Engineering, Passenger Rail, Rail Supply

Constance blames Acciona for cost overruns, delays

NSW transport minister Andrew Constance has taken to Twitter to fling mud at the private contractor delivering Sydney’s new light rail network, saying cost overruns and delays along the route are due to the contractor’s “unacceptable conduct”.

According to multiple reports, infrastructure firm Acciona is taking the NSW Government to court over more than $1 billion in extra work so far completed on the CBD & South East Light Rail project.

Parts of the project have run into delays thanks to the complex web of utilities buried under Sydney’s streets, and these delays have proven costly, with the project’s original price tag of around $2.2 billion far in the rear-view mirror.

Some reports have indicated Acciona’s workers are on a go-slow, with the contractor commencing legal action to recoup extra costs from the state.

Acciona is part of the ALTRAC consortium, which also includes Alstom, Transdev and Capella Capital. The consortium isn’t allowed to talk publicly about the project, as part of its deal with the NSW Government.

But when news of Acciona’s legal action hit the headlines over the weekend, transport minister Andrew Constance took to Twitter to slam the infrastructure firm.

“These are outrageous claims and an attempt to fleece the NSW Taxpayer,” he tweeted. “Not going to happen … ALTRAC & Acciona have a contract. I suggest they stop wasting time and get on with the job.”

Further quoted by the ABC, Constance labelled Acciona’s claims “ridiculous”.

“We are furious it’s not being delivered at the pace it should be,” the minister said. “We will throw the book at them in terms of this contract. We are not going to muck around. The NSW taxpayer is not going to be fleeced by anyone.”

Deputy NSW Labor leader and Opposition spokesman for planning and infrastructure Michael Daley said the state was treating Acciona unfairly, however.

“Every time the contractor digs a hole there is something underneath the ground that they weren’t told about,” Daley said. “That’s because [premier] Gladys [Berejiklian] rushed this project … it should have taken two years to plan.”

In a letter of demand to the NSW Government, Acciona’s lawyers said the firm was owed $1,206 million, including $101 million in interest.

In his letter of reply, Constance told Acciona it had no direct contract with the Government, and that the Government would answer to the ALTRAC Consortium, not Acciona directly.

“…any issues should be raised with ALTRAC,” the minister wrote, per ABC. “The contract between ALTRAC and Acciona spells out how risks of dealing with utilities for the construction of the Light Rail are to be managed.

“I cannot express strongly enough the NSW Government’s disappointment and exasperation at Acciona’s unacceptable conduct.”

The light rail project was originally intended to be operational by the next state election, scheduled for March 2019.

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