Expressions of interest from consortiums wanting to build and operate Canberra's tram line close on Friday.
Consortiums, expected to include the operator of Melbourne's tram network and the Gold Coast tram, led by Keolis Downer, are not submitting bids yet, but simply putting up their hands for the next stage – which will shortlist.
The government has expressions of interest for the 12 kilometre line from Gungahlin to Alinga Street in the city.
Trams must have space for bikes, priority seating for the disabled, areas for wheelchairs and pushers and be capable of wire-free operation, given the likelihood that extensions of the lines would include sections where overhead wires were not possible, the documents say.
The trams must be able to be used "at all times without anxiety", with well-lit stops, "passive and active surveillance", and "a generally safe, clean and well-maintained environment".
The targeted travel time from Gungahlin to the city is 25 minutes.
The expressions of interest documents say the ACT government is investigating contamination, topography, geotechnical issues, heritage and archaeology, and underground pipes and wires at the moment. The results will be given to the shortlisted consortiums and the government says it will share the costs of moving the underground utilities.
The documents also point out that some of the land needs planning approval from the National Capital Authority but says the Capital Metro Agency aims to have planning approvals from both levels of government by early 2016.
The documents stress that affordability is a key concern. "Capital Metro represents the largest transportation infrastructure project ever to be undertaken by the territory," they say. "Ultimately, the project must be affordable to the ACT community if it is to proceed. Affordability is a paramount consideration for the territory. The territory has not determined an affordability threshold, though it reserves the right to do so."
The NSW government signed a contract this week for a light rail line from Circular Quay to Sydney's eastern suburbs, with a price tag of $2.1 billion, $500 million more than the previously announced $1.6 billion. The ACT government expects its tram to cost $783 million.
Consortiums have also been asked to express a view on a lump sum payment from the government at the end of construction or with the first refinancing of debt. The amount of the lump sum would "leave a sufficient level of post-refinancing senior debt to ensure ongoing performance by [the consortium]", the documents say, asking consortiums to comment.
The consortiums submitting expressions of interest will be interviewed at the end of January and two will be shortlisted in the first half of 2015.