Slowdown perfect time to fast-track light rail Stage 2, says Public Transport Association

Ian Bushnell 23 April 2020 65
Commonwealth Park stop for Stage 2A

The proposed Commonwealth Park stop for Stage 2A. Construction is still due to start next year. Image: Supplied.

Plans for the extension of light rail to Woden should be accelerated to boost the ACT’s coronavirus-hit economy, according to the Public Transport Association of Canberra.

As the ACT marked a year of operation for Stage 1 between Gungahlin and the city, association chair Ryan Hemsley says the government and the National Capital Authority should seize the opportunity presented by the economic shutdown to bring the project forward.

Despite patronage falling off a cliff due to the COVID-19 stay-at-home measures, Mr Hemsley said Stage 1 had exceeded all expectations and pointed to the prospects of further stages such as City to Woden.

“This project has proven that there is an untapped demand for high-quality public transport services in the ACT,” he said. ”We believe that similar patronage increases can be expected as future stages of the network are rolled out in the years ahead, providing benefits to both current and future generations of Canberrans.”

Mr Hemsley said the economic slowdown meant moving ahead on light rail to Woden had become all the more urgent.

”This project will have the double benefit of stimulating the economy in the short term, while providing improved public transport options in the medium to long term,” he said.

“It will also help the ACT meet its planned reductions in carbon emissions by being powered solely by electricity from renewable sources.”

Mr Hemsley said social distancing measures also presented an opportunity for the ACT Government and NCA to conduct important works during a period of reduced traffic, such as upgrades to London Circuit as part of Stage 2A and the modifications to Commonwealth Avenue Bridge that will future-proof it for Stage 2B.

“We call on both the ACT Government and National Capital Authority to work collaboratively so that these projects can be fast-tracked in a manner that provides the greatest long-term benefit while minimising disruption to road users in the short term.”

Master Builders ACT also has been pushing for the ACT Government to fast-track infrastructure projects, including light rail.

”Light rail is a great opportunity for local civil contractors but also all the suppliers that would service them as well,” CEO Michael Hopkins said.

Transport Minister Chris Steel

Transport Minister Chris Steel at the Alinga Street terminus, Stage 1’s most popular stop. Photo: File.

Transport Minister Chris Steel would not say if the government was actively pursuing talks with the NCA to expedite the approvals process but the Commonwealth would continue to be pressed for a funding contribution.

He said site investigations had commenced on Stage 2A, with findings to be used to inform the project’s detailed design.

Commonwealth and Territory works and planning approvals would be sought later this year and construction work was still scheduled to begin in 2021, he said.

“The ACT Government has previously sought Commonwealth Government funding commitments to the project and will continue to do so. It is a project that is of direct benefit to the Commonwealth Government,” Mr Steel said.

He said that in the first year of light rail the community had shown massive support for the project with more than 4.2 million boardings.

While the number of weekday journeys was down by 88.5 per cent in the week ending 12 April compared with the same week in 2019, Mr Steel said that before the pandemic there were, on average, 15,047 passenger boardings each day, numbers not expected until 2021.

According to the latest customer survey, 94 per cent of customers were satisfied with the ease of use of the light rail and it is now making up around 20 per cent of all public transport boardings (bus and light rail).

“Light rail hasn’t just benefited public transport users, it has reduced traffic on our roads with data showing up to a 20 per cent reduction in vehicles travelling along Northbourne Avenue during the morning peak period,” Mr Steel said.

The busiest month in the first year of operations was May during the free travel period with over 460,000 customers travelling, followed by October 2019 with over 411,000 boardings.

The most frequented light rail stop was Alinga Street in the City with nearly 40 per cent of light rail trips commencing at that station.

“We are committed to building on this success and extending the benefits of light rail to Woden which will create a north-south spine for the network,” Mr Steel said.

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65 Responses to Slowdown perfect time to fast-track light rail Stage 2, says Public Transport Association
Max Leonard Max Leonard 11:20 pm 10 May 20

Light rail is EXACTLY what Canberra needs! It has already shown that there is a positive economic benefit from the tram. The objective of building light rail isn’t to increase travel times now, but to increase it in the future. We will soon have significant traffic congestion and buses won’t cut it anymore. Bus lanes aren’t enough because a bus carries about a quarter of the people light rail can carry. It will be powered with clean energy and will benefit Woden economically. They should be fast tracking the light rail to Tuggeranong instead of planning to build a tram there in 2041. Part of the light rail can even go underground. If you’re in doubt about trams, just look at Melbourne! The only city in Australia to keep its trams and now has the largest network in the world. Trams work really well there, so why Can’t they work here.

