Monday, July 25, 2016

Infrastructure Australia confirms need for light rail in Canberra

On 22 May 2015 infrastructure Australia issued a report, in which it analysed the impact of road congestion on Australia's economy. The impact on Canberra is quite staggering. Road congestion is not only a drain on our economy and a drain on our productivity, it also denies us time we can spend with our families. In February 2016 Infrastructure Australia listed Canberras light rail on its list of national priorities.

What is the real cost of simply doing nothing? How many more lanes do we build on Northbourne or Canberra Avenue? Will those extra lanes decrease road congestion?

The drag on our economy from increasing road congestion can be quantified. It is not just the cost of building light rail, it is the cost of not building light rail and enduring increasing road congestion.

When opponents of light rail point to the construction cost, they never talk about the cost of NOT building light rail. The sole focus seems to be on light rail construction costs, not the costs of chronic road congestion and the drain on the ACT economy and the resultant loss of productivity that causes.

The full report and summaries can be downloaded from Infrastructure Australia here.

In May 2015 the Canberra Times reported on the IA report here:

"The ACT government says a new report warning of booming congestion on Canberra's roads has bolstered its case for a light rail line, with gridlock in some places to increase as much as 20 per cent by 2031.
An Infrastructure Australia audit report released on Friday showed Canberra Avenue, the airport-to-city corridor and Northbourne Avenue will all reach 70 per cent or more of morning peak capacity within 15 years.
Growing congestion will cost the territory $700 million by 2031, as Canberra Avenue reaches 72 per cent of its morning capacity on weekdays and drivers around the airport and city roads face 79 per cent capacity between 7 and 9am.
The Barton Highway-Northbourne Avenue corridor - currently expected to see tram services commencing by 2019 or 2020 - will have reached 68 per cent of capacity in morning peak times by 2031.
Other delays on Canberra's top 10 busiest roads include the William Slim Drive and Coulter Drive corridor with 72 per cent capacity traffic and more than 67 per cent capacity across each of the Belconnen Way and Barry Drive corridor; Gungahlin Drive corridor; and the area taking in Macarthur Avenue, Limestone Avenue and Fairburn Avenue.
The report found Canberra Avenue's delays will cost an estimated $1.22 million to the territory economy, followed by Barton Highway and Northbourne Avenue at $1.18 million.
Both sides of ACT politics talked up the figures on Friday. Capital Metro Minister Simon Corbell said the $800 million light rail line to Gungahlin would ease congestion while Opposition transport spokesman Alistair Coe said all of Canberra's busiest roads needed attention, not just Northbourne Avenue.
Bus trips around Canberra will grow markedly as congestion bites, the report said. North Canberra will be the destination for 27,000 bus trips by passenger hours, up from 14,400. Belconnen will increase from 10,535 to 18,061 passenger hours.
Gungahlin bus passenger hours will boom from 4400 in 2011 to 18,800 by 2031. Growth of about 2500 hours will be recorded for south Canberra.
Despite no support from Infrastructure Australia for the $800 million tram line, Mr Corbell said it was an effective response to growing congestion.
"The report confirms doing nothing on Northbourne Avenue is not an option. People on the north side will see commute times of more than an hour to get from Gungahlin into the city and the parliamentary triangle over the next 10 to 15 years," he said.
Mr Coe the opposition believed roadworks on Northbourne Avenue were needed to give buses priority. He wouldn't rule out bus lanes replacing the median strip.
The opposition is yet to release a substantive public transport policy."

Another Canberra Times article "Audit finds Northbourne Avenue delays most expensive in ACT"

"Delays on major Canberra roads are tipped to cost $700 million by 2031 as the population of Gungahlin and Belconnen increases, according to a landmark Infrastructure Australia audit.
The audit, which was published on Friday, found the Northbourne Avenue corridor was the most expensive road in the ACT with delays costing $430,000 per lane kilometre in 2011.
But the audit warned delays on the arterial road could cost $1.1 million in 2031, second only to the Canberra Avenue corridor at an estimated $1.22 million.
"The cost of delay on greater Canberra's urban transport network in 2011 was around $0.2 billion," the report said.
"In the absence of any additional capacity – other than projects already under construction or funded – the cost of delay is projected to grow to around $0.7 billion in 2031."
Public transport use on Northbourne Avenue was also tipped to increase with the greatest population growth predicted in North Canberra, Belconnen and Gungahlin.
"Passenger loadings on Northbourne Avenue in particular are projected to rise substantially through to 2031," the report said."

"In October, Capital Metro Minister Simon Corbell​ said an increase in bus services along Northbourne Avenue was not an acceptable option for Canberra.
"We know that putting buses down Northbourne Avenue means either taking away two lanes of traffic or building a roadway down the middle of the median strip," he said.
"Neither of those options are acceptable for the city."

