One of the longest running sagas in Canberra concerns the siting and construction of an interchange in City. Initial studies into the siting of a bus interchange in City began in 1974 when it was realised that the projected growth of Canberra would outstrip the capacity of the street bus stops to cater efficiently for the expected number of passengers, especially those transferring between buses.
Various sites were examined for the construction of a temporary interchange which would be used until the final alignment of the intertown public transport route was determined. In 1977, it was resolved to build the interchange on the car parks on the southern side of London Circuit, flanking the intersection with Northbourne Avenue, below City Hill. The site was compatible with possible routes of the permanent intertown public transport alignment.
A need for thirty-seven bus bays was identified by ACTION. Functional layouts were developed with bus turning radii checked out on a large pavement area at Fairbairn airport. Streamlined access was planned with slip roads on and off Vernon Circle to minimise delays to buses entering and leaving the interchange. An architect was engaged to provide an attractive structure incorporating all the functional and comfort needs of passengers. Based on these designs, tenders were to be called but sections of the community opposed the proposal, and the Minister for the Capital Territory asked for the tender advertisement to be cancelled.
One of the principal reasons for this, quoted at the time, was the alienation of a large tract of land solely for a single storey bus station in the heart of City. The key engineer at the NCDC for the project, Bill Minty, offers a different perspective:
There was never any intention to alienate the land for only a single storey bus station. The structure for which tenders were to be called had a frontage of shops and community facilities. There was residual land for such development as a Tourist Centre and at any stage, full air rights were available for development to any reasonable height over the full site. This could have been decked as replacement car parking, or for City offices. Indeed, one proposal was for new offices over the bus station to accommodate NCDC and the Department of the Capital Territory, but no finance was available at that time for any more than the bus interchange. Opponents of the London Circuit site also pointed to the problem of pedestrian access to the interchange. However, other plans were available to add pedestrian underpasses. Alternatively, overpasses could have been provided like those at Alinga Street and Belconnen Interchange. The question of traffic and pedestrian conflict in Northbourne Avenue and London Circuit relates to the broader issue of peripheral parkways which should bypass the city centre. City was then, and still is bisected by six lanes of heavy highway traffic including concrete agitators, huge semitrailers carrying cattle, sheep, steel etc. and every other type of industrial and private vehicle. Elsewhere, highways are being progressively diverted from downtown areas.
In 1980 the Minister requested a further review of the proposal taking into consideration the significant decrease in the projected population of Canberra.
The review reaffirmed the benefits of an off-street interchange, but showed that, to be cost effective, an off-street facility in the City should be combined with another land use. Subsequent projections of bus needs indicated that a much smaller interchange would be quite adequate for at least ten years and that it was now possible to accommodate all bus bays on-street in the ‘T’ shape formed by East Row, Mort Street and Alinga Street. This location has the advantage of being part of the pedestrian area of the eastern half of the City.
The present interchange was designed in-house by NCDC. Construction Manager was Leightons and the consulting engineers were Cameron, McNamara & Partners Pty Ltd. It was officially opened on 23 November 1982.
City Interchange was renamed to City Bus Station on 15 November 2010 and platforms 10 and 11 on Northbourne Avenue were added at this time.
This page contains a section authored by Ian Cooper and a section authored by ACT Bus.