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No finish date for Sydney’s light rail as company takes NSW to court

Sydney Morning Herald, 10 April 2018
Premier Gladys Berejiklian would not be drawn on when the significantly delayed Sydney light rail project would be finished, as the government faces a legal battle with the Spanish subcontractor building it. When asked in question time on Tuesday about the delays, Ms Berejiklian did not provide details around when the project connecting the CBD to the eastern suburbs would be completed. It was due to be finished in 2019.

But she did stress that NSW would “not be held to ransom” by the Spanish subcontractors who are reportedly demanding an extra $1.2 billion from the government.

Spanish builder Acciona, subcontracted by ALTRAC, is taking Transport for NSW to court, with the dispute listed to appear in the NSW Supreme Court on Friday.

Acciona – whose lawyers claim the government misled the contractor on the complexity of utility work involved – has proceeded with a “go-slow” on work, The Australian reported on Saturday.

The latest developments follow revelations that the government’s external legal bill for the light rail project has already climbed past $15 million.

Figures obtained by the opposition show the legal bill for the 14-kilometre line from Circular Quay to Randwick and Kensington has climbed past $15 million so far – or 0.72 per cent of the $2.1 billion cost of the project.

Ms Berejiklian, who faces the prospect of the project being delayed well beyond next year’s March state election, told parliament that the government would not tolerate demands.

The light rail, stretching from the CBD to Randwick, is a signature project of the premier’s and was announced when she was transport minister.

“If you have signed up to a job, you do it,” Ms Berejiklian said.

Transport Minister Andrew Constance also told parliament the government would not put up with the NSW taxpayers being “fleeced”.

“We are not going to tolerate a go-slow so that we write a cheque to hit the accelerator,” Mr Constance said.

The government has said the contract with the ALTRAC consortium – which includes firms Transdev, Alstom, Acciona and Capella Capital – provides the possibility for penalties should ALTRAC fail to complete work on time.

But there are also provisions for claims by ALTRAC against the government, including for failing to specify designs in time.