Whatever happened to the Russell light rail extension? A PTCBR exclusive.

HomeNewsBlogWhatever happened to the Russell light rail extension? A PTCBR exclusive.

Keen followers of Canberra light rail developments would remember that during planning in 2015 and 2016 for Stage 1 to Gungahlin, there was a lot of talk about extending it from the City to Russell via London Circuit East and Constitution Avenue. This eventually did not go ahead, and we’ve now moved onto (glacially) building light rail to Woden via London Circuit West and Commonwealth Avenue.

PTCBR has now received documents about that abortive extension under a freedom of information request. While we don’t have the full story, we’ve learned that planning for the extension was well advanced. There are concept drawings for stops at:

  • Legislative Assembly
  • Convention Centre
  • CIT Reid
  • Cresswell St, Campbell (outside the C5 development)
  • Russell West
  • Russell Terminus

A lot of the documents relate to discussions between the ACT Government and Commonwealth agencies to get access to the Commonwealth land along Constitution Avenue and the Defence precinct at Russell. It appears these discussions became a bit of a sticking point, with Chief Minister Andrew Barr even directly asking then Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull to intervene (see p 106-107).

There’s 168 pages to go through, but if you skip ahead to page 129, there are some good documents summarising the status of the project. You’ll also get a sense of the very high landscaping and design requirements the NCA has imposed on light rail, and the usual interminable comments about parking.

Unfortunately there’s nothing here showing the ACT Government’s final decision not to proceed with the project (this was likely a cabinet document). But it’s definitely worth a read, and provides some good context about the sort of negotiations that go on for a major project like this.

Anyone who works at or travels through the Russell Offices precinct knows all too well that the carparks are packed throughout the day and traffic frequently banks up during peak hours. Comparing historical maps of Russell to the landscape of today shows the steady addition of more surface carparks to the precinct. The R8 building was recently demolished for yet another surface carpark, and Defence organisations keep getting pushed out to locations such as Brindabella and Fairbairn business parks due to space shortages at Russell. Imagine how different things could be if light rail to Russell had proceeded. Let’s remember that the planning decisions taken today will shape the future for better or worse.