The ACT Government has been given three years to investigate and deliver public transport upgrades to accommodate a bus transitway and future light rail from Belconnen into the city centre.
Greens Transport spokesperson and Ginninderra MLA Jo Clay will move a motion in the Assembly today (13 September) calling on the government to not only get going on delivering a bus priority route across the entire area, but also to start the early planning work for Light Rail Stage 3 alignment.
Her motion hasn’t outlined which would be the best route to choose, with the government called on to deliver the upgrades in a phased approach.
“We know that we need a Belconnen busway and we need to prioritise it now, but it’s actually up to government to decide the best way to do it,” Ms Clay said.
“The smart way to do this project is to future-proof it for Light Rail Stage 3 and to ensure we are delivering both excellent buses and excellent light rail, all in the same project.”
Planning for such public transport dates back a decade, with the government commissioning a report into a transitway in 2011.
While some of the upgrades from that report have been delivered, some are still in limbo.
The Belconnen to City bus corridor was identified as an Infrastructure Australia priority project in 2016, with a probable timeframe of five to 10 years.
Add to that the planned new northside hospital and expansion of the University of Canberra campus and residences and Ms Clay said the existing R2, R3 and R4 bus services wouldn’t cut it in the future.
“[They’re] our busiest routes; a third of all bus boardings are on those three routes,” she said.
“If we can make those routes run on time and run more conveniently [on this transitway], more people will catch them.”
The move has strong support, with both the Public Transport Association of Canberra and the Belconnen Community Council expressing their desire to see the planned bus route come to fruition.
PTCBR chair Ryan Hemsley said there was a limited window to design and deliver the transitway, as construction could begin on the new Northside hospital as soon as 2025.
“Completing the missing link of the Belconnen Transitway along Haydon Drive would be a low-cost project that could deliver significant short-to-medium term benefits for users of this key corridor while also laying the groundwork for the future delivery of Light Rail Stage 3 to Belconnen,” he said.
“If we don’t act now, we may lose a significant opportunity to provide genuine transport choice for the thousands of people who will visit, work at, and transit by this critical health precinct every day.”
Belconnen is set to be home to 20,000 new residents by the mid-2030s. The recently released Territory Plan also forecast it would be a key area of growth.
Belconnen Community Council chair Lachlan Butler said the community needed to be safe, accessible and sustainable, and that required investing in infrastructure, services and amenities before the population grew any further.
“It’s not good enough for the only plan to improve public transport being ‘we’ll start planning light rail one day’,” he said.
“Any short to medium-term investment in infrastructure must be done with light rail in mind to enable and support its eventual construction.
“Update the modelling, finish the planning, and get on with the job of delivering good public transport to Belconnen. If not this, the alternative can’t be ‘do nothing’.”
It looks as though Ms Clay’s motion will receive the support it needs to get through the Assembly, with Shadow Transport Minister Mark Parton backing the call.
He said it was time to implement real transport solutions now rather than hope the light rail would arrive in Belconnen when it was expected.
“We absolutely support Ms Clay’s position in regards to completing that Belconnen transitway because the cavalry is not coming,” Mr Parton said.
“This motion could have come from me … I think it’s a beautiful thing.”
Ginninderra Labor MLA Tara Cheyne also recently sponsored a petition to the Assembly calling for the transitway, which closes later this month.