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Liberals question light rail time savings as bus connections remain unclear

Questions remain over how commuters will access the Capital Metro light rail six months from construction beginning, with the Canberra Liberals maintaining the need to swap transport modes will make travel more difficult. 

The ACT government has confirmed bus interchanges will operate at two of the 13 light rail stops and a new park and ride site will be built on the northern edge of Mitchell. 

As population growth leads to more congestion, those who are city bound and can park their car near a light rail stop instead of driving themselves would have their commute shortened. 

Capital Metro Minister Simon Corbell emphasised light rail would have a consistent travel time of less than 25 minutes, compared to predicted on-road travel times of almost an hour by 2031 if no action was taken. 

But the government has estimated there will be more than 13,000 light rail boardings daily by 2021, meaning, without massive car park builds, the large majority of potential users would need a connecting bus to reach a tram stop.

Mr Corbell said the Transport Canberra and City Services agency, operating from July 1, would be responsible for integrating buses with the new light rail, including co-ordinated timetabling. However, there has been no commitment yet to have buses running to the light rail stops other than at Dickson and the Gungahlin central terminal. 

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Deputy Liberal leader Alistair Coe said light rail was a slower mode of transport than the express buses, which the Liberals have committed to expand. 

"For the 85 per cent of Gungahlin residents who don't live within walking distance of a proposed tram stop, travelling to the city by public transport will be more difficult," he said. 

Mr Corbell said light rail's separation from general traffic would give it an advantage over a bus, but the Liberals have said express buses would have a clear run with designated lanes.

Rapid route 202 busses now take 25 minutes from Gungahlin bus station to the city leaving between 8am and 9am. 

The single known new park and ride plan is for the corner of Well Station Drive and Flemington Road, where Mitchell meets Franklin, and would feature more than 190 spaces. Designs have been completed and it would be constructed "in future years subject to funding approvals", Mr Corbell said. 

The ACT government signed a contract with the Capital Metro Consortium last week, where the developer said there was about six months of design work to be done before substantial construction would begin, taking it past the October 15 election. The first tram was expected to take passengers in 2019. 

The government has encouraged residents to complete their transport survey to ensure planning is based "on what people need and want, including park and ride facilities".