Canberra light rail starts carrying the public on a preview and launch day

Ryan ticket
Golden Ticket for the first public light rail passengers

On 18 April 2019 light rail began carrying members of the Canberra public along light rail stage one from Gungahlin to Civic. The ACT Government combined the official launch and letting the public ride and experience the light rail by holding a community ballot, where several hundred people won Golden Tickets, letting them on the first service. This ‘soft launch’ was also to be a test ahead of the official opening on Saturday 20 April.

The launch came the day after the national rail safety regulator accredited the network for operation, and on the day that the ACT Government announced that the light rail project came in at $707 million dollars, $76 million dollars under budget.

It was a fairly simple day with Golden Ticket winners advised to arrive at a specific stop (Gungahlin, Dickson or Civic), have their name checked off, and then wait for their vehicle to leave. It would then travel to Civic (or for the lucky passengers that left from Gungahlin, they did a complete return journey) where people could either travel back to Dickson or Gungahlin, or wait for the plaque to be unveiled. After the unveiling (and press conference) there was a light lunch for invited guests where a cake was cut and consumed (see photo further down…)!

Leaving simultaneously from Gungahlin, Dickson and Civic, these first light rail services left around midday carrying Golden Ticket winners from the public, invited guests, many members of the media, Canberra Metro staff, Transport Canberra and ACT public service executives and ACT Government MLA’s.

The excited passengers waited at each of the three major stops, boarded and set out for the first trip! Some stayed to observe the political events, but most went excitedly about the rest of their day, after being lucky enough to be on the very first trip on Canberra’s brand new light rail. Several PTCBR members attended and were fortunate to be invited to the launch and the lunch.

For people that have been campaigning for light rail in Canberra, and better public transport for many years it was a truly momentous experience. Riding in a brand new light rail vehicle, from Gungahlin to Civic, was very satisfying. It has already started to change Canberra for the better, and will for the next century.All the people associated with ACT Light Rail Coalition, ACT Light Rail and the PTCBR should be proud of the hard work they have put in over the last two decades.

The ACT Government deserve the credit for this, it has been a long hard slog with much political skin shed to get from an idea floated by former Transport Minister Simon Corbell, to a plaque being unveiled at the official opening by Chief Minister Andrew Barr and the Transport Minister Meegan Fitzharris. Administration of the project by Transport Canberra has been exemplary – with the project coming in $76 million under budget. Although the construction by Canberra Metro took a few months longer than anticipated, it is still a tremendous achievement. Light rail will be a lasting legacy, and something that the ALP and Greens can be rightly proud of.

This post has lots of photos of the days events, and a few links to local media coverage.

TV Coverage

WIN TV plaque 18 Apr
WIN TV Canberra coverage here

Nine News CM LR 18 aprNine Canberra TV News coverage here

abc tv newsABC Canberra TV News coverage here

Win tv newsWIN TV Canberra covered it again on 19 April here

Online Media

Video taken by PTCBR members on 19 April

Photos from the official opening day

IMG_20190418_103338

IMG_20190418_103255IMG_20190418_103248IMG_20190418_111854Golden Ticket winning passengers waiting for the first LRV IMG_20190418_114616IMG_20190418_113709Politicians on hand to witness the very first light rail trip for passengers!

IMG_20190418_114813

After arriving, the doors opened, and people raced onboard. That old guy with the walking stick is faster than you think!

IMG_20190418_115436

Moments later the LRV was full

IMG_20190418_120835

After years of campaigning for light rail – it was amazing to be on the first trip out of Gungahlin

IMG_20190418_121251
This LRV exiting the EPIC stop, is the first LRV from Civic carrying passengers to Gungahlin
IMG_20190418_122625
The view down Northbourne Avenue is very different than the view we have seen as car passengers/drivers – when the trees grow back it will be beautiful
IMG_20190418_123329
Lots of people made the trip to the light rail stations just to take photos of the first LRV’s
IMG_20190418_124323
ACT Chief Minister Andrew Barr and Transport Minister Meegan Fitzharris MLA unveiled a plaque and then answered questions from the media for some time

IMG_20190418_125629

IMG_20190418_123624
PTCBR Chair Damien Haas, Former Transport Minister Simon Corbell, Chief Minister Andrew Barr, Transport Minister Meegan Fitzharris at the official opening of Canberra’s light rail
IMG_20190418_130143
PTCBR Chair Damien Haas and Greens MLA Shane Rattenbury
IMG_20190418_123941
Transport Canberra and City Services Director (and former Capital Metro CEO) Emma Thomas and PTCBR Chair Damien Haas
IMG_20190418_124033
PTCBR Chair Damien Haas and Transport Canberra Director Duncan Edghill

IMG_20190418_132345

Canberra Metro CEO Glenn Stockton

IMG_20190418_133944
Cutting of the light rail cake

IMG_20190418_131603

IMG_20190418_135214
Chief Minister Andrew Barr and Caroline Le Couteur MLA talk to PTCBR Public Officer (and long time light rail campaigner) Ian Ruecroft and GCC Chair Peter Elford
img_20190418_140048.jpg
PTCBR Chair Damien Haas, PTCBR Deputy Chair Ryan Hemsley and PTCBR Public Officer Ian Ruecroft at the light rail launch lunch

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

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

IMG_20171020_104211.jpg
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.
dickson int
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.
IMG_20171020_090734785_HDR.jpg
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.