The Spanish contractor tasked with building Sydney’s delayed light rail says it would never have agreed to undertake the project if it had been given access to what one senior manager described as a terrifying document.
Acciona Australia’s managing director, Bede Noonan, on Thursday told a New South Wales parliamentary inquiry into the beleaguered project that the government had not provided key information about power utilities.
“Receiving these Ausgrid guidelines after contract signing was like Transport for NSW dropping a bomb on us,” Noonan told the inquiry.
He said TfNSW only provided Acciona with the crucial plans a month after they had signed the contract to build the light rail in early 2015.
“Our head of utilities who attended all of pre-contract workshops to develop the treatment plans wrote in an email in March 2015 that the guidelines are ‘a crap the pants document’,” he said. “I have no idea why they decided to withhold such an important piece of information. All our understanding was thrown out the window.”
Costs for the light rail project, running from Sydney’s city centre to the eastern suburbs, has blown out from $1.6bn to $2.1bn.
Noonan said Acciona would never have agreed to undertake the light rail if the Ausgrid information had been provided to the company earlier.
“I’m here to tell this committee and the people of NSW that had those Ausgrid guidelines been provided to our consortium in early February then we would not have signed the contracts and this project would not have proceeded in the manner it has,” Noonan said. “The withholding of these guidelines was a fundamental mistake by TfNSW.”
The NSW opposition has again criticised the government’s handling of the project. The light rail was “ripping the heart out of the CBD,” Labor’s transport spokeswoman, Jodi Mackay, told reporters on Thursday.
She called on the premier, Gladys Berejiklian, and the transport minister, Andrew Constance, to step in and sort the mess out.
Evidence given before the inquiry clearly shows the government knows the cost of the project will increase yet again, Mackay said. “I think the community deserves to know what the cost of this project is. It’s a dog of a project – they should know the cost.”