Light rail

Making light rail work

At the ARA’s Light Rail 2020 conference, chief projects officer of Major Projects Canberra Duncan Edghill outlined how the Canberra Light Rail has become part of the fabric of the city.

For successful rail transport projects, looking back on a project once it is complete can reveal insights into a project that were not apparent in the busy construction phase.

For the Canberra Light Rail project this was no different, as chief projects officer of Major Projects Canberra, Duncan Edghill, highlighted in a recent speech to delegates at the Australasian Railway Association (ARA) Light Rail 2020 conference.

With stage one being the largest infrastructure project ever undertaken by the ACT government, the light rail generated an intense community discussion throughout planning and construction phases, however now in operation, the city has taken to the service with gusto. With a year now under its belt, the initial case for the project has not only been met, but exceeded.

“As an example, in the first three weeks of 2020 versus the same period in 2019 there was an increase of over 10 per cent of public transport journeys taken across the ACT,” said Edghill.

“It’s quite a step change.”

Prior to the project, Canberra was only served by a bus network, even though trams were included in Walter Burley and Marion Mahoney Griffin’s plan for Canberra. Such a change in transport infrastructure meant that the project was focused upon by the local community and businesses, meaning that every decision of the project team was on full display. In addition, the project ran along a major road artery, leading it to intersect with many residents’ lives before operations began.

“When you’re building light rail and it’s spread out over many kilometres, everyone can see what you’re doing,” said Edghill. “As we move into future stages, we will need to give consideration to issues like, ‘How will this shade cloth that we’re putting up now look in two years?’ and how do we pay attention to things like controlling weeds?”

On a commercial side, with further stages planned for the future, being delivered as a public-private partnership meant that the eyes of the infrastructure business community were also on the strip of Northborne Avenue which the light rail would run down.

“The overall commercial focus was really a genuine desire to treat the project as a partnership and to be seen as a commercial and pragmatic partner,” said Edghill. “We want Canberra to be the sort of place where you can come and do business with confidence and with a reasonable partner.

“Of course, in pretty much all big projects claims arise, but a real positive for both sides here was when we get to operations we cleared the deck of any outstanding commercial matters. Given the complexities of starting a light rail system for the first time it was really important that we focus on the important thing, which is getting the operations right rather than dealing with commercial issues [after the project opened].”

Another decision made at the beginning of the project came from the political side, but was instrumental in ensuring the project’s future success, said Edghill.

“The ACT government had resolved signal priorities for the light rail vehicles (LRVs) on an intersection basis. That was a decision that was taken in cabinet because it was a policy decision at the outset to provide LRVs with high levels of priority at intersections.”

Combined, these decisions led to a system that, now into its second year of operating, has surpassed initial hopes.

“Business case expectations have been exceeded across the public transport network system as a whole,” said Edghill. “It’s proof that, when it’s well thought through and well- integrated into the broader public transport network, light rail works.”

PROJECT INTEGRATION KEY TO LIGHT RAIL SUCCESS
When designing and building the light rail Stage 1, the delivery partners were also able to consider the wider impact that the project would have, and how to integrate these for the best outcome for the city as a whole.

“In Canberra’s case, the introduction of light rail actually led us to revisit the fundamental principles underpinning the entirety of the rest of the transport network,” said Edghill. “Before light rail we had a bus network where mode share is less than what we’ve targeted – long circuitous bus routes, sub optimal network frequency, a few very high capacities frequent routes and then a school bus system.”

In line with the opening of the light rail line from Gungahlin in the city’s north to the city centre, Transport Canberra redesigned the bus network to have higher frequency services on key corridors. Edghill noted however that the process will never be without its critics.

“There are some key lessons to draw from this process; you can’t begin consultation early enough, you’re not going to please everyone, and you will have to make some tough decisions. There will be those who in time benefit from the system, but they’re not the ones who are going to be writing letters to the editor now.”

With an entirely redesigned bus network, comparing a before and after is not like for like, but Edghill is confident that the changes have had a positive impact.

“What we have seen, on an aggregate level, is public transport has risen across the network. We introduced six new high frequency bus routes at the same time light rail was introduced and the high-speed bus network has proven to be really popular.”

