Simon Corbell says consortium bids for Canberra light rail are sound

Simon Corbell says consortium bids for Canberra light rail are sound

Capital Metro Minister Simon Corbell said two bids received for the government's $783 million light rail project conformed with the proposal, after questions were raised in the Assembly on Wednesday.

The Liberal opposition used question time to air rumours that one of the two short-listed consortiums had included a proposal for bus rapid transit in its bid to build, operate and maintain the tram line.

Anti-public transport? Opposition spokesman Alistair Coe.

Anti-public transport? Opposition spokesman Alistair Coe.Credit:Graham Tidy

Mr Corbell said the government was not considering rapid buses instead of trams.

When he was asked whether any bids did not confirm to the government's criteria for the public-private partnership project, Mr Corbell said he would have to see advice from the Capital Metro Agency.


Later a spokesman for Mr Corbell's office said the two shortlisted proposals considered for conformance by the agency were found to be conforming. Each of the four expressions of interest received were found to meet the submission requirements and were considered conforming.

"No proposal for bus rapid transit from either the shortlisted [consortiums] or one of their companies has been raised with the Capital Metro Agency," the spokesman said.

The questions followed an earlier debate about the government's record on public transport, which saw Greens Minister Shane Rattenbury​ accuse opposition transport spokesman Alistair Coe of engaging in "anti-public transport hyperbole".

Mr Coe raised this month's release of a report by the ACT auditor-general, which said government targets for public transport take up were not being met, data reporting was inaccurate and there are insufficient buses and depots.

He said public transport use was declining in Canberra and the government was proposing to scrap popular bus routes to push passengers onto trams.

Mr Rattenbury raised a strong defence of ACTION buses and the proposed tram line and said Mr Coe had questioned the Red Rapid express service when it commenced.

He read comments from Mr Coe in 2009 saying the express services plan was absurd and that no one would use the routes. Mr Rattenbury quoted Mr Coe saying the express routes mirrored existing bus routes and would get delayed by traffic lights and congestion. Passengers would be forced to change services instead of getting a single bus and the new express routes would see other parts of Canberra suffer from reduced services.

Mr Rattenbury said the comments were the same as the opposition's perpetual and hostile anti-light rail rhetoric in recent months.

"This highlights one of the problems with the Liberal Party's approach. There is no sophistication in their response to any of the genuine issues facing the territory or the government.

"Everything has to fit into their black and white campaign prism of "stop light rail", he said.

Mr Rattenbury conceded the government "had work to do" on coordination and investment in Canberra's public transport. A new stand alone agency will be created on July 1 next year.

Mr Corbell said Canberra's reliance on private cars had to be reduced and a mode-shift to public transport promoted.

"First and foremost is of course ensuring that the road network, which will continue to perform a critical role in the overall transport task for the city, is able to operate more effectively and efficiently.

"Reducing congestion, having more people use public transport, means the road network operates better," Mr Corbell said.

Tom McIlroy is a political reporter for The Australian Financial Review in the federal press gallery at Parliament House.

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