Light rail Stage 2A to be wire-free as approvals process moves to next phase

Ian Bushnell 18 February 2020 185
Stage 2A light rail

A render shows the wire-free Stage 2A light rail leg at the intersection of the raised London Circuit and Commonwealth Avenue. Images: Supplied.

The 1.7 kilometre extension of light rail from Alinga Street to Commonwealth Park via London Circuit will be wire-free, in part to preserve the heritage vistas to the Parliamentary Zone.

The ACT Government has revealed more details about the project as it moves to the next approvals phase, with the Commonwealth deciding that both Stage 2A and Stage 2B across Lake Burley Griffin and on to Woden are controlled actions, as expected.

The confirmation that Stage2A will be wire-free means that new and existing light rail vehicles will need to be fitted with onboard energy storage with regenerative braking capability.

According to the EPBC documents lodged with the Commonwealth last July, a traction power substation, connected to the system at Commonwealth Avenue, will also need to be built in Commonwealth Park.

The ACT Government says grassed tracks are also proposed on the Commonwealth Avenue median.

London Circuit near Edinburgh Avenue

This image shows the tracks in the middle of London Circuit near Edinburgh Avenue.

While there will be extra costs in going wire-free, Transport Minister Chris Steel says an advantage will be that Stage 2A will take up less space as the tracks will be narrower and built in the middle of the road.

“As Light Rail Stage 2A turns on to Commonwealth Avenue, wire-free running will also ensure that the heritage vistas along Commonwealth Avenue are maintained,” he said.

As previously announced, London Circuit will be raised to be level with Commonwealth Avenue.

Mr Steel said the project was progressing as expected to the next stage of the Commonwealth environmental approval process.

To gain approval, the ACT Government will need to provide further information to the Commonwealth, which has determined that Stage 2A can be assessed by “Preliminary Documentation”, an assessment pathway usually reserved for projects where the impacts are localised and easily predicted.

The more complex Stage 2B through the Parliamentary Zone near areas of national and heritage significance will require a full EIS, as expected. It will need to be wire-free through the Parliamentary Zone, which means there will be wire-free running from the city across the lake to Parkes.

“This decision from the Federal Government reinforces our choice to deliver light rail to Woden in two stages. The process of assessment for Stage 2A means we can get on with the job of extending light rail to Woden sooner,” Mr Steel said.

“We always expected that an extensive EIS process would be required for the more complex stage 2B extension through the Parliamentary Triangle under the Commonwealth environmental approval process,” Mr Steel said.

The City South Station

The City South Station, and the beginning of the grassed tracks on Commonwealth Avenue.

He said the Government was investing in infrastructure now to ensure Canberra did not end up congested like Sydney.

“We are getting on with the job of taking light rail to Woden,” he said.

“We want to build on the success of the first stage of light rail, and this is the next step in the process to take those benefits to Woden.”

Last September, Cabinet approved the business case for Stage 2A and started one-on-one negotiations with the operator of Stage 1, Canberra Metro, for it to design and build the project.

The cost of Stage 2A is subject to those negotiations but the overall cost of Stage 2 has been put at $1.6 billion.

Last week, $31.4 million was allocated in the Mid Year Budget Review for Stage 2A design work, and Chief Minister Andrew Barr said contracts would be signed this year, with construction expected to start in 2021 and the first passengers boarding in 2024.

Stage 2A is seen as a springboard for the more challenging Stage 2B across the lake to Woden, and will include three new stations and add an estimated 2500 to 3000 passengers to the system.

City West, on the corner of Edinburgh Avenue and London Circuit near the ANU, is expected to be the most popular station, with City South servicing the new residential areas of West Basin, and the southern terminus important for major events in Commonwealth Park and by the lake.

It will require extra rolling stock and the Government is in talks to acquire four more light rail vehicles.

The Public Transport Association of Canberra (PTCBR) has welcomed progress on the approvals processes, as well as Federal Government support for the development of advanced battery technologies for light rail vehicles.

PTCBR Chair Ryan Hemsley said the Federal Department of the Environment has mapped a clear path forward for Light Rail Stage 2 by identifying the assessment processes.

“Following the success of Stage 1, we call on the ACT Opposition to outline their plans for bringing light rail to Woden ahead of the Territory Election later this year,” he said

Mr Hemsley also said a recent Commonwealth grant had been awarded to a consortium developing fast charging batteries for light rail vehicles.”

