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Light rail was officially launched one year ago in Canberra and, up until the COVID-19 outbreak, was proving more popular than first estimated. The government announced an increase in frequency to help alleviate the peak hour crush earlier this year, but now, the carriages are running empty.
Coronavirus restrictions have drastically changed patronage on the network, with an almost 90 per cent drop in overall public transport use across Canberra.
But the downturn in light rail use since COVID-19 has been spruiked as good news by the ACT Government, which has been actively discouraging anything but essential commuting in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak.
"I think we'll see patronage on public transport, including light rail, bounce back once the restrictions are lifted after the pandemic is over," Minister for Transport Chris Steel said.
"It's a frequent, reliable and comfortable service, and those things combined have led people to … consider it as a genuine option for them."
Indeed, prior to COVID-19, the ACT Government saw the light rail as a major success.
It accounts for 20 per cent of overall public transport usage, and has clocked up more than four million rides.
But with changed bus timetables and some networks disappearing altogether, not all commuters feel similarly.
Light rail proves a roller coaster for some
Helen Buckley says light rail is just one component of widespread problems in Canberra's public transport network.(ABC News: David Sciasci)Helen Buckley took public transport to and from work up until a few months ago, when her frustrations led her to avoid the system for reasons other than COVID-19.
She described light rail as a heavy burden on her commute when it forced changes to Canberra's bus network, increasing her travel time exponentially.
Ms Buckley had no option but to take the tram and two buses from her northern suburb of Ngunnawal.
"The buses and the light rail just cannot seem to get themselves together," she said.
"They've actually added additional stress and additional waiting times just to get to and from work.
"Unless you work in the city, this monstrosity, in all honesty, is a waste of time."
By her own estimate, her commute time increased by over 90 minutes in both morning and evening.
She said her complaints and feedback weren't listened to when the government reviewed changes to the transport network.
Ms Buckley has since bought a new car and said her daily drive is only 20 minutes.
This article first appeared on www.abc.net.au
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