Light rail in Canberra

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Canberra light rail network
Aerial view of Northbourne Avenue looking north from Civic.jpg
Aerial view of Northbourne Avenue looking north from Civic with City Hill & the Vernon Circle in the foreground
Owner ACT Government
Locale Canberra
Transit type Light rail
Number of lines 1
Number of stations 13
Chief executive Glenn Stockton
Website Transport Canberra
Operation will start Early 2019
Number of vehicles 14 Urbos
Train length 33 metres
System length 12 kilometres
Track gauge 1,435 mm (4 ft 8 12 in)
Route map
12 Gungahlin Place Northern Terminus
Flemington Rd Multiple stations
Federal Highway
Northbourne Avenue Multiple stations
0 Alinga Street Southern Terminus
Vernon Circle

The Canberra light rail network is a light rail system under construction in Canberra – the main city of the Australian Capital Territory (ACT). The initial line will link the northern town centre of Gungahlin to the city centre (Civic). The line was known as Capital Metro during the planning process.


Walter Burley Griffin's master plan for Canberra proposed the construction of a tram network.[1] The network did not eventuate and the city was exclusively served by buses.

In the early 1990s, Canberra Land proposed a 8.5 kilometre line from Canberra Racecourse via Northbourne Avenue to Civic with Melbourne tram B2089 displayed in February 1992.[2]

In February 1998, the ACT Government announced its support for the Federation Line, a proposed 7 kilometre line from the National Museum of Australia via Civic to the Australian War Memorial. The line was proposed to use heritage trams.[3]

In September 2001, to try and garner support for the project, Melbourne tram W249 and Sydney tram R2001 were placed on display outside the Australian War Museum, the latter operating on a 50 metre section of track and being powered by a diesel generator.[4][5] In a further display in September 2003, W249 operated on an 80 metre section of track on Parkes Way.[6][7]


Light rail construction in Gungahlin, May 2017

The construction of the light rail line was part of a deal struck between the Labor Party and The Greens following the 2012 Australian Capital Territory Election, at which Labor required Greens support to form government.[8][9] In the 2013/14 ACT budget, $5 million was allocated for early design work.[10] In September 2014, the business case was approved by the government.

The project was developed by the Capital Metro Agency. Responsibility for the project transferred to a new organisation, Transport Canberra, from 1 July 2016. The new organisation combined the Capital Metro Agency with the city's bus operator, ACTION.[11][12] The line is being delivered under a public private partnership.[13][14] Expressions of interest were received from the following consortia:[15][16]

In March 2015, the government announced that ACTivate and Canberra Metro had been selected to move on to the Request for Proposal stage of the procurement process.[19][20] The bidders submitted their final proposals for the Gungahlin to the city route on 4 September and had an additional four weeks to submit their proposals for a potential expansion of the project, from the city to Russell.[21] The Canberra Metro consortium was announced as the preferred tenderer in February 2016 and the contract was finalised in May.[22][23][24] Under the contract, Canberra Metro will operate and maintain the line for 20 years, after which ownership will pass to the ACT Government.[25][24]

Design and construction costs are budgeted at $707 million.[24] The Australian Government is contributing $67 million to the project.[25] Construction of the depot commenced in July 2016.[26] Major construction of the route itself began towards the end of the year. The line is due to open in 2019.[27]

The opposition Liberal Party opposes the project. In April 2015, the party announced it would cancel any contracts for the light rail if it won the 2016 ACT election.[28] A year out from the poll, the light rail project was already predicted to be the election's major issue.[29] The election saw the Labor government returned, with the party claiming the result as an endorsement of the project. As predicted, the light rail project was the major issue of the campaign.[30][31]


The 12 kilometre line will have its northern terminus at Hibberson Street in Gungahlin, and follow Flemington Road, the Federal Highway and Northbourne Avenue to the southern terminus between Alinga and Rudd Streets in the City Centre. It will be double track for its full length.[24] A turnback track will be located to the north of the Dickson Interchange stop.[32] There will be 13 stops.[33] The main bus interchanges will be located at Gungahlin Place, Dickson Interchange and Alinga Street.[24] Proposed official names for the stops were released in April 2017.[34]

