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The Parramatta light rail is officially signed off and construction to connect Westmead to Carlingford will begin in the new year.
Unsurprisingly, neither of the two successful contractors announced is Acciona — the Spanish subcontractor overseeing the troubled Sydney light rail, which is overbudget and delayed.
Minister for Transport and Infrastructure Andrew Constance today said the successful consortia had shown a history of delivering successful light rail projects around Australia.
"Between them, these teams have delivered the Newcastle, Canberra and Gold Coast stage two light rail networks that have transformed these cities for the better," he said.
Downer and CPB Contractors won the $840 million major contract to build the light rail system, while the Great River City Light Rail (GRCLR) consortium has been awarded the $536 million contract to supply and operate the network and build the depot, stops and power systems.
The (GRCLR) consortium includes Transdev, the operator of Sydney's inner-west light rail, and CAF Rail Australia, the vehicle supplier for inner-west and Newcastle light rail networks.
Mr Constance said the project would bring permanent new business to Parramatta, as GRCLR will operate its future base out of Camellia with a new workforce made up of locals.
The Government's contract stipulated that local workers must be employed, penalties would be applied if work was significantly delayed, and construction teams must work around evenings and other busy times.
The Canberra light rail project, which CPB Contractors and CAF Rail have been involved in, has been free of major issues but is currently delayed by about three months.
It will take around five years for the 12-kilometre stage one of the Parramatta light rail to begin services, which will connect Westmead to Carlingford via the Parramatta CBD and Camellia.
The 45-metre vehicles will be fully accessible and carry up to 300 passengers each and will run on a "turn up and go" service every 7.5 minutes during peak periods.
Avoiding another business disasterAs a result of local business concern, the main construction works on "Eat Street" — Parramatta's dining precinct — will not begin until 2020, Mr Constance said.
A construction grace period will also apply on Eat Street each summer from the beginning of November until the end of January.
Restaurant and cafe owners previously told the ABC they were concerned about losing their outdoor seating and 30 per cent of their walk-in customers.
Premier Gladys Berejiklian has refused to commit to compensating businesses for the disruption, saying she believed there should be no need for it.
"We expect the project to remain on time and on budget," she said.
"If during any time of the project there are challenges that we didn't anticipate, of course we will deal with those as empathetically as we can."
Despite local business scepticism, the Western Sydney Business Chamber has applauded the project, saying it was about time the Government realised there was a need to improve connectivity within the area, not just connections to the Sydney CBD.
"Parramatta light rail stage one will showcase that the 'west is best' with all the lessons learnt from other light rail projects," executive director David Borger said.
"Other light rail projects … have all influenced the structure of the tenders and the need to minimise the impact of construction as much as humanly possible on key precincts like Church Street.
"Whether it is gliding up Parramatta's 'Eat Street' to the new Western Sydney Stadium or linking people to the new Powerhouse Museum, the light rail will be a new experience for the growing population and workforce of Parramatta that will only make the city a more attractive destination to live, work and play."
The complete project has been estimated to cost a total of $2.4 billion.
This article first appeared on www.abc.net.au
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