Work on eastern suburbs light rail begins along George Street
Canberra Times, 23 October 2014
The [NSW] state government announced on Thursday night it has chosen a preferred contractor for its eastern suburbs light rail project, as it begins preparing to tear up George Street this Sunday. The government says its preferred consortium for building the light rail, "Connecting Sydney" is promising an expanded service, which can carry up to 50 per cent more but also an increase on its estimated $1.6 billion budget.
It was previously estimated the rail would carry 9000 passengers in each direction per hour.
"The final cost will be subject to further negotiations over the coming months," said Transport Minister Gladys Berejiklian. "The biggest challenge for this project is meeting the high demand from customers".
But before construction begins next year, the government will begin clearing the ground beneath George Street on Sunday, the first stage of the project which could also be one of its most fraught.
"It's a spider's web," Russell Kenley, an expert in construction management and models from the Sustainable Built Environment National Research Centre at Swinburne University, said. "None of it's really known until it's exposed."
The government has been surveying more than 2000 below-ground cables and pits for power, water and gas services underneath a 12-kilometre stretch of street. They will now be protected and moved on Sundays before major work begins after Anzac Day.
Construction giant Laing O'Rourke has been paid just under $50 million to oversee the process and rework Moore Park's Tramway Oval.
The state government says it has conducted Sydney's largest subterranean survey of 3500 pits and 200 trenches and built a 3D map to guide the work.
"There has been a lot of work in preparing that model and it probably gives a false sense of accuracy," Professor Kenley said.
He said construction projects are often set back when it is discovered that generations of workers have laid underground services on top of each other and along deviant paths.
One or two of the eight intersections planned for works will be closed for about 24 hours from 5am each Sunday through until about January.
Concern the state government had underestimated the risks of digging up the street was among the reasons Britain's largest construction company, Balfour Beatty, withdrew its bid for the light rail project in July.
"Connecting Sydney" is composed of four companies, including Transdev and Alstom. The government will finalise its contract negotiations in the coming weeks.
The government said their bid would result in an earlier completion date and more construction workers to minimise disruption during the construction phase.
It said further details would be released when the contract is formally awarded by the end of the year.
Work on the next two weekends will centre on the intersections of George and Bathurst streets and George and Liverpool streets.
Footpaths and driveways will still be accessible, the minister said.
Buses will stop on Park Street and divert along King and Pitt streets.