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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1998 Week 4 Hansard (24 June) . . Page.. 893 ..

MS CARNELL (continuing):

The three-stage competitive process which started in 1997 has shown that the private sector is keen to offer a viable high speed rail service between Canberra and Sydney. The first stage, Mr Speaker, was the registration of interest which commenced in March 1997. The original 16 private sector submissions were short-listed to six. Stage 2 of the development commenced in October 1997 with the release of the project brief and invitation for detailed proposals. Four proponents demonstrated their seriousness to proceed by paying a $100,000 registration fee in December 1997.

Detailed submissions were received from these four proponents on 14 April 1998. Governments are currently evaluating these submissions and are aiming to make the decision regarding the preferred proponent in July 1998. In fact, the announcement will be made within the next month. Stage 3, Mr Speaker, will involve further negotiations with the successful proponent. They will be required to undertake detailed economic and social impact studies as part of the environmental impact assessment and to satisfy planning legislation prior to any construction. This process will require extensive public consultation and will provide the public with the opportunity to comment on the proposal. It is anticipated that this stage of the process will take approximately 18 months.

Over the last 12 months it has become obvious that those who have previously been sceptical of the project are starting to see that the private sector is serious about working with governments to make this project work. As the committee points out, for the project to be successful, governments and the private sector will have to work together and be flexible to actually facilitate its implementation.

Mr Speaker, I would like to thank Harold Hird, MLA, chair of the standing committee, and its members, Simon Corbell and Paul Osborne, for the time and effort they put into producing this analysis of the VHST project. There are a couple of things that Mr Hird pointed out in his preface to the report that I would like to highlight. Firstly:

The majority of submitters were very supportive of the project with few, if any, reservations. They detailed how the private and public sectors will need to work together for the A.C.T. to be positioned to maximise benefits.

Secondly, he stated that the activities of the committee are seeking to ensure two outcomes:

Firstly, that the VHST project ... is given all the support required to ensure its development. Secondly, that the costs and benefits associated with the project are highlighted and that the A.C.T. community is given the opportunity to work together to maximise benefits for Canberra and the region.

It is clear that the project has the broad support of the community, all of whom want the best outcomes for Canberra. This consensus means that the actions required of government are relatively straightforward, although their implementation may be complicated by the need to work closely with the New South Wales and Commonwealth governments. Many of these actions are outlined in the recommendations made by the standing committee.

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