PTCBR submission to the Federal government on Woden light rail stage two

act lr hand drawnThe federal government Joint Standing Committee on the National Capital and External Territories is holding an inquiry into the ACT Governments light rail stage two project, from Civic to Woden via the Parliamentary Triangle.

The PTCBR have made a submission encouraging the Committee to recommend that the project proceed, and supporting the strong working relationship between the National Capital Authority and the ACT Government.

Read the PTCBR submission here

In launching the new inquiry, Chair of the Committee Mr Ben Morton MP said, “the land around the Federal Parliament is an important space for all Australians, and it is therefore appropriate that the Parliament has a role in ensuring that any proposals for change preserve this significance. The inquiry will also provide the ACT Government with an early indication of the Parliament’s view of its proposal.”

The Joint Standing Committee page on the Inquiry is here

The full terms of reference are:

The Joint Standing Committee on the National Capital and External Territories will inquire into and report on the development of stage two of the Australian Capital Territory light rail project, with regard to:

  1. the relevant parliamentary approval processes for works within the Parliamentary zone;
  2. the roles of the National Capital Authority and the Australian Government, and the associated approval processes;
  3. possible impacts on the Parliamentary zone and Parliamentary precincts, including any impacts on the heritage values and national importance of the Parliamentary zone and our national capital; and
  4. the identification of matters that may be of concern prior to formal parliamentary or Australian Government consideration of the project; and
  5. any other relevant matter the Committee wishes to examine.

Read the PTCBR media release on this Inquiry here

Media reports are here and here and here. The common theme is that Canberra Liberal Senator Zed Seselja believes that light rail along Commonwealth Avenue would create some form of commuting disaster. Senator Seselja has opposed light rail from the outset. It should be noted that Senator Seselja is not a member of the Committee assessing the light rail project.

This public transport project was supported at the 2016 ACT Assembly election, and community consultation since then has resulted in a route design that travels through Parkes and Barton, serving national attractions and many federal government departments and agencies. This second stage of light rail will link up the many accommodation providers located along Northbourne Avenue and around EPIC, enabling visitors to the  nations capital to visit national attractions, and Parliament itself, by public transport.

The PTCBR strongly believe that it is the best public transport option for ACT residents, employees in the Parliamentary zone, and business and tourism visitors to Canberra.

To stay up to date with all public transport and planning issues in Canberra, join the PTCBR here and visit our Facebook Group.

ACT Budget funds for Mitchell light rail stop, improving ‘Park and Ride’ and Woden light rail

IMG_20180117_102104505The 2018-19 ACT Budget will be announced on Tuesday 5 June. Along with a significant drip feed of pre-budget announcements across a broad range of portfolios, this announcement from the TCCS Minister focuses on light rail and buses. It also provides funding to address any questions that the NCA and the federal inquiry into light rail, may have.

The highlights of the announcement are:

  • Construction of a light rail stop in Mitchell in 2019/20
  • $10 million to further advance the technical and design aspects of light rail to Woden (includes work to inform the recently announced federal inquiry)
  • $2.5 million in works to support Woden light rail including businesses cases for the redesign and build of a new Woden Town Centre bus interchange, an updated ‘Park and Ride’ strategy incorporating bus and light rail, and redevelopment of the Yarra Glenn intersection with Melrose and Yamba Drives to accommodate light rail.

This is the media release in full:

Media release by Meegan Fitzharris MLA Minister for Transport and City services

More investment in light rail to continue the network rollout

The ACT Government is investing in the next stage of planning, design and enabling works for light rail from the City to Woden through the 2018 Budget.

Extending light rail to Woden will see Canberra further realise the benefits of a city-wide light rail network by providing a critical north-south public transport spine. We are committed to bringing light rail to Woden, and this further investment will ensure we deliver,” said Minister for Transport Canberra and City Services Meegan Fitzharris.

“The preferred route will connect the City and Woden via Parkes and Barton. This route provides the best access through the Parliamentary Zone to employment hubs, cultural institutions and other places of interest such as Manuka Oval.

“With this preferred route now on the table and progress being made regarding the Commonwealth’s approval processes, we are getting on with making Canberra’s transformative public transport project a reality.

