New light rail proposal for East Canberra

Canberra station is expected to be moved from Kingston and the railway line replaced with a new light rail and active running route serving eastern Canberra, the Fyshwick Business Association argue.

The association and Stewart Architecture yesterday launched its vision for the Eastwick Green Line, its alternative to the route proposed by the ACT Government – “a vision… [that] will reinvigorate the underused rail corridor and build a heritage project that will benefit the entire nation’s capital,” said Association President Rob Evans.

In 2015, Transport Canberra said that the eastbound links (Fyshwick and the airport) were a high priority corridor; his Light Rail Master Plan shows separate routes from the parliamentary triangle to each destination.

The Fyshwick Business Association and Stewart Architecture are instead proposing to realign the route, as their map shows:

Fyshwick is strategically located in the southern interior, between Queanbeyan and Canberra, and close to residential developments in East Lake and Kingston Foreshore, Mr Evans said.

The new light rail corridor would link east Canberra and Queanbeyan to Civic and the Parliamentary Triangle, and serve what he called “a string of pearls”: Manuka Oval, Kingston Foreshore, the Kingston Arts Precinct, Fyshwick Markets, Jerrabomberra Wetlands, East Lake, Dairy Road Precinct and CIT Fyshwick.

According to architect Felicity Stewart, it would be “a thoroughfare through all of eastern Canberra”.

Fyshwick is the ACT’s second largest economy (worth $3 billion) and third largest employment district (more than 1,500 businesses and 15,500 workers), Mr Evans noted. Additionally, 97% of Canberran residents visit Fyshwick every year, more than half several times a year and one in five at least once a week.

However, Fyshwick is not well served by public transport, Mr Evans said. Canberra Avenue is Canberra’s second busiest road (30,000 commuters a day) and one of the two worst for accidents, while Fyshwick is difficult to navigate by bike or scooter. He expected these problems to worsen as the population increased over the next decade.

He said the proposed scheme would solve the neighborhood’s traffic problems and boost economic activity and sustainability.

Relocation of the station

Canberra station would be moved from Kingston to a new transport hub at the east end of Fyshwick, near the current Park & ​​Ride lot (on government-owned land).

“The east end of Fyshwick is the ideal location for an all-new multi-modal transit hub where heavy rail meets light rail, and which would provide a suitable arrival to the nation’s capital for people traveling by rail instead of the brown box with no convenience or connectivity that is currently Canberra station,” Mr Evans said. “The hub would also include park and ride facilities and end-of-trip facilities for active travellers.

“People could arrive in Canberra and hop on the light rail or bus to get where they want to go across the city in a seamless public transport network.”

The current building, built in the 1960s, was only intended to be temporary; the government considered moving the station to the airport/Monaro Freeway, with a light rail link to the city.

The green Line

Design by Stewart Architecture.

The new light rail corridor would be 4 km long and 80 meters wide: 30 meters for light rail and an active traffic lane, and 25 meters on either side for development.

The rail corridor is only used part-time, mainly by Transport NSW, Ms Stewart said; she described it as “a hostile and arid space”, a no man’s land where kangaroos hop along the line. But, she says, that could be redesigned.

She envisions the Greenline as a massive urban renewal project, transforming Fyshwick from a mono-industrial space into an exciting and vibrant place.

It would make Fyshwick a greener neighborhood, rather than a ‘heat island’ – the hottest place in the ACT, according to CSIRO data – and a new urban park would protect Jerrabomberra’s wetlands.

“The fundamental challenge of this century is to make our cities more sustainable and healthier places to live,” said Ms Stewart. “That means creating green, car-free streets that have exceptional public transport, encourage active travel and leading well-being for all. Canberra is uniquely placed to realize this vision.

“Canberrans have always been on bikes, and now electric scooters are popular,” Mr Evans said. “We need to make it easier for cars to exit, and we simply cannot waste the opportunity in any new light rail infrastructure to include adjacent, safe and accessible active travel corridors.

