The Sydney Light Rail project hasn’t been without controversy since the idea was first introduced; with the environmentally conscious trying to defend 150 year old trees (that were of course cut down anyway), aboriginal artifacts being found at work sites, unrealistic timelines and budgets… seemed like a great idea at the time, right?
When the light rail was originally agreed to the cost of the project was $1.6 billion to create the 12km line that would run from Circular Quay to Randwick and Kingsford. This would ease the already stretched public transport system, currently consisting of buses to Sydney’s eastern suburbs. Work is underway, with massive repercussions for the city in the form of traffic congestion, noise and the rest, but nothing seems to have managed to get much further in over a year. But why?
Well so far all deadlines that have been set have been missed; whether it is the George Street deadline that has been pushed back due to discovering utility cables under the roadway (with a completion date of January or February, neither looking likely), or the Randwick/Kensington section that was supposed to be completed by the new deadline of November. With the first trams scheduled to run early 2019, all of these missed deadlines and extended deadlines aren’t doing much to ease the worries of the public (or those in charge of the project).
The problem with deadlines being missed can be dwarfed quite easily by the recent (end of last year) audit report into the blown up costs associated with the project. The initial $1.6 billion has blown out to $2.1 billion and everybody wanted answers.
In 2014 the Government explained that the increase in costs were due to “huge wins” with the project, such as the trams being able to carry more passengers. However, the independent audit revealed that in fact that wasn’t the case at all and that 94% of the blowout was due to incorrect estimates. The Government are being accused of misleading the community as the report discovered that two months before they announced the increased costs were due to “huge wins” that the Government’s own transport agency reported “mis-pricing and omissions in the business case had caused $517m of the $549m capital cost increase”.
Mehreen Farqui, the Greens transport spokeswoman, said “It has mismanaged, mislead and lied to the community”, and it is easy to understand why she believes that. Nevertheless the project will continue, but how many more hurdles does it face before completion? And when will that be? Watch this space!