The Canberra Metro Stage 1 service was launched in April 2019. Credit: Canberra Metro.
The first light rail vehicle (LRV) for the Canberra Metro project arrived at the rail depot in December 2017. Credit: Canberra Metro.
Canberra Metro Operations (CMET) is the operator of the Canberra Stage 1 light rail project. Credit: Canberra Metro Operations.

Stage 1 of Canberra’s light rail project, Capital Metro, involved the construction of a 12km light rail route from Hibberson Street, Gungahlin, to Alinga Street in the city centre, in Canberra, Australia.

Construction of Stage 1 began in July 2016 and the light rail entered service in April 2019.

The Capital Metro Agency was formed in July 2013 to undertake the design, procurement, and delivery of Stage 1 of the light rail project. The agency was merged into the Transport Canberra and City Services (TCCS), a directorate of the Australian Capital Territory (ACT) Government, in 2016.

The Canberra Metro Stage 1 project was executed as a part of the Transport for Canberra policy, devised in 2012.

Canberra Metro concession agreement

Canberra Metro received a contract from the ACT Government for Stage 1 of the light rail system in 2016. The contractual scope included the design, construction, operations, maintenance, and financing of the light rail system.

Canberra Metro is a consortium of CPB Contractors, Pacific Partnerships, John Holland Group, UGL, Mitsubishi, Aberdeen Infrastructure Investments, Deutsche Bahn (DB) Engineering and Consulting, Construcciones y Auxiliar de Ferrocarriles (CAF), and Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group (MUFG).

The Stage 1 light rail system is operated by Canberra Metro Operations (CMET), under a 20-year concession. CMET is part of the Canberra Metro consortium and comprises UGL, and John Holland, in partnership with DB Engineering and Consulting.

Canberra Metro Stage 1 routes and benefits

Canberra Metro Stage 1 is a 12km-long light rail line with 13 stops. It runs from the city centre to Gungahlin, one of the fastest growing areas in Canberra. The route runs along Northbourne Avenue, the Federal Highway, and Flemington Road.

The service frequency is six minutes during peak time and up to 15 minutes during non-peak time.

The light rail system delivers high-quality, reliable, and frequent public transport down one of Canberra’s busiest corridors. It provides a competitive alternative to driving and helps manage congestion as the corridor population continues to grow.

The project involved more than 5,000 workers during the construction phase.

Light rail in Canberra encourages smarter land use, allowing the city to become more compact and efficient. It acts as a catalyst for urban transformation and revitalises the declining Northbourne Avenue, the entrance to the nation’s capital.

Capital Metro supported a shift towards public transport. The main focus is to encourage citizens to leave their cars at home and use the metro. A new and easy-to-use service generates travel, particularly into the central retail and commercial precinct of Civic. The integrated bus and light rail services deliver a better all-round service for customers.

Stations and facilities at Canberra Metro

The major stations are located at Gungahlin town centre, Dickson, and the Alinga Street/Northbourne Avenue intersection in the city. There are 13 stops, which  are 750m to 1.5km apart. The last stop is at Alinga Street, near the City Bus Interchange.

All stops feature audio call/help points, CCTV surveillance cameras, and dedicated hearing loops. They also have passenger information displays to provide commuters with up-to-date service information on both the stop, and interconnection with bus services.

Wi-Fi connectivity is provided at stops along the route and onboard the vehicles.

Canberra Metro infrastructure

Canberra Metro uses a fleet of 14 light rail vehicles (LRVs), supplied by the Spanish rolling stock manufacturer CAF. Each vehicle is 33m-long and comes with a seating capacity of 66 passengers. It can carry 207 passengers in total.

The low-floor, accessible vehicles feature heating and air conditioning systems. Each LRV has two priority seats, two areas for wheelchairs, and four bike racks.

A maintenance depot is located in the industrial suburb of Mitchell, adjacent to existing government sites. It houses operational management and administrative offices, and also serves as an operations and maintenance facility for the light rail vehicles.

Five substations containing transformers, rectifiers, and switchgear, either in-house or in outdoor compounds, are located along the corridor. These substations provide the traction power needed to run the light rail system. Power is supplied to the vehicles by a single overhead wired system.

Funding for the Canberra Metro

The Australian Capital Territory (ACT) government allocated funding in the 2014-15 ACT Budget to advance the project to the ‘investment ready’ stage.

Canberra Metro refinanced a A$280m ($211.33m) debt facility, using a green loan, in December 2020.

Australia and New Zealand Banking Group (ANZ) and the Commonwealth Bank of Australia (CBA) acted as co-ordinators of the green loan while ANZ, Mizuho, CBA, ING, National Australia Bank (NAB), and Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corporation (SMBC) acted as mandated lead arrangers.

Herbert Smith Freehills advised the Canberra Metro consortium on the refinancing deal.

Canberra Metro  traffic changes

The light rail route uses a median alignment. A wide median was created along the majority of the route to provide significant construction and operation benefits. The alignment was also intended to retain the current traffic capacity along the route, and create minimal traffic disruption.

Gungahlin Place and Dickson are the major interchange points for buses with the light rail network.

Canberra Metro network expansion

Stage 2 of the Canberra Metro proposes to extend the light rail network from the central business district (CBD) of Canberra to Woden, via the Parliamentary Triangle.

Construction work related to raising the London Circuit Road for an at-grade intersection with Commonwealth Avenue, to facilitate the start of Stage 2, is expected to commence in 2022.

Stage 2 will be implemented in two parts, namely Stage 2A and Stage 2B. Stage 2A will involve the extension of the network to Commonwealth Park while Stage 2B will run from Commonwealth Park, across the Burley Griffin Lake, to Woden.

Satge 2A will add three additional stops and extend the light rail network by 1.7km. It is expected to be constructed between 2024 and 2026.

Two additional stages, namely Stage 3 and Stage 4, are also planned to expand the Canberra light rail network. Stage 3 will connect Belconnen to Canberra CBD, and then continue to the Canberra Airport via the Russel precinct, while Stage 4 will link Woden and Tuggeranong Centre via Mawson.

Contractors involved

An Arup-led consortium provided technical advice for the early design phase of the light rail transport system. The advisory team for this early design phase included HASSELL and Parsons Brinckerhoff, Brown Consulting, LANDdata Surveys, Phillip Chun Access, SLR Consulting, GML Heritage, and dsb Landscape Architects.

EY provided commercial advice to the Capital Metro Agency while Clayton Utz provided legal counsel.

Architectus, an architectural firm based in Australia and New Zealand, provided urban design, architecture, and landscape design services for Canberra Metro.

Cubis Systems provided its STAKKAbox™ ULTIMA Hybrid solution for the associated underground network access infrastructure of the project.