"Without action road travel time in Perth, Melbourne, Sydney, Adelaide, Brisbane and Canberra are expected to increase by at least 20 per cent in the most congested corridors by 2031."
"Major reforms are needed to improve the way we, finance and operate infrastructure to ensure it can underpin gains in Australia's productivity and employment growth in decades ahead."

This discussion did not go unnoticed, and research is ongoing.  Although light rail had not previously been listed on teh Infrastructure Australia priority list, changing conditions saw that change. In February 2016 Infrastructure Australia listed Canberras light rail on its list of national priorities.

"A federal government agency has included Canberra's light rail project on its infrastructure priority list due to increasing congestion costs, limited public transport options and projected population growth. The project was not included on previous Infrastructure Australia lists due to concerns there was not enough traffic congestion to warrant federal funding for light rail or rapid buses. found the problems associated with Canberra's main arterial road were of national significance and demanded attention."

This upgrading in priorities was flagged in May 2015. Modelling released in late 2015 found

  • the cost of congestion on Canberra roads will double to $400 million by 2030 unless major projects are completed
  • total kilometres travelled on ACT roads could increase from 3.9 billion to 5.2 billion by 2030.
  • the cost of congestion in Canberra has increased from $54 million in 1990 to $200 million in 2015, largely due to an increasing population in Gungahlin and Belconnen.
  • nationally the total cost of congestion is tipped to reach $30 billion in 2030. 
  • the costs have increased from $12.8 billion in 2010 to $16.5 billion in 2016.

Light rail in Canberra is an important planning tool as well as a tool to resolve road congestion and increase public transport usage. The advantages of light rail over bus only transport are proven and will lead to a change in transport pattern usage and land pattern usage as Canberra matures.

Win Canberra report May 22 2015
ABC Canberra report May 22 2015

Media release from MLA Simon Corbell from May 22 2015 here.

A report into traffic congestion in Canberra has confirmed the need for light rail between City and Gungahlin, Minister for Capital Metro Simon Corbell said today. The report by Infrastructure Australia shows that business as usual will result in a loss of $700 million due to congestion each year by 2031.

The report also highlights Northbourne Avenue as the transport corridor of major concern because much of Canberra growth will happen in Gungahlin and Canberra’s north.

“This report confirms that light rail is the right choice for Canberra and it confirms that City to Gungahlin is the right place to start,” Mr Corbell said.
“Business as usual, or relying on putting more vehicles on our roads, is not a solution and will do nothing to prevent or reduce the loss of $700 million annually from the ACT economy.

“Previous modelling done by the Bureau of Transport and Regional Economics had put the cost of congestion in Canberra at $200 million a year by 2020.  This new work by IA shows that congestion will get even worse than previously predicted if we don’t take action now.

“Light rail will get people out of their cars and into a comfortable, reliable, high-capacity mode of public transport that is separate from general traffic.
“Not only is light rail capable of carrying large numbers of commuters as we head towards a population of 600,000 but it can also integrate into the landscape in a way that lets us maintain the character of Northbourne Avenue as the gateway to Canberra.”

The IA report also said that public transport use was expected to increase, with passenger loadings expected to grow substantially on Northbourne Avenue by 2031.

“The Liberals have no plan to deal with this looming transport crisis except to increase congestion by putting more cars on the road,” Mr Corbell said.
“The Liberals’ blind opposition to a project that will create $1 billion in economic benefits, more than 3500 jobs and helps prevent the loss of $700 million a year from our economy is fiscally irresponsible.

“Putting more buses in among the traffic on Northbourne Avenue won’t solve the problem, even if you give them priority at traffic lights. The only way to make buses work would be to give them their own lane.  To do this you would need to remove a lane of general traffic in both directions.  This would make congestion worse for private commuters.

“A transport plan for Canberra’s future needs to make transport better for all commuters, those in their cars as well as those on public transport.  Light rail achieves this.
“Light rail will deliver transport benefits, social benefits, health benefits and significant economic benefits while changing the way we use one of our most important corridors.”

A separate report from the ANU School of Sociology by Dr David Bissell has also highlighted the social cost of congestion and extended commutes. Dr Bissell said commuter stress would lead to “tipping points” that could lead people to change their route, mode of travel or move house. He said light rail in Canberra would “change the very atmosphere of Canberra and lend a sense of vitality to the city”

For more frequent updates on Capital Metro and light rail related news, please visit our Facebook page 'Light Rail for Canberra'.  

Saturday, July 23, 2016

These are the light rail vehicles that will be used in Canberra

CAF is a consortium partner in the Canberra Metro consortium. They are a major manufacturer of light rail vehicles. The Urbos light rail vehicle is a proven design used in many cities around the world.

This light rail vehicle can carry 276 passengers. The average ACTION Bus carries only 80 passengers.

From the manufacturers website here:

"CAF will supply the new LRVs for the Canberra City. CAF is member of the Canberra Metro Consortium entrusted with the design, construction, maintenance and operation of the new light rail line for a term of 20 years. This line will be 12 kilometres long and have 13 stops to link the area of Gungahlin with the centre of the Australian capital.
Vehicles are made of 5 modules based on the Urbos platform. These are 100% low floor bidirectional vehicles providing easy access and moving inside the LRV for all users. The units are designed for the eventual retrofit of an on-board energy storage system which enables catenary-free running between stations.

