Light Rail Stage 2A: The ink is dry. It’s happening!

HomeNewsBlogLight Rail Stage 2A: The ink is dry. It’s happening!
All images from: Light Rail Stage 2A route,

The contracts to build and operate Light Rail Stage 2A have been signed – a huge milestone. This significant project will transform the centre of Canberra and enable the future delivery of Light Rail Stage 2B to Woden. While we would love to see both Light Rail Stage 2A and 2B progressing much faster than they are, we recognise the complexities of these projects – design, engineering, approvals across two levels of government, and more. Getting to this point is a big win and we can’t wait for work on Stage 2A to begin once the Raising London Circuit project is complete.

Light Rail Stage 2A will have a big impact across some key areas:

Transforming the city

We want the centre of Canberra to be a place to visit, not a place to drive through. Excessively wide roads, poor pedestrian connections, and ugly rabbit-infested vistas have long made City West and Commonwealth Avenue unattractive and unwelcoming locations for anyone outside a car. Stage 2A will greatly improve these areas with three new well-located public transport stops as well as upgrades to footpaths, safer intersections, and more greenery. Importantly, it will create a much-needed high-capacity transit link between Civic and Lake Burley Griffin.

Stage 2A will also be a catalyst to change the way we use land in the city. As an example, take the location of the future City South stop on this map – you might be wondering why a light rail stop would be placed in the middle of nowhere. Earlier this year, the City Renewal Authority released Block 1 Section 121 City for sale. This is the south-western block of land next to City Hill – and future neighbour of City South light rail station. With other land sales and development applications around the city in the pipeline, it’s easy to see how Stage 2A is an integral part of great things to come for the centre of Canberra.

Only a public transport project could shape and improve Canberra’s urban environment in this way. When we rely on cars to get around, we run out of space fast; the last thing the city needs is more space devoted to parking and roads. Public transport is an efficient and attractive way to move people around while creating new and enduring connections between different parts of the city. We’ve seen it with light rail on Northbourne Avenue and George Street in Sydney, and we will see that to great effect with Stage 2A.

Friendlier and greener streets

We’re really excited about the new intersection designs that follow international best practice for pedestrian and cyclist safety – not only will this make Civic a friendlier place for all road users, but it also sets a powerful precedent and paves the way for better intersection and road design across the city.

London Circuit West will be cut down to a single lane of car traffic each way. We’ll see protected cycle lanes along London Circuit (with the exception of an unfortunate mixed-traffic lane at the Edinburgh Ave stop), and protected intersections making it easier for bikes to cross.

We also eagerly await the installation of “green track” on three parts of the extension, including down Commonwealth Avenue. This involves planting grass or very low-lying shrubbery between and alongside the tracks, creating a lush appearance. A prototype of the green track is under construction at the National Arboretum – make sure to visit and check it out when it’s done.

New battery technology

Stage 2A will also see the introduction of wire-free light rail vehicle (LRV) operation. Five new LRVs with battery technology will be acquired for Stage 2A, and the existing fleet will be retrofitted. The LRVs will charge up while travelling down the Gungahlin to City section, and power will be supplemented through the use of regenerative braking – this means the motor acts as a generator during deceleration and kinetic energy is stored to replenish the power supply. We look forward to seeing this in action!

There’s been a lot of talk in the public transport community about whether we need to have wire-free running at all. But the facts are that this was always going to be a requirement from the National Capital Authority, and we have proven technology which will do the job with no impact on the quality of the service.

It’s been a long time coming

It’s been a long road to this announcement and we congratulate Major Projects Canberra on this milestone. We recognise that getting a project of this scale over the line is no mean feat – at first glance it may seem like just 1.7 kilometres of new light rail track, but this is in fact a multifaceted project that has required extensive consultations and approvals from many stakeholders.

In our view, many of the requirements set by approving bodies in the ACT for projects such as this are overly onerous at best, and obstructive at worst. This can be seen clearly in PTCBR’s recently-granted FOI request for information regarding plans for a light rail extension to Russell. Planning for that project reached a fairly advanced stage but was ultimately stymied by several issues including design requirements imposed by the National Capital Authority and problems concerning access to Commonwealth land. Some of these issues have presented less of a challenge for the advancement of Stage 2A, but others endure. We continue to advocate for an environment where key projects can proceed with an appropriate level of oversight instead of burdensome requirements.

For now, however, we’ll be celebrating this fantastic news and imagining ourselves gliding along beautiful green track in a shiny red LRV, all the way down to the lake.

Next stop, Woden.