3 March 2024

Parrots, Gang-gangs and the golden sun moth in light rail 2B corridor as Barr reveals timeline

| Ian Bushnell
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artist impression of light rail stop

A light rail stop at Kings Avenue: the project faces significant heritage and environmental constraints. Images: ACT Government.

Endangered or vulnerable cockatoos, parrots, the golden sun moth, a grasshopper and lizard and their habitats are in the path of the proposed light rail extension to Woden, which the ACT Government is expecting to start building in 2028.

The project referral to the Federal Environment Department under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act (EPBC) also says there will be a significant impact on heritage values in the Parliamentary Zone.

This includes the loss of trees planted in the 1920s, particularly those in the median along Commonwealth Avenue.

READ ALSO Peak body backs light rail to Woden for its long-term benefits that buses can’t match

The EPBC referral is an important step in the progress of the proposed Stage 2B from Commonwealth Park to Woden and precedes an environmental impact study (EIS) that will be prepared and released later this year for consultation.

But it also highlights the constraints the project faces.

Chief Minister Andrew Barr finally confirmed a timeline for the project, saying the government was working towards a construction period of 2028-2033.

He said light rail to Woden would be the most complicated infrastructure project the Territory Government had undertaken and required several unique steps to deliver the project.

“It will be the largest change to the landscape of the National Triangle since the construction of the New Parliament House, and a project that spans several districts of Canberra,” he said.

Opposition transport spokesperson Mark Parton seized on the announcement, saying it vindicated the Canberra Liberals’ estimates on the cost and delivery of the project.

map of light rail network

“Today’s announcement confirms that we’ve all been taken for a ride by Andrew Barr … an exhaustively long, obscenely expensive ride,” he said. “The Canberra Liberals stand by our cost estimate of $4 billion for the entirety of Stage 2, but all indications are that this may well be a conservative approximation.”

Mr Parton suggested that Transport Minister Chris Steel may have misled the Assembly on the timeline and said that in 2019, Mr Barr had said light rail would reach Woden by 2025.

“Does anyone in this city actually believe the latest rubbery timeline?” he said.

The referral outlines the project scope and the two alignments now being proposed – the preferred, direct route along State Circle East to Adelaide Avenue and the National Triangle-Barton route, which would follow King George Terrace, Macquarie Street, Bligh Street, National Circuit and Sydney Avenue, before connecting with State Circle.

The project involves about 10 km of track, new stops and a dedicated crossing over Lake Burley Griffin on Commonwealth Avenue Bridge.

Preliminary environmental and ecological assessments show that the vulnerable Superb and Swift parrots and the endangered Gang-gang cockatoo and their breeding and foraging habitats may be impacted by the project.

Some 104 hollow-bearing trees are identified within the project area, more the half of which are native. The areas near State Circle and Adelaide Avenue had the highest number of hollow-bearing trees, mostly natives.

Gang-gang breeding areas are known to be within 200 m of the project area in Hughes, while the Superb parrot has a potentially important foraging habitat between Launceston Street and Melrose Drive.

Golden sun moths are near Commonwealth Park, around State Circle, and along Adelaide Avenue near the Cotter Road junction.

Other vulnerable species in the area are the Perunga grasshopper and the striped legless lizard.

There are also areas of critically endangered grasslands.

artist impression of light rail project

The Barton route will travel via Sydney Avenue.

The Preliminary Heritage Report says that both routes are likely to result in a significant impact on the Commonwealth Heritage values of the project area.

This would include the removal of established mature and culturally significant trees, individual trees, or avenues of trees planted by Charles Weston in the 1920s.

It also lists the impacts of roadworks, bridge construction, the creation of new rail corridors through green spaces, altering the form of the existing road network and historic road alignments, and the effects the changed function and character of areas may have on cultural, social and symbolic heritage values.

There may also be impacts on Aboriginal heritage areas including original Molonglo River and associated sites now submerged in Lake Burley Griffin; Capital Hill, which may be part of a landscape identified as a women’s area; and landscape connecting Mount Ainslie, Black Mountain, and Stirling Ridge/Parliament Hill.

There could also be scar trees and unrecorded burial sites.

