Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Canberra celebrates as light rail contract signed for Capital Metro Stage One

Civic Plaza (proposed)

The signing of contracts between the ACT Government and the Canberra Metro consortium to construct and operate the first stage of Capital Metro has been received tremendously positively.

It has received wide media coverage online, on television, radio and the Canberra Times.

Minister Simon Corbell said the light rail contract also delivered additional features that would improve the way Canberrans make use of inner city spaces. A new area called Civic Plaza will create an accessible, usable and vibrant space between the Sydney and Melbourne buildings that will link the east and west sides of the CBD.
“With the new Civic Plaza we will create an area that brings people together in the middle of our city, bridging the gap between east and west,” Mr Corbell said.
“The upgraded Alinga Street terminus will give us a destination worthy of its place in the heart of the city and the dynamic lighting at stops along the route will add to the vibrancy of Canberra nights and will improve the experience of people using the corridor no matter which method they choose to travel.
“The artists impressions released today are just an example of how this space could be developed into a active and enjoyable community space.”
Mr Corbell said over the 20 years of the contract the annual availability payment, which includes operational costs such as electricity, drivers and maintenance as well as construction costs, would be approximately $48m in the first 12 months of operations and finish at approximately $75m for the last 12 months of the contract term in 2038, with an average annual availability payment of approximately $64m.
“Over its 20 year operations period this contract will account for less than 1 per cent of ACT Government expenditure,” Mr Corbell said.
“The Australian Government has also demonstrated its support by increasing its contribution to the project to $67 million.
“We are committed to building a city that continues to be one of the most liveable places in the world. The opportunity to build such a bold and visionary project shows that Canberra is a city of innovation, sustainable living and truly part of the global economy.”

The contract’s capital cost will be approximately $710 million, much less than the cost originally estimated in the business case for the project. This cost will be finalised when financial close for the project is reached in the coming weeks.
The ACT Government would be making a capital contribution of $375m towards the project in 2018-19. This $375m is funded from the sale of assets – such as ACTTAB, ageing public housing and ACT Government office accommodation – and includes a 15% bonus from the Commonwealth as part of the Asset Recycling Initiative, a sum of $60m that the Federal Liberal government recently announced would be increased to $67m solely for use on light rail.

The first stage of Canberra’s light rail network is an important part of the government’s integrated transport plan. As of July 1, the new Transport Canberra agency will coordinate buses and light rail planning, timetabling and fares and will develop a single ticket for use across the system, which will help to manage Canberra’s growth by reducing congestion on Canberra’s roads.

Figures for availability payments exclude territory contingency amounts and are approximate until the project reaches financial close in the coming weeks.

The Canberra Times reported on the announcement here.

ABC TV News Canberra broadcast this on 17 May 2016

WIN TV Canberra broadcast this on 17 may 2016

Simon Corbell posted this to Facebook:

Greens MLA Shane Rattenbury was also pleased to see the contract signed, saying it was 'A green light for Canberra's future'.

Minister Meegan Fitzharris also commented about the contract signing, observing that 'After 100 years of debate in Canberra we're delivering on a commitment Labor made before the last election."

Of course there are always critics. A disgruntled Canberra Liberal opposition has reacted in a predictable and negative way. A statement was released on the afternoon of 17 May 2016 promising to rip up the contract, an act described as 'economic lunacy' by the Federal Liberal government.
"The Canberra Liberals will stop light rail if elected in October. Today’s announcement by the Barr government is the most arrogant act in the ACT’s history. For years we have been raising concerns about this project which are echoed by thousands of Canberrans and countless financial, transport and economic experts, Leader of the Opposition Jeremy Hanson and Shadow Minister for Transport Alistair Coe said today.
“Today, people could be forgiven for thinking that the government is trying to blackmail Canberrans. The government has actively worked against the best interests of ratepayers by putting the CFMEU’s and a global consortium’s interests ahead of Canberra families,” Mr Hanson said.
“This is a deceitful act of which the prime beneficiaries will be global businesses, the CFMEU and the Labor-Green Coalition,” Mr Hanson concluded.
“The full contract, including sub-contracts, must be published in full,” Mr Coe said.
“There are serious unanswered questions about the legitimacy of the contract on the back of the MOU between UnionsACT and the ACT government. These concerns have also been raised by the Canberra Metro consortium. Given this MOU seems to underpin all procurement, there are questions about the tender process for light rail which must be investigated. Therefore, the legality of this contract is potentially in doubt.
“The Canberra Liberals will stop light rail if we are elected in October. We have made our intentions clear and people can vote accordingly. If we are elected, it is because the people of Canberra have given us a clear mandate to stop this project because of the bad financial, economic and transport outcomes,” Mr Coe concluded.
Infrastructure Partners chief executive Brendan Lyons praised the signing of the contract and called on the Canberra Liberals to respect the contract if elected in October.
"Everyone respects the rights of the opposition to oppose legislation but it's time for the Canberra Liberals to go back to a position of respecting contracts and the rule of law," he said.

And of course people don't always agree with critics...

As well as this website, the facebook group 'Light Rail for Canberra' carries frequent updates on Capital Metro and light rail related news. 

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