Outside of the transport network, the impact of a light rail project on the businesses along the route has been a key concern for other projects. In Canberra this was no different, and the light rail work coincided with a number
of developments along Northbourne Avenue, causing disruption to nearby business owners.

“When you’re living in project world, it’s really easy to focus on your own project, but from the perspective of a business owner or a shop owner they don’t’ distinguish between your project and another project,” said Edghill. “At Gungahlin the light rail project coincided with a number of other construction projects.”

DESIGN DRIVING OUTCOMES
Having weathered the impact of construction, businesses are now embracing the light rail, said Edghill. Although not a scientific study of impacts, Edghill recounted examples of tea towels, paintings, and coasters now with the light rail imprinted upon them. For those that worked on the project, these are examples of where the project has gone beyond what could be quantified in the business case.

“People ask what makes me most proud to be involved in Light Rail stage one project? Is it the patronage, which is going gangbusters, the corridor development we’re seeing, is it delivering it on time and under budget? What is it that gives me the greatest satisfaction? All of these things are important of course but I think what actually struck me most is the fact that light rail has already become a shorthand for Canberra.”

Edghill puts this down to the nature of the project and its commitment to good design.

“The canopies are distinct to Canberra, the artwork is bespoke at each stop, the colour palette subtly speaks to Canberra institutions, the LRV seat livery was designed by a local Indigenous artist, the dynamic lighting allows us to change the lighting to different colours in response to local events, and there’s a high quality of workmanship.”

While these features could be seen as optional extras, Edghill counselled that the design elements are what defines a light rail project well after construction has ended.

“We all avoided the temptation to engineer out the project’s design qualities and I think that’s a very important lesson,” he said. “These projects obviously represent a very significant investment, and long after people stop thinking about the cost we’ll be thinking about the system and ultimately smart architectural design is a small part of the overall investment.”

In the end, Edghill says, the light rail project is not just about mobility.

“One of the most important things that we tried to keep in mind when embarking on the light rail project was recognising that it’s not only a transport project. Yes, light rail moves people from A to B and that’s undoubtedly of great importance, but just as importantly it shapes how our city looks and shapes the development of the light rail corridor.

“No matter how successful patronage will be, there will always be more people looking at the system than using it. For that reason, the final design of the system is something that is particularly relevant.”

These design elements will be continued as the ACT government looks to the next stages of the light rail project. As Stage 2A progresses to the waterfront, stage 2B then continues to Woden, and with plans for further extensions on the East-West spine of the city, ensuring that the light rail project remains integrated, and well-designed will be key.

“Light rail is really about servicing the future development of the Acton waterfront and convention centre and other things that will come to the centre of Canberra in time,” said Edghill.

“The project is as much about urban regeneration as it is around transport.”

Land values increasing along Canberra light rail corridor

Light rail has delivered a significant uplift in land values along the corridor, a new report for the ACT government shows.

The Benefits Realisation Report, produced by Major Projects Canberra, showed that blocks alongside the light rail line had an average increase of unimproved value of 35.2 per cent. The average figure for the ACT during that period was 21.7 per cent.

ACT Minister for Transport Chris Steel said that the light rail line was bringing growth to the capital.

“Canberrans can already see the broader economic and social benefits that light rail has brought to our city,” said Steel.

“This is a long-term infrastructure investment, and more benefits will continue to be realised and measured over the years and decades to come.”

Part of the review process also involved getting feedback from businesses that are located close to the line. According to a statement from the ACT government, these businesses saw an increase in revenue, footfall, or access for customers and staff as a result of the light rail.

Steel said that the learnings from the report will inform future delivery of the project as Stage 2A from the City to Commonwealth Part progresses, and Stage 2B connects the light rail to the southern suburb of Woden.

“There are lessons to be learnt from every project, and the lessons from stage one will help better support our local businesses for stage two,” said Steel.

“Construction on major projects can be disruptive but we will be enhancing our communication with those affected by future projects and will better advising them about construction schedules and plans.”

The data from the report highlights how increases in land value can be used to justify, and potentially fund, rail infrastructure projects. In the business case for the Canberra Light Rail, the ACT government found that other light rail lines resulted in an increase in property value of up to 20 per cent, a figure not found with new bus routes.