This project adds to other LRV projects made by CAF for Sydney which are currently providing revenue service on the Inner West Light Rail line."

For more frequent updates on Capital Metro and light rail related news, please visit our Facebook page 'Light Rail for Canberra'.  

Friday, July 22, 2016

Light Rail to Belconnen? Canberra Liberals say 'Yes'

Belconnen to Airport light rail route preferred by MLA Alistair Coe in 2013

Would the Canberra Liberals support a light rail Stage Two that followed the route the Canberra Liberals suggested in 2013? 

People think it is an accident that Canberra's suburbs have wide wide roads with large median strips, not realising that these are deliberate forward looking design strategies, dating from Walter Burley Griffins original design ethos and taken up by the NCDC in the 1960's, to cater for new transport modes as future needs arose. They have arisen, and light rail is being constructed from Gungahlin to Cvic along one of these reserves.

The road infrastructure from Belconnen is very high quality, and not yet at capacity though it will be placed under increasing pressure as West Belconnen, Lawson, and the Belconnen Town Centre itself fill out, and will be much worse in 10-15 years when the northern parts of Molonglo are built, and the Ginninderra Field Site is converted to residential housing.

One of the busiest ACTION Bus routes is the 300 series from Tuggeranong - Civic - Belconnen. It is so busy that a busway was proposed in the early 2000's. Much of the work proposed for that, including a buslane along Belconnen Way/Barry Drive has been completed along with two new bus stations, a dedicated bus turnoff into ANU and increased rapid bus services, now running to Kippax.

There are limits to the capacity that buses can move however, with a bus carrying around 80 people, and light rail vehicles carrying 220 people.

Yesterday the Keeping Canberra Moving report was released and it identified four possible Stage Two routes for light rail. One of these routes was to Belconnen, all the way too Kippax in West Belconnen.

In late 2013, Liberal MLA Alistar Coe, Shadow Transport Minister, suggested that instead of Gungahlin to Civic, that the first stage of Capital Metro should be Belconnen to the Airport, via Civic.

In a Canberra Times article from 2013 MLA Alistair Coe offered the following views:

Opposition transport spokesman Alistair Coe has raised concerns about whether the government adequately considered other alternatives to the Civic/Gungahlin line.

Mr Coe said a line that ran from Belconnen to the University of Canberra, Calvary Hospital, the ANU, Civic, Constitution Avenue and the airport would be the busiest part of a light rail network.
"You look at what it does include … the four biggest educational campuses that we have, the city and Belconnen, the airport and Defence,'' he said.

"The opportunity cost of spending $600 million on a light rail project to Gungahlin is $600 million not spent on another light rail project, $600 million not spent on the hospital, or $600 million that's not returned to taxpayers,'' he said.

Sustainable Development Minister Simon Corbell said Mr Coe appeared to want a light rail line in his electorate of Ginninderra, which includes Belconnen.

Alistair Coe has also stated that there are absolutely no circumstances in which the Canberra Liberals would proceed with light rail. The question he needs to answer is this: Would the Canberra Liberals support a light rail Stage Two that followed the route the Canberra Liberals suggested in 2013? 

ACT Light Rail welcome cross party support for light rail in Canberra, and believe that it should extend to all parts of Canberra.
2016 Belconnen route from Transport Canberra 'Keeping Canberra Moving' report
2013 Belconnen route as recommended by MLA Alistair Coe

For more frequent updates on Capital Metro and light rail related news, please visit our Facebook page 'Light Rail for Canberra'.  

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Four possible extensions identified for Stage Two of Canberra's light rail network

Belconnen, Woden, Parliamentary Triangle or the Airport are possible Stage Two routes

As well as commencing work on Capital Metro Stage One light rail, the ACT Government has undertaken consultation on an all of Canberra public transport network, comprised of light rail, buses and active transport. A major part of this was the 2015 draft Light Rail Master Plan (or Network Plan). That report identified possible extensions to the light rail network.

This consultation work has now been finalised, with the publication of the Keeping Canberra Moving report today.  This report is probably the last major piece of work ahead of an election announcement for a Stage Two. The Transport Canberra page for this report is here

People that responded to the consultation process identified the corridors that they favoured, based on those identified in the draft 2015 Light Rail Network plan. The report identified four possible extensions for Stage Two of the light rail network:
  • Airport 
  • Belconnen 
  • Parliamentary Zone 
  • Woden
The primary reason people gave for supporting their preferred corridor was to improve the integration and efficiency of the transport network and to better service employment centres. There was also support for Civic to be a central transport hub

"The ACT Government has announced four possible extensions for Canberra's tramline, and says it will announce its preferred route before the election.
Transport Minister Meegan Fitzharris said Labor would commit to build the second stage before the October election, with contracts expected to be signed and work to begin before the 2020 election. Labor would start construction on stage two as work on stage one finished, to keep the employment pipeline going and to move directly from one route to the next."

