Light rail in Canberra

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Light rail in Canberra
Canberra Metro.png
Logo of the construction consortium
Locale Canberra, Australian Capital Territory
Transit type Light rail
Number of lines 1
Number of stations 13
Chief executive Glenn Stockton
Headquarters Mitchell
Operation will start December 2018
Operator(s) Deutsche Bahn
Number of vehicles 14 Urbos 3 trams
Train length 32.96 m (108.1 ft)
Headway 6-15 minutes
Track gauge 1,435 mm (4 ft 8 12 in) standard gauge
Top speed 70 km/h (43 mph)

The Canberra light rail network is an under-construction light rail system to serve the city of Canberra – the main city of the Australian Capital Territory (ACT). The initial 12-kilometre (7.5 mi) line will link the northern town centre of Gungahlin to the city centre (Civic) and will have 13 stops. The project is being managed by Transport Canberra with services planned to commence in December 2018.[1]

Stage Two is currently being planned to extend the line south to the Woden Valley via Barton. The extension will stretch 10–13 kilometres (6.2–8.1 mi) with 11-13 stops depending on the alignment.[2]


Aerial view of Northbourne Avenue prior to construction of the light rail. Seen looking north from Civic, with City Hill in the foreground.

Walter Burley Griffin's master plan for Canberra proposed the construction of a tram network.[3] The network did not eventuate and the city has been exclusively served by buses since 1926 when the Canberra City Omnibus Service was introduced.

While railways across Canberra, including one to Belconnen were seriously considered until the mid-1960s, little discussion of a metropolitan tramway occurred until the 1990s. Prior to 1989, the ACT had been directly administered by the Australian Government thus any large public infrastructure expenditure in Canberra was subject to national scrutiny.

In 1991 a Murdoch University report, Towards a More Sustainable Canberra, suggested the city was too car-oriented and should implement a light rail system along the Y-Plan, an urban planning system established in 1967 now since superseded by the Canberra Spacial Plan.[4]

In the early 1990s, Canberra Land proposed a 8.5-kilometre (5.3 mi) line from Canberra Racecourse via Northbourne Avenue to Civic with Melbourne tram B2089 displayed in February 1992.[5]

In 1994 the most comprehensive Canberra light rail network plan was prepared by consultants Booz Allen Hamilton. The plan included six lines, with four to be built by 2004. The plan was widely criticised by the then opposition ACT Liberal Party and when they came to power in 1995 the plans were abandoned.

In February 1998, the ACT Government announced its support for the Federation Line, a proposed 7-kilometre (4.3 mi) line from the National Museum of Australia via Civic to the Australian War Memorial. The line was proposed to use heritage trams.[6]

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.[7][8] In a further display in September 2003, W249 operated on an 80-metre section of track on Parkes Way.[9][10]


A light rail connection for Gungahlin was proposed as far back as 1992, when a syndicate of private land developers MBA Land and Consolidated Builders (together known as Canberra Land) incorporated rail into an urban village plan.[11] The Gungahlin proposal followed a 1991 Murdoch University report, Towards a More Sustainable Canberra, which suggested the city was too car-oriented and should implement a light rail system along the Y-Plan.[12] In 1993 a report by Maunsell-Denis Johnston and Associates found that a dedicated inter-town busway was a more viable transport option for Canberra than light rail, however the ACT Liberal MLA Tony De Domenico dismissed the report and demanded the matter be studied further.[13]

In 1994 the ACT Government commissioned a $500,000 study into light rail, based on the findings of an independent report that light rail would be viable in Canberra by 1998.[14] In their detailed report consultants Booz Allen Hamilton recommended a route from Belconnen to Barton via the City and Kings Avenue Bridge be operating by 1998; Woden to Barton by 2000; Tuggeranong to Woden by 2002 and Gungahlin to City by 2004. Routes to Canberra Airport and Queanbeyan received a lower priority. By January 1995 the then ACT Liberal Opposition Leader, Kate Carnell, announced her party's opposition to the light rail proposal citing "suspect" patronage figures and questioned the report's projected population for Canberra-Queanbeyan of 474,000 by 2016.[15] Current projections for the Canberra-Queanbeyan population see the metropolitan area reaching 474,000 between 2020 and 2023, four to seven years later than the 1995 projections.[16][17] In 1995 the ACT Liberal Party came to power and plans for a light rail network in Canberra were dropped.

In 1998 the ACT Government announced its support for the Federation Line, a proposed 7-kilometre (4.3 mi) line from the National Museum of Australia via the City to the Australian War Memorial. The line was to use heritage trams and was announced at a time when the location of the National Museum was seen by many to be too far from the city centre. The Federation Line was planned to be a new and appealing way of making Canberra's major museum attractions more accessible to visitors - by linking them by a 'living museum', a vintage electric tramway. The Federation Line was initially scheduled to be completed in time for the Centenary of Canberra in 2013, however public discourse on the line dried up around 2004, when the Federation Line website ceased being updated.


