Delays to the CSELR light rail project through Sydney’s CBD and South East have led Transport Minister Andrew Constance to proclaim “NSW is an unhappy customer” and “”We expect better.” Opposition leader Luke Foley has labeled it “a dog of a project.”The media described the project as a “full blown disaster” and “a permanent nightmare.”
Just 14 out of 25 kilometres of track has been laid so far, well behind schedule. Consortium ALTRAC is currently laying on average 25 metres of track a day. To meet the early 2019 deadline, they need to be laying 260 metres each day.
Only 9 out of 41 work zones have been completed, whilst original plans show that nearly all zones should have been completed last year. So far none of the zones have been completed on-time. Some zones such as Zone 5 near Wynyard, Zone 7 near Town Hall and Zone 22 in Moore Park are currently running more than 500 days behind schedule. The entire project is said to be around 450 days late.
The CEO of ALTRAC has repeatedly refused to give an indication of a completion date or even the state of construction. ALTRAC is now facing legal action from subcontractors for failure to pay for work as well as significant fines of up to $3.5 million per week the project runs behind schedule.
The project was due to open in March 2019 however sources close to project suggest that a late 2020 opening date is more likely at this point. Some of the reasons quoted for the delays include relocating utilities and historical artefact discovery.
ALTRAC maintains the work is significantly more technical than originally anticipated and that the project remains severely underfunded. This is despite a cost blowout from $1.6 billion to $2.6 billion.
A report has also found that many of the time saving benefits used in the business case for the light rail were false. Trams could potentially face delays of up to 10 minutes on each trip waiting for traffic lights causing reliability to slump. This could mean that commuters will spend longer on trams than they currently do on bus services.
In more positive news, the first tram begins testing tonight, only 5 months late.
Photos courtesy of ALTRAC