The light rail project will deliver 3560 jobs during the three years of construction, a jobs analysis has found, as the ACT government reveals another spin-off of the project - new training courses in the city for tram drivers, rail maintenance workers and others employed on Canberra's newest mode of transport.
Of the jobs in the construction years - 2017 to 2019 - 1450 are direct jobs on the Gungahlin to city tram line, with the peak in 2017.
Ongoing, 55 people will be needed to operate the tram line.
The Ernst and Young report makes a startling prediction for overall jobs brought to the city by light rail, predicting a "footprint" of 50,000 jobs by 2049 when the corridor is a hive of economic activity.
But the authors urge caution in interpreting the figures, warning that they are the “gross employment footprint”, and most of the jobs are not new to the territory but drawn from elsewhere in the ACT.
The report calculates a set of more conservative jobs figures - the new jobs rather than those that displace existing jobs, which it calls net “achievable” employment. These figures also take into account the effect of economic conditions, such as the increased demand for labour in the early days of light rail putting pressure on wages so dampening the increase in demand.
The net figures are more modest and are the ones that should be used, it says.
Jobs will peak in 2017, when the project will bring 960 new "achievable" jobs working on light rail itself, most of them on building the line. Once built, the jobs on the line fall away, but other jobs are created as a result of development in the corridor in the following years. In 2022, 75 people will be employed on light rail, 55 operating the line. But another 560 people will be in work as a result of development in the corridor.
The report points out that many of the net “achievable” new jobs during construction are relatively low skilled, which will help the problem of unemployment among young people and indigenous groups. In the ACT, unemployment among people with high school or lower qualifications stands at 4000. The Capital Metro project will need about 500 people in this category in 2017, the report says.
Sustainable Development Minister Simon Corbell said the report showed the importance of investing in large-scale infrastructure, especially given the economic problems facing the city, and demonstrated the big benefits Capital Metro would bring to the community, in the short and long term.
In a time when many jobs will be lost in the ACT, it is great to see the positive economic injection that Capital Metro will have to the ACT economy in the short and long term,” he said.
"It's certainly very clear that these results would not be able to be delivered if we simply adopted an alternative approach around bus transport."
Mr Corbell also confirmed another bonus for the territory - new training opportunities for people that will work on the tram line. The government is looking at qualifications that could be offered by Canberra educators for tram drivers, rail safety, and other workers on the line.
“This will provide new opportunities for training and careers that have previously never existed in our city,” he said. “These are all very important new skills sets for our city, and the government’s approach is the development of a local content strategy which identifies these opportunities, for young people in particular.”
As well as unskilled workers, the Ernst and Young report predicts significant demand for more engineers, architects and people with higher building qualifications.
Mr Corbell pointed to high demand for bricklayers, carpenters, joiners and labourers, with flow on jobs in hospitality, retail and other areas.
The Ernst and Young figures rely on the aggressive program of land development in the corridor set out in the Capital Metro Agency’s rapid business case, a draft copy of which was leaked to The Canberra Times last week. The business case envisages enormous and transformational development, especially around Dickson, Exhibition Park, as well as linking the city to the lake, and redeveloping the public housing on Northbourne Avenue.
The Ernst and Young report also confirms that a corridor specific development unit is being created in the Government's Land Development Agency to manage development in the corridor. And it points out that the government will only achieve its aims if all development in the corridor is channelled through this lens of urban intensification and approved by the Land Development Agency.