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.[18][19] In the 2013/14 ACT budget, $5 million was allocated for early design work.[20] In September 2014, the business case was approved by the government.

Light rail works in Franklin during July 2017

The project, known as Capital Metro during planning, 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.[21][22] The line is being delivered under a public private partnership.[23][24] Expressions of interest were received from the following consortia:[25][26]

The centre of Flemington Road in Gungahlin after being cleared for light rail works in July 2017

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.[29][30] 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.[31] The Canberra Metro consortium was announced as the preferred tenderer in February 2016 and the contract was finalised in May.[32][33][34] Under the contract, Canberra Metro will operate and maintain the line for 20 years, after which ownership will pass to the ACT Government.[35][34]

Stacked track in Gungahlin in August 2017

Design and construction costs are budgeted at $707 million.[34] The Australian Government is contributing $67 million to the project.[35] Commencement of construction was marked by a sod-turning in the northern suburb of Mitchell at the site of the depot on 12 July 2016.[36] Major construction of the route itself began towards the end of the year. The line is due to open in December 2018.[37][38][39]

The opposition Liberal Party opposed the project. In April 2015, the party announced it would cancel any contracts for the light rail if it won the 2016 ACT election.[40] A year out from the poll, the light rail project was already predicted to be the election's major issue.[41] 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.[42][43]

Testing of the line began in June 2018. A section in Gungahlin was electrified and one of the trams made trial runs.[44] All 14 trams have arrived in Canberra and it is hoped to have the project completed by the end of 2018.[45]


The 12-kilometre (7.5 mi) 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.[34] Emergency crossovers will be located to the north of the Dickson Interchange stop, as well as the north of the Nullarbor Avenue stop.[46] There will be 13 stops.[47] The main bus interchanges will be located at Gungahlin Place, Dickson Interchange and Alinga Street.[34] Proposed official names for the stops were released in April 2017.[48]

Station Suburb Platform layout Coordinates Refs.
Gungahlin Place Gungahlin Dual (Island & Side) 35°11′8.3″S 149°8′7.73″E / 35.185639°S 149.1354806°E / -35.185639; 149.1354806 (Gungahlin Place) [49]
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) [50]
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) [51]
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) [52]
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) [53]
EPIC and Racecourse Lyneham Side 35°13′42.37″S 149°8′39.85″E / 35.2284361°S 149.1444028°E / -35.2284361; 149.1444028 (EPIC and Racecourse) [54]
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) [55]
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) [56]
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) [46]
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) [57]
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) [58]
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) [59]
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) [60]


LRV004, An Urbos 3 in Canberra during July 2018

The service will be operated by Deutsche Bahn.[61] A complete journey will take around 24 minutes.[62] The contract specifies the following minimum service levels for hours of operation and service frequency:[34]

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 17:30-18:00 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 is building 14 Urbos 3 trams to operate the network. It will also provide twenty years of maintenance for the fleet.[63][64] The trams are 32.96 metres long and consist of five modules. There are four doors on each side of the vehicle, two single leaf and two double leaf doors.[65] The first tram was delivered in December 2017.[66][67][68] The vehicles feature a red & grey livery, with white reflective stripe in the middle.[69] The depot is located in Mitchell.[70]

Potential extensions[edit]

To Woden[edit]

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.
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.

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 (2 mi) 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.[71][72] 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.[73]

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:[74]

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 (6.8 mi) long.[75][76] 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.[77] 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 had yet to be locked in were presented to the public for comment.[78][79] An option that would have extended the route to the Canberra Hospital was dropped in December 2017. There were two options for the section between Lake Burley Griffin and Adelaide Avenue: a deviation to Barton with proposed stops at Old Parliament House, Brisbane Avenue and Sydney Avenue; or a more direct route via the Capital Circle.[80] The longer route via Barton was selected as the preferred route in April 2018.[81]

Routes for the Woden extension presented in May 2017:
Green: option 1
Orange: option 2
Purple: alternative route through the city
Blue: alternative terminus at the Canberra Hospital.
Both stages of the light rail project.

Construction of stage 2 is planned to begin shortly after the completion of the first stage.[77] The Australian Government will be invited to make a contribution to the project as part of the government's City Deals program.[82]

As part of the plans for stage two, there will also be an application for funding of an additional stage one stop, to be located at Morrisset Rd in Mitchell, between the depot and Well Station Drive.

Twenty-five year vision[edit]

In October 2015, the ACT Government released a plan for a citywide light rail network that would be built over a period of twenty-five years.[83] The plan includes the following elements:[84]

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


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External links[edit]

Media related to Capital Metro at Wikimedia Commons