“Light rail from Gungahlin to the City is going well, with testing of the light rail vehicles to begin soon, and Canberra Metro on track to complete construction in December this year.

“This Budget will also fund the start of works on a light rail stop for Mitchell. This will enable Transport Canberra to enter into negotiations for a stop at Sandford Street and will include the technical design for the stop to be constructed in 2019-20.”

Minister Fitzharris said the Budget will invest $10 million to further advance the technical and design aspects of light rail to Woden so that the National Capital Authority will have all the information it needs to understand the benefits of the project.

“This will include work to inform the recently announced Inquiry by the Joint Standing Committee into the Commonwealth and Parliamentary approvals for the project.

“The ACT Government has welcomed the Inquiry, and we are committed to working with all relevant stakeholders to ensure planning for this project responds to their needs so that we can deliver this important transport link for our city.”

The Budget will also invest a further $2.5 million in works to support light rail to Woden. This involves the preparation of detailed businesses cases for potential early works, including:

  • The redesign and build of a new Transport Canberra bus interchange in the Woden Town Centre;
  • An upgrade of Parkes Way to improve traffic flow;
  • The development of an updated ‘Park and Ride’ strategy incorporating bus and light rail; and
  • The redevelopment of the Yarra Glenn intersection with Melrose and Yamba Drives to accommodate light rail.

“We are tackling this project from both ends because we want to be ready to get work underway as soon as the project gets the green light.

“This project is significant for Woden and urban renewal of the town centre. We are already seeing investment in Woden as a result of the ACT Government’s plan to build light rail, and this will continue as we have seen along the City to Gungahlin corridor,” Minister Fitzharris said.

This investment in delivering an integrated public transport system for Canberra is another way the ACT Government is growing services for our growing city through the 2018 Budget.”

More to come after the budget is officially released.

To stay up to date with all public transport and planning issues in Canberra, join the PTCBR here and visit our Facebook Group.

PTCBR encourage the federal government to support better public transport for the nations capital

Media release by the PTCBR May 11 2018
PTCBR encourage the federal government to support better public transport for the nations capital

The Public Transport Association of Canberra (PTCBR) are disappointed that Federal Parliament has decided to interfere in the provision of better public transport for Canberrans.

While all infrastructure projects should be subjected to scrutiny, the PTCBR would be disappointed if the Joint Standing Committee on the National Capital and External Territories went beyond the inquiries terms of reference and politicised a standard public transport project.

The ACT Government and the NCA have collaborated closely since 2016 on this project, and now in 2018 when the business case should be out and tenders being prepared, the process has been delayed by an unusual intervention by federal parliament into urban public transport.

The PTCBR hope that Prime Minister Turnbull, a well known public transport user and supporter, can persuade his fellow parliamentarians to support and endorse this project.

It will improve the transport options for all Canberrans, and open up the national attractions in the Parliamentary Triangle to all Australians that visit the nations capital city.

The lack of investment by the federal government into Canberra’s public transport is a topic that should be discussed, instead parliament decide to investigate a project wholly funded by the citizens of Canberra.

We hope that the inquiry concludes quickly, that the committee is satisfied with the work performed to date by the NCA and the ACT Government, and that the business case for Canberras second stage of light rail can be released as soon as possible.

The PTCBR hope that this process is not used to politicise a project that has been supported by Canberra voters at two consecutive ACT Territory elections.

Damien Haas is the Chair of the Public Transport Association of Canberra, the Canberra regions peak public transport lobby group.

Launch of Canberra’s first light rail vehicle at the new Mitchell Depot

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On Wednesday morning the Chief Minister Andrew Barr, MLA Shane Rattenbury and Canberra Metro CEO Glenn Stockton, officially launched the first CAF Light Rail Vehicle for Canberra’s light rail network at the (almost completed) Canberra Metro light rail depot at Mitchell.

IMG_20180117_102807342.jpgAs a significant milestone for this important transport infrastructure project, the remarks by both the Chief Minister and Shane Rattenbury were focused on city building and the transformative nature of light rail. It was a confident delivery of a key election commitment, and that satisfaction was evident today. Glenn Stockton also spoke about the pride he had in his workforce in delivering the project for Canberra and that it would be delivered on time.