Research conducted at the University of Queensland found that along stage one of the Gold Coast light rail line, land values increased by 7.1 per cent higher than otherwise. Research and findings such as these have been used to justify value capture mechanisms for the funding of transport infrastructure, and in the case of the Gold Coast, the Gold Coast Council instituted a levy on property owners to partly fund the light rail line.

The Benefits Realisation Report also found that light rail construction drove employment figures.

“Stage 1 of light rail created 4750 jobs, with 75 per cent being local sustainable jobs. Stage 2 of light rail will also have an important role to play in supporting more construction jobs and supporting the ACT’s economic recovery,” said Steel.

So far, the Canberra light rail has increased public transport usage in the city, with 4.2 million trips by public transport in the 12 months since the project was finished.

“From the very beginning of operations light rail has proved itself as a huge success, with the project coming in under budget and seeing an immediate jump in public transport patronage,” said Steel.

Utility excavation work starts in Parramatta CBD

Parramatta Light Rail is progressing significant works in the Parramatta CBD. From 8pm, Thursday, April 9, until 5am, Monday April 27, the intersection of Phillip and Church streets will be closed to allow utility works.

The works involve replacing an existing water pipe with a concrete covered pipe. The work will allow for water service operation to continue during light rail construction and operation.

Works to be done at the intersection include excavation, isolating and draining the existing water main, covering the water main and reinstating the roadway.

Buses, cars, and pedestrians will be diverted around the construction site.

Other works on the Parramatta Light Rail project are also continuing, such as the change from heavy rail to light rail on the former Carlingford Line. The project is considered an essential service and is therefore progressing as scheduled.

Meanwhile, the project is encouraging locals and subcontractors to continue to support local eateries whose foot-traffic has been impacted by coronavirus (COVID-19) shutdowns.

Underground utility work plagued the construction of the Sydney CBD and South East Light Rail line, with Transport for NSW settling for $576 million with contractor Acciona due to extra costs involved in underground utility work. Although the Parramatta CBD is not as dense as the Sydney CBD, early work was done to identify utilities that are owned by 15 different providers and the program has used an underground 3D digital model to find where utilities are located.

Final stage of Sydney’s CBD light rail opens

The 12-kilometre Sydney CBD and South East Light Rail network is now complete and operational.

Passenger services are now running on the new L3 Kingsford Line between Circular Quay and Kingsford.

The first passenger tram departed Juniors Kingsford at 5am Friday, April 3 and services on the line will run until 1am on Saturday morning.

This is the second part of the $2.9 billion CBD and South East Light Rail project, which began operating between Circular Quay and Randwick four months ago.

Sydney Light Rail stated that operations will be fine-tuned over a period of time as the L3 Kingsford Line is integrated with the L2 Randwick Line and while services are bedded down.

“With light rail running down Anzac Parade through Kensington and Kingsford, it is vital all road users follow traffic signals and for pedestrians in particular to be aware that there are two-stage crossings to connect to the light rail stops,” Sydney Light Rail said in a statement.

NSW Minister for Transport Andrew Constance didn’t attend the opening due to travel restrictions and opened the line remotely via video message.

“Opening the Kingsford leg is an important completion of the project,” Constance said in his virtual message.

“It’s not a time to get on the light rail for fun.”

Transport for NSW stated that the opening of the new line is focused on benefiting passengers who need to undertake essential travel, giving them another option.

The opening of the new line provides public transport for workers and the community in the south east as it services the important health precinct and the city.

From 4 April 2020, trams on both the L2 Randwick Line and L3 Kingsford Line will operate between 5am and 1am, with weekday services between 7am and 7pm running every 4-8 minutes in the CBD and every 8-12 minutes in the South East.

In Parramatta, work is continuing on the construction of the light rail line there. As construction of public transport is deemed an essential service, the project is progressing as planned.

trams

One kilometre of track to be replaced on Melbourne’s Route 86

The Victorian government will replace over a kilometre of tram track in Melbourne from Saturday, March 21 until Monday, March 30.

The track on Plenty Road will be replaced to improve services on Route 86, said Minister for Public Transport, Melissa Horne.