The Federal Department of Industry, Innovation and Science recently announced a grant of $1.6 million to a consortium proposing to develop an ‘Advanced Nano-engineered Battery for Fast Charging Catenary-free Trams’. Total project expenditure is expected to be $5 million and consortium members include the CSIRO.

“This project has the potential to benefit light rail systems across Australia as well as in the ACT by reducing charging times at stops and lowering the lifetime costs of wire-free running,” he said.

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185 Responses to Light rail Stage 2A to be wire-free as approvals process moves to next phase
Rob Chalmers Rob Chalmers 6:09 pm 18 Feb 20

Still nothing on "The Bridge over the River Molonglo"...unless it very secret.

Daniel Bryan Daniel Bryan 2:40 pm 18 Feb 20

Be good if they could get approvals under way for 2B before 2A is finished thus reducing the down time between builds.

    Ashley Wright Ashley Wright 5:51 am 19 Feb 20

    Daniel Bryan that is the whole idea behind splitting stage 2 into two parts.

    Richie Suryadi Richie Suryadi 7:17 pm 21 Feb 20

    Be good if they got the first stage right in the first place

    John Kerry Tozer John Kerry Tozer 8:42 pm 24 Feb 20

    Daniel Bryan - Be REALLY good if they told us how they are going to get across the lake!

Sharvi Tinnlonga Sharvi Tinnlonga 9:39 am 18 Feb 20

I find it pointless to write a comment, they are determined to go across the lake rather than go to the airport and Queanbeyan.

    Ashley Wright Ashley Wright 10:31 am 19 Feb 20

    Sharvi Tinnlonga why would the ACT government even consider QBN?

    Sharvi Tinnlonga Sharvi Tinnlonga 4:47 pm 20 Feb 20

    once it gets to the airport, qbyn people will agitate for it to connect Queanbeyan with the airport and canberra.

    Ashley Wright Ashley Wright 7:19 am 22 Feb 20

    Sharvi Tinnlonga QBN people can agitate all they like, but I am sure the NSW government isn’t going to provide one cent for it and I am even more sure the ACT government won’t either.

    Oh and if you wanted to connect to QBN the better route would be one via Fyshwick and along the existing railway corridor not via the airport.

    And to be honest I’ve always felt stage two should be to Kingston rather than Woden.

    Sharvi Tinnlonga Sharvi Tinnlonga 6:10 pm 24 Feb 20

    I agree that the rail should go to Kingston, and then on to the airport if a suitable route could be found.

    I think the airport would be against a rail line as it would affect their overpriced car parking rates and the taxi industry would be badly affected.

Jorge Garcia Jorge Garcia 8:49 am 18 Feb 20

Oh! will the neigh sayers give it up??? The tram has been a great success so much so that they are having to put extra services at peak times. ACTION could habe done much better with public transport in the South but that is no reason for not pushing ahead with putting a light rail spine right through the middle of Canberra… (and it needs to go ALL the way South and the Airport too)…. with bus loops criss crossing the line all the way along. I think that the solutions being adopted to overcome the impediments being thrown at this project are ingenious… Well done to the engineers and the visionaries!

    chewy14 chewy14 12:37 pm 18 Feb 20

    For the millionth time, usage figures doesn’t make a public transport or infrastructure project a “success”.

    Particularly when a large proportion of those users have been forced into making that choice by removing alternatives.

    If the government offered a cheap limousine service door to door, I’m sure the usage figures would be astronomical.

    There are far cheaper alternatives than light rail that will give the same public transport outcome and even the existing buses are quicker from Woden to Civic. So why would you pay billions of dollars for little to no benefit?

    Particularly when the budget is in such a parlous state.

    Capital Retro Capital Retro 1:30 pm 18 Feb 20

    All modes of mass transit have to provide extra services/resources at peak times. Success is based on the aggregate 24 hour cycle which I think you will find with the trams will be about the same as what the previous commute methods were (busses and private cars) and this pet/idealistic project will end up costing us billions for exactly the same outcome.

    Canberra simply doesn’t have the population density for trams. How many times do you need to hear that said?

    JC JC 6:00 am 19 Feb 20

    What drivel. Who says success is measured on a 24 hour cycle?

    Even the beloved roads are all designed around peak demand. For 20 hours a day many of our roads would work fine with single lanes!