"One of the big questions is how to get over the lake, with Planning Minister Mick Gentleman saying Commonwealth Avenue bridge had the avenue of three lanes in each direction, compared with two lanes for Kings Avenue.
Both options would require bridge strengthening work and both needed the involvement of the National Capital Authority, with the authority already indicating that trams in the Parliamentary Triangle should operate without overhead wires.
Mr Gentleman said the ACT would also want federal funding for a Parliamentary Triangle route."

The full report is worth reading. It steps through peoples reasons for using public transport and what they want from it. It is apparent that people want better public transport, and that they want light rail. More than 6000 people provided input to the consultation process in the form of comments or submissions. 

"The top reason people gave for how government should prioritise making decisions on light rail expansion was to reduce dependency on cars and increase public transport use. Other popular reasons included serving broader parts of Canberra and improving transport in major business, government, employment centres and tourist areas."

Feedback received from the public has informed the selection of four possible routes that may be considered for Stage Two of the light rail network. It is important to remember that each possible route would be subject to a robust business case being performed before it was selected. 

Minister Gentleman said: 

“Canberrans identified four routesWoden to the City, Belconnen to the City, the Airport and the Parliamentary Zone as priority routes for the next stage of Canberra’s light rail network,” 

“The Woden corridor provides the opportunity to create a north-south ‘spine’ for the city’s transport, and plans released today will look at extending this corridor to the Mawson Group Centre.  

“While community consultation examined the corridor to Woden, a short extension to Mawson would provide a great link for the Tuggeranong community to utilise the popular Mawson Park and Ride facility on their daily commute.

“Community consultation also looked at a potential network extension from the city to Kippax. At present the Government is investigating the City to the Belconnen Town Centre section of that corridor, in response to strong support for a route linking two universities, CIT and two hospitals. There is an opportunity to extend light rail to Kippax over the longer term, especially when demand in the area grows through developments in West Belconnen.

“The ACT Government will now move to undertake more detailed analysis of all four preferred routes, before making an announcement later this year on the next steps in developing a city-wide light rail network, with the community’s chosen routes at its core,” 

A joint press release was issued by the Minister for Planning Mick Gentleman and Minister for Transport Canberra and City Service Meegan Fitzharris today:

Canberrans have their say on future of public transport

More than 6,000 Canberrans have had their say on the future of public transport in the ACT, calling for a network that is quicker and more frequent and identifying their priorities for the next stages of light rail.

Minister for Transport and City Services Meegan Fitzharris and Minister for Planning and Land Management Mick Gentleman today released Keeping Canberra Moving: What you have told us, a report from new transport agency Transport Canberra that highlights key improvements that could be made to public transport to ensure Canberra remains the most liveable city in the world and encourage Canberrans to leave the car at home.

“It’s clear that people want public transport to be quicker and more frequent, and that’s exactly what Transport Canberra’s integrated network of light rail and rapid buses will deliver. The clear message from Canberrans is that an expanded light rail network integrated with more frequent buses and our walking and cycling network will make public transport a genuine alternative to driving,” said Minister Fitzharris.

“Whether they’re taking the bus, riding their bike or hopping on the light rail network, every Canberran on public transport takes one more car off the road. This eases congestion and means we don’t become gridlocked like Sydney.

“By the end of this year there will be 400,000 living in Canberra, and in the next 20 years our population is set to increase by a third, with almost 500,000 people to call Canberra home by 2035. We need to start planning now for that future growth, which is why now is the right time to start our light rail network, and look to where it can go next.

“Transport Canberra has now been established to integrate our public transport system. The agency will consider the findings from this report and work with the community to ensure our public transport system meets the needs of our growing city.”

Minister Gentleman said the community had considered the light rail network and identified the four priority routes for the next stage of the network.

“Canberrans identified four routes – Woden to the City, Belconnen to the City, the Airport and the Parliamentary Zone as priority routes for the next stage of Canberra’s light rail network,” Minister Gentleman said.

“All four routes would take advantage of key landmarks, cultural institutions, education and health services and increased tourism from international flights, which start in September.”

“The Woden corridor provides the opportunity to create a north-south ‘spine’ for the city’s transport, and plans released today will look at extending this corridor to the Mawson Group Centre.  

“While community consultation examined the corridor to Woden, a short extension to Mawson would provide a great link for the Tuggeranong community to utilise the popular Mawson Park and Ride facility on their daily commute.

“Community consultation also looked at a potential network extension from the city to Kippax. At present the Government is investigating the City to the Belconnen Town Centre section of that corridor, in response to strong support for a route linking two universities, CIT and two hospitals. There is an opportunity to extend light rail to Kippax over the longer term, especially when demand in the area grows through developments in West Belconnen.

