Experts have rubbished the opposition's plans to redeploy the private consortium building the ACT's light rail for the construction of health, education, or other "worthwhile" infrastructure.
The Liberals on Wednesday confirmed that, if elected, they would either rip up the light rail consortium or "seek to repurpose the contract into worthwhile infrastructure".
Deputy Opposition Leader Alistair Coe told Fairfax Media that could include having the consortium build "transport, education or health" infrastructure.
"If elected, a Canberra Liberals government could exercise the terminate for convenience clause or seek to re-scope the contract into worthwhile infrastructure. Such infrastructure could relate transport, education or health," he said.
But questions have been raised about whether it is even possible to "re-scope" the consortium's work in such a major way.
The consortium, a group of private companies that includes German railway behemoth Deutsche Bahn, was specifically created and contracted to build a light rail network.
The companies investing in the public-private partnership are doing so on the basis that they are building light rail. Much of the expertise the consortium has assembled is specific to rail infrastructure.
University of Canberra infrastructure financing expert Professor Cameron Gordon said the nature of both the contract and consortium made it extremely difficult for it to be used to build health and education infrastructure.
Professor Gordon said he had never seen a major infrastructure contract repurposed in such a way.
"I've never heard of it. Let me put it this way, it's a nice kind of notion, but it just seems impractical to me," he said.
"I've never seen a contract re-purposed in such a major way."
But Mr Coe said re-purposing could be achieved, particularly given the breadth of construction expertise in a number of the major players in the consortium.
He said that the depot that is being constructed for light rail in Mitchell, for example, could easily be used for something else.
"This is a consortium with broad expertise that is capable of undertaking a range of infrastructure projects," he said.
"Whilst there are two rail specific members of the consortium, the remaining members have been involved in many other infrastructure projects.
"It stands to reason that the repurposing of a tram depot to a bus depot and utilising the civil expertise for other transport infrastructure, perhaps on the same corridor, is more than plausible."
Professor Gordon said it could be possible, although to his knowledge unprecedented, for the consortium to be re-purposed to build a rail-based alternative, or rapid bus transit infrastructure.
"[Those projects] might have some of the same sort of work, like land aquisition or utilities work. That's possible, but I just have never seen it," he said.
"If you're talking about hospital buildings, the consortium would require very different kinds of companies to build hospital buildings than light rail."
Treasury advice, provided to the Labor government, suggests tearing up the light rail would cost between $220 to $280 million, although the Liberals say forging ahead with the project would saddle generations with debt.
The debate is a central battleground between Labor and the Liberals in the lead-up to October's election.
Transport Minister Meegan Fitzharris told the ACT Legislative Assembly on Wednesday that it simply was not feasible to re-purpose the contract.
"It is not feasible to re-scope the contracts associated with the light rail contract, and build something different," Ms Fitzharris said.
"The private investors have backed this transformational project because they have an appetite for light rail, not for other investments," she said.
She compared the Liberals' position to someone buying a home, and then, while awaiting a build, changing their mind and asking the builder for a car instead.