Last week Acciona Infrastructure Australia, which is building the troubled light rail from Circular Quay to Randwick, told a parliamentary inquiry that the project could not be completed until May 2020. The company’s managing director said the government was informed of the latest delay in August.
Acciona is suing the NSW Government for alleged “misleading and deceptive” conduct relating to changes in guidelines provided by electricity company Ausgrid.
But speaking at a CEDA function on Tuesday NSW Transport Minister Andrew Constance said he would “reveal some significant home truths” about the works yet to be completed.
The advice from Transport NSW was that Acciona has less than 600 meters of track to lay, which should be completed with a month, while the remaining half of 800 pole foundations should be completed by the first quarter next year, he said.
Acciona needs to complete five of the 10 sub stations and has 14 of the 19 pre-fabricated stops to install, both of which should take three months, the minister said.
“Sydney deserves its light rail in 2019, on the basis of the complexity of the work that lays ahead, most civil contractors worth their salt say we can get that done very quickly,” Mr Constance told the Sydney audience.
Mr Constance said that on the basis of the works left to be completed there is “no doubt” the project should be completed by the first quarter of next year.
“And that’s where May 2020 date starts to become a little bit laughable and I believe it’s designed to anger and frustrate the community.”
The minister also challenged the claim that the project builders were not on a go-slow:
“There should be hundreds of people working across these construction zones, and there isn’t.”
He compared the Sydney project to what had been achieved on Downer’s construction of the Newcastle light rail, which has “the same number of workers on a project that’s a quarter of the size.”
The minister said the NSW Government currently has 50 high-risk, high-profile projects across the state and he did not want the troubled light rail to hinder that program of works.
“I’m not going to stand by and see public private partnerships as a means to deliver projects in this state denigrated and harmed simply because of one single project. Work must be done by quarter one next year,” he said.
While the contractor was free to negotiate over what they’re entitled to, the government was “not going to bail them out for bad performance,” the minister said, adding that the state had paid millions to 96 small businesses impacted by the works.
Among them were a restaurant in Devonshire Street that received $289,000, a cafe near King St that received $295,000 and a salon on George St that was given $236,000, he said.
Elsewhere, the minister announced that in the 12 months since the introduction of the new Sydney trains timetable, on-time running has been at an average of 91 per cent and customer satisfaction remained at 86 per cent.