“The ACT Government will now move to undertake more detailed analysis of all four preferred routes, before making an announcement later this year on the next steps in developing a city-wide light rail network, with the community’s chosen routes at its core,” concluded Minister Gentleman.

The report combines consultation on the future light rail network and the recent public transport survey.

Integrating buses and light rail with improved walking and cycling infrastructure is all part of Transport Canberra’s plan to keep Canberrans moving quickly and easily across the city.

For more information visit: 

Statement ends

As well as this website, the facebook group 'Light Rail for Canberra' carries frequent updates on Capital Metro and light rail related news. 

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Ninety years of Canberra Buses celebrated at RATEC clubhouse

RATEC members and Minster Meegan Fitzharris in front of a vintage bus and new ACTION bus
Today Meegan Fitzharris, Minister for Transport Canberra and City Services, visited the Retired ACT Transport Employees Club house to celebrate 90 years of public transport in Canberra. In her short speech ahead of cake cutting, she remarked on the photo on the wall behind her of a horse and carriage carting children that was Canberras earliest public transport service, and observed how different the older and newer buses parked in front of the club house for the day were. Her warm comments about the efforts of the retired ACTION employees were received with grace and humour. 

Buses will always play a significant part in Canberras transport options. Even though light rail will roll out across Canberra over the coming decades taking over and expanding the mass transit role, buses will continue to circulate through Canberras suburbs taking us safely home. Today was a day for us to remember and thank the retired employees for their work over the past 90 years. 

Yes there was cake

Minister Fitzharris on front of a photo of horse and cart carrying children, Canberras earliest form of public transport

Retired ACTION driver Dick Redman gained his bus licence in this vehicle in 1950
Logo on the side of a 1950's Canberra bus
Minister for Transport Canberra and City Services, Meegan Fitzharris MLA released the following media release on 19 July 2016:

MEEGAN Fitzharris has joined Transport Canberra staff and members of the Retired ACT Transport Employees Club (RATEC) to celebrate 90 years of bus services in the ACT.

“Public transport in the ACT has come a long way in 90 years, and it is great to be able to celebrate this milestone at what is a really exciting time for public transport here in Canberra,” Meegan said.

“We recently launched our brand new transport agency, Transport Canberra, our new bus timetable launched yesterday, and construction on our light rail network has started, which I know will play a huge part in the next 90 years of public transport here in Canberra.

“Public transport has been an integral part of our city from its earlier days and it will continue to play an even more important role into the future with more than 500,000 people expected to call Canberra home in the next 15 years.

“In July 1926, the Federal Capital Commission started the first public operating bus service in Canberra, which was known as the Canberra City Omnibus Service.

“Parliament House opened the following year and a number of Commonwealth Government Departments began to move to Canberra. This led to an increase in people living in the ACT. To support this, the Omnibus Service grew the size and frequency.

“This service continued to grow and, by 1977, the Australian Capital Territory Internal Omnibus Network, known to most of us as ACTION, was formed.

“Looking back, a lot has changed. The city has grown from less than 10,000 people in the early days of the Canberra City Omnibus Service, to over 390,000 people today. Our buses now provide 3,306 weekday services, 1,186 services on Saturdays and 816 on Sundays. Technology has also improved with paper tickets replaced by the more efficient MyWay cards.

“These changes are certainly apparent in the difference between ‘Matilda’, the restored 1949 AEC Regal III Omnibus, and the Scania CB80, the newest of ACTION’s bus fleet, which is fully accessible, low emission and fitted with heating and cooling.

“Of course the next stage of our public transport journey will include light rail, and we will be working hard to ensure our buses integrate seamlessly with light rail when the first stage starts operating in early 2019.

“But what today is really all about is ensuring ACT residents continue to have access to quality public transport. This is one of the ACT Government’s highest priorities, and I’m proud to be able to celebrate this milestone today as we look forward to making our public transport system work even better for the people of Canberra.”

As part of the celebrations for the day, Minister Fitzharris visited the RATEC clubhouse and viewed a range of ACT public transport memorabilia, including old driver shift cards, photographs, timetable books and signage. The Minster donated a new Transport Canberra MyWay card to the collection.

Statement ends.

As well as this website, the facebook group 'Light Rail for Canberra' carries frequent updates on Capital Metro and light rail related news. 

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Local business owner distraught at Canberra Liberals bus policy that will destroy his business

Yesterday ACT Light Rail reported on the Canberra Liberals 'City Hopper 'bus loop, and how it threatened the livelihood of an established local business offering essentially the same service to tourists. The Canberra Times printing of the Liberal press release failed to mention the existence of this bus loop service.

