AUSTRALIA: Construction of a light rail network in Perth is to begin in 2016 with the first phase to open in 2018, Western Australia Premier Colin Barnett and Transport Minister Troy Buswell announced last month.

The state has committed A$11·8m and the federal government A$4m to the planning phase of the Metro Area Express (MAX) project. The total cost is estimated at more than A$1bn.

The 22 km mostly segregated route would run south from the Polytechnic West Balga Campus in Mirrabooka, following Alexander Drive and Fitzgerald Street to the central business district. Branches would run west from the CBD to the QEII Medical Centre and east to the Causeway.

A second phase could extend the route to the University of Western Australia, Curtin University and the planned Perth Stadium.

'MAX will power Perth commuters into the future, helping to reduce congestion into the city from our inner north and manage population growth as the city expands to as many as 2·7 million people by 2031', said Barnett. 'The launch of this project is a major milestone for Perth and will be an important part of this city's transformation during a period of strong economic and population growth.'