Todays launch clearly shows that progress on light rail stage one is continuing and on schedule for service to commence in late 2018. A second stage of the light rail network is currently being designed and worked through (the business case is imminent). The PTCBR is supportive of this as it will provide superior public transport options to Canberra’s residents, and drive the transformation of Canberra from car dependency to a more livable compact city.

Media coverage

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WINTV Canberra covered the launch here

Stockton

Nine News Canberra covered the launch here

The RiotACT covered the launch here with good reporting of the comments made by those present:

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Chief Minister Andrew Barr, centre, with the Greens’ Shane Rattenbury and Caroline Le Couteur. At left is Tilo Franz Canberra Metro General Manager Tilo Franz and Capital Metro Chief Executive Glenn Stockton. Photo. Tim Benson.

“Mr Barr said the LRV’s unveiling was an important milestone and another practical example of progress on the project and of the Government meeting its election commitments.

He said that with Canberra’s population heading towards half a million it was crucial to invest in transport infrastructure now.

“That’s why we’re continuing to work on Stage 2 of light rail together with further investments and initiatives to improve transportation within the city,” he said.

He said the sceptics had been proved wrong and he was particularly pleased with the rejuvenation of the Northbourne corridor which is occurring faster than expected.

“There were many sceptics in the lead-up to the procurement of this project and many people said I wouldn’t be standing here as Chief Minister after the last election as a result of our advocacy for this project,” he said.

“Those sceptics also said there wouldn’t be the sort of investment and renewal in the Northbourne corridor we’re witnessing.”

He said there would a continued focus on public transport improvement, with light rail at the centre, including more rapid bus routes, improved demand responsive transport and more active transport options.

“It’s all part of making Canberra an easier city to get around and a better city to live in,” Mr Barr said.

The ACT Greens’ Cabinet Minister Shane Rattenbury said the Canberra LRV was the first in Australia to have a dedicated space for bicycles and was part of the strategy to provide as many options and as much connectivity as possible.

“I think well see people using light rail as their central transport spine, particularly when Stage 2 to Woden is complete,” he said.

Mr Rattenbury could even see bikeshare services install racks at light rail stops.

He said travelling to and from Gungahlin would be much easier and the Government was now considering a stop at Mitchell, where traders have been campaigning not to be bypassed.

“This is a really important part of shaping our city for the future. This is about providing modern environmentally friendly transport alternatives for Canberrans,” Mr Rattenbury said.”

The Canberra Times reported on the launch here:

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ACT Chief Minister Andrew Barr with Canberra’s first light rail vehicle at its depot in Mitchell. Photo: Sitthixay Ditthavong

“Canberra Metro chief executive Glenn Stockton said one tram a week will start arriving in Canberra from the end of March, with testing on an electrified track to begin in April. “

“Chief Minister Andrew Barr, who revealed he’d nicknamed the tram Cam in what could be seen as a nod to the Can-The-Tram movement, said there was a degree of satisfaction in seeing the project reach this stage.

“Let’s be frank, there were many sceptics in the lead up to the procurement of this project. Many people said I wouldn’t be standing here as Chief Minister after the last election as a result of our advocacy for this project.

“Those sceptics also said there wouldn’t be this sort of investment and renewal of the Northbourne corridor we’re currently witnessing so there’s a strong sense of satisfaction but we’ve still got a way to go, we’ve got a second stage of this project to work through in the context of this parliamentary term and there’s a lot more new investment coming for Canberra and a continued focus on public transport improvement.”

Mr Barr said the business case for the second stage of the project would be looked at when cabinet reconvened later in January.

“Let me be very clear we are committed to further stages of Canberra’s light rail network. We’ve committed in the last election to stage two and my mind is of course turning to stage three and beyond,” Mr Barr said.

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More photos below…

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The red Transport Canberra livery is quite attractive. No advertising will be seen on Canberra’s light rail vehicles (at least in this term of government)

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The physical size of the vehicle was remarked upon by many people present. Parked next to a bus, its size will be quite evident. That is largely because it is designed to carry 200 plus passengers, as opposed to 80 on a bus.

