City to Woden Light Rail Express Service

The ACT Greens want to create a sustainable, connected Canberra that works for everyone.

Critical to this vision is a comprehensive public transport network that ensures everyone can get where they need to go without burning fossil fuel, being stuck in traffic, or having long public transport wait times.

A Canberra-wide light rail network is critical to this vision, but it needs to be done right. We want to make sure light rail is the most attractive transport option for people wishing to travel along its route.

The ACT Greens believe the current plan for Light Rail Stage 2 can be better: the plan should aim to make the service quicker and better integrated  into our active travel and bus network.

To ensure the Woden to City service is convenient and used by as many Canberrans as possible, the ACT Greens commit to making every second service in peak times an express service.

This would make light rail the fastest transport option from Woden to Canberra city, almost halving transit time.

The City to Woden Express service would cut around 10 minutes off the estimated 25-30 minute route planned in the current Stage 2 proposal, allowing people to either travel directly from Woden to the city, or use the all-stops service.

The ACT Greens understand that big infrastructure investments like light rail give us a chance to transform Canberra into a sustainable, 21st-century city. That’s why we are committed to getting it right, by ensuring Light Rail Stage 2 is as fast, integrated, and future-proof as possible. The proposal will:

  • Ensure Light Rail Stage 2 is the fastest transit option to get from Woden to the City, by introducing light rail express services
  • Integrate light rail networks  into existing bus service networks to ensure that when light rail is introduced to Woden, the frequency of connecting suburban bus services is also improved
  • Build footpaths and lighting to light rail stops, to enable people to feel safe when going home after dark
  • Integrate light rail with an ACT-wide, off-road cycling network and other active transport options.

How would the City to Woden express service work?

There are several ways to design and build express services. Currently, with services every six minutes in peak times, express services can be delivered by implementing timetable changes, which is the cheapest solution. However, we want Light Rail Stage 2 infrastructure to incorporate overtaking tracks at some stations to ensure that express services can continue even when services are more frequent. Crossing point infrastructure would  allow light rail vehicles to terminate and change direction without needing to complete the full route.

For a relatively small investment, bypass and crossing point infrastructure could be constructed at several stations, which would enable more complex express services to be included in the timetable, once the network goes to Tuggeranong. These bypass and crossing points must be included in the plans for Stage 2 from the beginning, to ensure that our network can cope with demand in decades to come.

Why are express services important?

The ACT Greens are committed to ensuring express services help Canberrans get to where they want as quickly as possible.

We know Light Rail Stage 1 - Gungahlin to City - has been incredibly popular, reaching the patronage targets years early. That’s because it was reliable, sustainable, affordable, and fast. But it’s also because  people got a chance to see the potential role of sustainable transport in Canberra’s future. Our proposal for Stage 2 of the Canberra light rail network is about making sure people in the south also get the best possible public transport outcomes.

It is critical that all public transport proposals integrate bus, cycling, and other transport options, giving us an integrated approach to getting around our city.

This forms part of the ACT Greens’ vision for a sustainable Canberra, which also includes a Cycling Revolution and Electric Vehicle rEVolution.

Find a PDF copy of our plan here.


Your questions answered

Since we released this initiative, we’ve had strong interest from the community in express light rail services.  Here’s some answers to your questions.

How are you proposing this would work in detail?

Light rail stage 2 can run express services with a mix of:

  • Clever timetables
  • Limiting wire-free sections and making sure light rail vehicles and stations are designed for future upgrades to batteries and recharging
  • Putting in extra infrastructure like a small number of short bypass tracks and crossing points
  • Leaving space for more bypass tracks and crossing points in future.

I thought express services were only for heavy rail?

Express services can operate on light rail systems like Canberra where light rail vehicles are in dedicated lanes and have proper platforms for waiting passengers.  On-road public transport systems like Melbourne’s trams are limited by traffic congestion.  Melbourne also has tram stops where there is no safe platform waiting space for passengers while a tram passes the station without stopping.

How does clever timetabling work?

The express service would leave immediately before an all stations service.  That gives it space on the tracks to catch up to the all stations service ahead.  For example, the timetable leaving Woden Town Centre in the morning peak could look like this:

8:00 am:    All stations

8:09 am    Express

8:10 am    All stations

In this example, the 8:09 express would have 9 minutes of clear track ahead of it which it could use to run express.  It would arrive at the City just behind the 8:00am all stations service.

Why are wire-free sections a problem and what can be done?

Wire-free sections will be powered by battery.  Services will potentially have to be operated differently on wire-free sections to make sure the batteries don’t go flat.  This could mean slower speed or more time stopped at stations to recharge.  The good news is that battery and recharging technology is improving quickly.  Light rail stage 2 should be designed to allow for future battery and recharging upgrades.

Does a bypass lane mean long sections will need to have 4 tracks?

No, bypass lanes can be limited to a short section at certain stations where there is space.  Clever signalling can mean only one extra track is needed.

What are crossing points and how do they help?

Crossing points are spots where light rail vehicles can swap from one track to the other.  They allow for extra peak services that only cover the busiest sections such as Barton to Dickson.  At their final station, the vehicle swaps to the other track so they are ready for their next service back towards the City.  That clears the way for an express service coming up behind them.