After being contacted by ACT Light Rail, the Canberra Times have now spoken to the business owner and sought his view on the City Hopper bus proposal. The CT article 'Red Explorer Bus could go bust with Liberal's proposed 'city hopper' service' reports:

When asked about Mr William's concerns, Mr Coe said he would consult with the Red Explorer and discuss their role regarding the opportunity.
"Unlike the government, we're open to consultation on our policies and initiatives," Mr Coe said.
But Mr Williams said the planned copy-cat route left him shell-shocked and his business extremely vulnerable.
"There is no doubt that my business will have no future if this service goes ahead," he said.
"How can we compete with such a cheap fair?"
Over the past 15 years, Mr Williams has educated countless tourists about Canberra's history while driving the hop-on, hop-off bus, which charges $30 for an adult and $25 for a senior. The Liberals' proposed city service would cost a standard bus fare with a single fare lasting all day on the route.

'None of us will have a job if this goes ahead' Red Explorer Bus operator, John Williams said of the Liberals' proposal. Photo: Graham Tidy Canberra Times
As an experienced local politician Mr Coe should be well aware that it is better to consult then decide, not decide then consult. Mr Coe often criticises the ACT Government for arrogance.

As well as this website, the facebook group 'Light Rail for Canberra' carries frequent updates on Capital Metro and light rail related news. 

Free City Loop bus service proving popular in 'Bus Wars'

The free City Loop bus trial is one of the initiatives to improve public transport services for all areas of Canberra. Other initiatives include a direct Weston Creek to Civic bus service, and the most significant infrastructure investment in Canberras history - Capital Metro Light Rail Stage One.

Significant work is being performed on the ACTION timetable and routes using the existing bus fleet, and the 30 new buses being delivered this year. A new timetable and route package is expected to be announced shortly.

A major benefit to bus services and bus users for all of Canberra will be realised when Capital Metro light rail begins service. One million bus kilometres a year will be released from the existing bus rapid route, that can be allocated all across Canberra.

After a week of the free City Loop bus trial operating, Minister Meegan Fitzharris released this media release on July 13 discussing early patronage figures.

Free City Loop popular – attracts over 1,200 boardings in first week
Transport Canberra’s new free City Loop service has already built a fan base in its first week of operation, with more than 1,200 boardings in just five days.
“I am pleased to announce that in its first week of operation, the free City Loop recorded 1,233 boardings. This is a great result for this brand new service, and shows people want to move around our city in new ways,” Minister Fitzharris said.
“Passenger boardings were at their highest during the hours of 12 pm to 2 pm and 5 pm to 6 pm, which demonstrates people are moving around Civic more at lunchtime and in the evenings.
“The free City Loop is a convenient ‘turn up and go’ weekday service for commuters and connects with high frequency Red and Blue Rapid services and buses to the Parliamentary Triangle. The service also supports local businesses and helps Canberrans travel around popular areas in the CBD for free, including Braddon, New Acton, the Canberra Centre and ANU.
“Patronage is expected to increase further in the following weeks with the return of school and university students from their break.”
Minister Fitzharris today welcomed the Canberra Liberals’ support for a City Loop bus service, but said only Labor was committed to keeping the service free.
“The Canberra Liberals have today released their own city loop plan. It’s not free, it’s less frequent, it looks like a very long journey, and they project fewer people will actually use it than currently use our free City Loop.
“You can’t trust the Canberra Liberals on public transport. They have never had a consistent public transport position, except to tear up a contract for a project that they say we will need in 20 years.
“I’m interested in how we encourage more people to use public transport, rather than putting up barriers, which is what the Canberra Liberals plan does.
“As people become more familiar with the free City Loop service, I think it will become even more popular, and we’ve already had great feedback on the City Loop from a range of people and stakeholders, including the ANU. With more than 5,000 students living next to one of the City Loop stops, it is likely to be a very popular way to move around the CBD.
“The free City Loop service, launched on Monday 4 July 2016, links highly-frequented areas of the CBD such as the City Bus Station, Canberra Centre, Braddon precinct, Northbourne Avenue, the Australian National University and New Acton precinct.
“The launch of the free City Loop coincided with the launch of the new Transport Canberra agency, which is responsible for integrating buses with the new light rail, developing a single ticketing system and new coordinated timetabling, active travel upgrades and transport innovation.
“The City Loop is one of the ways the ACT Government is making public transport more frequent and easier to use. It’s all part of our plan to keep Canberra moving.
“The ACT Government is continuing to build an integrated, city wide transport network with a $17 million investment in the 2016-17 ACT Budget for new transport services, including $10 million for 20 new buses and a trial of electric buses,” said Minister Fitzharris.
More information about the free City Loop is available at

Transport is one area the ACT Government has made a priority, and it is a policy area the Canberra Liberals have no real expertise or understanding of. Although the free City Loop bus service has only been operating for one week, the Canberra Liberals have hastily released proposal for a less useful bus loop called City Hopper, that competes with an existing private bus operator.

Greens MLA Shane Rattenbury obviously bemused at the catchup policies of the Canberra Liberals, released the following comment on Facebook on 13 July:

A long, long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away.... Actually it wasn’t that long ago and it was right here in Canberra. The Greens were the only party championing for better public transport in the face of criticism, and even mocking and condescension from the Canberra Liberals. It’s great to see the debate shift so far that we are now seeing a “bus wars” of one-upmanship as all parties recognise the importance of having a good public transport system across Canberra.

