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Drilling rigs have been moved to Franklin and A'Beckett streets on the northern side of Melbourne's CBD as early work ramps up on the $11 billion Metro rail project.
The Andrews government has been handed three final bid proposals to construct the nine-kilometre tunnel and five new underground stations.
The proposals – each running to more than 100,000 pages – will now be assessed not only on cost, but also on how the new tunnel and stations will look and function above and below the ground, with a final contract expected to be awarded by the end of the year.
The Metro project is expected to cost $10.9 billion, including about $6 billion for the contract to drill the tunnel and build the new stations.
Melbourne Metro Rail Authority chief executive Evan Tattersall said the project had moved into a new phase, working on detail with "those entities who are actually going to go out and build this stuff".
Mr Tattersall said price would not be the only factor. "It is a balance of how the thing is going to look and feel as much as it is how it actually operates and what it is going to cost to deliver," he said.
"There are a whole range of issues around social benefits and environmental issues and safety issues so it is certainly far more than just price."
Mr Tattersall said proposals for "value capture" – where project costs are partly met through increased land values and development opportunities around the stations – would also be considered as part of the tender process.
"What ... we going to build above these stations ... will obviously have to integrate very closely with all the infrastructure that sits under the ground and the station entries," he said.
The bids are from three shortlisted consortiums that include some of the biggest construction firms in Australia and internationally. They are:
• Continuum Victoria, a group led by Spanish infrastructure conglomerate ACCIONA;
• Cross Yarra Partnership, led by Australian-based Lendlease Engineering (which won the contract for the scrapped East West Link Project) and also including John Holland, French construction company Bouygues and Capella Capital; and
• Moving Melbourne Together – which includes Pacific Partnerships, CPB Contractors, and Macquarie Capital.
From Monday construction crews will begin driving massive concrete polls deep into the ground. The poles will reinforce the walls of the 35 metre-deep shaft where the new underground station, currently known as CBD North, will be built around Franklin and A'Beckett streets.
The Andrews government has promised to the get the project – the largest of its type in Victorian history – will under way before the 2018 election.
Public Transport Minister Jacinta Allan said the idea was to ensure the early works would be completed by the time the tender is awarded "so they can hit the ground running with work in 2018".
This article first appeared on www.theage.com.au
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