Canberra's Light Rail Network

Light rail is a high-quality public transport system that will run on 100% renewable energy and will help transform Canberra into a modern, liveable and sustainable city.

The Greens are delivering light rail for Canberra

The ACT Greens have advocated for light rail for decades. As balance of power holders following the 2012 ACT election, the Greens at last secured a Government commitment to build Stage 1 of light rail for Canberra.

And now light rail in Canberra is underway!

Stage 1 runs between Canberra City and the Gungahlin Town Centre, delivering high quality, reliable and frequent public transport on one of Canberra’s busiest corridors.

Light rail stage 1 is already a great success. Passenger numbers have already surpassed the business case patronage estimates two years ahead of schedule! 

Why do the Greens love light rail?

The ACT Greens support a high quality, frequent, Canberra-wide, public transport network that runs on 100% renewable energy.

Light rail is ideal as the spine of this public transport network in Canberra, because...

  • Light rail is high quality, comfortable and convenient public transport, that will help avoid the traffic congestion forecast for our growing city, and improve travel times
  • Light rail is sustainable transport that runs on renewable electricity. It attracts more people to public transport, it helps reduce Canberra’s carbon footprint, and it will help reduce transport emissions and combat climate change
  • Light rail helps Canberra to develop and grow around permanent transport corridors, reducing urban sprawl, and creating a more compact and well-planned city
  • Light rail helps our local economy to grow, attracting new businesses, ideas, and tourists
  • Light rail has high capacity, creates no local air pollution and limited noise, and has good accessibility, with low platforms, priority seats, and wheelchair and bicycle spaces.

Light rail Stage 2 – Civic to Woden

Following the success of light rail stage 1, the Greens have secured a Government commitment to light rail stage 2 in 2016.

Light rail stage 2 will extend from the City to Woden. The expected route will cross Commonwealth Bridge, travel around State Circle, down Adelaide Avenue, and terminate on Callam Street at Woden Town Centre. By connecting to stage 1, stage 2 will create a North-South light rail spine, from Gungahlin to Woden.

Light rail stage 2 will improve public transport options for many people in Canberra. By linking to stage 1 it multiplies the benefits of light rail and starts to create a ‘network’. Light rail to Woden opens the possibility for future stages to extend to Tuggeranong and to Weston Creek/Molonglo. 

Light rail is also a fantastic catalyst for urban renewal, and it will bring much needed investment to the Woden Town Centre and Canberra’s south. Light rail stage 2 will also have all the benefits of stage 1, including running on renewable electricity, attracting more passengers to sustainable transport, and embedding a high-quality public transport spine.

The Greens continue to advocate strongly to plan and construct light rail stage 2 without delay. The planning for stage 2 is now well underway.

The Greens are strongly advocating about a range of related issues to ensure the best outcomes as a result of light rail stage 2. These include: ensuring that travel times are acceptable; there is good planning and community consultation about any new areas that may be opened up for development or urban intensification; ensuring that any trees removed in construction are more than adequately replaced; ensuring bike paths are direct and convenient between the City and Woden Town Centre; and advocating for the wider public transport network to be improved and connect conveniently with light rail.

The journey to light rail

The Greens have advocated for light rail for decades. Here’s a brief history of Canberra’s journey to light rail.

City designer Walter Burley Griffin originally intended there to be a light railway in the ACT, running down Northbourne Avenue past Campbell and down towards Kingston.

In 1989, light rail is first raised in a National Capital Development Commission study into transport links into Gungahlin.

In 1990, the National Capital Plan recommended that a “public transport priority” for Constitution Avenue should include capacity for future light rail.

In May 1991, a Federal Parliamentary Inquiry recommends that Northbourne Avenue be looked to as a major transport corridor. One witness suggests that a light rail network branching out from Gungahlin to the town centre, along Northbourne corridor, might be a feasible option. The Committee also notes that other cities with light rail, like San Diego, is “something that most in the city thought could never happen.”

In 1992, the ACT Greens political party were formed.

In 1995, the ACT Greens campaign for a “detailed feasibility study, including environmental and social benefits, of a light rail system… (that would) operate between the town centres (giving priority to Gungahlin).” Kerrie Tucker and Lucy Horodny are then the first Greens MLAs elected to the Legislative Assembly.

Then Chief Minister Carnell equivocates on light rail, describes “the option of having light rail between Gungahlin and Civic… is an issue of strong interest to the Greens”.

In 1997, the ACT Greens again advocate for light rail as part of the ACT’s transport system in our Transport Strategy.

In 2002, a Greens motion in the Assembly saw to it that “Gungahlin would not be forgotten”, ensuring that any future study of light rail included the regional centre.

In 2004, the ACT Greens transport policy includes “establishing (a) light rail connection between Gungahlin and Civic, along Northbourne Avenue.”

In 2010, the ACT Greens release our proposed Light Rail Network, across three stages – including the current stage one Gungahlin to Civic route.

In late 2010, yet another study finds that “a well-designed (light rail) system in Canberra could prove to be a worthwhile investment”, reducing our carbon footprint and improving transport options.

In 2012, the ACT Greens launch a major election commitment to realise a light rail public transport system built in Canberra. This commitment included funding to commence the first stage of light rail, and funding for a detailed design of a Canberra-wide light rail network.

By 2012, despite years of discussions, submissions and investigations, the major parties had yet refused to back a light rail proposal. “Now that there is a plan on the table, the lip-service can end: the other parties need to say if they support light rail, or if they don’t,” Greens MLA Amanda Bresnan said at the time. You can read the 2012 Greens discussion paper here.

ACT Labor vacillated on light rail for years. In 2012, Greens MLA Amanda Bresnan described this as an ‘election time warp’, seeing the major party consistently hint at action on light rail, while stopping short of delivering:

"A Minister standing on Northbourne Avenue talking about light rail has a certain déjà vu from previous election years…

The ACT Government has made numerous announcements about the findings of public transport studies and engaged in positive rhetoric about the opportunities, only to then take the projects nowhere. Post election announcements and consultants’ reports have evaporated into inaction and ‘business as usual’”…

The Greens believe light rail and bus rapid transit are realistic, viable options for Canberra that will pay off economically, socially and environmentally.”

In the same year, ACT Labor sought to water down a Greens motion in the Assembly committing the ACT Government to deliver on light rail.  

After years of advocacy, balance of power arrangements changed the state of play in ACT politics.

After the 2012 election, the Greens included an item in our Parliamentary Agreement to realise a commitment to deliver ‘the construction of a light rail network’.

The 2016 Parliamentary Agreement between the Greens and Labor also committed the Government to complete stage one by early 2019, and to begin design and scoping for stage 2 to Woden.

On 20 April 2019, many decades after the Greens advocacy, stage one of light rail will be realised – cementing the Greens’ ongoing leadership in delivering a modern, sustainable light rail option for Canberra.