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Business owners say they have been “financially and mentally gutted” by delays in Sydney’s multi-billion dollar light rail construction, with some calling on Malcolm Turnbull to intervene over the “growing debacle” and others describing it as “like a war”.
Spanish light rail contractor Acciona Infrastructure Australia filed proceedings in the Supreme Court on Friday, accusing Transport for NSW of engaging in “misleading or deceptive conduct”.
The company claims it is owed $1.1 billion in “losses” after the state government allegedly withheld documents that dramatically altered how it should manage more than 100 utility services during the light rail’s construction.
But as work on the Surry Hills section of the NSW government’s new light rail system drags on at a glacial pace, businesses along the once-thriving thoroughfares of Crown Street and Devonshire Street have described the situation as “untenable”.
Jaide Bryant owns the Last Strand hair salon on Devonshire Street and said the project had slashed her business since construction began in 2016.
“Two years ago this street would have been buzzing with an incredible vibe on a Friday afternoon, but now the street is desolate and empty,” Ms Bryant said.
The hairdresser, 32, bought the Last Strand seven years ago and said endless roadworks closing several streets around Surry Hills have meant small businesses are “hanging by a thread”.
“When you work that hard for your business and another factor comes along and jeopardises it, you have no choice but to accept it,” Ms Bryant said. “But when there’s no end in sight, it becomes incredibly demoralising.”
Shop owner Steve Kulak, who has run the book, film and music store TITLE for 15 years, likened the situation to a war.
“Maybe none of us will survive and it’ll be like a war, where a whole city is wiped out and when everything eventually prospers, nobody will remember the hardship,’’ Mr Kulak said
Mr Kulak, who has had to sack staff and apply for financial compensation to meet his “astronomical” rent, said that while he was a “very big advocate of the light rail,” small businesses was collateral damage in the project.
He said the state government was not solely to blame for the hardship experienced by businesses, saying “landlords need to play ball too”.
One business owner, who did not want to be named, said she could no longer keep her head above water. “Malcolm Turnbull is our member of parliament, where is he?”
This article first appeared on www.theaustralian.com.au
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