“We’re getting on with these works so we can deliver better services for passengers to get them where they need to go.”

The $3 million worth of work will also involve the installation of 15 new power poles, in addition to underground cables and overhead wires.

To avoid extensive disruption, work will be carried out around the clock during the period, however buses will replace trams during this period between Miller/High Streets in Thornbury and the Bundoora terminus.

According to data released in 2018, Route 86 is the third busiest route in Melbourne’s tram network, and the work will improve the route for those who travel upon it, said Member for Bundoora, Colin Brooks.

“Route 86 is one of our busiest tram routes – these works will help deliver a safer and more reliable ride.”

Specifically, the track replacement work will take place on Plenty Road between the Metropolitan Ring Road, Bundoora, and Bell Street, Preston.

Trams will still run between Docklands and Miller/High Street.

While work is underway, Plenty Road between Pender Street and Bell Street will be closed to traffic in both directions from Saturday, March 21 until Monday, March 30. One lane will be closed between the Metropolitan Ring Road and Kingsbury Drive from Saturday, March 28 until Monday, March 30. Minister for Preston, Robin Scott, said that this should not stop locals from patronising businesses along the route.

“Businesses along Plenty Road will stay open while these vital works take place and we should all continue to support them as these vital works are delivered.”

Consortium for Adelaide tram network announced

Contracts for the operation of light rail services in Adelaide have been awarded to Torrens Connect.

Announced today, March 10, along with a suite of bus contracts, Torrens Connect will operate Adelaide’s tram network from July.

Torrens Connect is a joint venture between Torrens Transit, UGL Rail Services, and John Holland.

The contract for the North South network combines bus and tram services, and according to SeaLink Travel Group – owner of Torrens Transport – CEO, Clint Feuerherdt, the integration will allow for better services.

“Between high frequency services, and integrated bus and tram outcomes, we will open up new destinations on the public transport network for customers,” he said.

According to Feuerherdt, bringing the modes together will allow for innovation in service delivery.

“The new tender has allowed us to bring in our global best practice experience, matched with our local market knowledge and history, to truly create a tailored series of network improvements for Adelaide.”

Partnered in the contract is UGL Rail Services, which in addition to its work in heavy rail and metro services, has contributed to light rail in Hong Kong.

“This contract extends our light rail operations and maintenance capability alongside our Adelaide heavy rail presence. We look forward to providing a safe and quality operation for the people of Adelaide,” said UGL managing director, Jason Spears.

For partner John Holland, the contract is the first multimodal contract in the company’s history, highlighted CEO Joe Barr.

“From operating the country’s first metro train in Sydney, to Canberra’s new light rail, John Holland has a proven record of putting the customer at the centre of everything we do.”

As a result of this contract, John Holland will be one of only a few private organisations to operate trains, trams, and buses in Australia.

“The South Australian Public Transport Authority (SAPTA) has recognised our commitment to South Australians and we look forward to working with them over the coming years to deliver improvements across the network,” said John Holland’s executive general manager – rail, Steve Butcher.

The SA government and the successful contractors will deliver network improvements by the end of 2020. Consultation on the improvements will begin in April.

“In the coming weeks we will be releasing details about the bus service improvements that will benefit South Australians ahead of a consultation period we will undertake,” said SA Transport Minister, Stephan Knoll.

“Now the contracts have been signed, we can begin working with the providers to deliver the best possible bus and tram network for South Australians.”

Light rail has ‘returned to the fabric’ of Australian cities

Danny Broad examines the state of Light Rail in Australasia, and reflects on his time as ARA CEO.

The ARA 2020 Light Rail Conference, held in Canberra on 4-5 March, heralds our inaugural industry rail conference for the decade. The conference was also Caroline Wilkie’s first event as ARA CEO.

As we commence a new decade, new ARA leadership and converge on our Nation’s capital for our annual light rail conference, I feel it timely to celebrate the renaissance of light rail in our regional cities, the nation’s capital, and recent rebirth in Australia’s largest city, Sydney, 50 years after its last tram lines were ripped up.

