12 September 2023

Long-awaited Belconnen Transitway given three year deadline to become reality

| Claire Fenwicke
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bus in Belconnen

A bus transitway from Belconnen to the City has been on the cards since at least 2011. Photo: Transport Canberra Facebook.

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.”

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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.”

potential Belconnen to City transitway

A proposed route for the Belconnen to City bus route. Photo: PTCBR.

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’.”

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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.

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Nick Stevens5:37 am 14 Sep 23

What is it with these Greens wanting to spend possibly billions on trams?
Bendy busses work fine in Sydney with their narrow congested roads, would work a treat here.

Twelve months to an election and cue colorful maps and three year ‘deadlines’.

Wasn’t a rail route between Civic and Belconnen planned about 20 years ago?

While the folks of Tuggeranong get hundreds of bus stops taken away, peak hour Xpresso removed, buses redirected via Cooleman Court, buses cancelled and delayed, a light rail stage 2 that will add extra travel time and stops into Civic (all with the support of the Public Transport Association) the government, MLA’s and the association are focused on this Belco section.

You won’t hear a single complaint from Southside MLA’s just from the poor forgotten commuters.

Amazing that potentially we could have a good example of how you can enact solutions now that meet short/medium term needs whilst also planning for a future when a higher capacity public transport option might be needed.

Nah, it’ll never catch on, the only answer according to some is light rail now, everywhere.

Regardless of defined needs, benefits or economics.

Is canberra actually going to keep growing, there aren’t land releases and rates are going up and up and up and up?

Why is there no mention of the time travelling busway delivered by mean girls Katy?

It saved 20 minutes off a 10 minute ride.
Just like the light rail to woden is going to save -20 minutes from a 15 minute trip. Taking 35 minutes rather than 15.

Like usual the Labor relies on the greens to push their policies.
Then it doesn’t give the impression that it needs to be costed nor liked by all parties.

If labor themselves pushed it they’d have to cost it. If they get the greens to push it, they just have to claim they needed to do it to keep the majority support.

Its an unholy alliance.

The smart thing would be to adopt modern tech instead os steam era teams. Autonomous electric articulated buses running on road based data dot technology with wireless charging at stops.
Build cost a fraction of rail as is also compatible with current buses as a roadway

hi bk08, Buses, rail and cars are all technology of the same era, (1800’s). They’ve all had technological advancement but all are from the same origins in time. Just thought I’d let you know.

Would be able to run on weekends too if not reliant on drivers.

Gadgetbahn alert, Gadgetbahn alert.

You don’t want to adopt any ‘technology’ that isn’t widespread out of a few examples in China as firstly there’s likely really only going to be a few vendors of their technology, so ongoing expenses will likely be high.

I see this being another Translohr, where these buses just follow the same route, causing the roadway to degrade, energy required to operate is high as it doesn’t have the advantage of rail’s rolling resistance benefits. And passengers increasing hate the experience as the ride quality will likely be terrible with its low floor suspension, and increasingly rough road surface.

The best thing for Belconnen now is more bus lane improvements and a future light rail/metro corridor preserved. I’m a fan of do it once, do it properly, so don’t invest in a expensive bus way and then convert to a tram way a decade later with all the additional cost, just had small improvements like light synchronisation and extra bus lanes in key areas.

The ACT government also need to come clean and admit the changes it did a decade ago to the Bus stations in Belconnen were largely a downgrade, with a now largely meandering route in and out of Belconnen, heaps of traffic lights added to slow down buses and although probably has slightly better connection to the mall, the quality of things like rain and sun protection are worse then they were before.

Tom Worthington2:07 pm 13 Sep 23

One option would be to change plans for the tram to Woden to battery electric busses. That would save enough money to fund the busway to Belconnen. The busses could be double articulated, and look like trams.

GrumpyGrandpa3:23 pm 13 Sep 23

Agree about changing LR to Woden and just going with electric buses. We still don’t know how LR will get past Parliament House amd frankly, the projected LR trip will take longer. Belco can have our LR.

As far as double articulated buses go, (if electrically powered, they’d need overhead cable, just like LR because of their size and weight). If not powered by overhead cables, and stuck on a track, a double articulated bus, (assuming you are talking length and not height), would be a road-train in size and impossible to navigate on many of our roads. The existing Steer-Tags already can’t access many of our streets.

The other issue of course is that with two pivoting axles, good luck finding drivers with the skill-set to reverse them.

If you are referring to double height, well there is the obvious problems with tunnels, refueling stations, before we even consider passengers on the top deck climbing stairs etc.

I’d be happy with a direct bus to city along Belconnen Way like the old days that does not detour via Westfield!

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