Opinion: Bordeaux sees the light (rail)

ON these chilly mornings, I could be forgiven a daydream or two – summer in provincial France perhaps? Bordeaux, a picnic lunch, a good wine… and perhaps a light rail trip.

Bordeaux light rail.

Bordeaux light rail.

For many of us, Bordeaux conjures up images of vineyards and historic architecture. But as a city of around 240,000 people, Bordeaux supports a light rail network that is recognised as setting a new standard in tram transport.

One quarter of the network relies on a ground-level power supply rather than overhead wires. The embedded third rail technology creates the illusion that carriages glide down the street and over grass verges without assistance.

All lines operate from pre-dawn until at least midnight, seven days a week – transporting more than 50 million passengers a year. And at each stop a screen helpfully displays the time until the next tram – on weekdays no longer than around 12 minutes. Combined with 5000 car spaces at park-and-ride stations, the tramway is a perfect commuting option.

In its design, the city engaged widely with the community, including the elderly, pregnant women and adults with children and disabilities. The result has been accessible carriages with “low floor” access, leaning rails and wide aisles.

I can’t help but wonder if we could achieve the Bordeaux rail experience in Canberra; perhaps in the future I could have my picnics and wine reveries more locally.

Catherine Carter is ACT executive director of the Property Council of Australia.


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