Making the vehicle ready for service requires all OH&S and transport regulation signage being applied.IMG_20180117_104540377.jpg

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You don’t want to lose parts!

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The Mitchell depot is still being fitted out.

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Always useful to have a crane in a heavy vehicle depot.

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I think the Chief Minister is asking where the ignition keys are…

To stay up to date with all public transport and planning issues in Canberra, join the PTCBR here and visit our Facebook Group.

PTCBR AGM to be held on 14 Dec 2017

ptcbr agm 1.jpgThe PTCBR Committee have confirmed a date and a space to hold our Annual General Meeting. Any member of the public may attend, but only financial members are able to vote if elections are required for any positions.
The PTCBR AGM will be held:

PTCBR AGM 
 
When:       5PM, Thursday 14 December
Location: Griffin Centre, Genge St, Civic
Following the AGM, a public meeting will be held.
PTCBR Public meeting
 
Presentation and consultation by TCCS on Network 18.
The two meetings are expected to conclude before 7PM.
Any financial member can nominate for any position on the PTCBR Committee, in accordance with our constitution. If you are seeking to nominate, please contact the Secretary at secretary@ptcbr.org
I’d encourage members to join the committee and assist with our ongoing projects and lobbying activities.
More details will be provided closer to the date.
If you have any questions, please email chair@ptcbr.org

All the Rapid Bus routes promised at the 2016 election to be delivered in 2018, along with light rail

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Map of the Canberra Rapid Bus network from mid-2018

 

The proposed Rapid Bus routes to be introduced in mid 2018 have received a thumbs up from the Public Transport Association of Canberra (PTCBR). 

TCCS Minister Meegan Fitzharris today announced that in 2018 Canberra would have nine rapid transit routes. Eight would be rapid bus, and one would be light rail. The announcement was made at the opening of the new $4 million dollar Dickson bus interchange, directly across the road from the Dickson light rail stop on Northbourne Avenue.

Announcing all eight rapid bus routes to be delivered at once is a bold move, and it really cements how serious the government is about public transport, and especially on integrating light rail and buses.”

The focus on expanding the rapid bus network in 2018 instead of introducing them individually over a multi-year period, isn’t something that the PTCBR anticipated. It’s a pleasant surprise. Announcing it at this brand new bus facility just reinforces how serious the government is about public transport policy.
This almost certainly a combination of a positive budget position, and the political direction on positive public transport policy (supported by results from the public that use it).  The budget surplus forecast by the ACT Government, has allowed the early delivery of expanded public transport, including light rail, demonstrating that sensible long term infrastructure investment is affordable.
With the buses currently operating on the Gungahlin rapid to be reallocated across the bus network when light rail starts, and eighty new buses on order, this rapid rollout can really kick start the new Transport Canberra philosophy of expanded local services feeding into rapid bus and light rail routes, that was introduced with Network 17.
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TCCS Minister Meegan Fitzharris announcing the new rapid bus routes at the opening of the $4 million dollar Dickson bus interchange
PTCBR believe that Canberrans will appreciate that light rail, expanded local bus services and more frequent rapids can shorten their overall travel times, and allow them to spend less time commuting, and more time with their families.
There was a great deal of focus on the governments light rail plans leading up to the last election, and not so great a focus on how similar the long term bus plans were from the Canberra Liberals and the ACT Government. The major difference is that several of the rapid bus routes proposed by the government are to become light rail lines over the coming decades.
This reflects increasing patronage, especially on routes such as Canberras most heavily used rapid bus, the Belconnen to Civic rapid, which is now also running to the Airport. Certainly a Belconnen – Civic – Airport light rail line is a sensible addition, creating a North South and East West light rail spine across the territory. This route becoming light rail may becomes a 2020 election proposal.
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Local bus entering the Dickson Interchange from Northbourne Avenue
The only slightly disappointing aspect that PTCBR could identify with this rapid bus network plan was that Queanbeyan doesn’t appear on the new rapid network. PTCBR recommend that a Civic – Fyshwick – Queanbeyan route be trialled. We firmly believe that cross-border discussions into establishing this route, operated by either Transport Canberra or a NSW operator be explored.
The new ticketing technology that Transport Canberra will adopt could assist this process. Queanbeyan buses do not use the NSW Opal technology, and if all three jurisdictions (ACT, Metro NSW, regional NSW) adopt a compatible ticketing technology, this could become logistically feasible.
Minister Fitzharris is demonstrating great confidence in Transport Canberra and their ability to service such a bold rapid bus plan in mid 2018. It’s the same bold approach from the Government that saw light rail delivered, and PTCBR expect that the Canberra public will also accept these changes. The rapid buses are becoming more popular as frequency and service hours are extended, especially the critical local bus services, and this bodes well for light rail.


