FINANCE for the $1 billion Gold Coast Rapid Transit (GCRT) project was confirmed this week, signalling the start of the first Australian public private partnership to be completely financed by foreign funds.
Corrs Chambers Westgarth, which worked on the deal, said the project demonstrates the benefits of PPPs to governments and establishes a positive precedent for future public transport projects and possible extensions to the GCRT project.
The GoldLinQ consortium will build and operate the 13-kilometre light rail system that will connect the key coastal corridor centres of Griffith University, Gold Coast University Hospital, Southport, Surfers Paradise and Broadbeach.
Bombardier Transportation, the train unit of Bombardier Inc, said the GoldLinQ consortium, of which it is a member, will see it take a $265 million share of the contract. Bombardier will design, build, finance, operate and maintain the public transportation system.
Queensland Premier Anna Bligh has said the project will “deliver light rail to the Gold Coast and more than 6,300 direct and indirect jobs”.
Corrs has advised the Queensland Department of Transport and Main Roads since the project's inception in 2007 on how to get the most value for money during bid evaluations, government stakeholder consultations and in finalising the project contracts with GoldLinQ.
The law firm also worked on tenure options, legislative amendments, planning and approvals, risk allocation and procurement strategies.
Corrs’ advice helped to navigate unique challenges stemming from the GCRT project being the State’s first light rail system in more than 40 years and its first public transport PPP.
Innovation has been essential to the GCRT project because many of the legal, policy and commercial issues confronted have no precedent. For example, this is the first time a project of this type has involved rail safety accreditation - a situation further complicated by moves towards national harmonisation and likely national regulation, subjecting safety accreditation to new, untested Queensland legislation.
Corrs also provided extensive advice to the Queensland Government on legislative amendments required to deliver and operate the project.
The project is being delivered by the State of Queensland in partnership with the Australian Government and Gold Coast City Council. This means it has been necessary to finalise and document funding arrangements between the three tiers of government and to ensure the project contracts meet local and federal government funding requirements.
The Gold Coast Rapid Transit project will operate in a tightly-constrained urban corridor with heavy traffic, resulting in close contact with the local community and businesses. Corrs used its national PPP experience to develop innovative measures to mitigate the project’s impact.
Early construction works have commenced with passenger services scheduled to commence in 2014.
The Corrs team for the project has been led by partners Peter Schenk and David Warren, along with partners John Walter, Henry Prokuda, Daryl Clifford and Simon Ashworth, senior associates Airlie Fox, Brooke Lanarus and Kip Fitzsimon, overseas legal advisor Paul Brickley, and lawyers Joseph Varghese, Nerida Haberkern and Tamerlan van Alphen.