Station Suburb Platform layout Coordinates Refs.
Gungahlin Place Gungahlin Side 35°11′8.3″S 149°8′7.73″E / 35.185639°S 149.1354806°E / -35.185639; 149.1354806 (Gungahlin Place) [35]
Manning Clark North Gungahlin Island 35°11′13.15″S 149°8′36.14″E / 35.1869861°S 149.1433722°E / -35.1869861; 149.1433722 (Manning Clark North) [36]
Mapleton Avenue Franklin / Harrison Island 35°11′36.17″S 149°9′3.5″E / 35.1933806°S 149.150972°E / -35.1933806; 149.150972 (Mapleton Avenue) [37]
Nullarbor Avenue Franklin / Harrison Island 35°12′1.98″S 149°8′57.46″E / 35.2005500°S 149.1492944°E / -35.2005500; 149.1492944 (Nullarbor Avenue) [38]
Well Station Drive Franklin / Harrison Island 35°12′29.29″S 149°8′50.96″E / 35.2081361°S 149.1474889°E / -35.2081361; 149.1474889 (Well Station Drive) [39]
EPIC and Racecourse Lyneham Island 35°13′42.37″S 149°8′39.85″E / 35.2284361°S 149.1444028°E / -35.2284361; 149.1444028 (EPIC and Racecourse) [40]
Phillip Avenue Lyneham / Watson Island 35°14′8.86″S 149°8′38.14″E / 35.2357944°S 149.1439278°E / -35.2357944; 149.1439278 (Phillip Avenue) [41]
Swinden Street Lyneham / Downer Side (staggered) 35°14′38.89″S 149°8′4.69″E / 35.2441361°S 149.1346361°E / -35.2441361; 149.1346361 (Swinden Street) [42]
Dickson Interchange Lyneham / Dickson Side 35°15′2.01″S 149°8′1.46″E / 35.2505583°S 149.1337389°E / -35.2505583; 149.1337389 (Dickson Interchange) [32]
Macarthur Avenue Lyneham / Dickson Side 35°15′36.57″S 149°7′56.02″E / 35.2601583°S 149.1322278°E / -35.2601583; 149.1322278 (Macarthur Avenue) [43]
Ipima Street Turner / Braddon Side 35°15′57.23″S 149°7′52.62″E / 35.2658972°S 149.1312833°E / -35.2658972; 149.1312833 (Ipima Street) [44]
Elouera Street Turner / Braddon Side 35°16′21.42″S 149°7′48.62″E / 35.2726167°S 149.1301722°E / -35.2726167; 149.1301722 (Elouera Street) [45]
Alinga Street Civic Side 35°16′40.56″S 149°7′45.59″E / 35.2779333°S 149.1293306°E / -35.2779333; 149.1293306 (Alinga Street) [46]


An Urbos 3 operating in Sydney. The trams to be used in Canberra will be very similar.

A complete journey will take around 24 minutes.[47] The contract specifies the following minimum service levels for hours of operation and service frequency:[24]

Day First service Last service
Monday to Thursday 06:00 23:30
Friday and Saturday 06:00 01:00 the following day
Sunday 08:00 23:30
The last services from Gungahlin depart half an hour earlier.
The first service from the city on Sunday departs half an hour later.
Day Departure time Frequency
To the city To Gungahlin
Monday to Friday 06:00-07:00 15 minutes 15 minutes
Monday to Friday 07:00-07:30 6 minutes 10 minutes
Monday to Friday 07:30-09:00 6 minutes 6 minutes
Monday to Friday 09:00-16:00 10 minutes 10 minutes
Monday to Friday 16:00-17:30 6 minutes 6 minutes
Monday to Friday 17:30-1800 10 minutes 6 minutes
Monday to Friday After 18:00 15 minutes 15 minutes
Saturday All day 15 minutes 15 minutes
Sunday Not stated


CAF will build and provide twenty years of maintenance for the fleet of 14 Urbos trams that will operate the network.[48][49] The trams will be 33 metres long and consist of five modules. There will be four doors on each side of the vehicle. The first vehicles are scheduled to be delivered in late 2017.[50] A predominantly red livery will be applied.[51] The depot will be located in Mitchell.[52]

Potential extensions[edit]

To Woden[edit]

View of Commonwealth Avenue, looking south from City Hill towards Parliament House. The hump in the middle distance is the bridge over Lake Burley Griffin.
From Civic, the line will cross the lake and head towards Parliament House and the Woden Valley. The skyline of Woden Town Centre can be seen just to the right of Parliament House. The originally-proposed extension to Russell would have stayed on the northern side of the lake, proceeding to the left of the image.