    Capital Retro Capital Retro 9:58 am 11 May 20

    Yeah, the trams in Melbourne are really fast – about 11 kmh on average. You have confirmed that they increase travel times in your second sentence actually.

astro2 astro2 6:52 pm 23 Apr 20

Generally speaking an economic downturn is a good time to invest in large infrastructure projects and and Australia is known to need improvements to its rail network, both light and heavy.

    chewy14 chewy14 12:21 pm 28 Apr 20

    Yes, it is a good time to invest in large infrastructure projects.

    But only ones that have solid business cases that show clear benefits to the economy and society on an ongoing fashion with large cost benefit ratios.

    You don’t just spend money for the sake of it.

    And seeing as even the first stage of light rail had a woeful cost benefit ratio, was assessed by Infrastructure Australia as not being a priority project and received no federal funding, why would you waste precious infrastructure spending on exacerbating the folly on future stages that are going to be even less viable?

    The opportunity costs are far too high.

    Capital Retro Capital Retro 10:53 am 11 May 20

    Seriously, is anyone going to loan money to any ACT government? Barr went overseas last year to borrow money and as far as I am aware he came back empty handed. That was BC (before coronavirus) and now that the territory’s real financial position has been revealed there is no chance of any funding coming from anywhere for anything.

    An extension of the light rail trolley folly is the last thing we need to spend money and resources on. A statue of Barr as suggested in another comment would benefit the local pigeons.

ChrisinTurner ChrisinTurner 3:41 pm 23 Apr 20

Jon Stanhope has blamed stage 1 for the rundown of financing for our hospitals. Why spend $billions on replacing our express buses to Woden with slower trams with only half the seats. Just the maintenance and operation budget for Stage 1 would have been enough to run the entire ACTION network fare-free. We need more bus-lanes, more buses, segregated cycle lanes, traffic signal priority for buses and eliminate their early running.

Anne Gallagher Anne Gallagher 9:57 am 23 Apr 20

It’s a 10 min express bus ride Woden to City. Why spend a billion dollars of rate payers money on. Slower light rail

    Bill Gemmell Bill Gemmell 10:53 am 23 Apr 20

    Anne Gallagher suggest you look at the bus timetable. Most trips are scheduled at 18 minutes, but I found a 17 minute trip. Woden Community Council often falsely states 13 minutes, but you have certainly outbid them. BTW, last time I looked, network reliability against the timetable was not real good either.

maxblues maxblues 2:22 am 23 Apr 20

This article certainly raises a lot of question marks. Surely, a huge statue of Barr would be a better way to spend public money ????????????.

Maria Greene Maria Greene 11:39 pm 22 Apr 20

Build something useful instead and give us back the bus routes you cancelled. Lots of ppl had to buy cars after the ridiculous timetable came in

Rob Chalmers Rob Chalmers 8:23 pm 22 Apr 20

Don't agree with the light rail but if ya gunna do something do it properly. Get a plan to get over the LBG approved by all parties Local and Federal Governments and the National Capital Commission. Get a bloody move on.

HiddenDragon HiddenDragon 7:49 pm 22 Apr 20

“Slowdown perfect time to fast-track light rail Stage 2”

Only in the snowflake’s-chance-in-hell event that the federal government agrees to fully fund construction costs, and at least the first ten years of operating losses.

We have little real idea what the ACT Government’s budgetary position will be in the medium to longer term because all the comfortable assumptions about the Territory’s future are now in doubt. Significant segments of the ACT economy may not “bounce back” when the worst of the virus impacts have passed, and federal spending will be seriously constrained, particularly if the prospect of serious further deterioration in relations with Australia’s No.1 trading partner becomes a reality.

Dan Ruspandini Dan Ruspandini 5:59 pm 22 Apr 20


actcyclist actcyclist 5:05 pm 22 Apr 20

My organisation is looking at making work from home permanent, as is many other places throughout the world,

Do we won’t need as many expensive congestion fixing projects like this.

And if they do, I’ll probably have moved to a regional area so you lot can all pay for it,

Alexandra Hughes Alexandra Hughes 4:29 pm 22 Apr 20

How the hell are we going to pay for it... oh wait, triple the rates, rego, parking, cut other services.

Steven Gay Steven Gay 3:47 pm 22 Apr 20

As Reggie already said: go for underground network.

Much faster, don't use any land (which could be used for plants instead of a ugly concrete band - hello the greens), no disruption to other traffic, the stops can be used as plaza enabling easy pedestrial crossing, no waiting in rain/wind, safer. It can even be really automated!

And for the price of the current light rail it's probably not even much more costly...

But politicians prefer 19th century tech.

    Russell Nankervis Russell Nankervis 4:01 pm 22 Apr 20

    The underground metro was investned in the 1800s as well...

    Justin Watson Justin Watson 4:28 pm 22 Apr 20

    It is fairly easy to build as well, because it can be built just below road level in Canberra.

