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Late design changes to the Metro Tunnel could see the cost of the project soar even higher than its $3 billion budget blowout, with the opposition calling on the Auditor-General to investigate.
In a letter to the state's financial watchdog, opposition transport infrastructure spokesman David Davis claims last-minute government-ordered changes to signal boxes and vents on the project have already contributed to the $3 billion blowout.
But he also says the government has under-estimated the power needed to run high-capacity trains through the $11 billion tunnel, and upgrades needed as a result could send costs soaring.
Metro Tunnel's first tunnel-boring machine which ground to a halt for three days.CREDIT:JASON SOUTH
Mr Davis says the tunnel's builders, the Cross Yarra Partnership consortium, are concerned about the government's refusal to moved on the project's 2025 completion date.
He warns of "likely additional costs" stemming from the government's demand to deliver the project a year before the 2026 election, despite "increasing complications due to its own poor scoping".
The tunnel-boring machines excavating the twin nine-kilometre tunnels were stopped in their tracks last Monday, as the dispute between the construction consortium and the government over who will cover the cost blowout escalated.
By Wednesday evening the machines had been switched back on, but legal talks are continuing and a deal over the money may not be struck until next year.
Opposition transport infrastructure spokesman David Davis.CREDIT:CHRIS HOPKINS
Mr Davis saysthe government's original plans for the power infrastructure needed to run high-capacity trains through the tunnel were inadequate.
"Traction power for the trains appears to have been under-scoped/underspecified," he writes in the letter. "The additional electricity required for suitable upgrades may well require substation upgrades. The responsibility for these specifications rests entirely with government.
"More substantial specifications will require further supplementation of the project’s budget. This, I am informed, is likely on top of the $3 billion cost overrun already discussed publicly."
This article first appeared on www.theage.com.au
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