Light rail to hit Canberra tracks for testing from January
31 July 2017 Katie Burgess
Light rail vehicles could be running on the Mitchell to Gungahlin line from January, when the commissioning and testing phase of Canberra Metro's $710 million project gets under way.
Transport minister Meegan Fitzharris toured the site of the Mitchell depot on Wednesday, where stabling yards, maintenance sheds and an administration office for light rail are under construction.
An announcement on the route for stage two is coming within weeks, the first tracks will be laid soon and the light rail stops have been given the tick of approval by the National Capital Authority.
"There's no turning back from here," Ms Fitzharris said.
"Canberrans who have come along the route recently will have seen enormous progress, we have construction at every stage of the route now."
Scenario testing will take place between the Mitchell depot and the Gungahlin terminus from January to July next year. It is hoped the first passengers will use the service by August.
But progress has come with disruption and there is plenty more to come.
The intersection of Cooyong Street and Barry Drive will again shut this weekend and the worst is yet to come as construction intensifies closer to the centre of the city.
Ms Fitzharris said she was confident the disruption would be "minimised" and dismissed comparisons to George Street in Sydney, where light rail construction has killed trade.
"Each episode of disruption is limited to 54 hours so that's a very short period," she said.
"It's a very well planned project, of course George Street is very different to this route and one of the reasons for that is this route was build for light rail so we know there's been planning for 100 years to have mass transit dow the majority of this route."
She said they had been working with the Canberra Business Chamber to mitigate the impact of construction on businesses with retail frontage in the light rail construction zone.
"What I'm confident they do know is that when the project is completed their businesses will benefit and they'll have been informed along the way," Ms Fitzharris said.
The government is soon to reveal more detail about the Elouera Street light rail station and the proposed Northbourne Plaza.
"That is also a really important part of this project in the city, and that's to really liven up the area between the Melbourne and Sydney buildings," Ms Fitzharris said.