Canberra’s light rail network will be extended by 11km from Civic to Parliament House and along Adelaide Avenue to Woden if Labor or a Labor-Greens coalition is re-elected next month.
Both Labor and the Greens have announced today that they will sign contracts during the next term of Government to extend the line, already slated to run from Gungahlin to Civic, to Woden in the key Legislative Assembly electorate of Murrumbidgee.
Neither Labor nor the Greens have a sitting member among their candidates for Murrumbidgee, though former Greens MLA Caroline Le Couteur is running for the seat. The anti-light rail Canberra Liberals Leader Jeremy Hanson and his colleague Giulia Jones are the only sitting MLAs running in the electorate.
The other options previously under consideration for Stage two, Russell and the Canberra Airport, Civic to Belconnen, and Civic to a Parliamentary Triangle loop, remain in the works for the future.
Chief Minister Andrew Barr said the route to Woden created “a north-south spine” for public transport in the ACT and was one of five priority stages of the planned light rail network, with Gungahlin to the city under construction and extensions to Belconnen, Canberra Airport and further into the Parliamentary Triangle to be built next.
He noted that stage two got the light rail project “across the lake”.
“Buses, bikes, and walking routes and later stages of light rail will feed into this spine, making it even easier for Canberrans to get where they need to go,” Mr Barr said.
Mr Barr said announced recently that almost all ACT public servants working in health-related areas, some 1000 workers, would move to the Woden Town Centre given its proximity to The Canberra Hospital. The Federal Department of Health and Ageing’s central office is also in Woden, along with IP Australia and several smaller Federal agencies.
ACT Greens MLA Shane Rattenbury said the second stage to Woden would create a spine that connected the city’s north and south in line with the Greens’ commitment to deliver light rail right across the Territory.
“The Greens are already looking forward to future stages, including actively considering an extension into Mawson.
“There are great benefits in bringing light rail to the south of Canberra, including fantastic opportunities to revitalise the Woden town centre with vibrant urban development that comes with light rail.
“By 2040 we expect thousands more people travelling from Woden towards the City in the morning peak and employment in the Parliamentary Triangle is expected to dramatically increase between now and 2041. The Greens believe that every Canberran should be able to travel to and from work easily, affordably and without having to sit in traffic for hours.
Mr Rattenbury said light rail was about making life in Canberra better so that people didn’t end up stuck in traffic every day, and setting the growing city up for the future.
“The ACT Greens have campaigned for light rail for over ten years, and I am pleased that the Labor Party recognises the benefits that a Canberra-wide light rail network. And who knows, twenty years down the track the Liberals might just come out in support of it too,” the Greens Leader said.
Canberra Liberals transport spokesman Alistair Coe said the announcement today was “further proof” that Mr Barr and the rest of the ACT Labor government were out of touch with the priorities of Canberrans.
“Just like the current proposed route from Gungahlin to the City, this extension to Woden is the wrong direction for Canberra on so many fronts and will continue to drive rates through the roof,” Mr Coe said.
The Shadow Transport Minister noted the extension was “completely uncosted” and said “significant problems getting a tram over Commonwealth Avenue Bridge” were likely to blow out costs.
“Given Canberrans will have to pay $1.78 billion for stage one if ACT Labor is elected, this extension will further push the ACT into dangerous, unchartered financial waters. On a stroke of the pen by Andrew Barr, light rail costs could blow out by billions of dollars and residents will foot the bill,” Mr Coe said.
Pictured are Greens MLA Shane Rattenbury and Labor Leader and Chief Minister Andrew Barr at Majura Solar Farm last week and a map that shows Stage 2, and below, an earlier map showing the contenders for stage two and future potential extensions of the light rail network.