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The long-awaited Canberra light rail is here, and The Big Smoke can exclusively reveal the running details of its debut weekend.
On April 20, 2019, light rail (or trams if you prefer, there is a difference though) will commence running in Canberra. Finally fulfilling the original vision of Walter Burley Griffin, who specifically left room for light rail tracks in the design of Canberra he submitted in 1912, the Canberra Government plans to now continue to slowly roll out more light rail routes over the coming years to achieve a Canberra-wide network within a decade or so.
The ACT Government has special events organised for the launch day on Saturday April 20, with “live music, roving entertainment, kids’ activities at both City and Gungahlin terminals” between 9am and 4pm, as well as free travel for the first two days of operation.
Transport Canberra does caution people to expect delays at various times—especially at either end at the City and Gungahlin stops—on launch day. There has been some confusion though, around the operational times it will be running on launch day, due to the very heavily promoted times of the 9am to 4pm events on the day.
In recent days some on social media have started to question if the light rail was even running after 4pm on the launch day, as the ACT Government and ACT Labor have so heavily focused on the event times in their posts, there has been no mention of the normal timetable itself.
The Big Smoke can exclusively reveal and clarify that on the first three days of operation, while it is still a public holiday each day over Easter, the light rail will be running to its full timetable of 8am to 11pm. The exact commencement time on launch day Saturday may be around 8am or not until closer to 9am however, depending on various factors on the day.
Apart from a variable start time on April 20, the full timetable will be in immediate operation from the first day, and on Tuesday when the public holidays end, the service will run from 6am to 11pm (12:30am on Friday) as on the Transport Canberra website.
The weekend of the 20th and 21st of April it will run the normal, non-public holiday timetable for both days, of 6am to 1am on Saturday and then 8am to 11pm on Sunday.
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The ACT Government did ask me to caution all those wanting to ride the light rail in the first few days, that they do expect delays at various times, not just on launch day but also in the first few days of operation in general.
As such, anyone planning to ride the light rail on those days, especially with the National Folk Festival on in Canberra currently which is now next to a new light rail stop, should plan for delays accordingly. This is due to the expected high numbers of Canberrans wanting to ride the light rail for the first time.
If you are relying on getting somewhere on time along the light rail route during those first few days, the current bus timetable will still be running as normal, including alongside the light rail route, until April 28. This is to allow a smooth transition to the light rail then replacing the Gungahlin-Civic bus route altogether from April 29 onwards.
You may want to take the bus as an alternative on the first few days instead of the light rail, as this “may be” comparatively less congested at busy times. Either way please be patient during the initial phase until the passenger volumes normalise.
I will be camped out from 7am Saturday morning to try and ensure I can ride the first LRV (light rail vehicle) out on the track under public operation, keep an eye out for my live stream on Twitter if you are a public transport nerd like me and want to see what all the fuss is about.
I know I am super excited for this tremendous step forward for Canberra, and I look forward to seeing all the excited folk trying it on Saturday for the first time. Maybe I will see you there too!