With light rail now in multiple major and regional cities around Australia, on the agenda in others, and Melbourne home to the world’s largest tram network, we can well and truly lay claim that light rail has returned to the fabric of Australasian cities, and regions.

Late last year saw the much-anticipated return of light rail operations to George Street in Sydney. The 12km route featuring 19 stops, extending from Circular Quay along George Street to Central Station, all the way to Randwick, significantly expands light rail in Sydney and was no small feat to deliver.

It now plays a key role transporting thousands of customers between the city and Sydney’s inner west and south eastern suburbs, building on the existing Dulwich Hill Line in Sydney’s West.

The network will be further expanded with the Kingsford Line which is scheduled to open in March this year. Like many light rail projects before it, I’m sure the pain felt during construction will soon be forgotten and the benefits of light rail travel through Sydney embraced.

Elsewhere in Sydney, construction has commenced this year for Parramatta light rail. Expected to open in 2023, it will be built in two stages to keep pace with the thousands of new houses and jobs being created in Western Sydney. Stage 1 will connect Westmead to Carlingford via the Parramatta CBD and Camellia with a two-way track spanning 12 kilometres. The currently preferred route for Stage 2 will connect Stage 1 and the Parramatta CBD to Sydney Olympic Park along a nine-kilometre route.

A key component in the strategy to renew the Newcastle CBD, Newcastle Light Rail commenced operations in 2017, with a six station 2.7km service running from the Central Business District to Newcastle Beach Park. The first fully integrated public transport network in Australia, the system was designed to turn around declining public transport in the city and has been a resounding success.

Operation of the 12km initial stage of the Canberra light rail, including 13 stops, commenced in April 2019 connecting the northern town centre of Gungahlin through Dickson to the Canberra city centre. More than one million passenger journeys were completed in the first three months, cementing the success of Canberra light rail. Following the success of this route, the ACT government is now progressing with the development of the second stage to connect the city centre to Woden. With the business case for Stage 2A endorsed, work has commenced on extending light rail from the city centre to Commonwealth Park. Like many light rail projects before it, Canberra’s light rail has spurred significant commercial and residential property development along its route. It will no doubt provide an interesting case study on light rail and its ability to rejuvenate and densify cities.

It could be argued that the Gold Coast led the resurgence of light rail in Australia. The initial stage of Gold Coast Light Rail that commenced operation in July 2014 runs from the Gold Coast University Hospital to Broadbeach South. Fast, frequent trams connect 16 light rail stations along a 13-kilometre route. The Stage 2 extension opened in December 2017 ahead of schedule and under budget, in time for the Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games, establishing a vital connection from the existing northern light rail terminus to the regional passenger rail network. With federal and state government funding now secured for the long-awaited Gold Coast Light Rail Stage 3A from Broadbeach South to Burleigh Heads, following a competitive tender process, a contract for the design and construction of Stage 3A is expected to be awarded in late 2020.

Like Sydney and many other cities around the world, Adelaide phased out its tram network in favour of buses and cars in the 1950’s. Last year, the South Australian Government went to tender to privatise the operations of its heavy rail passenger network and is also contracting out the 16.5km tram operations, as part of an integrated bus-tram tender. Contracts are expected mid-2020.

As in many other cities around the globe, light rail has been on and off the agenda in Perth. As Perth’s population grows, its Metronet program will deliver up to 72 kilometres of new passenger rail and up to 18 new stations. During 2019 the Western Australian Department of Transport commenced early planning for an inner city light rail project.

Across the ditch, investment in transport infrastructure is also booming. The Auckland Transport Alignment Project (ATAP) has committed to providing light rail between the City Centre and Māngere to Auckland’s northwest within the next 10 years. The New Zealand government has requested the New Zealand Transport Agency and Infrastructure New Zealand prepare refined proposals for this light rail rapid transit corridor and future network integration, for government consideration. When the government’s assessment process for the City Centre to Māngere Light Rail line is complete early next year, there will be a better understanding of the next steps for the City Centre to North West corridor.