The consortia participating in the procurement process for the initial line were asked to develop plans for an expanded route from the City Centre to Russell via London Circuit and Constitution Avenue. This additional 3.2 kilometre section was estimated to boost the patronage of the line as a whole by more than 30%. The proposal highlighted the desire of the Australian Government's National Capital Authority to use wire-free technology to power the trams in areas of the city under the authority's management.[53][54] The ACT Government decided not to proceed with the expanded route, but committed to releasing a plan for a second stage of the light rail network prior to the October 2016 territory election. It was considering extending the line not only to Russell but to the broader parliamentary triangle, possibly including Canberra Airport and the Australian National University.[55]

In July 2016, the government released a shortlist of four potential routes that could form the second stage of the light rail network. The routes were:[56]

In September, the government selected a truncated version of the Mawson route that ends at Woden as its preferred second stage project. The route is around 11 kilometres long.[57][58] Tenders to design various aspects of the project were called in November. At that stage the only firm decisions the government had made about the route were that it would run from Alinga Street to the Woden Town Centre and use the Commonwealth Avenue Bridge to cross Lake Burley Griffin.[59] More concrete plans were released in May 2017. South of Lake Burley Griffin, the route will predominately travel via Adelaide Avenue and Yarra Glen. Design options for several sections of the route that are yet to be locked in were presented to the public for comment.[60] Construction is planned to begin shortly after the completion of the first stage.[59] The Australian Government will be invited to make a contribution to the project as part of the government's City Deals program.[61]

Twenty-five year vision[edit]

In October 2015, the ACT Government released a plan for a city-wide light rail network that would be built over a period of twenty-five years.[62] The plan includes the following elements:[63]

Corridor Notes
Gungahlin to City The first stage of the network
Parliamentary Triangle Connecting City to Russell, City to the Parliamentary Zone and Russell to the Parliamentary Zone. High priority corridor.
Woden to City Running via Adelaide Avenue. High priority corridor.
Tuggeranong to Woden (Athllon Corridor) Running either via the Athllon Drive Corridor or the existing rapid bus alignment along Erindale Drive
Eastern connections (Fyshwick and Canberra Airport) Additions to the Parliamentary Triangle routes, from Russell to Canberra Airport and the Parliamentary Zone to Fyshwick. High priority corridor.
Belconnen to City Running via Southern Cross Drive and Barry Drive
Molonglo to City Woden to City via Hindmarsh Drive, John Gorton Drive and Parkes Way


