Light rail system launches with first public trips between Gungahlin and the City

About 25,000 people got on board for the first day of Canberra's new light rail line.

The ACT government said 10 trams were operating on Saturday, running 130 trips - or covering about 1560km.

After taking the proposal to the Canberra community at the 2016 election, Saturday marked the completion of an often criticised promise for the ACT government.

Passengers alight a light rail vehicle at the Alinga Street stop on the Canberra light rail's official opening day. Photo: Sitthixay Ditthavong

Passengers alight a light rail vehicle at the Alinga Street stop on the Canberra light rail's official opening day. Photo: Sitthixay Ditthavong

Light rail project director Meghan Oldfield said Canberrans had been well behaved with no incidents to report.

Wait times for a ride were generally between 15 and 25 minutes, and the government declared the day a success.

Transport Minister Meegan Fitzharris said extra features would be phased in over coming weeks, including finishing the landscaping and roadwork, and permanent balustrades at intersections.

"The launch turnout shows how invested the community is in the future of Canberra," she said.

"While light rail is a new concept for many people, the positive feedback we've received tells us that we are on the right track in improving the connectivity and liveability of our city.

"Canberra is now better connected with the light rail route from Gungahlin to City, and this work now continues with the second stage of light rail - City to Woden."

Transport Minister Meegan Fitzharris, Chief Minister Andrew Barr and Deputy Chief Minister Yvette Berry at the launch of stage one of the ACT's light rail network. Photo: Elliot Williams

Transport Minister Meegan Fitzharris, Chief Minister Andrew Barr and Deputy Chief Minister Yvette Berry at the launch of stage one of the ACT's light rail network. Photo: Elliot Williams

An excited Chief Minister Andrew Barr and Ms Fitzharris were on hand at Gungahlin to welcome Canberrans to the light rail.

Mr Barr said Saturday marked the day Canberra grew up as a city.

"There were many skeptics, many critics, but we are delighted to be here today," Mr Barr said.

"[Today] our public transport system improves to the point of being befitting of nearly half a million people.

"That's why it's important to invest in transport infrastructure now to get ahead of that population growth. So that we don't go down the path of other Australian cities where congestion and lost time becomes a really significant drag."

Ms Fitzharris said people she had spoken to were excited to see the light rail up and running finally and as the community was enjoying the new system the government would turn it's attention to stage two.

She expected patronage to begin at about 4000 commuters using light rail during peak periods, which should then grow.

Light rail services will operate every six minutes during peak periods, every 10 minutes just outside peak times and every 15 minutes throughout the rest of the day.

Mr Barr was hopeful for a change in federal government at next month's election. He believed this would help smooth the way for stage two.

He also acknowledged the construction phase had been difficult both for inconvenience and particularly businesses, some of which suffered significant downturn.

"It's very difficult to build an infrastructure project of this scale without some disruption," Mr Barr said.

"The fact that it's taken 100 years to deliver does say something about the pace of change in Canberra at times."

He thanked Canberra for its patience and said now that construction was complete patronage would grow and more people would be directed to businesses along the light rail corridor.

Ms Fitzharris said to combat potential confusion with the start of light rail and the new bus network beginning on April 29, the government had been actively raising awareness of the new systems.

There would be Transport Canberra officers stationed at all interchanges and they had streamlined ticketing with MyWay cards implemented on all public transport.

She said there would be 10 rapid services - one light rail and nine bus routes - and buses would use the same number and follow the same routes seven days a week.

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