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When the railways ran all the way to Civic

By johnboy 1 September 2009 33

Our Government is currently eyeing up tearing up the tracks and flogging off all the land along the lucrative and attractive rail corridor to Kingston. This is particularly ironic as a large part of the value of that land is the rail corridor.

But for a sense of perspective Aussielyn has sent in these historic photos from when the trains ran all the way to Civic.

The first is Railway Bridge destroyed by the 1922 flood of the Molonglo River – thanks to the National Library of Australia.

Here’s another look at that damage:


(Civic railway siding image thanks to ACT Rail Museum, Kingston. he Civic siding was left as an eyesore to be demolished, justifying inaction. NCDC Architects Board in the 1950s put the nail in the coffin of civic rail corridor because of hydraulics & finance.)

Aussielyn asked me to include the following to get everyone thinking:

    Yass Canberra Railway

      Check first schedule of the Seat of Government Acceptance Act 1909 still current.

      I don’t think it is superceded by the 1922 ACT, but I am no lawyer!

      “9. In the event of the Commonwealth constructing a railway within the Territory to its northern boundary, the State shall construct a railway from a point near Yass on the Great Southern Railway to join with the said railway,
      and the Commonwealth and the State shall grant to each other such reciprocal running rights as may be agreed upon, or as in default of agreement may be determined by arbitration, over such portions of that railway as are owned by each.”

What’s Your opinion?


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When the railways ran all the way to Civic
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backlash 10:26 pm 03 Sep 09

I think it would be wonderful, even having trams to go into Civic, and the airport, this is the main problem here in Canberra, either you park your car at the airport, railway station, or get some other way to get there, and taxis are too expensive, it just doesn’t make sense, every other city have regular transport to rail and airports.

Thumper 6:56 pm 03 Sep 09

Last time I caught the ‘train’ to melbourne i had to wait for the connecting bus from canberra to yass junction. you no longer wait in the jolimont centre, but on the street in east row. there is no shelter, seating or signs. you just have to sort of guess where the bus will arrive.

Indeed. I wonder what Stanhope has to say about this. This place really has fallen over under his rule. It must be time to let the Feds take over again.

youami 4:19 pm 03 Sep 09

The biggest problem with rail is the perception (government) that rail must pay for itself. It never has and never will because of economies of scale. Companies that run trains (usually government organisations but not always) are expected to make money and also help fund the infrastructure and upkeep of stations, perway, signals, tunnels, bridges, etc. which cannot be achieved with such cheap rail fares that exist in this country. It is a catch-22, so increase the fares may make the system more financially viable but with out-dated track and limited frequency services no-one will pay more to use the system. My analogy: bus companies don’t pay for the roads they use. Also, why is rail infrastructure any different to police stations, or hospitals, or schools. They never make money and not designed to. The GDE is a bit of road that is free for all to use but cost $Xmillion to build. These are all public utilities. So, rail (light-rail) can work in Canberra, and heavy-rail can work to get people to Canberra. The government(s) just needs to invest and treat design and construction like any other bit of public infrastructure and stop thinking it will be a money-making venture. It is a public utility to make society a more liveable place.

sepi 9:31 pm 02 Sep 09

And change the timings of the most popular trains – eg the weekend overnights, so that noone knows when the trains run anymore.

And radically reduce the frequency.

This has worked for ACTION too.

damien haas 9:12 pm 02 Sep 09

it all started going down hill when they closed the ticket office at jolimont several years ago.

i guess its fairly simple, if you dont want passengers make it as difficult as possible for them to buy tickets. force them to use a web system, where you cant actually book a ticket to yass junction and train from there.

then make sure that you dont use a terminal, just some random street with no signage.

then when patronage drops to nil, justify the closure of the entire service by proclaiming a lack of demand.

works for action.

youami 2:40 pm 02 Sep 09

damien haas said :

Last time I caught the ‘train’ to melbourne i had to wait for the connecting bus from canberra to yass junction. you no longer wait in the jolimont centre, but on the street in east row. there is no shelter, seating or signs. you just have to sort of guess where the bus will arrive.

i cant think of any other national capital where this occurs.

i think it is probably impractical to bring a full blown heavy rail station ala the upgraded melbourne spencer st station, into civic now, but there is certainly an opportunity to connect a future light rail to the existing heavy rail infrastructure.

Only thing I can think about re: changes to bus stop, other than the refurb, is the fact that Jolimont is more designed to be a terminal rather than an intermediary stop so making it ‘pass-through’ reduces stopping time and logistics? Also, the fact that Coutrylink may have decided not to pay the costs for Jolimont, after all it is private property and I am sure they charge a fee (like an Airport landing fee). I agree that the system has to work better and that maybe a better intermediary terminal be installed that is run and owned by ACT Government.

old canberran 1:24 pm 02 Sep 09

Granny said :

I think every little kid should get to grow up watching trains go past.

….and big kids!

Granny 1:45 am 02 Sep 09

I think every little kid should get to grow up watching trains go past.

caf 12:40 am 02 Sep 09

As for the second, well you could always put the station underground, or elevate it.

Apparently Burley-Griffin’s idea was to put an underground station about where the Canberra Centre is now, under Ainslie Av. (No, seriously! It’s marked on this period map as “Mr Griffin’s route”).

That was considered an unnecessary extravagance back when there was nothing built above the surface there… I can’t imagine why.

deye 10:59 pm 01 Sep 09

damien haas said :

Last time I caught the ‘train’ to melbourne i had to wait for the connecting bus from canberra to yass junction. you no longer wait in the jolimont centre, but on the street in east row. there is no shelter, seating or signs. you just have to sort of guess where the bus will arrive.

i cant think of any other national capital where this occurs.

i think it is probably impractical to bring a full blown heavy rail station ala the upgraded melbourne spencer st station, into civic now, but there is certainly an opportunity to connect a future light rail to the existing heavy rail infrastructure.

For the first part I think that was only while they were putting the extra couple of floors on the hotel. That appears to have finished so maybe the buses are back where they used to be.

As for the second, well you could always put the station underground, or elevate it.

dvaey 10:31 pm 01 Sep 09

Thumper said :

Yeah, my thought exactly. Get on at Belconnen station and sit back and enjoy the view all the way to Melbourne, or Adelaide, or Perth!

Its ironic that you cant do this in the nations capital, but if you live in small towns in NSW such as Goulburn, Yass or Wagga, you DO have access to the national rail network.

Thumper said :

I like trains. They hark back to a different age. Apart from the fact that you get to see some great countryside from them, unlike a bus, which is frankly horrible.

Again, although I know you sort of made this point yourself, if you lived almost anywhere else in Australia, rail is a useful and regular part of public transport. Its sad that Canberra has never taken it back up after the causeway was flooded.

Kramer 10:24 pm 01 Sep 09

+1 Bring back the trains!

I reckon the approval for 24 hour air freight may see a revamp of the rail system between ACT and NSW/Vic, but I doubt we’ll see passenger number increase.

Zanzibert 8:16 pm 01 Sep 09

It would be truly brilliant to see inter-city rail introduced to Canberra in earnest. As Thumper said, imagine getting on a train in Civic reaching Melbourne or Perth, without needing a bus!

Even just giving us the chance to link Canberra more fluidly to the “tourist trail” of other state and regional capitals would be fantastic. Consider how easy it is to move about on Europe’s continental networks – and as has been mentioned above, the benefits for carbon emission reduction are obvious.

What do you think of the old rumour about developing our airport in order to support a future ultra-fast train link to Sydney? It would enable it to serve as a “third runway” for Sydney International, and Canberra could be a new suburb of Sydney!

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