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.

Australian group awarded funding for tram batteries

A consortium of Australian businesses and research institutions will investigate the production of fast charging batteries for trams.

The group, comprised of the University of Queensland, CSIRO, battery manufacturer Soluna Australia, and nanotechnology company VSPC, will leverage a $1,641,000 grant from the federal CRC-P program to invest $5million in batteries which could remove the need for overhead powerlines to power trams.

The batteries developed will be fast-charge lithium-ion batteries. VSPC will develop advanced cathode materials, while CSIRO brings expertise and intellectual property for the application of fast-charge batteries in trams and other vehicles such as buses, ferries, and military vehicles.

The team from the University of Queensland Faculty of Engineering, Architecture and Information Technology will contribute to the characterisation and optimisation of the battery materials. Soluna will then advise on manufacturing and lead commercialisation of the product.

Mike Vaisey, VSPC executive director, said the project could tap into the popularity of light rail.

“This project is a tremendous opportunity to bring together Australia’s technological capabilities – including VSPC’s advanced cathode materials, CSIRO’s battery expertise and UQ’s analytical abilities – to develop new battery systems using VSPC cathode material. Light rail is experiencing a resurgence worldwide as cities modernise, and fastcharge batteries are critical to avoiding the poles and wires of the past.”

Once successful, Lithium Australia managing director Adrian Griffin said that the Australian-developed technology could be other in other transport forms.

“The aim is to deliver an Australian product that puts this country at the forefront of battery development … and there’s more to it than trams; successful application of what is currently at our fingertips will lead to myriad other fast-charge applications, many of them not yet thought of.”