Impression of the Sydney CBD & South East light rail line.

AUSTRALIA: The New South Wales government named the Connecting Sydney consortium as preferred bidder for a PPP contract to build and operate Sydney’s CBD & South East Light Rail line on October 23. The consortium comprises Transdev Sydney, Alstom Transport Australia, Acciona Infrastructure Australia and Capella Capital.

The SydneyConnect consortium of Serco, John Holland and Plenary Group had also been shortlisted. Under a separate contract awarded in June, Laing O’Rourke Construction Australia was appointed as managing contractor for up to A$45m of preliminary works.

The 12 km CBD & South East Light Rail will start at Circular Quay and run via Central to the Moore Park sporting and entertainment precinct, where it will split into two branches serving Kingsford and the Prince of Wales Hospital at Randwick. There will be catenary-free operation within a central pedestrian zone on George Street.

The government is to announce full details of the contract and some modifications to the project once it is formally awarded by the end of the year. ‘The biggest challenge for this project is meeting the high demand from customers who are expected to choose light rail over buses, private vehicles and other transport options’, said Minister for Transport Gladys Berejiklian. ‘The preferred bidder has responded to this challenge with a proposal that ultimately has the potential to carry over 50% more than the 9 000 passengers/h in each direction previously announced by the government. As a result of these wins for customers, this will mean an increase in the overall budget of the project, and the NSW government will now work with the Connecting Sydney consortium over the coming weeks to finalise this major contract.’

The government has previously costed the project at A$1·6bn. Construction is due to start after April 2015, for opening in 2019-20. The government will set fares and enforce penalties if the operator does not meet the customer service standards including punctuality and cleanliness. The consortium will also take over operation of the existing Inner West light rail line from mid-2015.