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THE cost of the State Government's rail clearways program, designed to separate the network into distinct lines and minimise delays across the system, has blown out by more than $800 million, documents reveal.
The documents, obtained by the Opposition under freedom of information legislation, show the total cost of the clearways program is now $1.888 billion, up from the original estimate of $1.018 billion.
''There has been major mismanagement of the public transport infrastructure budget,'' the Opposition transport spokeswoman, Gladys Berejiklian, said. ''Not only has the cost blown out but there are delays on every one of the projects.''
But the Government, far from being defensive about the costs of the clearways project, said it was spending more money on the work. The Minister for Transport, David Campbell, recently announced another $120 million would be spent. ''These clearways projects provide new rail lines, stabling facilities and rail turn-backs which will get trains around the network quicker and with more efficiency,'' Mr Campbell said.
According to the Opposition's analysis, the biggest cost blow-outs have occurred in Kingsgrove-to-Revesby ''amplification'', which is up from $230 million to $450 million; the Cronulla line duplication, up from $145 million to $231 million; and the Hornsby platform and stabling, up from $30 million to $107 million.
Ms Berejiklian said that although the clearways project had ballooned in cost, leaked government documents revealed that in the past financial year RailCorp had underspent its infrastructure budget by 24 per cent. She accused the Government of ignoring CityRail's needs while lavishing $5.3 billion on the CBD Metro between Rozelle and Central.
''They are reinventing the wheel with the metro while they either mismanage or starve the existing system of resources.''
The cost increase has occurred despite the decision to downgrade or abandon two key elements: the Carlingford loop and the additional tracks between Sydenham and Erskineville. The Government says it has already completed six legs of the project, including the Berowra, Bondi and Revesby turnbacks; the Macdonaldtown turnback and stabling yard; and upgrades to platforms and stabling yards at Hornsby.
''While major construction works for the Homebush and Lidcombe turnbacks have been completed, work continues on the duplication of the Cronulla line and the quadruplication of the line between Kingsgrove and Revesby,'' Mr Campbell's office said. Quakers Hill-to-Schofields duplication, the Liverpool turn-back and the Macarthur station upgrade would also get the extra funds.
A senior RailCorp source said the clearways cost increase was due to the Government's creeping privatisation of the rail sector over the past five years. He said the increasing use of ''alliance contracts'', which divided the spoils of government funding among private construction, engineering and project management firms, had driven up the costs of rail maintenance and expansion.
''There is now a built-in incentive for the private sector to inflate by two to three times the costs of projects that would have once been done in-house,'' he said. ''And if the costs of a project are three times as much, then you end up with a third of what you need.''
Sydney Morning Herald
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