  1. ^ "The Canberra Legacy: Griffin, Government and the Future of Strategic Planning in the National Capital" (PDF). p. 26. Retrieved 2015-03-08. 
  2. ^ "Canberra" Trolley Wire issue 249 May 1992 page 21
  3. ^ "Heritage Tramway proposed for Canberra" Trolley Wire issue 272 February 1998 page 16
  4. ^ Canberra trams Railway Gazette International 1 October 2001
  5. ^ "First Tram Runs in Canberra" Trolley Wire issue 287 November 2001 page 3
  6. ^ "A W2 runs in Canberra" Trolley Wire issue 295 November 2003 pages 8-11
  7. ^ September 2001: Trams displayed at the Australian War Museum The Federation Line
  8. ^ "Parliamentary Agreement for the 8th Legislative Assembly for the Australian Capital Territory" ACT Greens 2 November 2012
  9. ^ Canberrans not completely on board light rail project: poll Canberra Times 3 August 2014
  10. ^ "Canberra light rail funding included in budget". Railway Gazette International. 2013-06-10. Retrieved 2013-06-11. 
  11. ^ "Transport Canberra - Public Transport Improvement Plan 2015" (PDF). ACT Government. p. 6. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2016-02-29. 
  12. ^ Lawson, Kirsten; McIlroy, Tom (27 October 2015). "ACTION and Capital Metro Agency to be rolled into one from 2016". The Canberra Times. 
  13. ^ A Public Private Partnership for Canberra Metro Capital Metro
  14. ^ Canberra light rail project moves ahead after business case approved ABC News 16 September 2014
  15. ^ Carter, Mark (24 December 2014). "Bidders line up for Canberra LRT tender". International Railway Journal. 
  16. ^ Major companies vying for chance to build ACT light rail network, ABC News Online, 22 December 2014, accessed 1 February 2016
  17. ^ Consortium members ACTivate Canberra
  18. ^ John Holland to deliver Canberra light rail project John Holland 17 May 2016
  19. ^ Barrow, Keith (19 March 2015). "Two bidders shortlisted for Canberra LRT". International Railway Journal. 
  20. ^ "Preferred consortia announced for light rail project". ACT Government. Retrieved 20 March 2015. 
  21. ^ Belot, Henry (4 September 2015). "Canberra light rail hopefuls submit final bid papers for $783 million contract". The Canberra Times. 
  22. ^ Canberra Metro selected to build stage one of light rail from Gungahlin to the city ABC News 1 February 2016
  23. ^ Capita Metro named as successful light rail consortium Canberra Metro 1 February 2016
  24. ^ a b c d e f "Capital Metro PPP Contract Summary" (PDF). Capital Metro Agency. June 2016. pp. 3, 5, 9, 13. 
  25. ^ a b "Contracts signed for Canberra's first light rail project". Capital Metro. 17 May 2016. 
  26. ^ Sibthorpe, Clare (12 July 2016). "Construction begins on ACT light rail depot at Mitchell". The Canberra Times. 
  27. ^ Canberra light rail contract signed Railway Gazette International 18 May 2016
  28. ^ "Light rail contract 'will be torn up' if the Canberra Liberals win 2016 ACT election". ABC News. 15 April 2015. Retrieved 15 April 2015. 
  29. ^ "Light rail will dominate next year's ACT election. Both main parties have more explaining to do". The Canberra Times. 11 October 2015. 
  30. ^ Knaus, Christopher (15 October 2016). "Election win shows comprehensive support for light rail". The Canberra Times. 
  31. ^ "ACT election: Labor Chief Minister Andrew Barr claims victory, says Canberra has voted for light rail". ABC News. 15 October 2016. Retrieved 15 October 2016. 
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  33. ^ "Routes and Stops". Transport Canberra. Retrieved 17 October 2016. 
  34. ^ "Light Rail Stage 1 takes shape as stop names announced". Transport Canberra. Retrieved 5 May 2017. 
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  48. ^ "Canberra Metro named as successful light rail consortium". ACT Government. Archived from the original on 1 April 2016. Retrieved 26 March 2016. 
  49. ^ "CAF to deliver Capital Metro Trams" Railway Digest September 2016 page 4
  50. ^ "CAF awarded the supply of Canberra trams, in Australia". Construcciones y Auxiliar de Ferrocarriles. 1 February 2016. 
  51. ^ New ACTION buses to be blue, light rail trams to be red Canberra Times 14 December 2016
  52. ^ "Nuts and bolts". ACT Government. Retrieved 26 March 2016. 
  53. ^ Carter, Mark (9 February 2015). "Canberra expands light rail project". International Railway Journal. 
  54. ^ McIlroy, Tom (10 September 2015). "Underground power plan for Russell light rail extension". The Canberra Times. 
  55. ^ Knaus, Christopher (7 June 2016). "ACT Budget 2016: Budget shows 'rubbish' claims on tram cost, chief minister says". The Canberra Times. 
  56. ^ Lawson, Kirsten (21 July 2016). "Labor announces possible Canberra light rail extensions to build in next term of government". The Canberra Times. 
  57. ^ Knaus, Christopher (2 September 2016). "Labor announces light rail to go to Woden". The Canberra Times. 
  58. ^ "Canberra light rail's second stage to link Woden and Civic, ACT Government says". ABC News. Australian Broadcasting Corporation. 2 September 2016. 
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  60. ^ Scott, Elise (1 May 2017). "Could Canberra's light rail head to Barton instead of Parliament House?". ABC News. Australian Broadcasting Corporation. 
  61. ^ "ACT light rail funding to be discussed at 'City Deals' meeting with Prime Minister". ABC News. Australian Broadcasting Corporation. 9 November 2016. 
  62. ^ McIlroy, Tom (26 October 2015). "Woden and Parliament next for light rail lines in Canberra tram master plan". The Canberra Times. 
  63. ^ "Light Rail Network - Delivering a modern transport system for a growing city". ACT Government. [permanent dead link]

External links[edit]

Media related to Capital Metro at Wikimedia Commons