Changes ahead

By: Amie Hickland

The ACT has allocated funding for the first stage of a light rail project in its 2014-15 budget

A move to fund light rail in the Australian Capital Territory has been welcomed by a public transport expert although only the future will tell how effective the infrastructure will be.

The 2014-15 ACT Budget was released this month and includes $21.3 million for the first stage of the Capital Metro light rail network. 

"Funding includes preparing Capital Metro to an investment ready stage and, subject to the full business case, commencing the procurement and delivery of the light rail service and its operation, specialised economic and financial advisory services and stakeholder engagement activities," according to a statement released by the Territory Government.

Professor Graham Currie, of Monash University, says Canberra has never had access to a quality railway service and welcomes the funding of the project.

"The thing I like about the decision is they’ve decided to try and change things," he says.

"It’s more of a visionary step.

"It’s going to be great for the nation’s capital to get to see what a good quality railway line looks like."

Currie says the cost-effectiveness of the project compared to Bus Rapid Transit will be seen with how successful the project is.

"In Australia, we’re seeing a turn toward investment in light rail which is certainly different to what has been happening previously.

"Light rail is coming back a bit."           

Other public transport initiatives in the budget include $2 million for government-operated bus service ACTION over the next four years to deliver new weekend bus services. A further $500,000 goes towards developing an enhanced booking system for community transport buses, and $3.25 million is to be invested in 2014-15 to start the revitalisation of Woden Town Centre and to begin the redevelopment of the bus interchange. 

The budget also includes $10 million over the next three years for an upgrade at the intersection of William Slim Drive and the Barton Highway and $300,000 in funding to see the implementation of more parking options throughout the Territory.  

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