10 February 2020

"Packed in like sardines": Extra services to meet light rail demand

| Ian Bushnell
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Light rail

Light rail is so popular that overcrowding and missed connections have become issues. Photo: File.

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.

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Capital Retro9:30 am 08 Feb 20

“The CBR light rail was the right solution for a different problem.”

Please remind us what was the other “problem”. And wasn’t the governmnet going to transfer the offices of several agencies to Gungahlin? So far, none have been relocated that I am aware of. If this had happened there would be some commuters on the trams doing their return journey to Gungahlin in the mornings and the opposite in the evenings.

ACT shared services are in Gungahlin, in the ACT government office building. They have been there for a few years now.

And the feds have just announced that DHA is moving to Gunners. Though Zed said that’s so that people can live and work in the same community so it won’t contribute much to light rail use if what he says is true.

That said can you tell me any of the public transport here or anywhere in this country that has a significant contra flow passenger flow in the peaks? I am certain you will struggle.

So regardless be it bus or rail the vehicles heading back out to the burbs will either run out of service like buses (just almost be time for the annual ACT libs rant about dead running on Action buses) or running in service but with less passengers for rail.

Capital Retro6:56 pm 10 Feb 20

Fair comment JC, I accept all that.

Capital Retro12:03 pm 07 Feb 20

“It’s still a red herring”

……….that eats sardines.

I thought the concept of a dedicated public transport corridor was always going to be a winner. However, from day one I have suggested an O-Bahn style (bus based) solution (as used in Adelaide – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/O-Bahn_Busway) could achieve a good outcome at far less cost and allowing expansion to other areas at a much greater rate. Had a system like this been adopted, I think the engineering (Lake BG) and poltical (Parliamentary triangle) challenges would be much less. The one advantage light rail has over buses is the amount of “stock” that can be moved in a single journey – evidenced by the fact they can add on more cars. Given the current solution services a very heavy passenger load, perhaps there is room to adopt an alternate solution in the expansion down south where perhaps the load along the main corridor may not be so great?

Capital Retro8:14 am 07 Feb 20

“Need to 2 extra trams to make peak hour frequency once every 5 minutes.”

This would be impossible to do at the Gunghalin terminus because the trams have to arrive from the wrong direction and there is no room for feed-in lay-bys. Poor planning evident.

We have 14 vehicles and there are two bays at each terminus for loading and unloading.

Even with some leeway you can do that with 12 vehicles, with 2 offline for maintenance.

Why dont you think it’s possible?

Capital Retro2:40 pm 07 Feb 20

Two trams every 5 minutes means the first leaving Gungahlin will be reaching the City as the last one is leaving Gungahlin so it will be 30 minutes before the first tram gets back to Gungahlin.

You’ve misread it.

They are changing from the current peak hour frequency of 1 tram every 6 minutes, to 1 tram every 5 minutes.

The travel time end to end of the route is 24 minutes, even if you allow a couple of minutes for unloading and loading passengers at each end as well as a couple of minutes contingency, there is enough trams to complete that frequency with a couple spare trams off for maintenance.

Capital Retro3:44 pm 07 Feb 20

I was commenting about the suggestion for 2 trams so you are the one misreading it.

Actually it will probably work better. Current peak service sees a tram arrive at the terminus as one departs so yes gives the tram a 60 minute round trip. 24 minutes each way and 6 minutes to turn around at the terminus.

Going to 5 minute frequencies the tram that would otherwise be waiting to go will have left before the inbound one arrives which nullifies any potential conflict which is assume was tour point about what you consider to be a bad design.

5 minute frequencies also means the round trip time is now 58 minutes so it will only require 1 extra tram not 2. Current peak service only requires 10 of the 14.

Capital Retro,
Why state that there is “poor planning evident”, when what you’re saying has nothing to do with the proposal and the current amount of trams are sufficient?

ie. Nothing wrong with the planning.

“Need to 2 extra trams to make peak hour frequency once every 5 minutes.”

Also, you have clearly misread the statement. No one was suggesting two trams, the comment was about extra vehicles.

I’ve shown exactly why this is wrong.

Capital Retro10:38 pm 10 Feb 20

“Need to 2 extra trams to make peak hour frequency once every 5 minutes.”

The comment I quoted was TRAMS, not VEHICLES.


Capital Retro8:10 am 07 Feb 20

Why didn’t the buy double-decker trams in the first place?

rationalobserver3:07 pm 07 Feb 20

Might have been possible if there were not unsightly power lines overhead. Bit late now.

Capital Retro12:25 pm 08 Feb 20

I meant the solar powered, wind assisted ones.

ChrisinTurner2:54 pm 08 Feb 20

Where have you seen modern double decker trams?

I like how people are now attempting to use patronage numbers as proof of the “success” of the light rail, where in reality that was never in question.

The main issue with Its viability is that their were other options that would have delivered the same public transport benefit for a fraction of the cost.

If the government offered a cheap limousine service to your door, I have no doubt it would be highly used, but that wouldn’t, by itself, justify the expenditure.

Its almost like very few people have any idea how public infrastructure projects should be developed and funded.

Dear Canberra Metro: Would you please install bars in the trams. I don’t mind a tot of rum or nip or two of malt during a rail journey.

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