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Update – Canberra Metro Light Rail Project

By Suzanne Kiraly - 17 February 2017 19

LightRail

I recently attended a public meeting that was put on by Canberra Metro regarding the early planning stages of the Light Rail Project.

The purpose of the meeting was to update us on the implementation, the actual construction phases of the Light Rail and give us an idea of where we are at right now and where we are headed.

The definition of Light rail (for those who wish to know specifically), is a modern version of a tram that can operate at low speeds on streets and at high speeds in dedicated corridors. Light rail operates at road level and is electric, receiving power through the grid via overhead wires or recharge when braking. Light rail has a relatively small turning radius, can operate up steep gradients and can share public streets with other traffic and pedestrians.

It’s this sharing with traffic and pedestrians which were points of great concern for the audience attending on the night, along with the disruptions during construction, the noise levels, and the environmental and safety issues, both during the building process and afterward, as it all becomes operational.

I had arrived for the meeting early and was pleased to see such a big turnout (around 80 people in my estimation) of very engaged citizens who were hungry for information and keen to get their questions answered – and there were many of them. The meeting went for 90 minutes and I’d say that almost half of that time was spent responding to questions and concerns.

The presentation, (mostly given by Kevin Brady, Canberra Metro Design and Construction Director) was excellent and from where I was sitting, the Canberra Metro staff in attendance did a superb job. Not only had Kevin and his team explained the process during “phase one” very well, but what was also impressive was the way in which they responded to those who asked questions. From where I was sitting the majority of the public in attendance seemed to be satisfied with all of the answers given.

There was a contentious issue raised by one gentleman re costings, but it was rightly pointed out by the Canberra Metro guys (as well as many in the audience) that it was not part of their brief for this particular discussion. Rather, the questioner was asked to redirect that particular concern (rising rates along the Light Rail corridor), to the ACT government, which he accepted.

Apparently, early staging enabling works are well under way right now and coming to a close by around mid-2017 (considerable design development has been going on for the past four or five months we were informed). Permanent works (including roadworks etc) will be the next phase later this year. Then the testing and training phase of the operators and the safe running of the tram is the final stage. Date of completion is at the very latest, 31st August 2018.

Following questions on traffic disruptions, Kevin indicated that they are trying to reduce the amount of lane closures so it’s less disruptive for drivers. At peak times they are not allowed to close lanes. On weekend work will step up considerably.

There was much discussion around the noise factor but a lighter moment punctuated the proceedings when it was pointed out that the tailgating taking place on Northbourne Avenue (when speed limits had been dropped to 40klms) and other unsafe driving practices had been targeted by police, who have apparently already identified the consistent offenders and were keeping an eye on them! They assured us that “they’re coming to get you!”. Everyone laughed and looked around to see if anyone was red-faced in the room.

The environmental officer was on hand to discuss all of the environmental precautions they were taking and we were informed that a few of the existing Eucalyptus trees planted on the medium strip were mostly rotting and had very shallow tree root systems (that’s why there were some blown down in the recent storms we had, and they had fallen across the road itself). The new trees were being sourced from a local nursery (which was a good thing, I thought), and were a more suitable type of Eucalyptus for Canberra conditions, which would be planted gradually as the work proceeded and which suited the Canberra climate best.

The bike riders in the room were pleased that there will be ‘park and ride’ facilities once more and that safety has been a high priority in terms of planning for pedestrian pathways from either side of Northbourne Avenue.

Someone queried if there would be timetables, but as the trams are due to go every six minutes in peak hour, and with a maximum of 15 minutes at off-peak times, the Metro authorities asserted that there was no need for timetables. Nonetheless, the questioner mentioned that in Berlin, there was still a timetable even with short times between rides. This prompted one member of the audience to ask if the drivers would be adhering to the departure times at their discretion, (like the ACTION buses had done in the past, she suggested), which brought the house down. The answer was no, of course – and that there was a signalling system in place to which the drivers had to adhere.

So the completion of this project is in three stages and we are currently at the tail end the first phase – and about to enter the second. Things are hotting up!

Here are some of the other facts that emerged:

The light rail corridor from Gungahlin to the City will be 12 kilometres long, with thirteen stops. The total capacity of the vehicle proposed is 207 passengers (66 seats + 141 standees). Each vehicle will be 30m long and 2.65m wide and will have:

  • Onboard wi-fi (also available at light rail stops along the corridor)
  • Handrails and grab rails
  • Access via two double doors and two single doors per side with clear signage
  • Provision for four bikes per carriage
  • 100% low floor throughout
  • Air-conditioning suitable for the Canberra climate

I was pleased about having the wi-fi access and the air conditioning geared for our harsh winters/summers, and I walked away from the meeting with the impression that the job is in the hands of competent management – hope I’m right!

Image from manufacturer’s website.

What’s Your opinion?


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19 Responses to
Update – Canberra Metro Light Rail Project
1
jared 1:54 pm
19 Feb 17
#

207 passengers max? That’s 2070 people per hour at peak times. There are more than 50,000 people in gunghalin let alone along the route into civic. If that capacity number is correct this tram will barely effect peak traffic flows into the city. Why are we building this again?

2
ChrisinTurner 2:55 pm
19 Feb 17
#

The Auditor General said we are paying $1.73billion for a transport system that is slower, has half the seats and costs twice as much to maintain and operate as our present ACTION buses. An interesting but very expensive experiment! And that is for just the first of seven Light Rail lines announced to date.

3
KentFitch 3:39 pm
19 Feb 17
#

jared said :

207 passengers max? That’s 2070 people per hour at peak times. There are more than 50,000 people in gunghalin let alone along the route into civic. If that capacity number is correct this tram will barely effect peak traffic flows into the city. Why are we building this again?

