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

Ian Bushnell 5 July 2019 102

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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102 Responses to
Light rail Stage 2 split in two in bid for faster approval
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2:45 pm 05 Jul 19

Shuttle bus across the bridge?

2:13 pm 05 Jul 19

Battery packs for the short run, or induction loop options. No poles. Single track across the bridge means one tram at a time, so weight loading and track need less. None of these are insurmountable if thought about.

    5:20 pm 05 Jul 19

    Induction loop options are an expensive technology and is not suited to our LRV’s.

    6:06 pm 05 Jul 19

    Robert. Expensive is relative. Poles aren't going to be acceptable, and reinforcing the bridge seems expensive too. So perhaps the designers shoukd have gone with the less expensive, more modern and more acceptable guided bus ways in the beginning. Expensive is when you get no go ahead and have a big gap in your rail system. But Australia is no stranger to having rail systems that don't match or connect or even work at the promised levels.

    11:25 am 06 Jul 19

    The NCA has stated a big no to overhead poles.

    11:28 am 06 Jul 19

    Michael. So new solutions to transiting the gaps will be required. I suspect They will stop either side and make people walk, citing climate change, obesity and promoting tourism as reason for building 2 unconnected tram lines.

    6:56 pm 06 Jul 19

    Michael Bourke - Good!

    7:40 am 27 Jul 19

    Paul Irving no new solution is needed. The battery technology to cross the lake is here now and being used by a number of systems that use the exact same tram as we have.

    Newcastle NSW is fully wireless, trams recharge whilst at stops which gives them enough power to get to the next stop.

    And midland metro in Birmingham does the same on an extension of their line into the centre of Birmingham. Birmingham are so happy they are now planning wirefree extensions and are doubling their fleet size to about 40.

    Not going into detail but there are at least 5 other systems with the same tram as us that are planning wire free extensions.

    And BTW the way CAF make their vehicles the batteries can be easily retrofitted. If you compare imagines of the Newcastle and Canberra trams you will notice a slight difference on the roof of the drivers cab, that’s the battery pack.

    8:56 am 27 Jul 19

    Ashley. Great news. So the ugly overhead wires and poles could have been removed from the original design, but weren't!

    3:38 pm 27 Jul 19

    Paul Irving actually no. My understand of the CAF system is you need some time under the wires to give a full recharge.

    Places like Newcastle that are fully wire free are short and spend extra time at the terminus to get full charge. Newcastle is looking at an extension which will be wired.

    It is for this reason that Birmingham and other cites are looking at it for short wireless extensions to their otherwise wired systems.

    6:29 pm 27 Jul 19

    Ashley. I don't like the trams. Well designed modern buses would have been more cost effective, more sustainable, more faster to deliver, less vulnerable to problems.

astro2 12:24 pm 05 Jul 19

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.

watto23 11:55 am 05 Jul 19

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.

    JC 5:00 pm 05 Jul 19

    Pollies bow to voters who play the envy game.

    bj_ACT 10:28 am 06 Jul 19

    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.

11:46 am 05 Jul 19

And what advantage does this $1.6bn spend over the existing rapid bus??

    3:54 pm 05 Jul 19

    Excuse to raise the rates again? Not that they seem to need one.

    5:04 pm 05 Jul 19

    Michael Harper Also a way to get from Woden to Civic more slowly than a bus, while increasing car congestion.

    5:22 pm 05 Jul 19

    A rapid bus holds 60 passengers .. an LRV holds 200 plus passengers.

    5:52 pm 05 Jul 19

    Robert Azzopardi 3 buses don't cost $1.6billion. 200 plus passengers, most standing. That's a shitty form of transport. Canberra can do better than that.

    9:24 am 06 Jul 19

    Robert Azzopardi flawed logic. The current flow of busses can more than handle demand. A vehicle that loads to well under capacity is just inefficient. Or are you saying that a 200 capacity vehicle will just leave half hourly rather than a 60 capacity vehicle leaving every 10 minutes.

10:36 am 05 Jul 19

1.6bn yeah right, that will just be your rates bill.

petunia petal 10:26 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.

10:08 am 05 Jul 19

Hey, it'd be really funny if a Belconnen (Ginninderra electorate) Independent candidate ran in the 2020 ACT election, and promised that Civic-Belco-Kippax would be the 2nd tram line, and not Woden, if that Independent had the balance of power in the new government. Oh, the drama that would cause in Canberra. Imagine Civic-Belco-KIppax having a tram line asap, with 2 unis, Calvary hospital, CIT, AIS, 2 town centres, footy stadium etc along the route.

    3:38 pm 05 Jul 19

    Vanessa Jones that approach is commonsense- never happen

    5:02 pm 05 Jul 19

    Vanessa Jones tell is what is between Belconnen and Kippax to justify it going out there?

