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THE cost of the controversial Sydney CBD Metro has blown out by $2 billion without even a sod of dirt being turned.
An underestimation of the cost of tunnelling, which involves going under sections of Sydney Harbour twice, and the cost of building stations to service the route now puts the construction cost at almost $7 billion.
The blowout is contained in tender documents to be submitted to State Government by companies bidding for projects involved in the building of the tunnel.
Sources in the construction consortia bidding for the contract to build the tunnel component revealed that the cost of twin 5.7m diameter tunnels will be considerably higher because of the technical requirements involved in two underwater crossings.
The Metro's proximity to the Cross City Tunnel and the need to ensure a safe distance between the two - believed to be only a matter of a few metres - are also believed to have added to the cost blowout.
It is believed Transport Minister David Campbell has been briefed on the possibility that the cost of the project may be higher than expected.
When the project was announced, Premier Nathan Rees said the cost of the project, which the Federal Government has refused to help fund, would be about $4 billion. More detailed figures were released later, putting the estimated cost at between $4.8 billion and $5.3 billion.
The State Government has been heavily criticised for its decision to push ahead with a Metro line servicing the trendy inner west within a marginal Labor seat, ahead of northwestern and western suburbs that are in more desperate need.
"The initial scoping work suggests that the tunnelling package may be underestimated," a construction firm source said.
"And there are issues with the scoping studies on the eventual cost.
"This was not a project that was scoped in great detail . . . they were only guesstimates. The problem arises when you get down to detail costing."
The Government said it would be fully funding the project but companies bidding for the project have now been asked by the Sydney Metro Authority to submit options for private sector financing of some of it.
Mr Campbell would not deny the potential cost blowout.
"As with all major projects, a range of cost estimates for the capital of this project were determined and ranged from $4.6 billion through to $5.3 billion," he said.
"The range allows for different levels of contingency, risk and changes to the scope of the project."
Opposition Leader Barry O'Farrell said the estimated blowout was more reason to have the project scrapped.
There is also a poll on the side of the article asking whether the metro should go ahead. At 9am the result was 22% yes, 78% no.
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