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The State Government has been hit with another delay on the $1.6 billion Mandurah rail project, with Planning and Infrastructure Minister Alannah MacTiernan saying yesterday she was “pretty optimistic” it would be open by Christmas.
The project was originally planned to be open by December 2006 but has suffered a series of delays.
Ms MacTiernan said subcontractors handling the signalling system were responsible for the latest delay.
She blamed the delays on computing glitches, claiming the contractors were more familiar with the construction of tunnels and laying rail tracks then they were with installing the software needed to run the train’s communication system and signals.
“Probably one of the issues is that it is a very complex project and you have civil construction companies that perhaps, whilst the body of their experience has been in building the roads, the bridges and the tunnels, perhaps haven’t had the same degree of experience with the software sides of a train control system,” she said. “That is our analysis as to why they are behind schedule on the signalling we are pretty confident now that the companies understand the need to very closely supervise the work that is being delivered there and we are pretty optimistic that this will be open by Christmas.”
Ms MacTiernan stopped short of guaranteeing trains to Mandurah would run this year, claiming only that she was “reasonably confident” of having the delay-riddled railway finished by Christmas.
The Electrical Trades Union yesterday attacked the project manager, the State Government’s Public Transport Authority, for its “poor” handling of the electrical stages of the project.
Secretary Les McLaughlan said the system design appeared to have been done partly on an ad hoc basis because workers were regularly made to remove and replace cables and wires that had already been installed as part of the signalling system.
“It comes down to bad planning. They just didn’t have a proper plan in place for the installation,” Mr McLaughlan said.
“I have spoken to some people on there and it is just like a joke.
“No sooner have they got something finished than they are asked to move it.
“They are asked to cut it out and move it 20m back.”
Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union secretary Kevin Reynolds reiterated his long-standing claim that delays on the project were due largely to poor management by the State Government and the primary contractor on the city section, Leighton Kumagai.
Opposition Leader Paul Omodei said the public had been given 10 different completion dates for the railway since 2001 and had seen the project blow out by $350 million.
“So far we have not seen Alannah MacTiernan take any responsibility for her role in overseeing one of the worst State Government-managed projects in WA’s history,” he said.
“It is high time Alannah MacTiernan accepted the fact that after breaking 10 different promised start dates for the train line since 2001, it is her deficiencies that have made this project the debacle it is.”
Ms MacTiernan yesterday defended the management of the project, saying it was “exceptionally administered”.
She said the delays and cost overruns were comparably less than those currently experienced by the private sector on major construction projects.
by SAM RILEY and KIM MACDONALD
10th August 2007, 6:00 WST
The West Australian
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