Canberra Hospital extension officially dropped for stage two of light rail

Canberra Hospital extension officially dropped for stage two of light rail

The second stage of Canberra's light rail will not extend to the hospital in Woden, in spite of more than half of ACT residents surveyed preferring the tram to terminate there.

After months of community consultation and technical analysis, the ACT government has narrowed down the possible routes the light rail will take south from the city from four to two.

Canberra's first tram arrived last week.

Canberra's first tram arrived last week. Credit:karlos corbella

The first option hugs the arterial road between Civic and the Woden Town Centre, while the second detours off Commonwealth Avenue towards Barton before rejoining the main road three-quarters of the way around Capital Circle.

Both routes circle around the western side of London Circuit, past the Australian National University and New Acton before crossing Commonwealth Bridge. They both terminate in the Woden Town Centre.

A close-up of the new route proposed for Barton.

A close-up of the new route proposed for Barton.

The government has remained tight-lipped about the cost of the two options, although Transport Minister Meegan Fitzharris said in August it would be comparable to the $939 million expected to be spent on stage one of the project.

"Costing analysis is currently being done on both routes and will be taken into consideration by the government," a spokeswoman for the minister said.

The government also made minute changes to the Barton option.

The route will now run along Windsor Walk rather than National Circuit because of "technical difficulties" associated with the latter, a spokeswoman for the minister said.

The original route proposed for Barton.

The original route proposed for Barton.

"There is not a significant difference in distance between option two via National Circuit, and option two via Windsor Walk. There will also be little difference on the number of people in the catchment area as the route has only moved one block," the spokeswoman said.

Ms Fitzharris said community feedback revealed a need to place the light rail route near "as many of the key employment hubs and national institutions as possible in the Parliamentary Triangle".

Three-quarters of Canberrans surveyed supported a route via Barton.

"It would also be Canberra's first light rail route with a section that doesn't follow a current road," Ms Fitzharris said.

"This design option would allow the route to get through Barton more quickly while also servicing more employment hubs and our important national institutions and tourist attractions."

But the popular extension to the Canberra Hospital was dumped due to technical restraints.

Fifty-six per cent, or 761 people, backed Option 2b, which would run through Parkes and Barton and all the way to Canberra Hospital. Nineteen per cent supported route 2a, which swung by Parkes and Barton but terminated at the Woden Town Centre.

But a report on the stage two consultation claimed concerns were raised about access to the hospital and the implications for the future southern extensions of the network. Ms Fitzharris' spokeswoman confirmed those concerns had scuttled the proposed extension.

The consultation report found people favoured more stops in the Barton precinct to allow for better access to job hubs as well as Manuka Oval.

As such, the Barton option has 13 indicative stops while the more direct route has 11.

A final decision on the route will be made next year.

The light rail stops will be finalised soon after that.

Canberra's first tram arrived in the capital last week from Spain as stage one of the project inches closer to completion. It was vandalised within the first day.

Work on the 12-kilomere corridor from Gungahlin to Civic is scheduled to be finished late next year.

The first testing of the trams on the tracks will occur early next year.

Katie Burgess is a reporter for the Canberra Times, covering ACT politics.

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