ACT News

Light rail network receives $21.3 million budget jumpstart

The transformation of Canberra's public transport network has received a $21.3 million jumpstart from Tuesday's budget, as the first stage of the city's new light rail network gathers pace.

The transformation of Canberra's public transport network has received a $21.3 million jumpstart from Tuesday's budget, as the first stage of the city's new light rail network gathers pace.

An artist's impression of the proposed Canberra light rail.
An artist's impression of the proposed Canberra light rail. Photo: Supplied

Treasurer Andrew Barr confirmed expressions of interest will be sought from tenderers for the Civic to Gungahlin tram line's construction and operation in the first half of 2015.

The budget forecast major industry briefings on design and procurement.

Included in the spending is $907,000 for the Chief Minister and Treasury Directorate for operation, finance and advisory aspects of the project's roll-out.

Some funding will be transferred from the Environment and Sustainable Development Directorate to the Capital Metro Agency.

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The laying of tracks by 2016 was a key commitment of the parliamentary agreement between Labor and Greens MLA Shane Rattenbury after the last election.

Further light rail capital provisions are included in the budget, but the total amounts have been withheld due to commercial sensitivity.

The network's price tag is expected to be more than $600 million but the total cost was not updated in Tuesday's budget.

The push for investment ready status comes as a further $20 million is spent to improve the broader Gungahlin to the City corridor.

Benefitting the light rail roll-out, the work includes road widening, intersection upgrades, relocation of utilities, drainage works and pedestrian infrastructure improvements.

Mr Barr said light rail formed a key part of the territory's largest ever infrastructure spend, worth $2.5 billion over four years.

Road intersection upgrades will also take place around the Dickson shopping precinct while ageing public housing stock in the Northbourne Avenue corridor will be replaced.

A fully constructed tram network could eventually service the territory's suburbs, Canberra Airport and aspects of the City to the Lake planning project including the new Australia Forum convention centre and sports stadium slated for the Lake Burley Griffin waterfront.

Mr Barr said the total cost of the project would become clear when it was put to the market.

"Certainly we have made a provision in the forward capital works budget for those major projects," Mr Barr said.

"There are a number of projects that are at various stages of procurement.

"There's a huge amount of commercial sensitivity in relation to capital project costs.

"If I put a figure today, ahead of the procurement process, I guarantee that's where the market will land."

He said Sustainable Development Minister Simon Corbell would bring a proposal to cabinet in coming months in relation to the tram network, but it was unlikely the government would operate the network when it became operational.

Early in the coming financial year, the government's Capital Metro Agency will conduct a major industry briefing program on procurement and design, while finalising preliminary design and planning works on the project.

Employment analysis of the project's first stage by consultants Ernst and Young suggested light rail could deliver more than 3500 jobs during the three year construction period.

About 55 jobs will be ongoing once the line is operational.

The government is considering qualifications which could be required by the network's new workforce, with possible training programs for tram drivers, rail safety and other staffing for the line.

Key aspects of the Capital Metro Agency's work will include "active community engagement and communications regarding the status of the light rail project" and ongoing stakeholder discussions.

The agency staffing levels will reach 42 in the coming budget period, including consultancy positions.

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