Without a doubt the jewel in the crown of Light Rail in Australia is the Melbourne tram network, which dwarfs all others. It is indeed the world’s largest, with over 250km of double track, completing over 200 million trips annually, by 493 trams with over 1,760 stops. The network is being continually upgraded with a rolling program of new and consolidated tram stops, new substations, track upgrades, as well as maintenance and repairs on existing infrastructure. It is ubiquitous to Melbourne, Australia’s fastest growing city, and is successfully woven into the city’s fabric. It is one that we should all be truly proud of.

This is my last editorial for Rail Express as the ARA CEO. The next edition will be authored by our new CEO Caroline Wilkie who commences with the ARA in mid-February.

I’m immensely proud of the ARA team and their achievements over the last four years to support our members and all sectors of the rail industry. The numerous highlights are difficult to summarise, however a number of milestones come to mind including:

  • Publishing the National Rail Industry Plan and the Value of Rail reports to highlight the economic and social benefits that rail provides for our communities,
  • Publishing the BIS Oxford Economics Skills Gap Report that highlighted the skills and resources challenges facing our industry and advocating how government and industry can best address these,
  • Presenting with 12 senior rail executives to all Transport Ministers at the Transport and Infrastructure Council in August 2019 on the rail industry skills and resources challenges and gaining their support to develop an action plan with the National Transport Commission,
  • Progressing the Smart Rail Route Map and technology agendas,
  • Working with industry and governments to improve accessibility for people with disabilities.
  • Lodging countless submissions to parliamentary and government inquiries, advocating for rail, engaging with governments and industry to advance the Inland Rail project as well as the National Freight and Supply Chain Strategy,
  • Supporting Rail Careers and the drive for a younger more diverse workforce through programs such as Future Leaders, Young Rail Professionals, the Women in Rail Pilot Mentoring Program, the formation of the Young Leaders Advisory Board (Y-LAB), and our work with careers advisers at careers fairs,
  • Holding hundreds of functions and events including conferences, training courses, networking dinners, lunches, seminars and forums to provide networking and knowledge sharing opportunities for our industry,
  • Growing the ARA’s membership to more than 150 companies,
  • Developing with the ARA board, Y-LAB and the ARA Team the ARA Strategy Map 2019 to 2024 to set the strategic direction over the next five years. This map details both strategic objectives and strategic outcomes that will provide a platform for Caroline and the ARA team to drive a supportive agenda for all sectors of the rail industry.

I’m very proud of these and other achievements of the ARA team and thank them, our former chairman Bob Herbert AM, the ARA board and all our ARA member companies for their continuing support.

I’d like to express my thanks also to Rail Express for its partnership with the ARA and continuing to produce quality digital and print rail news publications.

Rail has a bright future and I look forward to continuing to support the industry in my new role as ARA Chair.

Route identified for Gold Coast Light Rail Stage 3B

Stage 3B of the Gold Coast Light Rail project may travel along the Gold Coast Highway, as the results of the Queensland government’s Gold Coast Highway (Burleigh Heads to Tugun) Multimodal Corridor Study indicated this was the preferred route of the next stage of the project.

The proposed alignment will not conflict with the preserved heavy rail corridor to the airport, said Queensland Minister for Transport and Main Roads, Mark Bailey.

“The current preserved width of the heavy rail corridor next to the M1 means we can’t accommodate future extensions of both light rail and heavy rail along that route,” said Bailey.

“Directing light rail along the highway protects the M1 rail corridor for its principal use as a future heavy rail connection to the airport.”

Queensland Premier, Annastacia Palaszczuk announced the plan for the future extension of the light rail at Gold Coast Airport on Saturday, March 7.

“I want the Southern Gold Coast to benefit from light rail just as the Northern Gold Coast has,” she said.

“Connecting light rail to the airport is also really important for a 2032 Olympics bid.”

While the final details of the route alignment are not confirmed, Bailey indicated that running the light rail down the highway would allow for greater patronage.

“The Gold Coast Highway route would travel close to where people already live, work and go to the beach and service popular destinations including the Burleigh Heads village, Palm Beach village, Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary, Southern Cross University, Tugun, Bilinga and importantly the Gold Coast Airport,” he said.

Gold Coast City Council Mayor Tom Tate also welcomed the proposed route.

“This is great news confirming what we already knew and what the community has told us they want,” he said.

Congratulations to the State Government for undertaking this work now so that detailed planning can get underway as soon as possible.”

