ACT businesses have told the ACT government the first stage of light rail must include an extension to Russell and that future links to the airport and the Parliamentary Triangle were critical to the project's success.
A number of business have described a light rail extension to Russell as part of stage one as "absolutely critical" while the Canberra Business Chamber said any further extensions would need proper business cases.
Canberra Business Chamber chief executive Chris Faulks told the Sunday Canberra Times she supported light rail in general as a "prerequisite to any modern city" but businesses would have preferred to have seen a comparative cost-benefit analysis at the start of the project.
"It's fair to say the business community has some concerns about the impact that the cost and potential annual deficit ... will have on potential capital works programs for the ACT government," she said.
"[But] as the government has decided it will go ahead with light rail, our view is that to maximise usage or patronage of the light rail system we're supportive of it being extended to Russell.
"The potential traffic between the defence establishment in Russell and the city is substantial, given the amount of people who work at Russell and the fact they might be able to potentially come into the city and use the business establishments during the day," she said.
In February the ACT government asked all consortiums bidding on the Capital Metro project to consider a possible extension to the defence headquarters at Russell as part of their proposal.
Bean 'n' Grind Espresso owner Kelsey O'Callaghan, whose Allara Street cafe will be just a block from the possible light rail route, said she hopes the first tramload of commuters from Russell will stop by her store in 2019.
"Canberra is in desperate need of some more public transport," she said.
"I think everywhere in Canberra could use a bit more foot traffic, particularly the immediate area. Right in the middle of the city is good but these surrounding parts need some more people."
Il Covo owner Cameron Bailey-Price said a light rail track into the city from Russell would encourage more Canberrans to get out of their cars and do things together.
"It increases foot traffic around the area and increases people going to work together, travelling together as a group, which in turn increases the likelihood of them actually going out and having dinner or lunch, which is massive," he said.
"The what's you've got in cities like Sydney or Melbourne."
Ms Faulks said any future extensions of the light rail would need a comparative cost-benefit analysis, although a route to the airport and Parliamentary Triangle would be "critical".
"What we would have preferred to have seen is that comparative cost-benefit analysis at the start of the project," she said.
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