Damien Haas is the Chair of the Public Transport Association of Canberra, the Canberra regions peak public transport lobby group. Their website is at ptcbr.org

To stay up to date with all public transport and planning issues in Canberra,join the PTCBR here and visit our Facebook Group.

 

Canberra Liberals support light rail and want a light rail stop in Mitchell

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Members of the Mitchell Traders Association on a WIN TV News Canberra report discussing their case for a light rail station

The Public Transport Association of Canberra are pleased that the Canberra Liberals are now supporting light rail in Canberra. This very welcome about face has occurred following representations by the Mitchell Traders Association to their local members after recently realising a light rail station was not going to be built in Mitchell as part of light rail stage one. The benefits of light rail for residents and businesses along the light rail stage one corridor have been supported at two elections, and it is pleasing that business owners in Mitchell, and the Canberra Liberals, now support better public transport options.

In the ACT Legislative Assembly on Wednesday 19 September, Shadow Transport Minister Andrew Wall MLA will table a motion (below) calling for a light rail station to be constructed in Mitchell, and compensation for businesses affected by light rail construction.

PTCBR are not sure why the motion by the Canberra Liberals motion is being made now, as TCCS Minister Meegan Fitzharris MLA has already indicated that a light rail stop in Mitchell will be built (the supporting infrastructure is in place) and that it is a matter of when it will be built.  The Mitchell Traders met with the Minister recently and were also told that a stop would be built.

Light rail will provide tremendous access directly to Mitchell by thousands of potential customers and employees. A light rail stop in Mitchell that can be built between stages one and stage two construction, would benefit everyone.

PTCBR also strongly support a light rail stop in Mitchell, and called for it during consultation several years ago, when the Mitchell Traders, and Canberra Liberals could also have asked for a light rail stop in Mitchell.

Although a stop was discussed in the consultation processes, no Mitchell stop was planned or appeared in the business case. The many new businesses that now front Flemington Road will benefit from a light rail stop, and better integrated bus services to link with the bus routes that already travel through the Mitchell precinct.

Although it is very positive that Mitchell Traders and the Canberra Liberals now support a light rail stop in Mitchell, it is a valuable warning to other parts of Canberra that will see light rail extended to their town centres over the coming decades. The best time to engage in consultation for an infrastructure project is when it is being planned, not when the bulldozers are visible from the window of your business.

Business and commercial and residential property owners along the corridor for the second stage of light rail from Civic, through Parkes and Barton to Woden, are urged to take part in consultation processes and express a view on stop locations and possible routes.

Oddly, the Canberra Liberal motion also calls for more all day parking in Mitchell. More parking seems to be at odds with a call for more public transport. More short term parking would be better for customers than more all day parking.

The motion also asks for compensation for business losses due to light rail construction activity. Although it is unfortunate for any business to suffer a downturn due to infrastructure provision, the benefits that these businesses will accrue from light rail running past their door, will be many.

PTCBR (and its predecessor ACT Light Rail) have always supported a light rail stop in Mitchell, and hope that the Canberra Liberals motion and the ACT Governments existing stated support for a light rail stop will see budget funds provided for a stop to be built in the very near future. Bipartisan support for public transport is always positive.

