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Connecting Belconnen: The Canberra Light Rail Project

By Ben Faulks

Australia's population is growing fast, and the ACT is giving this a big push. A recent study from the Australian Bureau of Statistics predicts that by 2040, the ACT's population will have overtaken that of Tasmania. The estimated jump is from 375,000 people up to somewhere in the region of 586,000.

While this is great, it introduces a new set of challenges – namely, having enough public transport. If not properly planned and budgeted for, transport options can become markedly insufficient, and lag behind the needs of residents living in densely populated areas

A connected Canberra

One of the fastest growing areas of the ACT is Belconnen which, despite only recently turning 50 years old, has become a key part of the region and a hub for many residents who commute into Canberra's CBD on a daily basis. To keep ahead of the curve, the ACT Government has begun to establish higher capacity train routes, with the Light Rail Project a significant part of this endeavour. 

Construction of the project's first stage is set to commence later in 2016, with the first line connecting the CBD with Gungahlin. This is great news for those who own property or live in Gungahlin, as they'll be treated to a fast, frequent connection to the state's business centre. The 12km route will have 13 stops, and during peak times there are services scheduled every 6 minutes. 

Roughly 20 minutes by car from Belconnen, the new route to Gungahlin presents an easier way for residents to get into the city, but the future holds an even more exciting prospect.

ACT Light Rail: Stage 2

While Stage 1 of Canberra's light rail network isn't scheduled to open until 2019, thoughts have already turned to subsequent expansions. So far, four major routes have been proposed, but one of the most interesting is known as the 'Belconnen corridor'. This projected path is intended to reduce congestion along one of the area's busiest transport thoroughfares – Barry Drive – and give residents of Belconnen more options when it comes to getting to work. 

Of course, this will have an impact on the property market, as well-connected areas tend to have greater value than more isolated suburbs. This is great news for those who own property in Belconnen, as they might see the worth of their investments shoot up thanks to better transport options. While still a few years away, it's clear that Canberra and the ACT are more than prepared to handle the population growth, and in some cases use it as an incentive to improve the infrastructure of high volume areas. 

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