CANBERRA – A new light rail system built in part by an international consortium that includes Japanese trading house Mitsubishi Corp. was unveiled in Australia’s capital Canberra on Thursday, with 300 locals making the first “preview” trip.
The 12-km-long network, consisting of 13 stops in the city’s north, will officially open to the public on Saturday with free travel over the weekend.
Mitsubishi is part of the eight-company consortium, Canberra Metro, which was selected to work with the Australian Capital Territory government in a public-private partnership in 2016. MUFJ Bank Ltd. also participated in the consortium as financial adviser.
Speaking at a news conference following the plaque unveiling, ACT Chief Minister Andrew Barr said the new public transport system marks the moment Canberra “grows up” to develop into a city with a “real public transport system.”
“This is the largest public transport infrastructure project ever undertaken by the ACT government and it’s been an important project for our city,” Barr said.
The light rail will run at a top speed of 70 kph with trains arriving every six minutes during peak periods.
Construction of the 707 million Australian dollar (¥56.7 billion) project began in July 2016, with the original date of completion listed as December 2018. However, construction delays forced the operational date to be pushed back.
Canberra Metro CEO Glenn Stockton said delivering a complex piece of infrastructure to a regional city proved to be particularly challenging.
“There was no rail knowledge and experience here in the ACT so we had to bring specialists in and build up that knowledge locally,” he said.
Given its lack of large-scale public transport systems, Canberra has a strong car culture, and it remains to be seen how locals will adapt.
The Canberra Metro consortium consists of companies from Australia, Britain, Germany, Japan and Spain.