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Australia's peak infrastructure body rejected a $500 million funding request for the Sydney light rail, saying the project would increase congestion and did not stack up economically, according to documents seen by the ABC and Fairfax Media.
A leaked assessment, delivered to the NSW Government in April 2013 and obtained by the ABC and Fairfax media, revealed Infrastructure Australia (IA) had major concerns about the project.
The NSW Government asked IA — which independently assesses the national infrastructure projects — to help fund the light rail, which has since been plagued by problems and delays.
The assessment reveals IA thought the line from Circular Quay to Randwick was poor value, and would be overcrowded and increase congestion on city roads.
It was sent to Transport for NSW officials.
Despite the negative findings, the State Government pushed on without federal support, funding the project with $220 million grant from Sydney City Council.
A Transport for NSW spokesperson said the light rail would have 15 services per hour between 7am and 7pm in both directions.
"Since the start of construction in 2015 we have already seen a 12 per cent drop in traffic entering in the CBD in the AM peak," they said.
"This is due to the traffic arrangements put in place to prepare for light rail. At the same time public transport use is up by 11.4 per cent."
Blowouts and delaysThe project has been plagued by delays from complex excavation of underground cables, and a $550 million budget blowout.
The final cost to taxpayers may be over $3 billion, if a $1.2 billion damages claim by Acciona, the principal contractor, is awarded in the Supreme Court.
The 2013 assessment also took issue with the State Government's economic modelling and said the project's own figures suggest that trams may quickly clog Sydney's busy streets, and that taxis, cars and bus-lanes might offer better solutions.
"Congestion within Sydney's CBD could worsen with a light rail system by 12 per cent ... and congestion would also be worse along Anzac Parade," the report warned.
The assessment also stated that the project was "not supported by Infrastructure NSW", which was set up in 2011 to assist the NSW Government in identifying and prioritising big projects.
It said Infrastructure NSW believed the plan "could be financially costly" and "disruptive" to businesses.
The assessment also asked why less costly options, such as an alternative plan for buses in the CBD, or "congestion tolling" of cars and road users in Sydney — similar to London — were not considered by the State Government.
"There does not appear to be a substantive consideration of options outside of light rail", the report concluded.
This article first appeared on www.abc.net.au
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