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More than 100 local and international companies are expected to bid for the NSW government's $1.5 billion public-private partnership that seeks to modernise Sydney's ailing rail network by replacing most of the state's antiquated rolling stock.
The NSW government has fast-tracked the PPP, one of the state's largest, by simultaneously calling for private-sector financial companies to advise it on the PPP as well as companies capable of designing, building and operating the rolling stock.
PPPs involve the private financing and ownership of public facilities. They allow governments to spread the risks and returns with private partners on expensive infrastructure developments such as the proposed rolling-stock acquisition.
"There's been national and international interest from companies with appropriate experience in financing, design, manufacture and maintenance," RailCorp spokeswoman Helen Willoughby said.
The NSW government was fielding interest from leading financial institutions and train manufacturers, she said.
Registration of interest (ROI) closed on Wednesday and the NSW government expects to call for expressions of interest from the private sector by August or September. Tenders will be called by December.
Under the PPP, the government will replace a minimum of 498 carriages by 2010, with the private sector to fund, build and maintain the rolling stock. The government will retain ownership of the carriages. According to the ROI documents, some growth in the fleet, amounting to about 60 carriages, may be included in the PPP.
At present, RailCorp has an electric fleet of about 1500 carriages with an average age of 20 years.
Older, non-air-conditioned carriages, to be replaced under the PPP, have been in service for nearly 30 years. They needed to be replaced as part of a safer, more reliable and cleaner network, NSW Transport Minister Michael Costa said recently.
Private-sector infrastructure executives took heart from the simultaneous call by the state government for financial advisers and train builders, saying this showed that it was serious about fast-tracking the PPP.
Under the agreement, all of the risks of the train operation will rest with the private sector but government personnel will be running them, according to private-sector sources.
(source: Australian Financial Review)
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