CAF, Aberdeen chosen for Canberra's $490m light rail

Members of the winning consortium, which also includes Deutsche Bahn and Spain-based CAF, are eyeing further railway projects in Australia.

The Canberra Metro consortium has been awarded a public-private partnership (PPP) to build the first stage of Canberra’s light rail network from Gungahlin to the City, according to an announcement by the government of the Australian Capital Territory. 

The winning team includes CIMIC Group subsidiaries Pacific Partnerships and CPB Contractors, Japan’s Mitsubishi Corporation, Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi UFJ, Chinese-owned John Holland, UK fund manager Aberdeen Infrastructure Investments, Germany’s Deutsche Bahn International and Spanish firm Construcciones y Auxiliar de Ferrocarriles (CAF). 

The government said the consortium has “a proven track record of transport construction and operation both within Australia and overseas.” 

The winning bid involves capital costs of A$698 million (€449 million; $490 million), with a variance of 5 percent depending on contract negotiations and changes in market conditions between now and contract closure. 

Pacific Partnerships, John Holland, Mitsubishi Corporation and Aberdeen Infrastructure Investments will provide equity for the project. CPB Contractors will deliver the design and construction in a joint venture with John Holland. 

The 20-year operations and maintenance services will be provided by Pacific Partnerships, John Holland and Deutsche Bahn International, while the trams will be supplied and maintained by CAF. 

Bank of Tokyo Mitsubishi UFJ is acting as financial advisor, with funding provided by local and international banks. 

Project construction is scheduled to start in the coming months and become operational in early 2019. The 12-kilometre light rail will feature 13 stops, 14 light rail trams and a depot.

“With Pacific Partnerships now firmly established and harnessing the group’s international PPP experience, CIMIC will continue to target PPPs and deliver major infrastructure projects with a seamless end-to-end service, acting as sponsor, equity participant, contractor and asset manager,” CIMIC Group’s executive chairman and chief executive officer (CEO) Marcolino Fernández Verdes said in a statement. The group, formerly known as Leighton Holdings, is a Sydney-based international developer. 

Mitsubishi Corporation is also keen to “draw on this experience as well the expertise it has built up in other areas of infrastructure development, ranging from air and sea port operations to power and water treatment plants, to develop its railway operations business in Australia and other countries”, it said in the statement. 

Mike Takada, CEO of Mitsubishi Australia, told press sources that the corporation will continue to pursue rail projects such as the Parramatta Light Rail and Sydney Metro projects. 

According to a local report, this is also the first PPP project won by a Chinese-owned company, as John Holland now belongs to Chinese infrastructure and engineering group CCCC International. 

John Holland’s executive general manager for rail, Richard Stewart, said in a statement that the company is “uniquely placed to work on the delivery of Canberra’s light rail network and looks forward to participating across the entire project life cycle – finance, delivery, operations and maintenance.”

The government added that a decision on a possible extension to Russell will be made this year as discussions continue with the Federal Government.