    Though I will agree with one thing Canberra, overall doesn’t have the population to have trams, but there are corridors that sure the hell do. The Northborne Ave to Gungahlin corridor being one of them and the far better than expected usage reflects that in spades.

    And don’t give me the nonsense that people are forced into it by removal of the buses. The amount of people using the tram in peak hour would have required 20+ buses an hour. I can assure you there were not that many buses plying Flemmington Road or Northborne Ave every hour. The people have spoken with their feet.

    chewy14 chewy14 8:38 pm 19 Feb 20

    Your claim about people not being forced onto light rail is erroneous because you aren’t comparing apples with apples.

    There used to be suburban buses from these areas that didn’t go along the light rail route but they are now all funneled through the Gungahlin town centre and light rail.

    Of course it’s popular because it’s the only choice.

    Although, as above, that doesn’t make it a success and as the government’s own figures showed, a BRT system could have provided the same public transport benefits for a fraction of the cost.

    JC JC 9:50 am 21 Feb 20

    Not true. The suburban buses that serviced the eastern suburbs of Gungahlin did follow the light rail route. And those that came from the western suburbs also followed the route.

    The key difference now is the change of mode. For those in the eastern suburbs (Harrison and Franklin) they can either walk to a stop or bus and change at a stop along the route, the benifit being even with a change faster travel times in peak and similar off peak.

    And you are still ignoring two facts. One fact more people are using light rail compared to buses along the same trunk route and that people still have choice of using their car, riding a bike but fact remains many are choosing light rail over alternatives.

    I know this doesn’t suit your narrative but thems are the facts.

    chewy14 chewy14 6:20 pm 21 Feb 20

    I’m not saying that more people aren’t travelling on this route, there’s thousands of extra people living there now. It was obvious.

    So your two facts are irrelevant to my point that the bus routes are now designed to funnel people to the light rail whereas previously they had more choice. Particularly as parking rates in the city have been significantly increased compounding this factor.

    And even then, none of this actually means that light rail was the correct choice now for this route. There were far cheaper options available that delivered the same benefit.

    I know this doesn’t suit your narrative but those are the facts.

    JC JC 8:17 pm 23 Feb 20

    Public transport isn’t about choice. But let’s say it was before the choice was a bus from the suburbs to Gungahlin and then in peak hour a 45 minute trip along Flemmington Road and Northborne Ave.

    Or now the same (or similar) bus trip to Gungahlin, a change to light rail with, in peak hour a maximum of 6, soon to be 5 minute wait and then 24 minutes to the city. Even with the change light rail is the winner time wise by a country mile.

    But let’s talk about choice and now in the past I didn’t really have much choice but to drive to the city because a choice I made because my time is more valuable than the cost of parking.

    Now I drive half way, park for free (and luckily I avoided the hail storm) and then get the tram the last stretch to town all with zero time penalty. If I had of done that before with the 200 bus it would have taken at least 20 minutes more in morning peak and about the same afternoon peak.

    My choice reduced road congestion in the more central area, reduced demand for carparking in the city, is cheaper and takes about the same. And where I park and ride there is an increasing number of people doing exactly that.

    Now talk to me about choice again?

    chewy14 chewy14 2:42 pm 24 Feb 20

    “Or now the same (or similar) bus trip to Gungahlin, a change to light rail with, in peak hour a maximum of 6, soon to be 5 minute wait and then 24 minutes to the city. Even with the change light rail is the winner time wise by a country mile.”

    Once again, you aren’t comparing like for like.

    Nowhere have I suggested that nothing should have been done to increase public transport on this route. I specifically said there were other options available that would meet this demand at a fraction of the cost, delivering identical public transport benefits. The government’s own business case said this.

    You could have then planned for transition to a higher capacity system such as light rail, when or if it was necessary. Which is clearly not today.

    Capital Retro Capital Retro 6:33 pm 20 Feb 20

    “The people have spoken with their feet.”

    The same feet they stand on in the trams?

Lorraine Welling Lorraine Welling 7:46 am 18 Feb 20

Canberra can’t afford this at this time, given the massive budget blowout and mismanagement of our money by Barr and Rattenbury. Here in the ACT, this is their record:

Australia’s most expensive education system, yet a lack of support for teachers.

Australia’s most expensive hospitals, yet nurses are at breaking point.

Australia’s most expensive prison, yet very little rehabilitation.

Australia’s most expensive petrol.

Australia’s highest costs for owning and running a car.

Australia’s highest rates of assaults on prison guards.

