Australia’s peak rail body has backed the Canberra Light Rail project, saying it will be a catalyst for continued urban renewal in the territory and will deliver significant economic, social and environmental benefits to the local community.  

Australasian Railway Association (ARA) CEO, Caroline Wilkie, said claims the Light Rail Stage 2B Commonwealth Park to Woden is not cost-effective do not take into consideration the huge, long-term economic benefits light rail delivers well beyond providing an efficient public transport solution.

“Light rail projects in Australia and across the globe have consistently shown to dramatically transform communities, driving urban renewal and growth along its corridor, supporting better housing and job opportunities.”

Ms Wilkie said that as with heavy and metro rail, investment in light rail infrastructure provides certainty to the community and local businesses, encouraging land development and increasing property values.

“For example, the first stage of the Canberra light rail project facilitated hundreds of millions of dollars in private investment and completely transformed the gateway corridor into the nation’s capital. 

“This level of revitalisation simply does not happen without the investment certainty that light rail infrastructure provides.

“Light rail delivers the kind of significant economic, social and environmental benefits that buses cannot, whose routes can easily be stopped or altered at any time.”

Ms Wilkie said the revitalisation of Northbourne Ave and around Dickson interchange due to the first stage of the Canberra Light Rail were testament to the positive impact that permanent public transport infrastructure has on investment and urban development.

“If we want to ensure continued investment and urban renewal in the nation’s capital, as well as an efficient and environmentally friendly public transport system that can manage our growing population and support tourism, then light rail will form a critical part of the solution.

“Furthermore, light rail will greatly contribute to Canberra’s journey to net zero emissions and offers an accessible, safe, easy-to-use transport solution.”

Ms Wilkie said while light rail might be more expensive to construct than introducing a new bus route, operationally it is comparatively cheaper to run than other modes, resulting in reduced whole-of-life costs. 

Light rail can move between 4,000 and 20,000 people per hour in one direction in space equivalent to one lane of road traffic. The same space dedicated to an arterial road lane could move only 800 cars (or less than 1,000 people) per hour, while the same space dedicated to buses would move between 2,000 and 8,000 people per hour, according to the ARA’s report, The Renaissance of Light Rail.

“The ‘stop-and-go’ service of a light rail can move larger numbers of passengers, with the potential to carry triple the amount of people than buses. And anyone with a scooter or a bicycle can jump on a light rail and extend their journey, making it a very sustainable option.”

Stage 2B of the Canberra Light Rail project will extend the light rail network to complete a north-south public transport link from Gungahlin, through the City Centre and on to Woden, with at least nine new stops.

Light Rail Stage 2A, due to begin construction during 2024, will extend the light rail system from Alinga Street to Commonwealth Park. The 1.7km extension will follow along London Circuit West and will feature stops at Edinburgh Avenue and City South. 

The new stops will help people access the ANU, their homes, and businesses in City West and New Acton.

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