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

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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

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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!

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

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Moments later the LRV was full

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

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This LRV exiting the EPIC stop, is the first LRV from Civic carrying passengers to Gungahlin
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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
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Lots of people made the trip to the light rail stations just to take photos of the first LRV’s
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ACT Chief Minister Andrew Barr and Transport Minister Meegan Fitzharris MLA unveiled a plaque and then answered questions from the media for some time

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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
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PTCBR Chair Damien Haas and Greens MLA Shane Rattenbury
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Transport Canberra and City Services Director (and former Capital Metro CEO) Emma Thomas and PTCBR Chair Damien Haas
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PTCBR Chair Damien Haas and Transport Canberra Director Duncan Edghill

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Canberra Metro CEO Glenn Stockton

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Cutting of the light rail cake

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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
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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.

What a ride! 25,000 people travel on light rail’s first official day

 

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Media release from Andrew Barr ACT Chief Minister Barr and Meegan Fitzharris MLA Transport Minister

 

20 April 2019

Canberra was abuzz with excitement as light rail officially launched today with approximately 25,000 people hopping on board for a free ride.

The formal event wrapped up at 4pm, but services will continue to operate to timetable, so the total number of passengers on launch day will continue to grow.

Ten vehicles were deployed on the day, running 130 trips and covering 1,560 kilometres.

The City and Gungahlin terminals came to life with live music, kids’ entertainment and barbecues for people waiting to ride. Typical waiting times were between 15 – 25 minutes and passengers were excited and well behaved, with no major incidents to report.

More than 8,500 sausages were cooked during the launch event and a team of 190 friendly volunteers were at hand to provide information on using the light rail and updates on the future of light rail construction.

The day was a great success, with people of all ages trying out the light rail for the first time. We saw the community at its best: embracing a new opportunity with enthusiasm, safety and courtesy for their fellow passengers.

Following the launch, additional light rail features will be phased in over the coming weeks. This means the finishing touches to landscaping and road surfaces will continue and final permanent balustrades will be installed at intersections. Any other minor issues that need work will be fixed by Canberra Metro at no cost to the Territory.

Minister for Transport Meegan Fitzharris said the passenger experience will keep getting better as drivers get used to taking passengers and journey times and frequency continue to improve.

“Thank you to everyone who came out today for a great celebration of our city.

“The Gungahlin to City route is the first stage of a broader program to connect Canberra’s town centres.

“The launch turnout shows how invested the community is in the future of Canberra. While light rail is a new concept for many people, the positive feedback we’ve received tells us that we are on the right track in improving the connectivity and liveability of our city. Canberra is now better connected with the light rail route from Gungahlin to City, and this work now continues with the second stage of light rail – City to Woden.”

Free travel continues on all public transport today and tomorrow Sunday 21 April – with paying services starting on Easter Monday 22 April. From 29 April all services will be free again for a month across the new network of light rail and more buses, more often.

For information on using light rail or to stay up to date with the City to Woden project visit transport.gov.au

Statement ends

PTCBR Public meeting 8 Aug 2018 to discuss Network 19 and Light Rail Stages One and Two

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As Network 19 Consultation on the integrated bus/light rail public transport network comes to a close, TCCS are providing a Network Planner for our members to engage with. I’m sure we are very familiar with the proposals, and this is a good opportunity to ask questions and make suggestions.
Light Rail Stage One is being built right now, and vehicle testing has commenced. If you would like to know more about the testing and commissioning of the Gungahlin to Civic stage, Scott Lyall of TCCS will answer those questions.

Light Rail Stage Two has been in the news recently, with a federal Inquiry into the heritage aspects and approvals process (that three PTCBR Committee members appeared at). Pam Nelson of TCCS will update us on Stage Two and answer questions that we may have.

