The consortium chosen to develop Canberra’s light rail project says it will complete the project more cheaply and quickly than the Government’s estimates, and will replace trees along Northbourne in a staged manner and with 4m-tall plantings so that no section of the corridor is without trees for more than four months.
There will, in fact, be more trees on Northbourne after the light rail is built than there are now, according to ACT Chief Minister Andrew Barr.
The Government anticipates signing contracts with the Canberra Metro consortium by the end of June, with construction to commence the following month.
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The successful consortium consists of Pacific Partnerships, CPB Contractors, John Holland, Mitsubishi Corporation, Aberdeen Infrastructure Investments, Deutsche Bahn International and CAF, and won out over the second shortlisted consortium, ACTivate, consisting of Keolis Downer, Keolis SA, Downer EDI Works, Bombardier Transportation, Plenary Origination, Parsons Brinckerhoff Australia, Aurecon Australasia, Cox Architecture, Itochu Australia and Partners Group AG.
The RiotACT understands that the consortia each spent some tens of millions of dollars on their bids after being shortlisted in March last year, committing large teams of dozens of staff to the project. Four consortia originally submitted expressions of interest in building and operating the light rail network in late 2014.
The bid from Canberra Metro (not to be confused with Capital Metro, the government’s name for the project which pre-dates the consortium’s) included a capital cost of $698 million, with a 5 per cent variance depending on negotiations and changes in market conditions between now and contract closure.
The Government updated 2012 estimates of a capital cost of $610 million to $783,000 in September 2014, with the latter figure consisting of $610 million plus a contingency of $173 million.
Canberra Metro intends to complete construction in late 2018 and begin operations in early 2019, around a year earlier than previous estimates.
Minister for Capital Metro Simon Corbell said the earlier delivery would mean less disruption for Canberrans.
“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,” Mr Corbell said.
He said that Canberra Metro’s strategy for a staged removal and replacement of trees would minimize the visual impact along the important entry corridor to the capital.
“The staged approach will mean that as sections of trees are removed, and replaced with 4m-tall plantings, there will only be periods 3-4 months where each section will be without trees.”
Chief Minister Andrew Barr said a decision on stage two of the light rail project, a possible extension to Russell, would be made this year after further discussions with the Federal Government.
“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,” Mr Barr said.
Stage one will consist of 12km of light rail track, 13 stops, 14 light rail vehicles, a depot and 20 years of operation and maintenance. It will operate from as early as 6am and up to 1am with services every six minutes during peak times.
Opposition transport spokesman Alistair Coe said this afternoon that the Government was committing to a light rail tenderer without a mandate.
“I again call on the Barr government to do the right thing and delay the light project until after the 2016 Election so Canberrans can decide how their money is spent,” he said.
However, the then Labor Chief Minister Katy Gallagher announced in September 2012, the month before the last ACT election, that if re-elected, her Government would develop light rail between Gungahlin and Civic. The policy document included this line: “Capital Metro Stage 1 is anticipated to be completed by 2018, with construction estimated to commence in 2016.”
Read Ms Gallagher’s full policy statement on the matter, as published on September 21, 2012, here: www.actlabor.org.au/2012_election_light_rail_policy
The ACT Greens announced their own commitment to light rail in August 2012. See their full policy document here: act.greens.org.au/sites/greens.org.au/files/Light%20Rail.pdf
Immediately after the October 2012 ACT election, then Liberal leader Zed Seselja said his party had “never ruled out light rail”, and that he was “very happy for the work to be done to figure out whether it can work and is achievable”.