As well as this website, the facebook group 'Light Rail for Canberra' carries frequent updates on Capital Metro and light rail related news. 

Canberra Liberals City Hopper bus loop proposal threatens tourist bus company viability

The Canberra Liberals have looked at the new City Loop service and two weeks later come up with their own version. On the surface, the 'City Hopper' loop proposal is a good try, but it displays a lack of awareness in how people use public transport in mashing together a city loop and a tourist loop. It also ignores that a tourist bus loop service already exists.

Unlike the new City Loop trial, the Canberra Liberals copy also requires people to pay, instead of just getting on and off (City Loop is a free service).

There is no doubt we need a tourist loop bus service, and one exists - it's a privately run tourist bus called The Canberra Explorer that operates seven days a week and visits the attractions the City Hopper proposes to visit. The Canberra Times article doesn't mention that such a service already exists. At least when this website simply publishes a press release, we acknowledge it.

The existing City Explorer bus loop service visits many of Canberra's national attractions and embassies. Stops include the Canberra and Region Visitors Centre, Civic, Australian War Memorial, National Library of Australia, Questacon, National Portrait Gallery, National Gallery of Australia, High Court of Australia, Museum of Australian Democracy at Old Parliament House, Parliament House and the National Museum of Australia. That's pretty comprehensive.

By copying the ACTION City Loop and combining it with a tourist bus loop service, the actual usefulness of the City Hopper loop is degraded. It isn't terribly convenient for the intended audience of tourists or office workers/students. Both those seperate loops already exist, one a privately operated tourist service, and the other a trial by the Government called City Loop.

Most disturbing is the awful arrogance of destroying a private bus operators business without any discussion of compensation, or even mentioning that it exists at all. Based on the demonstrated history of a lack of awareness of public transport technology, policy and operations, ACT Light Rail can only assume the Canberra Liberals genuinely had no clue that a private operator already offered a service they claim doesn't exist.

Their public transport policy efforts to date do not inspire confidence.

As well as this website, the facebook group 'Light Rail for Canberra' carries frequent updates on Capital Metro and light rail related news. 

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Gungahlin residents along light rail corridor advised of construction in July by Canberra Metro

This letter has been received by residents of Gungahlin living along the Capital Metro Light Rail Stage One corridor in the last week. The letter was sent by Canberra Metro, the consortium constructing Stage One. It advises resident of the different phases of construction, times of construction, and possible road closures.

As well as this website, the facebook group
 'Light Rail for Canberra' 
carries frequent updates on Capital Metro and light rail related news. 

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Construction begins on Capital Metro Light Rail Stage One at the Mitchell Depot

Every day more progress is made towards better public transport in Canberra. Last week new bus services were announced, this week construction on light rail commences on a 70 million dollar light rail depot in Mitchell. Light rail vehicles will be housed and maintained there when the depot is completed.

For several months surveyors have been up and down the corridor in preparation for works commencing in earnest. With the first sod turned at the Mitchell depot the light rail project is becoming more real every day.

ACT Government Ministers and senior staff from Transport Canberra and Canberra Metro attended the Mitchell Depot site off Flemington Road for the sod-turning ceremony. Light rail is on its way and progress has been rapid since the contract was signed between the Canberra Metro consortium and the ACT Government in April..

WIN TV Canberra carried this report on 12 July 2016
ABC TV Canberra carried this report on 12 July 2016

This press release was issued on 12 July 2016:

First sod turned on stage one of city wide light rail network

Today the ACT Government marked the start of stage one of the city wide light rail network for Canberra.

Construction of the first phase of the project is underway, creating thousands of jobs throughout the life span of the project.

As part of Transport Canberra’s integrated network, light rail will transform our growing city, taking thousands of cars off the road by providing a genuine alternative to driving, generating jobs, attracting investment and revitalising the main gateway to the city. The project will change how we use public transport, which is essential given there will be almost 500,000 people living in Canberra by 2031.

Construction of the first stage will be complete by the end of 2018 so that operations can commence in 2019.

The Government will be making further commitments on public transport in coming months, including on future stages of the light rail network – demonstrating our commitment to a city wide improvement of public transport.

Minister Fitzharris said the project demonstrates the ACT Government’s commitment to addressing congestion now, rather than waiting until the city is gridlocked.

“Light rail will transform our city, and today marks the start of a whole new transport journey for Canberra. It’s all part of our plan to keep Canberra moving,” Minister Fitzharris said.

“Congestion on our roads is only going to get worse if we don’t increase our public transport mix. We need to start changing how we move around our city, and I’m proud that this Government is delivering light rail now, before congestion chokes our roads.

“The way we are delivering light rail – through a public private partnership – means we can actually spread the cost of the project over a 20-year period making it really affordable like any other project or service we deliver over many years. Light rail is not only great for our city, but it’s affordable.