 


Motion moved by Shadow Transport Minister Andrew Wall on 19 Sep 2017:

MR WALL: To move—That this Assembly:
(1) notes the important contribution that businesses in Mitchell make to the ACT economy and the considerable amount of revenue collected by Government from Mitchell traders through rates, payroll tax and other fees and charges; and
(2) calls on the ACT Government to:
(a) construct a light rail stop at Mitchell;
(b) explore what compensation can be offered to businesses severely
impacted by the construction of light rail;
(c) construct additional all day car parking in Mitchell (especially for
workers on the eastern side of Mitchell);
(d) detail how Mitchell will be serviced by buses following the operation of
light rail;
(e) include Mitchell on a regular schedule for street sweeping;No 31—19 September 2017 541
(f) improve the urban services delivered in Mitchell, such as footpath and
streetlight maintenance; and
(g) undertake consultation with businesses in Mitchell about
implementing urgent minor capital works in the public realm.

To stay up to date with all public transport and planning issues in Canberra, join the PTCBR here and visit our Facebook Group.

Canberra companies building our light rail

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Construction at the light rail station site in Hibberson Street on 15 Sep 2017

Light rail stage one construction by Canberra Metro is well underway, with tracks being laid and the depot in Mitchell approaching completion. In the ACT Legislative Assembly on Thursday 14th Sep, Transport Minister Meegan Fitzharris MLA read out a list of Canberra companies that are helping to build light rail stage one. She advised the Assembly that:

  • 58% of the contracts for stage one have been let to Canberra owned companies.
  • Of the 137 local contracts, they are shared between 114 local companies.

That is a great result for a project where one of the objectives was to grow local expertise in building light rail.

You can watch the Minister read out a list of local companies to the Assembly at this link.

To stay up to date with all public transport and planning issues in Canberra, join the PTCBR here and visit our Facebook Group.

Light rail patronage in Sydney exceeds expectations, so let’s plan ahead properly in Canberra

Sydney has recently seen it’s public transport demand boom, with demand exceeding capacity on several popular light rail lines. Forward planning and a coordinated integrated transport planning strategy may have seen this coming, and treasury may have allowed further vehicle to be procured, adding capacity into the network.

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Sydney Morning Herald look at the capacity issues in Sydney

See ‘Why trams on Sydneys booming inner west light rail aren’t running more often‘ here

Long term urban trends and planning policy Australia wide are for high density residential housing adjacent to transport corridors. As well as alleviating resdential housing demand, this is leading to increased public transport patronage, but sometimes one policy area isn’t aligned with another (and this includes treasury).

In Canberra, although we don’t have planning and transport under the same minister, the ministers, senior bureaucrats and planners of both areas are across the issues concerning others. This is a recent change, that only occurred in the last few years (and planning policy and bureaucracy is evolving again…), but is already proving itself with the careful approach taken with light rail stage one.

PTCBR are expecting patronage on Gungahlin to Civic light rail stage one to exceed expectations. That is one of the reasons we are lobbying hard for integrated bus service planning to start ASAP. If our predictions are correct, planing for Woden to Civic light rail stage two must include extra light rail vehicles above those that might have been ordered simply to satisfy current/predicted Woden to Civic patronage. Vehicle ordering lead times are significant, and experience interstate has shown more demand not less.

Let’s enjoy the benefits of dramatic uptake in public transport use, without suffering the disadvantages.

To stay up to date with all public transport and planning issues in Canberra, join the PTCBR here and visit our Facebook Group.

Electric and hybrid buses introduced to Canberra for a 12 month trial

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Volvo Australia Bustech hybrid diesel electric bus

Transport Canberra held a media event on Friday 25 August 2017 to announce that new electric and hybrid buses would be entering regular fleet operations from Monday. They will be trialled for twelve months. Two of the three buses from Carbridge and Volvo have been in Canberra for a few weeks, and have been wrapped with AOA branding visibly proclaiming their drivetrain, and equipped with Nxtbus and MyWay equipment as well as the regular fitout of TCCS specific signage in the passenger area. The third bus, from Carbridge, will enter service in December.

The buses are externally very similar to regular buses in the TCCS fleet. Most people wont even know they are travelling on one (except they will wonder why it is so quiet…).

The Carbridge BYD Toro is made in Malaysia from Swiss body components and a Chinese BYD drivetrain. There are around 15,000 of the same drivetrain in operation worldwide, but only around 10 in Australia at present. Two will be trialled in Canberra.

