The 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.
The 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:
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 firstname.lastname@example.org
I’d encourage members to join the committee and assist with our ongoing projects and lobbying activities.
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.
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.
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
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.
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).
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?).
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.
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.
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.
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.
Transport Canberra and City Services Minister Meegan Fitzharris MLA office issued a media release on 25 August 2017:
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.
The days and weeks after light rail stage one begins operation in 2018 provide a rare opportunity to significantly boost our ability to expand Canberra’s bus services. The benefit to all residents of Canberra from light rail replacing overtaxed buses trundling along the Northbourne – Flemington corridor will be immediately apparent. To people in that corridor they now have access to a brand new frequent, reliable and attractive transport technology. Across Canberra, the bus network will benefit from an injection of a million extra bus kilometers a year.
Since the decision to implement light rail was taken, a bold and flexible approach to bus policy has also occurred. This is a positive sign for public transport. Using the Red Rapid buses, and the million kilometres a year they were driving on that service, across the network will effectively add a fleet of high quality, disability compliant buses at little extra cost in equipment or staffing. How do we best realise this opportunity?
Several high priority transport tasks can be addressed by this one million bus kilometres a year for the rest of Canberra.
Expanding Rapid Bus services: This is a government commitment, and the phased rollout of Rapid Buses will further strengthen the business case for future light rail lines on some of those Rapid Bus routes.
Increasing local bus services: Expanding the reach and frequency of existing local bus services in the suburbs of Gungahlin and adjacent to Northbourne Avenue is essential. A large proportion of those extra kilometres must also go to the rest of Canberra. Residents of suburbs in Belconnen, Woden and Tuggeranong will benefit from increased local bus service frequency. This will particularly benefit Woden residents, and those living adjacent to the second stage of light rail.
Guaranteeing connections: Reducing overall travel time of people losing their suburb to Civic bus service becomes easier when frequency increases. Connecting to frequent light rail services that provide a less than ten minute wait for a connection, is a compelling reason to not drive. Even Woden, Belconnen and Tuggeranong residents will benefit from shorter connections between transport modes.
Much of the fear mongering leading up to the 2016 election implied that once light rail started, that ALL bus services from Gungahlin and suburbs adjacent to Northbourne would disappear. This is simply wrong. Expanding the frequency of these local bus services has always been the intention. Some routes may change and no longer run directly to Civic, and instead connect with the Dickson light rail and bus interchange. That increases options and reduces overall travel time. Information on these changes should be provided by TCCS soon.
A bright transport future
Increasing public transport patronage reduces private car use. Every person that uses public transport removes those car kilometres, resource usage, carbon emissions and parking demand from society. We all benefit from these resources being used more efficiently and sustainably.
The car dependent Canberra we are slowly moving away from is a result of the car focussed NCDC urban planning and several decades of declining bus services, only recently addressed. As patronage declined, bus services were further reduced. Some of the disastrous Stanhope/Hargreaves era bus timetable implementations damaged patronage so badly that confidence in a bus only solution to Canberra’s public transport future, evaporated. Rising private car use only made overall transport issues worse.
Post-Stanhope and a new focus on urban issues over esoteric ideology by the Gallagher government were welcomed by public transport and planning advocates. The introduction of light rail is the modal shift Canberra needs and is the primary way to deliver a bright transport future to Canberra. Densification along transport corridors will also lessen the insatiable demand for greenfields land for standalone housing.
The current government has shown incredible commitment to delivering a better future for Canberra in the transport and planning space. The public has supported this radical change at two consecutive elections. Light rail is coming and this is now accepted on both sides of the Legislative Assembly.
Recent bus policy has been flexible and responsive, with a focus also placed on active travel to support the shift in thinking about how we move around our suburbs and city. Light rail alone and buses alone wont resolve transport challenges, an integrated approach is the best way. That has been the policy approach of the Barr government, supported by the Greens and capably implemented by Transport Minister Meegan Fitzharris. This is incredibly positive and should be applauded.
Although being built first in the area that most needed better public transport, light rail wont reach all of Canberra’s towns for two decades or more, but the bus network will always be required to service the suburbs that most of us live in. Using the flexibility of buses, and the certainty of mass transit light rail gives Canberra the best opportunity to deliver first world public transport options, and reduce car dependency (whether we drive it or it drives itself…).
That injection of an extra million bus kilometres a year into our public transport system starting in 2018 must be well used. The current signs indicate that it will be.
Damien Haas is the Chair of the Public Transport Association of Canberra, the regions peak public transport lobby group. Their website is at ptcbr.organd a robust discussion on public transport and planning takes place at theirFacebook page.