    Anura Samara Anura Samara 7:15 pm 22 Apr 20

    Steven Gay Cars are 19th century tech, as are buses and bikes. The only thing that isn’t 19th century tech are jet packs. Are you asking the government to issue personal jet packs? If so, I’ll join you on that one.

Jim Jim Jim Jim 3:31 pm 22 Apr 20

Cool. Paid with what? Another 300% rate rise?

Kimberley Lloyd Kimberley Lloyd 2:26 pm 22 Apr 20

Would be more useful immediately if you started to come from the other direction Tuggeranong to Woden and meet in the middle eventually. you still putting down track that is still not supporting the other side of town.

    Jim Jim Jim Jim 3:32 pm 22 Apr 20

    Kimberley Lloyd the Barr Govt gave Southsiders chevrons - you’ve had your whack.

    Kimberley Lloyd Kimberley Lloyd 3:44 pm 22 Apr 20

    Jim Hosie my apologies we are being taken care of. It would be nice if people would socially distance their cars all around Canberra

    Russell Nankervis Russell Nankervis 4:00 pm 22 Apr 20

    So they will need to build a second depo and double the amount LRVs?

    Justin Watson Justin Watson 4:29 pm 22 Apr 20

    That doesn't make sense at all. All networks are built outwards. How does building Tugg to Woden help. You then have to get on a bus to the city?

    Daniel Duncan Daniel Duncan 5:45 pm 22 Apr 20

    Russell they will need more LRVs the 16 (?) Will not cover the network once complete.

    Russell Nankervis Russell Nankervis 5:48 pm 22 Apr 20

    But that is an extra expense that makes little sense for this stage

Bill Pappas Bill Pappas 1:45 pm 22 Apr 20

living in fantasy land peoples

rsm1105 rsm1105 1:21 pm 22 Apr 20

Yes now is the perfect time to spend money the govt has just printed on something that:

1. We don’t need
2. Will do nothing for the productive capacity of the economy
3. Is an identified mode for transmitting covid 19.

Acton Acton 1:16 pm 22 Apr 20

There are far better reasons for not adding more non-essential costly tram tracks:
– ‘Barr faces budget wipeout’
– ‘Barr’s $3 billion budget black hole’
– ‘Rates danger looms for Government’
plus something called COVID-19 which means more people working from home and commuters avoiding cramped trams like the plague.

Reggie Channing Reggie Channing 12:51 pm 22 Apr 20

Underground train network, not light rail. Build for the future not the present.

    Steven Gay Steven Gay 3:38 pm 22 Apr 20

    Totally agree. And they wouldn't use any land, don't disturb other traffic, can drive faster without risks.

    And just look at the surface lost for the tracks used exclusively and intermittently. What is ecological about that?

    But yeh, political parties are all about giving money to their mates.

    Louis Sotiropoulos Louis Sotiropoulos 6:35 pm 22 Apr 20

    Reggie Channing light rail isn't even the present 🤪

Carole Ford Carole Ford 12:51 pm 22 Apr 20

This is interesting news and a massive project that will disrupt so many residents in the city and Acton. I do believe that the funds would be better spent in building a better rail connection or VFT to Sydney and Melbourne via Canberra. This kind of project will benefit 1000's and create jobs in 3 states. It's time this infrastructure project, that will ultimately benefit millions is put in place. It'll take years to build and permanently employ 1000's of people. Now's the time to combine with NSW/VIC and get going.

Matt White Matt White 12:29 pm 22 Apr 20

Absolutely. Construction investment helped with the global financial crisis response and meant tax payers dollars were used on long term community assets - this has been sadly almost absent from the current rescue measures.

    Bill Pappas Bill Pappas 1:44 pm 22 Apr 20

    Matt White because labour had access to $40billion in the kitty from the previous liberal govt... then spent it on useless school gyms etc and the pink batts fiasco to get us through the crisis...

    Matt White Matt White 1:48 pm 22 Apr 20

    Bill Pappas yes thanks to an extremely large mining boom providing a very small proportion of profits through the tax system but school gyms are certainly not useless - they supported many local builders and tradespeople and have been used heavily and enriched the lives of thousands of school children and many more in the local community for year around events.

    Margaret Freemantle Margaret Freemantle 4:14 pm 22 Apr 20

    Bill Pappas I don’t find school gyms useless...... the Libs love accumulating wealth for the sake of it! Wayne Swan did a magnificent job.

    Bill Pappas Bill Pappas 4:25 pm 22 Apr 20

    Margaret Freemantle yes sure worlds second best treasurer!

    Bill Pappas Bill Pappas 4:26 pm 22 Apr 20

    Chris Cross please go on

    Margaret Freemantle Margaret Freemantle 4:30 pm 22 Apr 20

    Bill Pappas I sincerely hope you are not referring to our present one!! ......

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