The Volvo B5R is one of around 20 in Australia, with an Australian made Bustech body. It is a diesel electric hybrid bus. One will be on trial in Canberra.

(note that the specs are slightly different to suit Transport Canberra requirements)

Representatives from Carbridge and Volvo Australia attended the media launch. It is of great interest to both companies as not only are electric and hybrid buses the future of buses, fleet replacement of Canberra buses will see the older Renault and Dennis buses phased out and newer buses phased in. The results of the trial could influence future fleet replacement tender requirements.

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Carbridge BYD Toro electric bus

Ride, presentation and interior

Both buses have fairly standard passenger bus interiors. They have been fitted with bike racks, Nxtbus and MyWay equipment in use in all Canberra buses. Both buses have rear door exits, that are wide and quite usable (and the ‘No Entry’ stickers have NOT been applied).

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Interior of Volvo hybrid bus
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Interior of Carbridge BYD Toro bus

The only clear difference between the two is that the Carbridge has a noticeable step between the low floor front passenger area, and the rear area. The Volvo stepup is not as high, and has a slight incline. The Carbridge representative advised this would change in future versions, as battery packs and drivetrains were updated.

Both buses are new, and have the new car smell. The squeaks and rattles are possibly amplified and more noticeable because…

They are so quiet. They hum.

The Carbridge is so quiet that you can hear a person in the back row of the bus speaking from the front of the bus, while the bus is driving through Civic. Out on the road, all you can hear is the hum of the drivetrain (or maybe its tyre noise?).

This video of the Carbridge travelling along Parkes Way to the Arboretum shows how quiet it is.

This video of the Volvo hybrid bus travelling around the Arboretum shows how quiet the bus pulls away and transitions to diesel power

The Volvo bus is a diesel electric hybrid. It takes off under electric power and the diesel engine kicks in as it needs it. The diesel engine also powers the battery pack. It is a quiet bus, and although it is not as quiet as the Carbridge, it is much quieter than a diesel bus, as it doesn’t rev away as it takes off from a standing start. It just glides away. The video shows this quite well. On the road, I doubt a passenger will notice.

The ride of both buses is very good. Around London Circuit and on Parkes Way the Carbridge was very smooth. Around the Arboretum the Volvo was also very smooth and rode well. The Carbridge is perhaps firmer than the Volvo. A full load of passengers and a few months of operation might make a difference.

Canberra bus drivers are renowned for their lead foots and quick application of brakes. They might need to watch that on these buses as they just GO. Full power is available as soon as the accelerator is depressed. As the accelerator is released, brakes apply automatically. I spoke to the driver of the Carbridge bus and he admitted he was being careful, as it was a new bus. Both drivers were very very keen to show off the buses (always a good sign).

There might need to be a period of adjustment and training for drivers of these buses. The snappy speed and quick braking abilities of both buses, might need to be tempered with a full load of Canberrans glued to their smartphones – unless they want to be thrown all over the place as a P plated Hyundai cuts in front of a bus at a set of lights.

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A large rear door and bold AOA wrap letting us know what powers this bus

The future?

This trial is significant. The ACT Government is committed to better public transport, transitioning to fully renewable sources of energy and reducing greenhouse gas emissions. The trial of electric and hybrid buses is a key component of the longer term policy goals in these areas.

The average Canberra bus travels around 350 kilometres a day. Times that over a year, over an entire fleet of buses and that is an awful lot of diesel fuel consumed, and a lot of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases emitted. Despite recent improvements in diesel engine technology, fully renewable sources of power are better for a range of reasons.

Electric and hybrid buses are being trialled worldwide, and significant technological advances are made every year. As fleets are ordered, manufacturers are likely to offer models with features that public transport operators demand. The cost of fully renewable electric power may be similar to the cost of a diesel hybrid bus that generates power as it operates. Data collected in a trial can determine this.

Importantly, for public transport to be sustainable it must be used. Making public transport frequent, reliable and attractive will attract and retain patronage, Passengers want a comfortable ride that arrives on time and when it is needed.