Australia’s smallest frontline police force.

Australia’s worst rental stress.

We have Australia’s highest rent.

Australia’s highest rate of repeat homelessness.

Australia’s highest gas prices.

Australia’s least affordable housing market for young people.

Australia’s most expensive childcare costs.

Australia’s longest wait for residential aged care.

And, Australia’s worst hospital waiting times.

    Jorge Garcia Jorge Garcia 8:57 am 18 Feb 20

    I dont have a high opinion on this government, but the list of problems you have outlined can/should be addressed without taking a step back on the light rail project which is also sorely needed.

    Garry Gordon Garry Gordon 8:07 pm 18 Feb 20

    Lorraine Welling / and Australia’s worst politicians.

    Peter Palmer Peter Palmer 5:46 am 19 Feb 20

    Lorraine Welling And yet it is still the place we choose to live.

    Lorraine Welling Lorraine Welling 7:01 am 19 Feb 20

    Peter Palmer yes. I love Canberra and politicians come and go - and it high time Barr and Rattenbury went.

    Alan Dalling Alan Dalling 10:01 am 21 Feb 20

    Jorge Garcia no it's not. Stage 2 will nearly double the commuting time between Woden and Civic. Will remove a couple of hundred trees from Commonwealth Ave and Yarra Glen. It will remove the T2 lanes affecting all current users, but particularly emergency vehicles. It is inflexible, not easily adaptable to increasing capacity and requires specialist training for operators. All this for a minimum of $1.6 billion. Total joke. Seriously anybody who thinks this a good idea, or good value needs their head read.

    Ashley Wright Ashley Wright 7:17 am 22 Feb 20

    Alan Dalling where have you seen plans to say the T2 lanes will disappear? Everything I’ve seen shows it using the median strip which is quite wide with those other lanes untouched.

    That said one stretch of the T2 has disappeared in recent months to be turned into a car lane. But guess that doesn’t count because cars are king.

    As for adapting light rail for increasing capacity, yeah, nope that is the very idea behind it especially on stage 1 where Northborne Ave couldn’t be realistically increased in capacity. Guess another 2 lanes could be Adelaide Ave to increase capacity if required but only as far as Parl house where it becomes a bottle neck of two lanes with little room to expand.

    Tamsin Walkden Tamsin Walkden 2:04 pm 22 Feb 20

    Lorraine Welling Well said.

chewy14 chewy14 7:43 am 18 Feb 20

This is where people need to understand the concept of opportunity cost.

With all the talk of the “success” of stage 1 because people are using it, have a think about what else the enormous amount of money being directed to this project could be used for and what actual public transport benefit it will provide.

Considering that current buses on this route are significantly faster than the future light rail will be, what other services are you prepared to give up because we’ve spent all our money on this.

    JC JC 10:15 pm 24 Feb 20

    Opportunity cost works both ways. Think of the enormous costs that have otherwise been saved by not having to add extra road lanes from Gungahlin to the city, or to the cost of congestion, health of people yadda yadda yadda.

    chewy14 chewy14 12:17 pm 25 Feb 20

    Who has suggested extra roads being built?

    Certainly not me.

    Once again I’m supportive of additional public transport, that doesn’t mean I’m supportive of all public transport options. Light Rail was clearly not the best option as the government’s figures show and it’s also why they haven’t released any business case for stage 2 and beyond.

Emilia Franklin Emilia Franklin 7:34 am 18 Feb 20

We live in Gleneagles and pay good tax for it but we haven't a bus stop

Emilia Franklin Emilia Franklin 7:31 am 18 Feb 20

And negotiate with Sydney about Canberra - Qbeyan

Emilia Franklin Emilia Franklin 7:30 am 18 Feb 20

We need one to the airport

    John Harding John Harding 10:44 am 25 Feb 20

    A billion dollar train line was built from Sydney airport to the city. It is great and I have used it several times flying to Sydney for business meetings in the city. However, it made massive losses (in the hundreds of millions). A light rail line to the airport would be even more uneconomic.

    Emilia Franklin Emilia Franklin 10:51 am 25 Feb 20

    Well it is the beggining..but rail or bus to the Airport of Canberra it's necessary

    Emilia Franklin Emilia Franklin 10:56 am 25 Feb 20

    If not, a fast train...Sydney- Canberra through Golbun..Wollongong Qbeyan Canberra ..Woga Woga, Alburry. Melbourne?