Jared, whatever the reason, it isn’t about increasing public transport capacity.

Each weekday now, between 8am and 9am, 30 ACTION bus services leave Gungahlin Town Centre and terminate or pass through Civic (2xx red rapid, and routes 56, 57, 58), with capacity for about 2127 passengers (1362 seated, 765 standing). In that same peak hour, 10 tram services will have capacity for about 2070 passengers (660 seated, 1410 standing). Between now and the the tram opening, Gungahlin’s population will increase by many thousands.

Fortunately, others (including GM, Ford, BMW, Nissan, Telsa, Benz, Volvo, …) are very advanced on another approach to provide very cheap, efficient and safe door-to-door mobility using shared fleets of autonomous cars which in cities like Canberra, will reduce congestion by increasing the ratio of passengers to cars.

Here’s a recent video showing a GM electric vehicle autonomously driving through the streets of San Francisco and encountering some interesting situations: https://techcrunch.com/2017/02/08/watch-cruises-self-driving-bolt-ev-navigate-smoothly-to-sfs-dolores-park/

4
Leon Arundell 3:44 pm
19 Feb 17
#

“trams are due to go every six minutes in peak hour, and with a maximum of 15 minutes at off-peak times, the Metro authorities asserted that there was no need for timetables. ” This means that every passenger will have to allow a minimum of 6 minutes per trip, in addition to any time required to walk between bus and tram stops.

5
Righto 4:21 pm
19 Feb 17
#

Why cant they put WiFi in the carriages instead of at the stops. How useful is it to have it for a minute at each stop. Is that crazy or so sort of cheap skate way of saying you have WiFi when you don’t.

6
Heavs 9:25 am
20 Feb 17
#

Righto said :

Why cant they put WiFi in the carriages instead of at the stops. How useful is it to have it for a minute at each stop. Is that crazy or so sort of cheap skate way of saying you have WiFi when you don’t.

Maybe it’s just me. But ‘onboard wi-fi’ seems to suggest it would be available in carriages as well. But then again I’m not a ball of anger just looking to hate this thing for any reason.

7
Postalgeek 11:12 am
20 Feb 17
#

Righto said :

Why cant they put WiFi in the carriages instead of at the stops. How useful is it to have it for a minute at each stop. Is that crazy or so sort of cheap skate way of saying you have WiFi when you don’t.

Cheapskate is demanding that taxpayers fund your internet use. Buy a SIM card if it’s that important to you, but as a previous commentator pointed out you’ve already got your ‘onboard wifi’ if you actually read the post ( the first bullet point in bold)

8
GCS14 11:15 am
20 Feb 17
#

Righto said :

Why cant they put WiFi in the carriages instead of at the stops. How useful is it to have it for a minute at each stop. Is that crazy or so sort of cheap skate way of saying you have WiFi when you don’t.

“Onboard wi-fi (*ALSO* available at light rail stops along the corridor)”

Emphasis mine.

9
wildturkeycanoe 12:38 pm
20 Feb 17
#

“Onboard wi-fi (also available at light rail stops along the corridor)”
So you watch the news on your device at the station, then when you get onto the tram you have to switch connection, re-connect and then get back to your video? Then again at your destination you have to drop out and log in to the new network?
I don’t know if that is how it would work, but a better question is this – Will the wi-fi be free?
If so, I bet apartments within range will be highly sought after.

10
Lerenor 3:02 pm
20 Feb 17
#

wildturkeycanoe said :

“Onboard wi-fi (also available at light rail stops along the corridor)”
So you watch the news on your device at the station, then when you get onto the tram you have to switch connection, re-connect and then get back to your video? Then again at your destination you have to drop out and log in to the new network?

The short answer is; no.

11
Serina Huang 7:55 pm
21 Feb 17
#

Thank you for this overview. As someone who lives just around the corner from the light rail (and the building of it), it is good to get a sense of what is happening with construction and what it will be like when finished.

12
gooterz 11:29 pm
21 Feb 17
#

I love the signs at the site. Building from a plan from 1912.
Any word on stage 2+

Also what is the failure response from the tram? If we have more hot days and power load shedding is enacted will the tram be affected?
Whats the backup for when the tram derails/ crashes into a car etc?

13
Paul2913 9:44 pm
23 Feb 17
#

jared said :

207 passengers max? That’s 2070 people per hour at peak times. There are more than 50,000 people in gunghalin let alone along the route into civic. If that capacity number is correct this tram will barely effect peak traffic flows into the city. Why are we building this again?

Jared, as many people pointed out during the analysis phase of this project – there is no advantage. The tram will replace an existing bus route. It will have no greater capacity, is inflexible (i.e. can’t be rerouted if the line is blocked or demand is needed elsewhere), won’t be cheaper to run than electric buses, and has high development and ongoing maintenance costs. On the up-side it is expected to have good air-conditioning.

14
Paul2913 9:49 pm
23 Feb 17
#

gooterz said :

Whats the backup for when the tram derails/ crashes into a car etc?

The backup for the tram will be Canberra’s existing bus fleet. The tram is just an expensive way to replace an existing bus route. When the tram has a problem they’ll just put buses back on the route while Canberrans spend huge amounts of money getting the tram line operational again.

15
BlowMeDown 8:11 am
24 Feb 17
#

jared said :

207 passengers max? That’s 2070 people per hour at peak times. There are more than 50,000 people in gunghalin let alone along the route into civic. If that capacity number is correct this tram will barely effect peak traffic flows into the city. Why are we building this again?

That would be in line with the 3 or 4 percent of the populace that use public transport.

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