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The state government says a $35 million rise in the cost of Newcastle’s light rail project is partly due to removing the overhead wires which will power the service.
The Newcastle Herald reported on Saturday that the Audit Office of NSW had found the project’s cost had jumped from $255 million to $290 million, despite assurances from NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian in July that the light rail was “on time and on budget”.
Newcastle state MP Tim Crakanthorp said on Friday that the report backed up Labor’s earlier claims of a cost “blowout” and that Ms Berejiklian and Transport Minister Andrew Constance had misled the public.
Transport for NSW has refused to account for the cost rise, instead offering a basic overview of the $650 million Revitalising Newcastle Program in response to questions from the Herald.
But Parliamentary Secretary for the Hunter Scot MacDonald was more forthcoming, telling the Herald on Sunday that the $35 million in extra funds would be spent on “urban amenity, wire-free [trams] and road upgrades”.
“Much of these extra costs arose out of community consultation run by Hunter Development Corporation into the revitalisation of Newcastle, including the light rail project,” he said.
The government announced in April that the trams bound for Newcastle would be fitted with on-board energy storage instead of overhead wires.
Planning Minister Anthony Roberts said at the time that “urban amenity upgrades” would include more open space for outdoor dining and street trees, although it was unclear if these would be extra costs or included in the budgeted figure.
The now $290 million project includes building 2.7 kilometres of light rail track, six rail stops, a stabling and maintenance facility, road works and landscaping.
The air-conditioned trams, made by Spanish firm Construcciones y Auxiliar de Ferrocarriles (CAF), will run every 7.5 minutes in peak times and have a capacity of 1200 passengers an hour. Transport for NSW said they would have 60 seats.
The company delivered the first of 14 similar Urbos light rail vehicles for the first stage of Canberra’s new tram network last week.
Canberra trams have five sections, are 33 metres long, carry 207 passengers either sitting or standing and cost about $4.6 million each, which includes 20 years of maintenance.
This article first appeared on www.theherald.com.au
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