Canberra light rail ready to roll in April, minister says

Canberra's light rail will take its first passengers in April, pending final approval from the ACT government and independent regulators, Transport Minister Meegan Fitzharris says.

Ms Fitzharris once again could not provide a specific date for the service's launch, but said she expected the light rail would start moving passengers on a Saturday in mid-April.

Transport Minister Meegan Fitzharris and Canberra Metro chief executive Glenn Stockton at the light rail depot and control centre on Friday Photo: Sitthixay Ditthavong

Transport Minister Meegan Fitzharris and Canberra Metro chief executive Glenn Stockton at the light rail depot and control centre on Friday Photo: Sitthixay Ditthavong

Canberrans would be offered free public transport on the start date to mark the occasion, which will be followed soon after by the launch of the city's new bus network.

The government has for months been unable to pin down a firm start date for the long-awaited light rail network, as the service's operator, Canberra Metro, worked through the process of obtaining final approvals.

The Electrical Trades Union had expressed concerns that the network would not be accredited because high-voltage cables had been installed too close to the surface along parts of the Civic to Gungahlin line, in breach of Australian Standards.

On Friday, Canberra Metro chief executive Glenn Stockton said the operator was in "constant communication" with the ACT government and the independent regulator, Office of the National Rail Safety Regulator, and was confident the network would get the green light in time for an April start date.

Ms Fitzharris said she was assured the independent approvals would be granted.

It came as Ms Fitzharris and Mr Stockton toured the light rail network's depot and control centre in Mitchell, which is now fully operational following a 31-month construction period.

The service's 14 vehicles will be based at the depot's stabling yard, where they will receive cleaning and maintenance.

The control centre will provide 24/7 surveillance of the network, including monitoring CCTV cameras at each of the line's stop. Centre staff will relay messages to passengers about any delays or incidents along the network, and coordinate emergency responses to accidents.

CMET customer service officers Nicola Snow and Tina Colling, pictured above, show off the new uniforms Photo: Sitthixay Ditthavong

CMET customer service officers Nicola Snow and Tina Colling, pictured above, show off the new uniforms Photo: Sitthixay Ditthavong

In another milestone for the project, new rules giving light rail carriages priority to vehicles, cyclists and pedestrians at intersections along the route came into effect on Friday.

"The new traffic signalling system will ensure that light rail passenger enjoy the most efficient journey time when travelling on light rail while helping to maintain frequency," the project's director, Megan Oldfield, said.

"Where in the past motorists may have been able to predict the traffic lights because of the regular sequencing, this will now change. The usual sequence of signals will be disrupted as they approach an intersection and its really important that motorists, cyclists and pedestrians pay attention to the signals."

Friday also marked the unveiling of Canberra Metro's re-branded customer support team, which will now be known as CMET.

The team will wear distinctive red tops and grey Akubra hats, in a nod to the city's distinction as the Bush capital.

"That's the uniform that you will see on our support staff aboard the vehicles," Mr Stockton said.

"It's a highly visible, highly engaging branding that allows people to understand who their points of contact are and who can assist them to use the system safely and reliably."