5 July 2019

Light rail Stage 2 split in two in bid for faster approval

| Ian Bushnell
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A render of Commonwealth Avenue North and light rail. The section north of the lake will be built as a stage in itself.

Light rail Stage 2 to Woden will be split into two sections with separate approval processes, in a bid to fast-track the up to $1.6 billion project that faces major engineering, environmental and heritage hurdles.

The ACT Government says that today it will lodge two referrals to the Commonwealth under the federal Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation (EPBC) Act for Stage 2A from Alinga Street to Commonwealth Park and Stage 2B from Commonwealth Park across Lake Burley Griffin to Woden via State Circle East.

Transport Minister Chris Steel said Stage 2B was a much more complex section than 2A, involving the lake crossing and extensive heritage issues through the Parliamentary Zone, and would likely need more time to be approved than the first leg.

He said the Government hoped that the relatively simpler first section, comprising three stations – Civic West, West Basin and Commonwealth Park, would allow for a faster approval and earlier construction start, possibly next year, so it at least could be up and running by 2023.

“We are aiming to ensure that complexities in the Commonwealth Park to Woden alignment can be worked through properly with the Commonwealth but without holding up work on the extension of light rail between the City and Commonwealth Park,” Mr Steel said.

Issues under the EPBC Act were expected to be limited for 2A and an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) might not be required, although there were some biodiversity concerns around the golden sun moth, an endangered species. A works approval application will need to go to the National Capital Authority.

The hope was still that there would be passengers riding the entire length of the line by 2025.

Mr Steel said that 2B would require an EIS from the ACT and he expected the same from the Commonwealth, both of which would be open to public consultation before a formal works approval application was submitted to the NCA. It will also require approval from the Federal Parliament.

He said that completing the first leg would provide significant benefits by itself but the Government remained committed to the full extension to Woden.

The main issues from the Commonwealth’s point of view will be Commonwealth Avenue Bridge, the Weston tree plantings on Commonwealth Avenue and the vistas from Parliament House.

Mr Steel said the Government was not expecting any major changes to the suggested stop locations, which had come about from earlier consultation on the route.

The Government believes the Civic West stop on London Circuit near the ANU will be the most popular in the first section, with West Basin on Commonwealth Avenue serving proposed new developments there and Commonwealth Park, again on Commonwealth Avenue, being advantageous for major cultural events taking place in that area.

Stage 2B will have nine stops in Parkes, Barton, Forrest, Deakin, Curtin, Phillip and the Woden Town Centre.

A render of the Woden Interchange light rail station in Callum Street.

The stops in the Parliamentary Zone will service the cultural institutions, public service departments and Parliament House with one stop also a short walk to Manuka Oval.

“We want to work constructively with the Commonwealth to work through these processes going forward and this certainly allows us to get started on Stage 1 in a much more timely way,” Mr Steel said.

He said the ACT would welcome a Commonwealth contribution for Stage 2 as occurred in Stage 1, and would continue to engage with the Morrison Government but the Territory was committed to going it alone if need be to Woden.

As in Stage 1, the business case will be looking at the urban renewal opportunities and potential land uses but Mr Steel said it was a very different route with development restraints along the way, and that most of the new development was expected to be in the city and town centre.

When complete, the Government will need to procure extra vehicles and have the existing fleet retrofitted for wire-free running on national land.

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We have light rail because the buses we got recently have terriblr suspensions. The old buses were better.

Its almost like they are bad on purpose.

Capital Retro8:30 am 27 Jul 19

“Meanwhile back at the cash strapped hospital sick Canberrans continue to suffer but at least they can ride on a shiny new tram (if they happen to survive)”

But they can’t get to any ACT hospital now or in the future on that shiny new tram.

Rob Chalmers10:02 pm 26 Jul 19

The planning for stage 2 should have been completed before stage 1 even began. I can’t see this ending well for taxpayers and residents.

Capital Retro10:38 am 14 Jul 19

“Am I going to pay for it when I don’t get to use it?????? (kambah)”

Good question and it has a precedent as when the ACT government-financed TransACT Communications started rolling out the internet to Canberra suburbs with poles in their backyards only, the rest of us with underground power connections (no poles) could not get any service from TransACT.

Several people petitioned the the ACT Treasurer (Ted Quinlan I think it was) about the unfairness of ratepayers in pole-less suburbs subsidising a service they were denied that was benefiting only those in suburbs with poles.

This forced TransACT to extend their services across Canberra via Telstra/Telecom underground copper wire connections which were available to everyone.

Maybe time for the 80% of Canberrans funding but not receiving access to the not-needed tram to start another petition?

Yes, perhaps those Kambah residents should also start a petition for all the roads, street lighting and parks in Gungahlin that they are paying for but don’t get to use too. And then the Gungahlin residents could start a petition on repairs and upgrades to parks, roads etc in southern suburbs that they don’t get to use.

Capital Retro8:28 am 27 Jul 19

Come on astroboy, you can do better than that.