The meeting will be chaired by Deputy Chair Robert Knight. There will be an opportunity for members to ask questions and provide feedback to TCCS on these topical public transport issues..
The PTCBR meeting will be at:
5PM on 8 Aug 2018
Griffin Centre,
20 Genge St, Civic. 
The Agenda for the public meeting will be:

  • 5.00 – Chair report and lobbying update
  • 5.15 – Light Rail Stage 1 update
  • 5.25 – Light Rail Stage 2 update
    5.35 – Network 19 presentation and Consultation
  • 5.45 – 6PM Questions/discussion – moderated by PTCBR Deputy Chair Robert Knight
All members of the public are welcome to attend.
Membership renewal
For members seeking to renew their membership, forms will be available on the night (if your details have changed) and fees accepted if you have the exact money ($20 or $10 for any concession card holder). If you know someone that is seeking to become a member, please invite them to attend.

Network 19 Submission by PTCBR

The integrated bus/light rail network that commences in 2019 is a mass rapid transit spine supported by higher frequency local bus networks. This is a policy that the PTCBR supports. The Network 19 proposal currently out for consultation is a bold modal change from the bus networks that Canberra has been used to. It is a massive disruptive change that aims to increase public transport patronage from its current level.

The introduction of light rail will achieve patronage growth for Gungahlin and those adjacent to the light rail stage one corridor, but that increase also needs to occur in areas served only by bus (until further stages of the light rail network are built). Does the Network 19 proposal get this right? Can it be improved?

The PTCBR Committee are working on a submission on Network 19. Although PTCBR support the strategic approach, there are areas that PTCBR feel could be improved, and we will be providing that view in our submission, based on Committee and PTCBR member feedback.

Network 19 Consultation closes on August 10. Supporting documentation for Network 19 Rapid and local bus services can be found here:

A New Bus Network for Canberra (PDF)

Rapid Bus Fact Sheet (PDF)

Canberra Full Network 19 Map (PDF)

You can make your own submission directly at canberrabuses.com.au.

Next PTCBR Meeting
Our next public meeting will be ‘Public Transport in the Pub‘ – date to be announced shortly. It is aimed at being a more social type meeting, and less formal.

Thank you for your support in our public transport lobbying efforts. It is appreciated and has a real effect on public transport policy and improvements to the network both minor and major.

I look forward to speaking to you at a future meeting.
regards

Damien Haas
Chair, PTCBR

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 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.

First rails are laid for Canberra light rail stage one

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Transport Canberra announces rail finally being laid

Since work began on light rail stage one along the Flemington Road and Northourne Avenue corridors, the installation of rail has been seen as a significant milestone. The contract between the ACT Government and Canberra Metro specified rails in the ground in July as a KPI. And they were.

Several test sections were laid in July, and as the workforce assembled for the construction has been building its skillset, the rails are due to be permanently installed from next month. The first images below are of the rails as they appear now, and largely as they will appear when service commences.

The last images are of the initial test sections, and show how they are laid and installed into the surface bed. The surface rust will disappear once light rail vehicles start running along the rails.

(Update with photos from this news article)

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The test track slabs for the light rail have been laid. From left, Mark Jones deputy project director, and Glenn Stockton Canberra Metro CEO, next to the epoxy compound that encases the rail to both secure the rail in the track slot and as part of the stray current management system. Photo: Jamila Toderas
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The epoxy compound both secures the rail in the track slot and helps to manage stray currents. Photo: Jamila Toderas

The following images were recently taken (Aug 2017) of the test sections.

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The following images were taken in July 2017 of the initial test sections.

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early test section

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early test section 2

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

Colliers survey shows strong support for Canberra light rail by commercial property owners

Colliers International is a multinational property sales and management operation with a strong presence in commercial property in Canberra. Earlier this month they released a report based on a survey of commercial property owners about  Canberras Light Rail project. http://www.colliers.com.au/~/media/Australia Website/Files/Research/ACTLightRail_SurveyResults.ashx

Download the report here.

Who did Colliers survey?

The survey consisted of submitting ten questions to ninety property owners along the Northbourne – Flemington light rail route (out of 110 property owners). 36% of owners responded to the survey.

Colliers felt there had been a lack of engagement with commercial property owners, particularly along the Northbourne Avenue and Flemington Road light rail corridor.

