As local planning initiatives go light rail would have to be one of the biggest. Canberra is not a large city but has a lot of sprawl its footprint is about the size of Greater London and with a growing population transport is a big issue. Most Canberrans commute in cars, public transport isn't frequently used this is because the only public transport which exists is buses and although ACTION does do a good job with regular buses to and from major centres and cheap fares it’s not enough. Buses are slow unreliable and put a lot of admissions into the air. So Canberra really has to ask the question does it want to be a liveable city in the future or not? All large cities around the world need functioning public transport to function and Canberra should really follow suit. I'm not talking Light Rail, no. I'm talking a large scale fast metro rail system linking all of Canberra as far as Yass, Cooma, Goulburn, Bungendore and possibly even as far as the coast and linked with high speed rail for Australia Sydney, Wollongong, Coffs coast, Albury, Melbourne and everywhere else in Australia. However I do realize that’s a long way off but we have to start somewhere.
So let’s talk about a Metro rail system for Canberra. Canberra seems to hate rail, no current light rail system and the only railway station is the seldom used Canberra railway station on the outskirts of Kingston which you have to go to Yass with to get to Melbourne and it takes 4 hours to the outskirts of Sydney. Although Canberra seems to have this vendetta against trains its spread out region with a modest population would make it well suited for a large scale fast metro system and it will be easier to start putting in now then later when the population is so large that you need it but its unfeasible to put in; NOW’s the time to do it. So how would this rail system work? Whether it’s an above ground rail system or underground or a combination of the two is irrelevant as both could work however underground would be better and possibly cheaper as it affects less of the surface of Canberra, it’s also easier to add to. Canberra’s lay out is good for a metro rail system as it’s a multi nucleus city so it already has lots of hubs which people commute between and would make obvious rail spots and then on the surface in that area you can be linked by bus and light rail. These spots are Belconnen, Gungahlin, Dickson, Civic/Central, Russel, Airport, Kingston, Queanbeyan, Woden, (Hospital), Weston Creek, Kambah and Tuggeranong should all be stops in the initial plan. With the possible expansion to outlying areas like Cooma, Yass, Goulburn, Bungendore with stops in between.
The role out
I think the rollout should begin in Canberra’s north. Not because I’m biased I live in Queanbeyan so I’m obviously not; More because Canberra’s north has most of Canberra’s population and a firstly increasing population with all of Canberra’s universities. So the first section built I think should be civic/central to Belconnen, and to Gungahlin with a stop in Dickson, and a link between Belconnen and Gungahlin. Then next should be south connecting all canberras major hubs. So Civic/Central to Woden stopping at the Hospital and then a link south from Woden to Tuggeranong stopping at Kambah and also a link west from Woden to Weston Creek. Then a line east starting at Civic/Central stopping at Russel, the Airport, Kingston and then finishing up at Queanbeyan. Then you could expand the rail network to regional areas.
I will post more things about a rail network for Canberra and a high speed rail for Australia but would love to hear your comments.