ACT News

Capital Metro light rail bidders announced for Canberra Gungahlin tram line

The ACT government has named four private business consortium groups who will be considered for the building of Canberra's $800 million light rail line.

Some of the world's largest transport, engineering and construction firms look set to join the bidding for Canberra's $800 million light rail line.

Capital Metro Minister Simon Corbell announced four groups have expressed interest in building the 12 kilometre line from Gungahlin to the city – including the companies behind light rail projects in Sydney and the Gold Coast and the operator of Melbourne's historic city-wide tram network.

Transport giants Downer, Bombardier, Keolis, Alstom Transport, UGL Rail Services and TransDev Australasia are represented in the consortiums.

A short list will be prepared for the formal tender process by the end of March 2015 and an interactive bidding process will lead to a construction and operation partner chosen within a year. 

Some of the infrastructure and construction firms named in the consortiums include John Holland, Leighton Contractors and Spanish company Acciona Infrastructure.

Big name finance groups including Macquarie Capital and Bank of Tokyo Mitsubishi are also involved.

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A number of the companies have expertise across various aspects of the project including construction and provision of tram carriages, and many have contributed to major Australian infrastructure and transport projects completed as public-private partnerships. 

Mr Corbell said he expected Canberra-based businesses and firms with local offices would be included  in the final groups bidding for the project.   

The consortium names could also provide a hint for the future branding of the line, which is expected to be the first in a wider network. Names revealed on Monday include Canberra Metro, Activate, Connecting Canberra and CANGO.

Mr Corbell and the cabinet will consider groups for short listing, inviting two or three to submit proposals as part of the project's request for proposal stage.

The successful bidder could also win a strategic advantage for future lines as part of the wider network. A light rail master plan for Canberra is due for release soon. 

"I am very pleased by the level of interest shown by these global, nation and local firms," Mr Corbell said.

"What it shows is great confidence in Canberra, great confidence in the Capital Metro light rail project. It is about delivering infrastructure to our city, creating jobs and opportunity for our city." 

Expression of interest documents called for trams to have space for bikes, priority seating for the disabled, areas for  wheelchairs and prams and be capable of wire-free operation.

The trams must be able to be used "at all times without anxiety", with well-lit stops, surveillance systems, and be safe, clean and well-maintained. 

The targeted travel time from Gungahlin to the city via Northbourne Avenue, the Federal Highway and Flemington Road is 25 minutes.

Bidders will be required to deliver the project affordably for the ACT community, with the territory reserving the right to determine a cost threshold. 

Mr Corbell said specific proposals for user experience, design and on board services were not included in the expression of interest stage. 

"It will be through the request for proposal stage that we will ask them to address all of the specific requirements that we have put forward, including the quality of the service, the nature of the service, the type of rolling stock to be used, accessibility and bikes on light rail."

Construction is on track to get under way in 2016 with services commencing by 2019.  

Opposition transport spokesman Alistair Coe said it was unsurprising large multinational companies were expressing interest in the project, which would include hundreds of millions in accessibility payments from the taxpayer over its lifetime.

Mr Coe warned the consortiums that a future Liberal government could tear up the contracts. 

"We hope that the project in 2016 has not progressed and therefore we can easily cancel it. In the event that it is in some way progressed, we will look into what we can do to try and stop it."

Mr Coe would not say how far progressed development would need to be before the Canberra Liberals would reconsider their plans to stop the project. The opposition has previously questioned the level of business interest in the project. 

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