ACT News

Government moves ahead with Russell tram extension development application

A development application for the proposed extension of Canberra's light rail line to the Russell Defence precinct will be lodged alongside the main city to Gungahlin works application. 

Capital Metro Minister Simon Corbell​ will announce progress on the two development applications on Wednesday, before the government decides if it will go ahead with the 3.2-kilometre extension that would run along London Circuit, Constitution Avenue and on to Russell. 

Development application coming: an artist's impression of the Canberra light rail.
Development application coming: an artist's impression of the Canberra light rail. 

The two shortlisted consortiums bidding to build and operate stage one of the network provided additional bid information for the Russell extension this month, and a final sign off is expected by early next year. 

Mr Corbell said the applications would be lodged within weeks and including the Russell extension would mean work could begin more quickly if the government decides to give the go-ahead. 

ACT government-controlled land along the proposed extension route includes a stretch of London Circuit between Northbourne Avenue and Constitution Avenue, excluding Ainslie Place. The remainder of the extension route will require separate approval from the National Capital Authority and would have to run without the use of overhead power lines

"We felt it was prudent to also include in the base case development application a provision for the Russell extension," Mr Corbell said. 

"There's a very modest level of work required for the application for ACT-controlled land.

"Should we choose to proceed with Russell, we will need to make an application to the National Capital Authority for works approval for the full length of Constitution Avenue and for the balance of London Circuit, and for the London Circuit-Constitution Avenue intersection and the Ainslie Avenue intersection." 

Mr Corbell said the authority wanted ACT planning requirements to be well under way before it begins consideration of federal works approval, if required. 

The Russell extension would increase the $783 million cost of the line and will add to the political heat attached to the tram project. The opposition plans to stop development if it wins the October 2016 election, a move that would include millions in compensation. 

Mr Corbell said trams running to Russell would also see the line "perfectly placed to extend to other key parts of our city, including the airport, the parliamentary triangle and other destinations south of the lake".

In August, he gave the strongest indication yet the government would extend its original 12-kilometre plan, describing Russell as an "enormously attractive" option for stage one. 

The extra segment would include three passenger stops and could create about 5600 extra passenger trips each day, providing a boost of 30 per cent to the overall project. 

About 8300 public servants and Defence Force personnel could access trams, as well as city office workers, tourists and shoppers. The extension would also service new housing developments in Reid, the convention centre and Canberra Institute of Technology.

The ongoing Constitution Avenue road works allow for realignment in a light rail line goes ahead. Disruption around City Walk and Vernon Circle would be avoided using the London Circuit route.  

The Capital Metro Agency annual report, released on Tuesday, said non-capital expenditure up to June 30, including payroll costs and advisors, stood at $23.696 million, about 1 per cent over the planned annual budget. 

The agency employs 25 full-time equivalent staff members. 

Officials have provided the costs of relocating underground pipes and wires around the light rail corridor to each of the consortiums, who will negotiate for relocation with utility companies.  

The controversial plan to cut down more than 800 trees along the line has seen the agency ask bidding consortiums to show how much a staged removal of trees on Northbourne Avenue would add to the total cost. The cost will be considered before a final cut-down plan is agreed.