Capital Metro minister Simon Corbell has criticised the ACT Opposition for their promise to cancel the already-signed contract for a light rail line in Canberra, if they win the election in October.
Corbell addressed the Light Rail 2016 conference in Melbourne on Wednesday.
The minister gave an update on the progress of the Canberra project, which was appointed a preferred bidder earlier this month: Canberra Metro, a consortium which includes Deutsche Bahn and John Holland.
But despite the lining up of an international consortium up for the almost $700 million contract, the Opposition is still committing to cancel the project, should they win the Territory election later this year.
Asked about the Opposition’s commitment, Corbell – who wants a shovels in the dirt by mid-year – was clear in his views on the matter.
“This is a once in a lifetime opportunity to get light rail into our city,” he said. “We’ve been talking about this for 30, 40, 50 years.
“If we miss this opportunity – if there is a reckless cancelling of a contract, and all the costs that will come with that, which will be substantial – then we miss the opportunity for better transport, we miss the opportunity for urban renewal, and we jeopardise Canberra’s reputation as a place to invest.
“We can’t deliver the construction we need for our city on our own. We need partnerships.”
Corbell said between 60 and 65% of people surveyed currently support the project, with the majority of support coming from younger to middle-aged generations.
He suggested the controversy surrounding the project was more of an issue of location, than of the virtue of the project itself.
“It’s very much a north-south debate, in Canberra,” he said. “Canberrans have this aversion to crossing the Molonglo River; ‘You have the south, you have the north, and never the twain shall meet’.
“This project is on the north, so that is causing some north-south parochialism to be exacerbated.
“Yes, it’s a live political debate. The Opposition have made their position clear and there’s an election in October.
“But when you look at the jobs opportunities, and when you look at what the surveys are telling us, it’s a contentious issue, but I think there will be bigger issues at play, at the election, when people ultimately cast their vote.”