    Emilia Franklin Emilia Franklin 10:56 am 25 Feb 20

    With more stops that I don' t see now

    Bill Arthur Bill Arthur 3:49 pm 25 Feb 20

    Emilia Franklin It is Wagga Wagga and Albury

Emilia Franklin Emilia Franklin 7:30 am 18 Feb 20

We are paying the taxes and none of the benefits in South Point..and Tuggeranong Vale

Emilia Franklin Emilia Franklin 7:29 am 18 Feb 20

Please South Point!!!

Emilia Franklin Emilia Franklin 7:28 am 18 Feb 20

Dunkan..we need urgently a light rail to the airport

Duncan Woodhouse Duncan Woodhouse 10:19 pm 17 Feb 20

Would it actually be more cost effective, on a per kilometre basis, to get this thing from the city across the lake in one fell swoop? Mind you, as a resident of the Lanyon valley, the tram is just a curious novelty to gaze at on my occasional foray into the city!

Lewy Affleck Lewy Affleck 10:05 pm 17 Feb 20

Omg those lights will be so annoying, that section gets heavy with traffic, plus a tram, plus London circuit wtf

Monica Tiffen Monica Tiffen 9:53 pm 17 Feb 20

By the time Woden gets it I may have gone to the Great Library and Art Studio in the Sky!!!!!!

Claire Sadler Claire Sadler 8:58 pm 17 Feb 20

Fixed route driverless buses are already operating in other countries. Surely they would,cost a lot less.

HiddenDragon HiddenDragon 8:52 pm 17 Feb 20

“While there will be extra costs in going wire-free….”

So even more bus services will be cut – in addition to those which were going to be cut as part of the South-side line plan.

Linda Seaniger Linda Seaniger 8:52 pm 17 Feb 20

How much will it cost cost for 1.7 klms? $$$$$$$$$$$

    John Hynes John Hynes 7:50 am 18 Feb 20

    Linda Seaniger dont ask, no one knows, but it will be so worth it.

    Linda Seaniger Linda Seaniger 9:30 am 18 Feb 20

    Dedicated bus lanes do the same at a fraction of the price.

bj_ACT bj_ACT 8:28 pm 17 Feb 20

The loss of the cloverleaf from commonwealth bridge into London circuit will have a massive impact on city traffic and buses as well. Heavily used piece of road that links key access areas, not many cities remove these type of key roads, they usually pay a fortune installing fly throughs to achieve this result. .

    Rob Rob 8:45 am 18 Feb 20

    That’s a very good point….

    chewy14 chewy14 9:23 am 18 Feb 20

    It’s being replaced by an intersection so the connection won’t be lost. The value of the land is far in excess of what the road upgrade work will cost.

    It’s one of the better parts of this project, although it doesn’t have to be completed as part of the light rail, it should be done anyway.

    bj_ACT bj_ACT 5:28 pm 18 Feb 20

    If we’re gonna start using land values as the benefit measurement for removing roads in city centres, then we should sell every street and footpath off to developers. We could become the richest city in the world.

    chewy14 chewy14 10:35 pm 18 Feb 20

    did you miss the bit where i explained that the road isn’t being removed?

    Just replaced with an intersection instead of the massively wasteful cloverleaf.

    bj_ACT bj_ACT 2:39 pm 20 Feb 20

    I do actually get what you mean and I understand where you are coming from. I’m just concerned an intersection at that point will have a major impact on surrounding roads, buses and delivery trucks.

    The other huge buildings now going into those zones that used to be car parks will require adequate road access, not direct flow into a major thoroughfare. The ACT Government has very recently sold off several large prime inner city blocks here for development in a very short space of time. Property developers care about their bottom line not about adjacent traffic flow impacts.

Rainer Busacker Rainer Busacker 7:39 pm 17 Feb 20

There are Sth American countries with economies far worse than the ACT. Yet they have utilised "Bus Only" lanes for electric/battery driven busses. Makes me wonder whether that option works out much more cost effective than our light rail.

No construction costs for rail lines, bridge works or o'head wires. Battery changes can be made by dedicated fleet with spare batteries taking little time.

Let the independent experts comment on the cost effectiveness of Barr's train set.

    John Hynes John Hynes 7:50 am 18 Feb 20

    Rainer Pensionato electric buses dont say 'i am an environmental warrior' the same way spending billions on trams does and as we know, lefties love nothing more than grand gestures.

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