Route 2016

Canberra's light rail journey

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Canberra's 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.

A map of Walter Burley Griffin's proposed railway. Photo: Engineers Australia

A temporary rail network was installed to transport bricks from Yarralumla to Civic and other parts of the growing capital. It finished when bridges across the Molonglo River linking Civic to Kingston were destroyed by flood in 1923.

Canberra Rail Trail - ACT government video on the original Canberra rail link


Private company Bishop Austrans put a proposal to the ACT government in 1998 for a network of 8-person driverless capsules that would transport Canberrans from the city to the airport, the Museum of Australia, and eventually across the city. In 1999 then Chief Minister Kate Carnell promised a 3km test track would be in place within 12 months – but the futuristic project was never realised.

A model of the proposed driverless capsules which Kate Carnell wanted on ACT roads.


Another push was launched for light rail in the ACT but then-planning minister Simon Corbell said it would be too expensive without federal money or a population of at least 450,000.

Canberra Times article from 2005



The ACT government put a submission to Infrastructure Australia for funding to build light rail, which failed to win support.

Both ACT Labor and Green parties had light rail policies going into the 2012 election. After the election, Katy Gallagher struck a deal with Greens MLA Shane Rattenbury to become chief minister, with a light rail system part of their agreement.

Shane Rattenbury and Katy Gallagher in 2012

Canberra's light rail will be a partnership between the government and a business consortium, who will design, build and operate it. On 19 December, the four companies who had lodged Expressions of Interest were announced and a successful applicant will be announced in 2016.

Capital Metro, the Government's light rail agency, has released its vision for how the route will look once constructed.

Source: ACT government

Capital Metro Proposed Stops


The Canberra Liberals oppose Capital Metro – they say it's expensive, will run over budget and over schedule and should be replaced with an improved bus service.

Opposition Transport spokesman Alistair Coe

Southside community councils aren't on board either – Tuggeranong council voted against it in 2014. They even released their own modelling saying it would actually cost $3 billion.

Article from The Canberra Times on July 3rd 2014.


Canberra Airport wants a different route altogether, saying the first stage of the light rail should run from their airport to the city, then around the lake and through the Parliamentary triangle.

Source: Canberra Airport


Cartoonist David Pope's take on the light rail controversies.

Facts + Figures

Capital Metro's first proposed route will run from Civic to Gungahlin, covering 12 kilometres and 11 tram stops.

Construction will begin in 2016 and finish in 2019 on stage one, costing $800 million in total. About 350 trees will be cut down to build the tracks.

An artist's impression of how the track will look

A trip from Gungahlin to the city will take 25 minutes in peak hour, with trams running every 10 minutes on weekdays, and 15 - 20 minutes on weekends. They'll start at 6am and finish at 11.15pm.


Light rail costs


Light rail networks are currently being discussed or built in Hobart, the Gold Coast, Newcastle and Perth.

Gold Coast Light Rail. Credit:

In February 2015, businesses bidding to build the rail link were asked to include a price estimate for an additional track to the Defence headquarters at Russell. Stage Two of Capital Metro could take it across the Lake to Kingston or further south to Woden - but not until at least 2020.

Future Light Rail plans

But if the ACT Liberal Party wins in 2016, they say they will shut down construction and improve Canberra's bus network instead.