“Reliable public transport and active travel options are good for business, especially when they get cars off the road in a place that’s already congested with traffic for most of the day.”

ACT pedal powerthe leading cycling body in Canberra, praised the integration of active travel into public transport and good planning.

“This kind of forward thinking is exactly what Canberra needs to create a healthier and more sustainable future,” said executive director Simon Copland.

More room for accommodation

Moving the station could solve the ACT’s housing crisis, say Eastwick Greenline supporters. The new alignment would free up 160,000 square meters of additional developable southern interior land for up to 9,000 new housing units, including medium and high density housing.

This would go a long way towards meeting the government’s 70% infill target,” Mr Evans said.

Stewart Architecture principal Marcus Graham said: “This proposal aims to unlock a significant amount of underutilized land in central Canberra. Smart infill will help limit urban development on the outskirts of our already sprawling capital. This project alone could accommodate a significant portion of Canberra’s future growth while preserving and enhancing key natural assets such as the Jerrabomberra Wetlands. »

Design by Stewart Architecture.

Economic benefits

The light rail route, Mr Evans said, “would be cheaper and faster to build and…a better value proposition to government than any other light rail route on the map”.

Land value increase (the increase in land value due to light rail) could go a long way to paying for infrastructure, Evans said. An independent appraisal showed the increase in land value to be at least $570 million.

“It’s a significant deposit on an infrastructure project where half of the road is already built.”

Using the existing transit corridor, Mr Evans said, would speed up construction, as the corridor is already built and there were fewer traffic considerations; would save tens of millions of dollars because the government would not have to dig Canberra Avenue; and eliminate the disruption to arterial traffic and loss of productivity caused by construction along Canberra Avenue.

Policy responses

Mr Evans expects the scale and importance of the infrastructure and its links to the airport and the wider capital region to attract both Federal and NSW funding.

Senator David Pocock said he supports the “really exciting” proposal and hopes the federal government will support a proper study on it.

“It ticks a lot of boxes in terms of infill, green space, active transportation,” said Senator Pocock.

Moreover, argued Mr Evans, the proposal has achieved the 10 objectives of the ACT government project. District Strategy: Center-South. This document, he noted, already recognizes the Eastwick Greenline route as a “strategic investigative corridor”, “supporting future rapid transport links and a more robust network of connections to and between the nodes of activity”.

Mr Evans said feedback from ACT ministers, MPs, planning and transport officials, industry and community groups and members of the Fyshwick Business Association has been positive.

The ACT government has welcomed the enthusiasm for the Fyshwick Business Association’s light rail project. “This is a testament to the success of the project and Canberrans’ willingness to support the extension of the light rail network beyond Stage 1.”

However, light rail to Fyshwick is low on the government’s priority list.

The government’s current aim is to deliver stage 2 of the light rail to Woden, starting with stage one of the extension from Alinga Street to Commonwealth Park, the spokesperson said. The next stop to consider would be Belconnen, followed by Tuggeranong. The government will then consider further links between Fyshwick/Queanbeyan and the Molonglo Valley.

The ACT Government is updating the light rail network plan to reflect current thinking on Canberra’s future light rail network, the spokesperson said. This work will inform future transport and land use planning for future stages of light rail, in particular the future Stage 3 east-west route to Belconnen. The Queanbeyan Region Integrated Transport Plan, published by Transport for NSW, will also be considered.

“It is encouraging to see Canberra businesses getting involved in the light rail project, as construction picks up speed on the second stage.”

Damien Haas, President of the Canberra Public Transport Association, saw it as an excellent proposal which would revitalize both Fyshwick and the inner south. According to him, it should not be favored before the tram to Belconnen, but the loop to the airport could be built at the same time.

The public can comment online via www.fyshwickbusiness.com.au. The Fyshwick Business Association will summarize and forward these comments to the government.

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Jose P. Rogers