As the light rail expansion picks up pace, Canberrans are once again being urged to be safe around the “six-tonne rhinoceroses on skateboards that can’t stop”.
It follows the government releasing its latest ‘near miss’ video featuring people of all ages – pedestrians, e-scooter riders and motorists – getting dangerously close to the light rail, frequently because they are using their mobile phone or have headphones in.
It’s the latest of many campaigns rolled out to raise awareness about rail safety in the Territory.
In August 2020, a training exercise at Gungahlin Interchange – also designed to highlight the dangers of light rail vehicles to pedestrians – involved a mannequin ‘trapped’ under a light-rail vehicle before emergency service workers sprung into action.
But unfortunately, the message doesn’t seem to be hitting home.
Fifty near misses have been reported by light rail drivers since the beginning of the year, with 43 needing the use of emergency brakes to avoid a collision.
This Rail Safety Week, Minister for Transport and City Services Chris Steel has called on commuters to pay attention and take personal responsibility for their safety.
“This means looking up and standing back behind the yellow line on light rail platforms,” he said.
“Look both ways before crossing light rail tracks, turn off the music and take out your headphones before crossing. It’s really important that you’re paying attention.”
Mr Steel said Canberrans are getting used to light rail but there were still problems, especially around U-turns.
As part of the safety awareness week, local graphic design students have had their safety-related designs featured on light rail vehicles.
The four finalists are Dickson College students Teagan Wood, Ricky Bray and Lachlan Gibb, and Emma Morris from Gungahlin College. Commuters will be able to vote for their favourite design by scanning the QR codes on the posters at light rail stops.
The Commonwealth Government this week signalled its intention to continue to help fund the project as it crosses the lake and arrives in Woden.
Five new light rail vehicles will be added to the fleet from 2024 onwards so the trams can be retrofitted with batteries that will allow them to travel wire-free across the bridge and through the Parliamentary Triangle.
Preparatory works are already underway to upgrade the interchange at the other end.
Years of traffic-related disruptions are expected as the light rail project continues.