Canberra Light Rail

Canberra, Australian Capital Territory, Australia

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The Canberra Light Rail is a vital piece of infrastructure, connecting the major population areas, employment centres, and social and cultural hubs across Canberra. The 12km long Stage 1 route includes 13 stops linking current and future development along the corridor including the inner north commercial centre of Dickson and the integrated bus interchange.

AECOM was engaged to perform design services for a John Holland and CPB construction joint venture. AECOM provided the detailed design of the 12km of track alignment and track slab and all road infrastructure and furniture, including drainage along the Federal Highway and Northbourne Avenue, as well as utility relocations, combined services routes, traction power sub-stations civil engineering, overhead wiring foundations, and street lighting for the full route. AECOM also designed a buried bridge structure at Dickson and the depot’s mechanical, electrical, and hydraulic building services. 

Working closely with SMEC, Architectus, DSB Landscape Design and others, AECOM was instrumental in setting up efficient processes within the project. Facing the challenge of working with known and unknown buried services and utilities, the team had to adapt to a fast-moving design environment with changing scope and timeframes.  

In 2021, Major Projects Canberra engaged AECOM as the Principal Technical Advisor for the Canberra Light Rail Stage 2 project – including Raising London Circuit, Stage 2A and Stage 2B. 

Embedding sustainability

Ambitious urban outcomes are an integral part of the Canberra Light Rail project. To deliver the local government’s urban design objectives, AECOM prioritised an integrated response, with the urban design team leading the project and the engineering team supporting the technical aspects.  

As the technical advisor, the team developed the Light Rail Stage 2 Urban Design Framework and Guidelines (UDF), where sustainability is featured as a core guiding principle for the project alongside movement, place, and delivery.  

The sustainability principle is concerned with the environmental and heritage aspects of the light rail system and its settings. Considering climate change, the theme includes future-proofing city infrastructure and creating more resilient and sustainable places for our communities. The UDF sustainability principle also includes sub-themes considering: 

  • Energy and carbon reduction
  • Water-sensitive urban design
  • Landscape and biodiversity

The team continues to pursue sustainability outcomes by applying the UDF in alignment with the Light Rail Sustainability Policy, which aims to deliver the inherent sustainability benefits of light rail and seek opportunities to enhance the social, economic, and environmental outcomes for the community through all stages of the project lifecycle. 

Enabling sustainable development

The Canberra Light Rail has been a catalyst for sustainable development along the Northbourne Avenue corridor. It is 100 percent powered by renewable energy and is the first light rail system in Australia to include dedicated bicycle spaces on each vehicle. 

According to the Major Projects Canberra’s Benefits Realisation Report, Canberra has seen higher-than-expected population growth in the suburbs along the corridor, as well as an increase in property value. From 2014 to 2018, average house prices increased by 17% across the Australian Capital Territory but were higher in the regions incorporating the light rail corridor – 39% in the Inner North and 27% in Gungahlin over the same period. The report also shows that business growth has increased by 4% along the Gungahlin section of the corridor from 2014 to 2018. 

Light rail has the potential to deliver long-lasting improvements in equity by increasing accessibility, allowing otherwise disconnected populations to access essential amenities like healthcare, retail, education, and employment hubs. There has been significant public housing renewal along the Canberra Light Rail corridor, with the replacement of 1288 aged public houses, which has improved social outcomes and moved tenants to newer, higher-quality housing.