Prominent architect criticises light rail plans in letter to PM

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PROMINENT ACT architect and agitator Jack Kershaw has criticised stage two of the ACT light rail in an open letter to Prime Minister Scott Morrison.

In the letter, Mr Kershaw calls for more public debate on stage two of the light rail (from Civic to Capital Hill), saying it needs more wide-ranging expert assessment.

“The tram is literally on ‘the wrong track’,” Mr Kershaw says in the letter.

“The crossing of Lake Burley Griffin needs a more exciting and enlightened solution that respects the national capital ethos, while better expressing, visually, economically, and symbolically, a progressive new mode of public transport for Canberra, in the central national area.”

Mr Kershaw highlights many serious problems with stage two, including the dangerous and costly decision to divide the project into two parts, major traffic disruption during construction, inappropriate “land value capture” for vista- and public realm-destroying private residential development at West Basin and Commonwealth Avenue (north), and the destruction of cultural landscapes, including famous trees, and open space character.

He goes on to say it will effect vital national capital heritage, it will destroy the visual and symbolic developmental balance of the Parliamentary Zone, it will ruin the existing symmetry with Kings Avenue, including its bridge and it will fill in the attractive, bulk-reducing, and vista-affording bifurcated form of Commonwealth Avenue Bridge, with tram tracks.

As a solution to these problems, Mr Kershaw proposes an alternative route that takes in Edinburgh Avenue, Acton, ANU, Liversidge Street and the existing land bridge over Parkes Way tunnel, or Lawson Crescent, Acton Peninsula south, Griffin’s missing, third central lake crossing (for trams, pedestrians, and bikes only), a discrete, enlarged Lennox Gardens North combined with Flynn Place (appropriately detached from Nara Park and other precincts to the south), Flynn Drive and State Circle (With a stop at Kings Avenue, serving Parliament House north and the Parliamentary Zone).

“This alternative route is more inclusive, and offers some appropriate ‘land value capture’ opportunities,” Mr Kershaw says.

“In the alternative arrangement, peak hour services could run partially express between Capital Hill and Civic, to optimise the inter-town travel time.”

Mr Kershaw says it is also feasible and reasonable that normal overhead wires can be used throughout stage two if the above-suggested alternative route is adopted, obviating the need for expensive dedicated rolling stock.

“This is because of the nature and relative detachment from the National Triangle of the suggested new lake crossing, Flynn Drive, and even State Circle (its cutting in particular); and provided the wires could be accepted in the short transition to, and on Adelaide Avenue,” he says.

“Apparently, the location of The Lodge there is a major factor. However, there is a long-standing proposal, despite recent renovations, to eventually relocate the Prime Minister’s residence, to a new building complex, more appropriately, on a site near the lake in the vicinity of north-facing Attunga Point.”

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