ACT News


Corbell promises minimal rail pain

THE ACT government says it has learnt from the problems that have plagued the Gold Coast light rail network as planning for Canberra's network begins.

The 13 kilometre Gold Coast light rail network is set to be completed in 2014 and expected to cost $1.2 billion, but last week the proponents warned political leaders about massive disruptions to traffic, business and basic mains services such as water, electricity and gas during construction.

Canberra's system is expected to cost about $614 million and under the agreement which returned Labor to government, construction must begin by 2016.

But ACT Planning Minister Simon Corbell, who has carriage of the Canberra project, said the government has learnt from the pitfalls the Gold Coast suffered.

In January Mr Corbell travelled to the Gold Coast to meet with the Queensland government, Gold Coast City Council and the consortium that is building the network.

''There are some very important learnings from the Gold Coast's experience,'' Mr Corbell said, pointing out the Queensland system was technically more difficult.


''Our project is potentially much more straightforward. Gold Coast have to deal with a large number of land acquisition issues. They also have sections of their line that is underground and they also have many more significant bridges that have to be built over waterways to make their system operational. We don't face that level of complexity.''

But even small projects can go awry. A $4.5 million redevelopment of one of Queanbeyan's busiest streets, which was completed in 2012, lost businesses customers during construction.

The Crawford Street revamp removed one lane of traffic in each direction to create a new lifestyle precinct. Partner in Blooms the Chemist Brett Woonton said during construction business dropped by a third due to parking and traffic problems.

But Mr Corbell said that would not be an issue for Canberra businesses.

''In the Gold Coast they are building across existing streets in a tourist area … we've already got reserved land which is free from those issues and we don't have that immediate proximity of business to that road being resumed.''

The free land is Canberra's most recognisable tree-lined boulevard, Northbourne Avenue, and some if not all of the mature gum trees will be removed as part of the first phase of light rail.

''It's inevitable that some level of tree removal will be required,'' he said.