Some people need a gentle reminder of how rates and taxes work.

Yes perhaps they do.

That rates and taxes are meant to be used to provide essential services to residents.

The problem you’ve got is that you think the light rail was essential public transport when the government’s own business case showed that the majority of benefit was in land development and that the smaller public transport benefit could have been provided through a dedicated busway at a fraction of the price.

You’re trying to compare apples with gold plated oranges and claiming they’re the same.

Capital Retro11:40 am 28 Jul 19

Astro is still in denial that Transport Canberra’s Duncan Edghill said at a national light rail conference in 2017 “Light rail in Canberra is not about public transport; it’s about urban regeneration”.

Hi Chewy, actually, I don’t have a problem at all. The essential nature of a multi-modal transport system for a growing national capital is supported by all major parties so they don’t appear to agree with the anti-light railers view of what Canberra will look like in the future and feeble attempts to justify their nostalgia with their own versions of economics. (Hint: The future Canberra won’t look like the 1970’s)

Urban regeneration includes a good transport system. Not just a few buses trundling around. Duncan Edgehill is right. It’s called ‘context’.

“Multi modal transport system” someone has been reading the cliffs notes again.

The fact that you think a political party supporting a project as evidence of its viability is laughable in itself, but the fact that anybody might support different transport modes (I do also) doesn’t actually mean any individual project is a goer.

And I’m not the one inventing my own economics, it’s the supporters or this project that clearly don’t understand infrastructure planning and investment decisions if they think it’s a good idea.

You know who does understand these things really well?

Infrastructure Australia.

The body that rejected the project for any federal funding due to the woeful cost benefit ratio which wasn’t even close to being enough to be added to the national priority list, nor did the project have any prospect of garnering investment in it from other parties.

But keep ignoring the facts because they don’t agree with your ideology. That will always result in a better outcome.

We will all continue to pay (and pay) for this gold plated largesse.

No someone has just been observing what is happening in all other states and territories (excluding NT which just relies on buses.) Infrastructure Australia doesn’t fund only those projects deemed to have your type of benefit-cost ratio; there are a complex set of criteria involved with funding projects. So, in a nutshell. just because the ACT government didn’t get IA funding for light rail, it doesn’t therefore follow that the project itself isn’t worth funding.. Perhaps look over the types of transport systems used in other capital cities to provide some guidance as to what is needed to provide an adequate system. And < than 1% of the ACT budget for light rail won't be inducing an apocalypse any time soon.

“No someone has just been observing what is happening in all other states and territories (excluding NT which just relies on buses.)”

And? If someone in Sydney jumps off a cliff, would you do it too? What happens elsewhere doesn’t make local projects more viable.

Light Rail for Bungendore? I mean others are doing it.

“Infrastructure Australia doesn’t fund only those projects deemed to have your type of benefit-cost ratio; there are a complex set of criteria involved with funding projects”

Perhaps you can tell us about them?
C’mon, I’m dying to be “educated” on how they assess projects.

But apparently even with that “complex” criteria, they still found no love for Canberra light rail.

awww. Sad face.

“And < than 1% of the ACT budget for light rail won't be inducing an apocalypse any time soon."

1% of our entire budget that must fund all essential services such as hospitals, schools etc. for a project that provides a public transport option to less than 10% of the city on one lone route. A huge impost weighing around our necks for years to come.

And that cost is just for stage 1. Stage 2 would be hugely more expensive again for even less benefit.

As I've said previously, logic and evidence doesn't really come into this decision.

Capital Retro10:26 am 14 Jul 19

The cash strapped SA Government has shelved promised plans for city loop and North Adelaide tram extensions for at least three years.

I note Mr Barr is travelling offshore to raise “cheaper money” for ACT infrastructure expenditure. I would advise a lot of caution in this proposal as non-Australian dollar loans can turn into tragedies such as I witnessed in the 1980s when I was a multi-currency loan manager for a European based bank in Australia.

The key to a solution is strategic innovation. Light rail is old technology. It is being replaced by trackless trams at 10% of the cost per km. No changes to the bridges will be required as the tram would share one of the existing lanes. No approvals will be required as they use existing infrastructure and stops. If you don’t believe me read what the Property Council of Australia published https://www.propertycouncil.com.au/Web/Content/News/National/2018/Are_trackless_trams_a_game_changer_.aspx

Zero point having a trackless tram if you don’t have dedicated lanes and dedicated stations.

So in fact there are infrastructure costs.

Capital Retro10:28 am 14 Jul 19

A tramless track would be better than a trackless tram.

Great news!…..for all the people who sleep out in Commonwealth Park.

I can’t help but think the question of how to cross the lake was kind of a threshhold question that should have been answered before even stage 1 was built. What happens if agreement is never reached? Half a network? 2 half networks?

HiddenDragon5:27 pm 05 Jul 19

Well what a surprise that this gets wheeled out at the end of a week in which there has been some inconvenient news about the ACT schools system (violence) and the prison (over-crowding).