Colliers survey focus was on the impact of light rail on commercial property in the short, medium and long term. The primary objectives of the survey were for Colliers to understand the following:

  • Do property owners believe that the light rail project will ultimately benefit Canberra?
  • Whether the major infrastructure project would benefit commercial property values and tenant retention along the corridor.
  • Have owners of properties along the Stage 1 route considered repurposing or disposing of their properties given the ACT Government’s land release program along the corridor?
  • Is there cause for concern of an oversupply of dwellings given the significant number of mixed-use developments forecast along the corridor?
  • What are the major concerns for commercial property owners along Stage 1?

 

What did the survey find?

Overall the survey results show support for the light rail project and its positive benefits. However, some of the findings from the survey are a little startling for supporters of better public transport, and show that more work needs to be done communicating with business and property owners about the benefits that light rail will bring. Some of the responses are contrasting and reflect the differing views of respondents overall.

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According to the survey results, commercial property owners believe:

  • light rail is likely to provide a significant economic boost to local business
  • will increase employment
  • encourage domestic and international investment in Canberra
  • that Canberrans will use light rail to commute to and from work
  • the light rail network should expand from Civic to Woden, then the Airport
  • light rail will create increased activity and better amenity
  • lead to better tenant retention in the long-term
  • will not lead to an oversupply of residential property
  • light rail will improve the value of their property

While there was strong consensus of the benefits of light rail, respondents had some concerns about the project believing that newer technologies may supersede light rail and affect the long-term viability of the project

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Map from Colliers survey report showing property growth categories

Matthew Winter, manager at Colliers International, said respondents also had different views on when to proceed with future light rail stages and which town centres should be priorities. “Owners indicated the light rail network should expand from CBD to Woden next (33%) and Canberra Airport (30%).

The survey also supported the urban renewal benefits of light rail, Winter commenting that “Despite not necessarily supporting the proposed technology, half the owners surveyed said now is the right time for light rail to be implemented and indicated the project would serve as a catalyst to reinvigorate tired gateways,”.

With the business case for stage two of the light rail project to Woden ( a tired town centre in dire need of urban renewal) being prepared now, this support from commercial property owners is encouraging.

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Work to be done in communicating light rail objectives

The responses from the property owners also show that there is still significant work to be done in communicating the benefits of light rail to the business community. Almost half the respondents believe light rail would have little to no impact on traffic congestion, a fundamental objective of the light rail project for Gungahlin residents and those commuting by car and bus along Northbourne Avenue, Canberra’s most congested road.

Property owners also believed there was a lack of information about transit times and fares, that may lead to prospective passengers commuting by car instead, finding it a cheaper and more direct option, despite traffic congestion. They also believed that people would use light rail to commute to and from work, assuming the stops were near office locations and “Park and Ride” locations were provided.

Property owners also expressed concerns that a slow light rail service and the possibility of interchanging to other travel modes in order to reach final destinations may also be impractical for most.

Winters also observed that “Given the strategic land release programme of the ACT Government along Northbourne Avenue and Flemington Road, many owners noted the likely demand from developers for these opportunities and had investigated possible options,” including sale or conversion of their properties.

“This seems to support the notion that further amenity and infrastructure along the corridor will have a positive benefit for owners through improved tenant retention, increased accessibility, and provide a solution to the current parking shortage, particularly in areas such as Braddon.”

Winter said “Overwhelmingly, owners believe light rail will improve the value of their property.”

How useful is this survey?

PTCBR has contacted Colliers and asked when a survey of Woden property owners will be conducted. It would also be beneficial to expand the survey (if repeated) to include property owners within the TOD corridor, roughly a kilometre from the route. They advised that they are planning to conduct future surveys (including follow-ups), particularly once the direction of Stage 2 is confirmed. This may include Woden and Barton owners subject to the route.

Although the survey size is small, it is focussed on a specific demographic that shapes how the corridor will grow. Their views are very useful for the current project, and in planning communications strategies for future stages of the light rail network In Canberra.

The Public Transport Association of Canberra is the regions peak public transport lobby group. Their website is at ptcbr.org and a robust discussion on public transport and planning takes place at their Facebook page.

Membership in PTCBR is $20 a year for adults and $10 a year for any concession card holder.