my points below.

    Leon Arundell Leon Arundell 7:24 pm 24 Sep 21

    A Sydney-Melbourne train wouldn't be very fast if it was to detour via Canberra.

Doug Jackson Doug Jackson 12:36 pm 23 Sep 21

We have a railway station?

    Doug Jackson Doug Jackson 7:24 pm 24 Sep 21

    To those who are cranky - I know it is there - I have even caught the odd train from there. It is just that the only answer that came to my mind was that - because rail isn't relevant to the ACT. It is simply a link for those who have the time to spend whiling away a day for a trip to Sydney.

    It would be awesome if it was used for freight - but obviously the numbers don't currently work, otherwise the companies would flock to the service.

Ric Hingee Ric Hingee 11:38 am 23 Sep 21

I like the old station, but not the trains that service it.

Hvcvlt Lukey Hvcvlt Lukey 11:14 am 23 Sep 21

It needs to stay there for history reasons but Def's needs something done to it lol

Leon Arundell Leon Arundell 9:04 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 Retro Capital Retro 10:42 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..

Tim Vandartel Tim Vandartel 8:27 am 23 Sep 21

Time to get back on track. High speed trains please.

Capital Retro Capital Retro 8:08 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.

Chris Mackie Chris Mackie 8:05 am 23 Sep 21

needs a high speed train line!

Yvoir Hingee Yvoir Hingee 12:27 am 23 Sep 21

A joke. I last used it twice once in the 1950s and once in the 1960s, and the experience was so bad I promised myself never to use it again !! It was like a slow torture just to get to Sydney.

I can never forget the first time ... seven hours to get to Sydney (including a 1 hour stop in Goulburn) and the second time took 5 hours. It was like a slow death.

R.I.P. the railway and station in the middle of no where.

    Greg Donoghoe Greg Donoghoe 9:05 am 23 Sep 21

    Yvoir Hingee maybe you need to give it a try now. Very enjoyable way to travel to Sydney. No traffic to put up with & very comfortable.

    It has moved on from the old mail train from the 60s & 70s. Trip time into central is I think around 4.5 hrs.

    Craig Webb Craig Webb 9:11 am 23 Sep 21

    Greg Donoghoe thats well and truely faster than an old plastic cab with a gardiner straight 8 in it!

    Julie Macklin Julie Macklin 12:28 pm 23 Sep 21

    Yvoir Hingee Are you making a joke. Can't be serious. "1950s and once in the 1960s". We used to have pan toilets then. "the experience was so bad I promised myself never to use it again !!"

    Peter Hatfield Peter Hatfield 10:40 am 26 Sep 21

    Greg Donoghoe it's an hour or so faster on a coach, very comfortable and if there is any traffic that's the coach driver's problem.

    Peter Hatfield Peter Hatfield 10:52 am 26 Sep 21

    Julie Macklin A bit like some people's perception of coaches!Interestingly when I caught the coach to the Melbourne XPT at Cootamundra , about half Canberra the passengers caught the train at Yass and the rest stayed on the coach from Yass to Cootamundra. It was as a comfortable as the XPT. In fact the XPT swayed so much my neighbour's bag fell off the port rack on me.

    Greg Donoghoe Greg Donoghoe 10:58 am 26 Sep 21

    Peter Hatfield yes but on the train, you can get up & walk a bit. Good if you're not in a hurry.

Nigel Milton Nigel Milton 11:43 pm 22 Sep 21

make light rail connect to it next and make it relevant again.

Spend the profits made from light rail on rebuilding Rail from Canberra to local regions and it will be used

make the Canberra rail station ultimately the hub for light rail in canberra

    Robert Woodrow Robert Woodrow 5:43 pm 23 Sep 21

    Nigel Milton "the profits from light rail" ?

    Leon Arundell Leon Arundell 7:26 pm 24 Sep 21

    The only profits from Stage 2 of light rail will go to the companies that the ACT Government pays to build it and operate it. According to the Business Case for Stage 2A of light rail, each dollar invested in Stage 2 would generate benefits worth only 60 cents.

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