Top firms guide Victorian government on billion-dollar projects

The projects will improve public transport and benefits for those on the road

Top firms guide Victorian government on billion-dollar projects

Herbert Smith Freehills (HSF) and MinterEllison have provided guidance to the Victorian government on significant billion-dollar projects that are set to improve public transport and benefits for those on the road.

The Victorian Department of Transport engaged HSF for legal advice on the $1.85bn Next Generation Trams project, which the firm said is the state government’s “biggest single investment in the tram fleet and network in decades.” The investment will be implemented from 2025, and will result in “more modern, accessible and energy-efficient tram services.”

The investment also includes a proposed state-of-the-art facility for tram maintenance and stabling in western Melbourne. The trams will be designed, constructed and maintained by Bombardier Transportation Australia (now under Alstom) for 15 years as per its contract with the Victorian government.

“This project is highly significant in delivering the state’s policy objectives to support and scale up Victoria’s manufacturing industry and encourage local supplier participation. It also will help to secure supply chain certainty and Victorian industry resilience,” HSF said.

Projects partner Jim Theodore helmed the multidisciplinary team that worked on the transaction with support from partners Erin Wyeth and Juan-Jose Zentner; senior associates Marianna Schneider, Joseph Varghese and Ella Darroch; and solicitors Annabelle Davies, Jeremy Soh and Jade Tam. Heidi Asten, Steve Bell, Emily Peverill, Rachel Foo and Rachel Zagami also pitched in as specialist advisers.

“It has been great to have been a part of this significant transaction that will not only improve public transport, but will support the growth of Victoria’s manufacturing industry and improve its strength in the face of external risks such as the pandemic,” Theodore said.

A team from Allens provided advice on the tram franchise aspects of the Next Generation Trams project, while MinterEllison advised Bombardier Transportation Australia through what HSF described as a “competitive tender and evaluation process.” PwC served as the commercial and financial adviser.

VicRoads Modernisation

MinterEllison also assisted the Victorian government on the VicRoads Modernisation project, the outcome of which was announced last week by Treasurer Tim Pallas and Minister for Roads and Road Safety Ben Carroll.

The project will deliver benefits such as enhanced customer service systems, custom plates services, and user-friendly registration and licensing, the firm said. It also includes a package that cuts the costs of licensing and online testing while rewarding safe driving.

“This is a win for all Victorians – it means a better experience for drivers and owners of cars, motorbikes, trucks and boats, and continued investment in VicRoads for future generations,” Pallas said.

Under a 40-year partnership, the Victorian government will continue to own VicRoads. The $7.9bn in upfront proceeds that will be generated in the process will go towards the Victorian Future Fund, which has been established to aid in addressing the pandemic debt incurred by Victoria.

The JV partner on the project’s delivery is a consortium comprising Aware Super, Australian Retirement Trust and Macquarie. Carroll added that the agreement will create jobs and protect the existing roles and conditions of VicRoads workers.

MinterEllison partners Andrew Rentoul and Kate Koidl led the firm’s team on the transaction, which Rentoul described as “a very significant project for Victorians, delivering better customer experience for drivers, protection and creation of jobs, and long-term benefits through the Victorian Future Fund.”

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