    10:07 am 06 Jul 19

    Vanessa Jones Ginninderra is Labor all the way, if there was going to be an independent at sometime it would be in Canberra's south. As far as the footy stadium goes its not a long term prospect as there will probably be a new one constructed in the city area.

    6:55 pm 06 Jul 19

    Ashley Wright - no territory-owned land out there to sell off to developers so no point...”

    7:20 pm 06 Jul 19

    Ashley Wright me

    8:14 pm 06 Jul 19

    Michael Piotrowicz There are about 45k people west of Kingsford Smith Dr and also a fair few people between Belco & Scullin, many are Labor-Greens voters. But, hey, that's for them to push for!

    10:07 am 12 Jul 19

    Nick Manikis yep you just put the mokka on it by playing the commonsense card

    10:28 am 12 Jul 19

    Vanessa Jones if they all lived along Southern Cross Drive then I would agree. But they don’t. They live in large low density suburbs.

    The very suburbs I grew up in actually.

    10:30 am 12 Jul 19

    John Kerry Tozer you are right. But I would put it another way. No land to increase the population density to justify the need for lightrail along the corridor to Kippax.

letterboxfrog 9:29 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

    chewy14 10:51 am 05 Jul 19

    But is there a chance the track could bend?

    astro2 12:17 pm 05 Jul 19

    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 Retro 3:33 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?

    JC 5:04 pm 05 Jul 19

    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 Retro 9:21 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.

    chewy14 10:52 am 05 Jul 19

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

    Capital Retro 2:07 pm 05 Jul 19

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

    JC 5:07 pm 05 Jul 19

    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.

9:21 am 05 Jul 19

The lake and state circle are the hardest parts to get around. Splitting the project means the project can get started and still continue with approvals and planning for the next stage. Rome wasn't built in a day.

    11:23 am 06 Jul 19

    The NCA will not budge on certain points, environmental, security and vista within the Parliamentary Triangle. The other question is the capacity of the bridge and whether it needs reengineering or a total rebuild. I still predict a backflip and stage 2 to go to the airport.

9:11 am 05 Jul 19

Why a stage to Commonwealth Park itself and not continuing on? Surely there is a better approach than this piecemeal planning

    10:13 am 05 Jul 19

    Because they (Barr) need to suck up to the NCA (Feds) and seek approval to get across LBG

    1:38 pm 05 Jul 19

    Maintain the momentum. There are a lot of construction contractors with the appropriate skill sets to get the job done after stage 1. If the federal approvals to cross the lake are delayed, that expertise may have moved out of town, potentially causing further delays and higher costs. Also, jobs now are better for the economy than jobs in 3 years time...

    5:07 pm 05 Jul 19

    Adele Craven read the article. The reason is explained quite clearly.

    12:00 am 07 Jul 19

    Adele Craven It’s a Trojan Horse for Barr’s desired West Basin apartments.

8:35 am 05 Jul 19

This will open up the west basin lake foreshore for Northbourne Avenue style development.

Omar Hashmi 8:32 am 05 Jul 19

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.

    JC 6:46 pm 06 Jul 19

    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.

chewy14 8:04 am 05 Jul 19

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.

    phoon 10:10 pm 06 Jul 19

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

7:51 am 05 Jul 19

and why would we catch a light rail via city circle east when there's currently a direct bus that takes 15 minutes from the city to Woden and vice versa?!?

I hope that direct bus routes won't be cancelled in favour of a longer journey on the light rail.

    8:03 am 05 Jul 19

    Michelle Cardwell timetable says 18 minutes actually. To do it in 15 minutes means someone intending to catch may be left behind.

    9:08 am 06 Jul 19

    Bill Gemmell, no, 15 minutes is the time it takes when leaving on time. The 18 minutes on the timetable allows a small buffer as well as loading time for the next leg of the journey.

7:49 am 05 Jul 19

John Kane no wonder rates are going up

    5:21 pm 05 Jul 19

    Rates have gone up due to the change in the way we collect stamp duty.

    5:56 pm 05 Jul 19

    Robert Azzopardi that’s what they want you to believe

    8:39 am 07 Jul 19

    Robert Azzopardi we changed how we could collect stamp duty so that rates could go up, not the other way round mate. The act govt was reliant on land sale and gst revenue to operate, and we are very close to running out of land...

7:41 am 05 Jul 19

Great news because it ensures continuity of employment for the light rail construction workers. If Commonwealth Ave Bridge isn't ready when the first part is completed I hope they have plans to then head towards Belco.

7:20 am 05 Jul 19

At least that stage A be useful to get to events I suppose. But it's only a very short distance. And what about the issues that were flagged with Commonwealth bridge?

phoon 6:59 am 05 Jul 19

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.

    JC 5:14 pm 05 Jul 19

    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.

    phoon 10:08 pm 06 Jul 19

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

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