“I can also reveal that the consortium building light rail has to achieve excellent outcomes for the community in line with key performance indicators before we make any payments, so the community can have confidence this will be a great addition to our public transport network.”

A range of construction activities will now commence, starting with utility relocation and protection. More visible construction, like track works and landscaping, will commence later in the year.

Construction will be undertaken to minimise disruption to motorists, cyclists and pedestrians.
Standard construction hours for the project are expected to be between 7am and 6pm Monday to Saturday. Some work will be undertaken on Sundays and at night as needed to reduce the impact to traffic.

To minimise impacts on traffic movements, the route will be divided into six working zones and each zone will be subdivided into smaller construction areas. There will be a range of mitigation measures in place to reduce the impacts of construction, and the community will be provided updates before construction activities begin in each zone.

The sod turning took place today in Mitchell where the light rail depot site will be located. The Mitchell site will incorporate a stabling yard for light rail vehicles, a maintenance facility and the operations centre.

The light rail project is part of the ACT Labor-Greens Parliamentary Agreement.

The Canberra Times reported on the announcement here

As well as this website, the facebook group
 'Light Rail for Canberra' 
carries frequent updates on Capital Metro and light rail related news. 

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

MyWay rebranding and a feasibility study for an integrated public transport ticket system

Minister Meegan Fitzharis holding a new Transport Canberra MyWay card
One of the most obvious symbols of the new transport approach at the launch of Transport Canberra, was the rebranding of the MyWay cards, with prominent Transport Canberra logos. This is part of a conscious effort to promote an integrated transport service ahead of the introduction of light rail in 2018. It is likely that the Capital Metro, Canberra Metro and ACTION brands may be subsumed into a new public transport brand ahead of the introduction of light rail in 2018. 

The Chief Minister has previously commented upon the need for a new ticketing system in Canberra, and that we may adopt the NSW system, and perhaps be integrated into it.

It has also been government policy since the Capital Metro project was announced, that there be one ticket across both light rail and buses. 

The MyWay card was adopted in 2011 replacing an ancient paper ticket system and a primitive magnetic stripe card system, that had started to experience frequent systemic failures and a resultant loss in revenue. The MyWay card ticketing system was an off the shelf technology and experienced a trouble free introduction in Canberra (paper tickets are still able to be purchased onboard buses, but using a MyWay card is cheaper). The MyWay technology has also been used to collect data on travelling patterns that has been used to plan network and timetable changes. 

Since the introduction of the MyWay card, contactless ticketing technology has improved dramatically, and it is likely that when light rail commences operation in 2018 that a new form of contactless public transport ticketing will be introduced.

The MyWay card still requires a traveller to swipe or tap on and off, that may not be the case with new technologies. They may detect your MyWay card when you are 'near' a reader on a light rail vehicle or bus.

New contactless card, RFID and other technologies allow devices such as a mobile phone to be used for these tasks. They also allow much greater collection of data that can be used for network improvements. The attraction of a card or even an RFID type contactless ticketing system has advantages for users as well, with online payments, balances available online and the ability to cancel a stolen card making them quite attractive, and a vastly superior alternative to having a pocketful of dollar coins on hand. 

The new ticketing system will be an incremental improvement to the MyWay card and it is a sound decision to investigate alternatives now. Making public transport easier for people to use is how we encourage people to use it routinely.

This press release was issued by Minister Meegan Fitzharris on 4 July 2016:

Planning for integrated public transport ticketing system underway - 4 July 2016

“Work is now underway to develop a ticketing feasibility study, which is due for completion later in 2016. The study will identify options to upgrade or replace the current MyWay system that is used for travel on ACTION buses.
“While the MyWay system is well established, it does need an upgrade. Technology is constantly evolving and we need to keep pace with customers’ expectations and use smart technology.  A key priority for the ACT Government is for Canberra to be an innovative, digital city and an integrated ticketing system is an important component of that.
“Exciting and innovative ticketing solutions are already emerging in the market, such as allowing passengers to pay for travel via contactless credit and debit cards, as well as mobile ticketing solutions that include journey planning over multiple transport modes. The feasibility study will explore these new technologies to identify the best outcome for Canberra’s integrated transport system.”
The start of the work coincides with the launch of the ACT’s new public transport agency Transport Canberra, which will make moving around Canberra easier and more convenient.
Minister Fitzharris said in addition to the completion of a ticketing feasibility study, funding in the Budget will be used to commence the delivery of options recommended in the study. 
“As part of the feasibility study, we will also consider installing new ‘add-value’ machines in major bus stations throughout Canberra, to provide better service to bus users and to plan for the integration with light rail ticketing.

“A great public transport system is vital to ensure Canberrans have a quick and reliable way of getting around our city. Completion of the ticketing feasibility study is another step toward the ACT Government’s commitment to deliver a transport system that has one ticket, one fare and one network,” said Minister Fitzharris.  

As well as this website, the facebook group 'Light Rail for Canberra' carries frequent updates on Capital Metro and light rail related news.