The two buses used in this trial are both attractive and comfortable. The heaters work well on both. The seats are comfortable and there are ample hanger straps. Disabled access is good; both have low floor entrances, and flipup seats in the front passenger area to cater for prams and wheelchairs. Both buses have bike racks fitted. They are also quiet and the electric bus is fume free. The hybrid bus only operates its diesel engine when the bus is on the road, so it will also be fume free when at a bus interchange.

The days of buses idling and pouring diesel fumes into the atmosphere are on their way out. This will offer significant advantages for urban and transport planners in the future. The lack of noise these buses emit means that residents living near bus interchanges will barely notice them coming and going.

If the trial proves that these types of buses is successful, then the familiarity of the buses will make their adoption fairly seamless from a passenger perspective, and pretty straightforward from a driver perspective. The drivers position and instruments are very similar, the only difference being immediate power, lots of torque, and that the brakes are applied when the accelerator pedal is lifted.

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Carbridge instruments

Mechanically the buses are probably less work than a diesel bus. However that can be determined over the yearlong trial. Both types of bus will be operated out of the Tuggeranong depot, and some equipment specific to electric and hybrid buses has been installed out there, and some modifications to the TCCS bus tow truck have also been carried out. Both Carbridge and Volvo will be keen to ensure that any technical support will be available promptly.

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Electric power for the Carbridge buses at the Tuggeranong depot

Conclusion

This year long trial of two different technologies will provide invaluable data and experience to Transport Canberra and ACT Government policy makers. The trial coincides with the introduction of light rail stage one from Gungahlin to Civic and a massive shift in Canberra’s transport patterns.

The failure of the previous electric bus tender earlier this year was unfortunate, but when you are sailing close to the cutting edge that can happen. We can’t let the fear of failure stop us from exploring a better future. The two models selected for this trial are from manufacturers with proven track records, and Volvo is one of the biggest truck/bus manufacturers in the world. Both want to make this work.

Light rail will radically change public transport in Canberra, with the heavy lifting carried out along a mass transit light rail spine that will in several decades extend to all town centres. While the rapid buses may be replaced by light rail, buses will always have a major role in servicing our suburbs, delivering passengers to light rail and taking children to school. Integrated transport and active transport will lessen the requirement for people to own two or more cars, and will build a reliable public transport network that can shape urban planning around transport corridors.

These new electric and hybrid buses are a key part of our public transport future.

Reporting on the electric and hybrid buses

A local newspaper reported on the electric and hybrid bus trial launch here

WIN TV News Canberra ran this report on Friday 25 Aug 2017

Nine TV News Canberra ran this report on Friday 25 Aug 2017

Transport Canberra and City Services Minister Meegan Fitzharris MLA office issued a media release on 25 August 2017:

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Electric buses join Transport Canberra fleet

Two of the three electric or hybrid buses Transport Canberra will use during its alternative fuel bus trial have arrived in the ACT, wrapped and ready to roll into action.

Minister for Transport and City Services, Meegan Fitzharris said the first two buses, one Carbridge electric and one Volvo hybrid will start service as part of the Transport Canberra bus network in the coming weeks.

A second Carbridge electric bus will join the fleet in December 2017.

“The ACT Government is committed to looking at new and innovative ways to improve our public transport system to manage Canberra’s growth, reduce congestion and protect our liveability,” Minister Fitzharris said.

“These buses are another example of the ACT Government’s forward thinking in regards to both public transport and minimising human impact on the environment.”

“Recent improvements in technology mean electric and hybrid buses are becoming more economical and operationally viable, which is why we believe it is the right time to run this trial.”

The two plug- in electric buses by Carbridge carry battery technology developed in China and have been specially built in Malaysia for this trial. Similar vehicles are currently used at the Sydney and Brisbane airports to provide passenger shuttle services.

The Volvo hybrid vehicle contains a diesel engine, battery bank and energy recovery systems.

The trial, which will see all three buses run as part of the bus network until the end of 2018, will enable the ACT Government to assess the viability of using alternative buses within the bus network to see if they can progressively replace the existing fleet.

These buses have been installed with the necessary equipment like MyWay ticketing, CCTV, bike racks and the NXTBUS real time information system.

For more information on the trial, visit http://www.transport.act.gov.au. The Parliamentary Agreement between Labor and the Greens includes the promotion of integrated transport.  

Statement ends

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