Overcrowding on Canberra’s popular light rail link between Gungahlin and the city has forced the ACT Government to run extra services, with more to come on-line in time for Term 2.
In its Budget submission late last year, the Gungahlin Community Council called for extra services, saying light rail vehicles are becoming very crowded, particularly in the peak morning period.
Transport Minister Chris Steel acknowledged the light rail’s popularity was now causing problems, with ”people packed in like sardines” and commuters unable to fit on to a vehicle at stops such as Dickson.
He said this week’s morning and afternoon peak periods, when there are services every six minutes, had been extended.
The southbound morning peak is now 7 – 9:30 am instead of finishing at 9 am, while in the afternoons northbound services are now 3 pm to 6:30 pm, instead 4 – 6 pm, and southbound services 3:30 – 6 pm, instead of 4 – 5:30 pm.
Mr Steel said the afternoon changes would also support school students making their way home.
In Term 2 from 28 April, frequency will be increased to every five minutes during the morning weekday peak, and the afternoon weekday peak period will be extended to 7 pm northbound and 6:30 pm southbound, with frequency at six minutes.
On Sundays and public holidays, services will start from 7 am rather than 8 am, which Mr Steel said would provide better connections with bus services.
The changes are a win for Labor Yerrabi MLA Michael Pettersson who last year moved a motion in the Legislative Assembly calling for more services.
“I heard from a lot of constituents that crowding on their commute was an issue and it’s great that light rail will now be even more accessible and comfortable for people to move around our city,” Mr Pettersson said.
Mr Steel said the demand had far exceeded expectations, with more than 15,000 boardings every day and 3.5 million boardings since the light rail started last year.
“This is a significant increase in the frequency of light rail services and we hope more people will use public transport,” he said.
“It’s not just about people using light rail, its about all the buses along the route, places like Dickson, where people have found it difficult to connect with light rail, with vehicles full coming from Gungahlin.”
Mr Steel said with the expansion of peak periods and the move to a five-minute timetable during morning peaks, a further 155 light rail services will be added every week, taking the total number of light rail services to more than 1600 every week.