As to the practicalities, aside from getting over the Lake, and getting around the Parliamentary Triangle, there’s also the question of how people will get to and from the proposed stops show in the route map. Will there be traffic lights on Yarra Glen and Adelaide Avenue? Will there be overhead footbridges (great for people with mobility issues) or pedestrian tunnels (ditto re mobility, and a happy hunting ground for muggers)?

It would be funny if the hypothetical ginninderra balance of power independent had to eat a bag when they did run the line into belconnen but refused to take it to kippax.

This stage of the southbound route will at least open up the City West and New Acton sides of the city. Anything that lessens motor vehicle traffic and dirty emissions (which have ruined the old 1920’s building that are close by) is a win for Canberra.

This should not be stage 2. As a Tuggeranong resident, this is stage 2 because the politicians play the politics of envy game. Reality is stage 2 should be Belconnen to the airport or at the very least just extend to the airport.

Pollies bow to voters who play the envy game.

I’m a Woden resident but lifelong Tuggeranong resident up until a few years ago.

Even I think the Woden rail line isn’t the right solution for the area.

Some dedicated road sections for public transport and emergency vehicles in Woden and Tuggeranong would ensure a Rapid Bus service provides a better and more cost effective solution for the south.

petunia petal10:26 am 05 Jul 19

The current Civic to Woden bus route is one of the most efficient and convenient because it actually mimics the route taken by car and doesn’t veer off course like all Action bus routes seem to. Why would they ruin this? It works! don’t change it with this costly mess.

letterboxfrog9:29 am 05 Jul 19

Fixed rail attracts more patrons than buses. However, I am wondering if light rail is the right mode for the route. If you’ve ever taken the Tokyo Monorail, you’ll know that you can do some fancy manoeuvres to avoid obstacles – small tunnels, travelling over the top, etc.
A monorail could easily détour to hospitals at low cost, cross the lake, etc without causing the mayhem of light rail or route delays as it could all be built prefab in Fyshwick or Hume

But is there a chance the track could bend?

I don’t think it could be built in Fyshwick (not sure about Hume) as these are only light industry not heavy manufacturing. As far as “mayhem” of Stage One, that’s exaggerating quite a bit. All infrastructure projects, whether rail, road, plumbing or telecommunications, causes an element of disruption. It’s just this particular project had some very noisy hyperbole around the development, (more for what it represents that what it actually is).

Capital Retro3:33 pm 05 Jul 19

Fixed rail usually replaces busses (as it has done on the Gold Coast and here in a very small part of Canberra)

To say that light rail attracts more patrons than busses when the busses have been eliminated on the same routes is a total nonsense. What actually happens is that total patronage for public transport falls when trams replace busses.

Where are the latest tram user numbers for the Canberra light rail?

Got some evidence of this drop on passengers when trams take over? It is contrary to the experiences of many other cities who have changed to light rail.

Capital Retro9:21 am 05 Jul 19

…”Northbourne Avenue style development”…..

Where home units are now selling for 10% – 20% less than what people have paid for them.

Where property prices have risen 50%+ in the last 5 years.

Capital Retro2:07 pm 05 Jul 19

We are both correct actually. You are talking about the past; I am talking about the present.

Going to kinda agree here for once. Then lack of realistic development options along Adelaide Ave is why stage 2 shouldn’t be to Woden and beyond.

Where it should be going is to Kingston via Barton and Canberra Ave or Wentworth Ave where development has already delivered good numbers and there remains development options plus a large work and entertainment area.

This route really appears to end up doing everything badly. Most of the stops are 20 minutes walk from where you want to be, the route will be slower than the bus by taking state circle, and they will remove the bus from this route destroying the intertown buses and adding 20-30 minutes to everyone’s travel in swapping services in Woden and Civic. There isn’t even any redevelopment opportunities along the route to mitigate the cost.

I think I’ll have to buy my kids a car to get to uni. They should at least run a bus along this route first to see if there is any demand.

Apart from the fact there are some contradictions in your post for the most part I agree. The development opportunities in that route are not there and it is those that make stage 1 viable.

It’s funny that people still think stage 2 will happen.

It’s completely unviable and the government is just making noises, fully aware they won’t deliver it due to the exorbitant costs and little benefit it would provide.

At least I hope so.

You’re assuming that our esteemed (!) ACT Government lets facts or common sense dictate policy and that’s a rather risky assumption.

And if 2B never gets approved? And for goodness sake why are the existing trams not configured how they need to be now? They were always going to have to be wireless if they ran it through the parliamentary triangle. We all thought the scale on which money was wasted on the tram was bad before – this bit is simply nuts. And as the article notes it’s not like they can even kick public housing tenants out along the route and sell the land to offset some of the cost.

The existing trams can have battery modules (or supercapacitors) simply dropped in when needed. The Urbos 3 is a modular design and in this regard was a very good choice of vehicle.

It would have been more wasteful to have them installed now when they are simply not needed.

Fair enuf, that is good info. I withdraw my statement about that then. My other comments stand.

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