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How $4 billion blowout puts Sydney’s transport plans on the line

Buried deep below Sydney’s tallest buildings, giant caverns have been churned out of sandstone and other rock. On the streets above, tens of thousands of people go about their daily lives, oblivious to the work underground on this mega transport project.

Twin tunnels spanning more than 15 kilometres in each direction from Chatswood in the north to Sydenham in the south, link these underground cathedrals. They will become the train stations for the second stage of Sydney’s automated metro train network.

Yet the metro rail project is at risk of quickly becoming a political and financial headache for the Berejiklian government. A highly confidential budget review, completed more than 18 months ago, forecasts the government’s signature public transport project will cost up to $16.8 billion to complete by 2024 – more than $4 billion above what had been budgeted.

O’Sullivan (2020-02-08)

My Quotes

Mathew Hounsell, a transport expert at the University of Technology’s Institute for Sustainable Futures, says demand on Sydney’s transport system is already well ahead of long-term forecasts. “The transport system is essential to keeping the city pumping. Without it flowing properly, the transport network will end up clogged and inefficient,” he says.

“There is a significant risk that the government will delay the essential projects such as Metro West and the upgrade of the signalling on the heavy rail network in order to keep the budget looking good. But if we don’t invest in the transport system, the city will become less attractive and we will lose our global competitiveness. The transport system is the arteries of the city.” [emphasis added]

O’Sullivan (2020-02-08)

The NSW Government has refused to address the chronic problem of a lack of in-house project and management skills as recommended by the parliamentary inquiry.

An adviser on transport projects also blames a major shift in recent decades away from documenting a project to the “last nut and bolt” before it is put out to tender. “This is why you have a situation where costs are always going to increase because, in a sense, a project hasn’t been designed until it’s been built,” says the advisor, who requested anonymity. “Asking contractors to take a risk on things they can’t measure is in my view a formula for grief.”

O’Sullivan (2020-02-08)

Citation: O’Sullivan (2020-02-08)

Matt O’Sullivan. 2020-02-08, “How $4 billion blowout puts Sydney’s transport plans on the line”. Sydney Morning Herald, Fairfax Media LtdNine Entertainment Co. Sydney, NSW, Australia.