COMMUTERS could have to wait until 2024 to jump on board of light rail that will link Alinga Street to Commonwealth Park.
The ACT government is already committed to the next stage of the project that proposes to eventually reach Mawson via Woden after its federal counterparts granted environmental approval on Wednesday (February 3).
More than $2 million has been allocated in next week’s 2020-21 territory budget on early works design to raise London Circuit that the government says will improve the “urban realm” and also pedestrian and cycling access southbound.
Construction has been planned for later this year, but Minister for Transport Chris Steel at the announcement could only promise that the additional 1.7km of track will be completed “in this term of government”.
The Labor-Green coalition government were re-elected for four years in October 2020.
“We are hopeful that light rail will be able to start construction as early as 2021 after we raise London Circuit,” Mr Steel said.
“But it will take several years to build just like light rail stage one did.
“We are hoping people will be able to start taking light rail, in this term of government, to Commonwealth Park and we look forward to be continuing to work on stage two being extended to make sure that light rail gets extended to Woden.”
London Circuit has to be raised first to the same level as Commonwealth Avenue to provide access for the rail to proceed, Mr Steel said.
The government has estimated works on the first component of stage two to facilitate light rail from London Circuit to Commonwealth Avenue will take around two years to complete.
The second component of the project that will connect the line to Woden will require a “lot more detail” on environmental assessments, including the need for environmental impact statements to be undertaken.
The Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation approval process is currently underway for the following stage to extend from Commonwealth Park to Woden and is expected to take up to 18 months alone.
Mr Steel said the next light rail stages were “one of the most complex approval processes” for construction in the ACT.
“The government’s priority is to seek approvals for the project and obviously that is not in the ACT government’s hands,” he said.
“We hope to get those approvals as soon as we can so we can get on with the project.”
Planning approvals are still required from the National Capital Authority and ACT Planning and Land Authority before construction begins on extending rail from Alinga Street.
The government says the enduring nature of the project will be worth it despite its overall hefty $707 million price tag as part of the government’s $14 billion ACT infrastructure plan.
The project is expected to deliver more than 1000 jobs for Canberrans that have benefited two-fold after the government also claimed that 43 per cent of current light rail users in the capital were not past users of public transport.
The 1.7km extension will involve three rail stops on Edinburgh Avenue, City South and Commonwealth Park following the initial 13 stops over the 12km track from Gunghalin into the city of Canberra.
“This is going to be a very disruptive project in the southern part of the city, but it’s going to generate long-term and wider economic benefits for public transport as our city grows,” Mr Steel said.
“It’s going to be a significant project that we are looking forward to happening as soon as possible once the approvals are bound through the NCA.”
The government also declined to comment on the procurement of the next stages of work over the coming months when questioned.
It will invest money in the next 2021-22 fiscal year budget in August on a feasibility study to investigate a business case for the benefits of extending the light rail onto Mawson potentially earlier than initially was planned from the Woden to Tuggeranong stage.