The proposed route alignment will be subject to community consultations. Previous suggestions that the light rail would pass through Palm Beach attracted community opposition.

CEO of Queensland Airports Limited, Chris Mills, highlighted that the route identified in the study is supported by the operator of the airport.

“We have long advocated for the light rail to the airport and our preference has been for it to follow the Gold Coast Highway. We are pleased to hear that is the direction that has been recommended by this study,” he said.

“About 6.5 million people come through Gold Coast Airport each year and the vast percentage are leisure travellers, so we need an efficient and easy public transport linkage that accommodates visitors to the city and local residents well into the future.”

ACT government to fund studies on light rail extensions

Prefeasibility studies will be carried out on stages three and four of the Canberra Light Rail project, announced ACT Minister for Transport Chris Steel at the Australasian Railway Association’s Light Rail Conference in Canberra.

“We will examine the future light rail corridor including land use, the route alignment, and the stop options, to inform future government decision making,” said Steel.

The routes that the ACT government will be studying will be stage three, from Belconnen to the airport, and stage four from Woden to Tuggeranong. Stage three would provide an east-west link through Canberra, and stage four is an extension of the current line, which will terminate in Woden once stage 2b is complete.

“This funding commitment demonstrates our continued commitment to progress of our mission for a city-wide light rail network connecting Canberra with better public transport,” said Steel.

The announcement of prefeasibility studies follows the process which the ACT government followed for the first two stages of the Canberra Light Rail. Steel noted that alternative proposals for trackless trams or guided buses are an “unproven technology” and that total cost savings of such a system would be minimal or non-existent.

The announcement by Steel follows the wider transport network’s continued success, with the highest number of boardings since the introduction of the MyWay ticketing system recorded in the week commencing February 17.

“It’s been a huge start to the year for public transport with more Canberrans using buses and light rail to get around the city to work, school and to travel to major events,” said Steel in a statement.

The ACT government attributed growth to the introduction of the light rail route, as well as rapid bus services.

At the ARA Light Rail conference, Steel highlighted that it was time for the federal government to increase support for faster rail between Canberra and Sydney.

“We believe it’s time for the federal government to get on board with faster rail,” he said.

Light Rail 2020 agenda to engage with current project pipeline

With one week left until Light Rail 2020, the conference agenda and proceedings are firming up, with light rail projects around the country passing milestones and announcing major components of their delivery.

Newcastle Light Rail recently celebrated its one-year anniversary, after carrying its one millionth passenger in December, 2019. In Sydney, the CBD to Randwick line carried two million passengers in just two months, with the spur to Kensington expected to open in March.

In the ACT, the government has announced that trams will travel along wire free tracks to preserve heritage vistas, and will travel over grassed sections, further committing the project to sustainable outcomes, having already sourced its power from renewable energy.

In Melbourne, an upgraded tram terminus opened to serve the city’s expanding fleet of new vehicles.

With these announcements occurring in the lead up to Light Rail 2020, the conference will be the forum for the discussion of the variety of operational approaches, and the appetite for Australian governments and transit authorities to continue to invest in the transport mode.

Confirmed sessions include seminars on data, integration, and customer service; safety and accessibility; corridor design to reduce collisions; on-board energy storage; and updates on key projects.

As these projects move into operational stages, the next generation of rail professionals will be needed to ensure their longevity, and young rail professionals under 35 receive a 50 per cent discount on registration.

Key sessions are:

  • Data, integration and customer service;
  • Modernising safety; operational excellence and accessibility: Adapting to melbourne’s growing needs;
  • Global safety developments and innovation in light rail;
  • Tram corridor design, configuration and strategies to minimise tram collisions;
  • Sustainable innovation in power and automation: On-board energy storage systems (OESS) in light rail;
  • Light rail and rejuvenation industry panel;
  • Parramatta Light Rail: The contract model and key learnings to date;
  • Sydney Light Rail;
  • Successfully delivering technology to the Sydney Light Rail project;
  • Canberra spotlight;
  • Canberra’s light rail network: Lessons learnt, stage 2 and beyond; and
  • Benefits of early collaboration and system integration.

To register, click here.