Sydney's CBD light rail now won't be ready until midway through 2020

Saeed Khan//AFP/Getty ImagesSydney’s light rail track on George Street has found part-time work as a bicycle track.

When the NSW government shut down George Street in December 2015 to build a $1.6 billion 12km light rail route, running from Circular Quay to Randwick and Kingsford, the plan was that it would be finished in 2018 and begin operating before next year’s March state election.

The controversial public transport infrastructure project, now mired in litigation, has since faced several delays and will now cost taxpayers $2.1 billion. An audit found the the budget blowout was due to “inadequate planning” by the government authority responsible, Transport for NSW.

By June this year, the project was 12 months behind schedule with a March 2020 completion date, although only last month Premier Gladys Berejiklian was “hopeful” it would be up and running in late 2019.

Yesterday the boss of the construction company responsible for the project told a parliamentary inquiry that NSW commuters will now be waiting until at least May 2020, having told the government in August that it would take another two months.

Acciona Infrastructure Australia Managing Director Bede Noonan – whose company is suing Transport for NSW for more than $1 billion claiming it was misled by the NSW government over the complexity of preparatory work for the rail line – yesterday apologised for the delays, blaming power utility Ausgrid for the problems, the ABC reports.

“I would like to assure the committee, residents and businesses that we regret the delays, disruption, and impacts that the Sydney Light Rail project has caused,” he told the parliamentary inquiry.

Ausgrid changed its guidelines on pit sizes for access and that spilled over into excavations in unplanned areas, resulting in “substantial change” to the scope of the contract, with Noonan telling the committee the government “vastly misunderstood” the risks involved with utilities underneath the project.

The Acciona boss said those problems delayed the project by 865 days and added $426 million in civil works costs.

The ABC reports Noonan also told the inquiry that other “major scope changes” were made by the gGovernment a year into the contract led to more than 60 unexpected changes.

Transport for NSW deputy secretary for infrastructure, Stephen Troughton, told the inquiry that the department was pushing for a March 2020 completion date and believed that ongoing negotiations “will improve on that date”.

The ABC has more here.

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