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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1998 Week 5 Hansard (25 August) . . Page.. 1266 ..

MS CARNELL (continuing):

Four consortia chose to make detailed submissions to governments. Once submissions were lodged, the project evaluation committee conducted the evaluation against the agreed criteria under direction of the PCG. This evaluation formed the basis of the project control group's confidential report that went to the three governments for decision-making. The ACT Government agreed with the recommendations of the PCG report. The key recommendations included proceeding with a "proving up" or "confirmation" stage of the preferred proponent, and that the preferred proponent be Speedrail. The basis of the competitive process set down by governments was that there be no net cost to governments, as determined by the project control group rather than the proponents. This was achieved by two groups only, with Speedrail being well ahead of the other group. Governments engaged a probity auditor to monitor that the process was conducted effectively and efficiently. Part of the task was to ensure that the decision-making process was robust and that submissions were evaluated against the established selection criteria. At the end of the process the probity auditor confirmed that the PCG had completed its assessment appropriately.

The VHST project is large and complex. It is not simply a choice between train technologies. One example of this complexity is acquiring land for the rail alignment. It would be very difficult, if not impossible, for the private sector to acquire the land for the rail alignment by private negotiations. It made sense for governments to use their acquisition powers where necessary to ensure the corridor could be achieved. This difficulty was recognised at an early stage and the invitation document outlined that the acquisition would be conducted by governments at the proponent's cost. Lease terms for the corridor have been left to the negotiation stage. Other issues that have an impact on the selection of the corridor include the environment, design, planning policies, achievability, cost and social impacts.

I turn now to the future processes and the "prove up" stage. Mr Speaker, the evaluation process is not over yet. Governments have asked that Speedrail confirm their proposal over the next six months. The "proving up" process will include the satisfaction of some unresolved technical issues and the achievement of a fully financed and privately underwritten bid. Assuming that Speedrail passes the confirmation stage, negotiations towards a contract would commence. This contract would then be made subject to meeting the planning and environmental requirements of the three governments. The planning and environmental processes are likely to take a further 18 months at minimum. These processes will involve extensive public consultation.

With regard to revitalising the region: The ACT Government has been a strong supporter of the very high speed train proposal. We have contributed staff and resources on an equal footing with the much larger governments of New South Wales and the Commonwealth. And we have not baulked at doing this, Mr Speaker. The reasons are simple. The project has always had strong community support and the ACT Government listened and reflected this. The project also has the potential to revitalise our area of regional Australia. The ACT Government also sees this as the first link in a national fast train network that will eventually connect the capital cities and be accessible to the vast majority of Australians. Importantly, the spin-offs for centres and regions between the capitals will be significant. The service will provide the opportunity to revitalise these dwindling areas and reduce the strain on capital cities. In other words, Mr Speaker, it will revitalise regional Australia.

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