Light rail comes in significantly under budget

The final result on Light Rail Stage One has verified the ACT Government’s commitment to delivering an affordable and sustainable light rail network for our city. Light rail is already proving incredibly popular, moving thousands of Canberrans every day and we’ve delivered it substantially under budget.

The original business case estimated a design and construction cost of $783 million and a start to operations in 2019.

Upon contract signing the Government had secured a value for money contract with a design and construction cost of $707 million and a 2018 start date.

The final cost has come in at approximately $675 million – a saving of $108 million from the business case and $32 million from the contract.

Two items contributed to this great result: we had the foresight to establish a dedicated project team with sound governance, talented leadership, motivated staff and expert advisors from across the country. We also worked with a great partner in Canberra Metro who truly went above and beyond in delivering light rail for our community, and, through CMET, continue to provide a high level of service as the light rail operator.

This lower than anticipated cost by itself means the benefit cost ratio will increase to at least 1.3, rather than the original, conservative estimate of 1.2. That means for every dollar invested, Canberrans get a $1.30 back in benefits, including better transport, lower congestion, more jobs and the increasing value of homes and businesses along the route.

Minister for Transport Meegan Fitzharris said light rail is also beating the business case predictions on patronage, with passenger numbers already exceeding 2021 levels as Canberrans vote with their feet and get on board light rail.

“Light rail is proving to be hugely popular already, with more people using it every day, and as a result we’ve added more frequent services during peak times to manage this demand.

“Along the light rail corridor the benefits are plain to see: with light rail getting people to work, opening up new customers to local businesses and seeing hundreds of Canberrans employed on building and construction projects along the alignment that are already using their proximity to light rail to attract buyers.

“The first stage of light rail saw around 5,000 people work on the project, and we hope to build on that industry knowledge as we continue planning for Stage Two to Woden. Indeed we are already funding early works to prepare the Woden interchange for the next stage of light rail.

“The investment in light rail has also freed up dozens of bus services that are now being redeployed across the city, meaning more Canberrans are benefiting from more buses, more often – with the new network already breaking patronage records on every measure,” said Minister Fitzharris

Table: Light Rail Stage One: Actual Design and Construction Outcomes


Business Case Estimated Cost ($m)

Anticipated Cost at Contract Signing ($m)

Actual Cost ($m)

Base Design and Construction Costs to the Territory*












Difference to Actual Cost:



* used in the calculation of availability payments

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