THE first stage of Canberra's light rail network will be delivered by a world-class consortium, Canberra Metro, sooner and with a capital cost lower than earlier estimated, ACT Chief Minister Andrew Barr and Capital Metro Minister Simon Corbell announced last week.
Canberra Metro will construct and operate stage one of Canberra's light rail from Gungahlin to the City.
"Canberra Metro's proposal offers an innovative and world-class solution that will deliver better transport for Canberra," Mr Barr said.
"The quality and breadth of the bid responses reflects the stature of this project and the appetite of the international infrastructure community to help redefine our city and further improve its liveability.
"The first stage of Canberra's light rail network, the corridor from Gungahlin to City, represents a timely investment in a more convenient, efficient, affordable and reliable integrated transport system – a genuine alternative to driving.
"This project is also very important to the ACT economy at a critical point in its recovery, it will deliver jobs for Canberrans during construction and delivers $1.2 billion worth of benefits to the city."
Mr Corbell said the winning consortium, comprising of Pacific Partnerships, CPB Contractors, John Holland, Mitsubishi Corporation, Aberdeen Infrastructure Investments, Deutsche Bahn International and CAF, has a proven track record of transport construction and operation both within Australia and overseas.
The consortium will deliver on 12 kilometres of light rail track, 13 stops, 14 light rail vehicles, a depot and 20 years of operation and maintenance.
According to the government, light rail will operate from as early as 6am and up to 1am with services every 6 minutes during peak times. It will integrate with buses and other forms of transport to provide an efficient service that will change the way Canberrans move around their city.
"While the final cost will be confirmed when contracts are signed, the capital cost included in the winning bid is $698 million, with a variance of 5 per cent depending on contract negotiations and changes in market conditions between now and contract closure," Mr Corbell said.
"Additionally, Canberra Metro will complete construction in late 2018 and begin operations in early 2019. This is sooner than previous estimates and means less disruption for Canberrans and faster access to the transformational effects of this city changing project.
"Importantly, as Northbourne Avenue and the Federal Highway are the entry to the national capital, the removal and replacement of trees will be staged to minimise the visual impact. The staged approach will mean that as sections of trees are removed, and replaced with 4m tall plantings, there will only be periods of 3-4 months where each section will be without trees.
"Critics of light rail have said that we wouldn't be able to deliver this project for less than a billion dollars but by selecting a bid that will deliver the project under our projected budget and ahead of our projected timeframes we have proven that our business case was conservative in its estimates.
"While the project's opponents claim that this is the only priority for the ACT Government it is an important but affordable investment for this city's future. In the context of total ACT Government outlays, this project will account for less than one per cent of the government's expenditure over the life of the PPP. Over the same period, the ACT Government will outlay 34 times as much on health and 25 times as much on education.
The Chief Minister said a decision on a possible extension to Russell will be made this year as discussions continue with the Federal Government.
"The Australian Government has shown its commitment to partnering with states and territories to deliver quality transport infrastructure through the Prime Minister's cities agenda," Mr Barr said.
"This is demonstrated through his investment in stage 2 of the Gold Coast light rail and through the asset recycling initiative.
"I met with the Prime Minister late last year and following the meeting he has invited the ACT Government to seek federal funding for the Russell extension.
"We see the Russell extension as an excellent example of the Prime Minister's cities agenda and recognise the Australian Government is a major stakeholder in the project as the largest employer and land holder in the corridor," Mr Barr said.