Jobs created on Canberra's light rail 'exceeded expectations'

Canberra's light rail created more than 4500 jobs during its construction - 1000 more than predicted - as the focus shifts to stage two of the project.

The Civic to Gungahlin line will start taking passengers in three weeks, nearly three years after the project broke ground.

Stage one light rail construction, as seen from City Hill last year.  More than 4500 people worked on the project over the last three years.  Photo: Elesa Kurtz

Stage one light rail construction, as seen from City Hill last year. More than 4500 people worked on the project over the last three years. Photo: Elesa Kurtz

A jobs analysis by Ernst and Young in 2014 predicted the light rail project would deliver a gross 3560 jobs during construction, employing 900 workers at its peak.

But new data shows as of February, Canberra Metro had inducted 4637 workers and contractors on the project, excluding Transport Canberra staff.

An ACT government spokeswoman said it was clear job creation on the project had "exceeded expectations".

"This has been a huge job-creating construction project for our city. Over 3.38 million people-hours have been accumulated on the project so far," she said.

Jobs created included machinery operators and welders, traffic controllers, surveyors, as well as inspectors and certifiers.

Other jobs included those in environmental management, landscaping, engineers and designers, government services, artists and physical infrastructure of road, rail and other transport, water and sewerage, electricity, gas and telecommunications.

The project was also used to get the University of NSW at ADFA to open undergraduate engineering degrees to students in Canberra.

The Ernst and Young report warned against making blanket claims on the jobs figures, saying it was better to quote net "achievable" jobs  - 1930 on construction - than the "gross footprint" jobs  - 3560 - because the net figures accounted for the displacement of jobs from elsewhere in the ACT economy.

However the government spokeswoman said  the number of workers who had completed the Canberra Metro induction - 4637 - was the best current proxy to measure the number of jobs generated by the project.

"The jobs analysis was a methodology that was worked through by Ernst and Young, making an assumption on job figures across the construction phase of the light rail project," she said.

"In practice it is difficult to provide figures against the exact categories mentioned by Ernst and Young, particularly when it relates to indirect jobs.

"The actual figures are best represented through the number of people who worked directly on construction of the light rail."

Canberra Metro's environmental impact statement also expected 125 jobs to be directly created as a result of the project.

The government spokeswoman said Canberra Metro had close to 70 light rail drivers and customer services officers employed. Another 60 jobs have been created directly as part of light rail operations once services commence in the depot and elsewhere.

The question now is how will the ACT government roll over the jobs from stage one construction, when they are still yet to finalise the route and business case for the second stage of the project.

From the outset, the government said it was keen to minimise the delay between stages so the employment pipeline continued, a sentiment echoed by federal Opposition leader Bill Shorten when he promised $200 million for the project last month.

However a federal parliamentary inquiry into the Civic to Woden route delayed the project and forced the territory government to re-think its chosen course.

Asked about the growing gap between the projects, the government spokeswoman said the skills developed through its construction could be used in other infrastructure projects.

"The great thing about light rail stage one is that it has increased the skills and capability of the local industry to respond to major projects, which can be leveraged into future stages of light rail and other public works projects," she said.

"In the current planning phase for stage two from the City to Woden, Transport Canberra [is] considering how to utilise the experience developed on stage one in the Canberra region, and how to build on the experience of other light rail projects around Australia."