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Along the Barton route, more recent Aboriginal activity includes the Tent Embassy opposite Old Parliament House. Construction will have temporary impacts but when running, light rail may reduce access and pose potential safety risks during protests.

An Aboriginal heritage assessment will be included in the EIS.

Chair of the Public Transport Association of Canberra, Ryan Hemsley, said the referral was a positive, concrete step towards delivering light rail to Woden.

“The documents provided in the EPBC referral offer a closer look at many project details, and we encourage everyone to take a look at what’s proposed,” he said.

“While PTCBR would love to see this city-shaping transport project expedited on a faster timeline, this is welcome progress and we look forward to seeing the project proceed smoothly.”

Public consultation is now open on the EPBC referral.

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This absurd project rolls on. It further pisses me off that they include visions of Sydney Ave in their advertising when that route is not approved and less likely. They also have a picture of Hopetoun Cct that conveniently leaves out the traffic jam they want to create. And the fact that this decades-long, multi-billion project will deliver slower, more expensive transport for everyone who doesn’t live and work on the tram line remains indisputed.

not sure about your sums or how you propose to plan for a Canberra of 800,000 living in a similar footprint. Every light rail vehicle takes exponential numbers of cars off the road: the same arguments were put about the Gunghalin stage and yet it has been a great success for the city and its commuters.

Of course nothing can stand in the way of the unjustifiable and uneconomic tram which can only be justified on the grounds that the Greens would pull out of its partnership with the government.

This is unlike almost all other developments, tree felling etc which have to stick with environmental guidelines.

The visual element should also be included in any assessment. The current tram system is an eyesore, let alone one wandering through the Parliamentary Triangle. It should be underground from before it crosses the lake until the southern side of Parliament House.

Underground is a possibility, but not because it is an eyesore. Walter Griffin didn’t consider trams an eyesore. By what standards do you think a bus isn’t an eyesore but a light rail, with grassed-in track, isn’t?

Construction period between 2028 and 2033!! Is someone taking the proverbial?? Then again, the Athllon Drive duplication was promised 7 years ago with no start date in sight.

So Stage 2B will go through 3 election cycles – 2024, 2028 and 2032.

HiddenDragon8:40 pm 03 Mar 24

“Chief Minister Andrew Barr finally confirmed a timeline for the project, saying the government was working towards a construction period of 2028-2033.”

Fifteen months ago, we had Chris Steel apparently getting indignant at suggestions that light rail won’t reach Woden until 2030 –


Now we have Andrew Barr using weasel words (“working towards”) when talking about 2033 – the farce rolls on, even if the trams don’t.

As to the environmental aspects of this, remnant (and in more than a few cases “remnant”) trees on residential blocks are, of course, sacred and must be preserved at all costs in the interests of the supposedly precious tree canopy and wildlife habitats, but when they’re on public land, they are more like stationary kangaroos, just waiting to be culled when they get in the way of the boys’ club which runs this town.

I feel like we wouldn’t be hearing about all these environmental and heritage concerns if normal vehicle lanes were being added rather than light rail lines. If there are endangered species that might be impacted by building in the median of a road, maybe we ought to rip out the entire road. And how could a light rail endanger “heritage value” when 8 lanes of traffic is already there and somehow does not?

GrumpyGrandpa4:12 pm 04 Mar 24

The government is bringing up, seemingly, never ending list of obstacles and environmental issues that confront 2B. Even the safety of Aboriginal Tent Embassy protesters, could halt LR. Seemingly, protesters, unlike ordinary citizens, can’t cross the road (or rail line) in safety.

It’s almost as if the government is trying to condition the public to either an expensive construction cost or maybe even, the abandonment of 2B entirely, in favour of a different Stage, that might not carry the same level of political risk that comes with 2B.

Let’s face it the Opposition is making a lot of mileage out of the cost and travel-time associated with 2B.

Interesting question! Still, the issue is rightly raised and deserves to be answered by car drivers and light rail enthusiasts alike.

Stephen Saunders2:09 pm 03 Mar 24

OK, you Labor dudes, it’s in my diary. If I can’t tram from Dicko to Woden when I’m 84, you’ll be hearing from my legal team.

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