Light rail extension delayed till 2014

Posted: September 11, 2011 in Transport
Tags: , , , ,

The 5.5km extension of Sydney’s existing light rail line from the current terminus at Lilyfield to Dulwich Hill was originally announced by the former Labor government in early 2010. With planning approval received in February 2011, it was expected to be completed in 18 months, which meant roughly by the end of 2012, and at a cost of $120m. The extension was announced after plans to build the CBD-Rozelle Metro (a shortened version of the originally proposed Northwest Metro) were abandoned.

This extension would go along the disused goods line between Lilyfield and Dulwich Hill, and require new tracks (which have by now already been laid), overhead wires, signaling and platforms, but otherwise the entire path was already reserved and ready to go. As far as transport projects go, this should be a piece of cake.

Proposed light rail extension

The existing light rail line is shown in dark green, with the proposed extension in light green. Also shown (in blue) is an early planned route for a CBD extension between Central and Circular Quay via Barangaroo. Source: Sydney Architecture

However, recent news indicates that the timetable has doubled to 3 years (i.e. 2014) and the cost ballooned to $176m, almost one and a half times the original estimate. In fact, that means that the cost per kilometer for this project is now $32m.

For something where there are no land purchases and no tunneling, it is beyond outrageous that it would take this long and cost that much. Yet these sorts of cost and timetable blowouts for transport projects have become so common in NSW that they are almost to be expected. Gavin Gatenby of Eco Transit wrote an article for Crickey in 2009 in which he explained why rail projects in NSW cost 3 times more than they should.

To give you a comparison, the Mandurah Line in Perth (a 72km long heavy rail line) cost $1.22bn or less than $17m/km. That’s almost half what NSW will be paying for light rail. Not only that, but Perth’s Mandurah Line took less than 4 years to build (despite delays of its own), which means construction at a rate of over 1.5km/month, compared to the 150m/month for the light rail. That is 10 times slower!

I’m not certain as to why this delay and cost blow-out has occurred. Perhaps it’s due to the reorganisation of the transport department or maybe because these new figures came from the state treasury. Both the treasury and RTA have been known to discourage public transport projects in the past, preferring the government to focus on roads instead. If this was the reason again this time, I would not be surprised.

For more on recent transport construction projects in Australia over the last decade, Transport Textbook did a great piece on the 10 most expensive projects which I highly recommend.

  1. Thanks for the link back to my article on TT. It beats me too why this should cost so much, after all, the similar 3.6km extension of the light rail in 2000 to Lilyfield cost only $20M ($27M all up or $7.5M per kilometre in 2010 dollars). It also depends how much ‘risk’ is scoped in to the project (be it actual life safety risks or other risks such as resident objections) and what the proportion of ‘soft’ project costs (i.e. design costs, stakeholder management, etc) are and finally what procurement method is used – use the wrong method and the contractor can rake off at least 10% in contracted ‘profits’.

    We don’t have enough Sydney coverage on TT – come over and make yourself known.


  2. […] I mentioned in my post on the Dulwich Hill Light Rail update, the RTA and NSW Treasury have jointly worked to torpedo many of these projects in the […]

  3. […] Sydney by Bambul Shakibaei — Leave a comment September 23, 2011 Following the recent government announcement of an 18 month delay to the light rail extension to Dulwich Hill, reports have emerged that the private operator of the light rail, Metro Transport […]

  4. […] the final cost estimate has not even been come to yet. And based on previous experience with Sydney’s non-road transport projects, the amount is likely to only get bigger and bigger. In fact, it’s already happened. The […]

  5. […] projects around the world. I’ve spoken about how transport construction costs in NSW are over-inflated, an issue that was raised by Jacob Saulwick in the Sydney Morning Herald last weekend. For some […]

  6. […] with its completion. Though originally meant to be completed by 2012, it was later announced that the extension would not be up and running until 2014. As of early 2012, the track has all been laid and the project still requires the construction of […]

  7. […] number one issue and that there will be no new transport infrastructure projects opened until the Dulwich Hill light rail extension is completed in 2014, not long before the next state election. The old Schofields town centre. (Source: […]

  8. […] of the spill-over effects of the cost blow-out and delay to the light rail extension to Dulwich Hill has been the indefinite deferral of the Greenway that was to run parallel to the new line, allowing […]

  9. […] and Southwest Rail Link (SWRL) will both funnel commuters into the CBD, as will the Southeast and Inner West Light Rail Lines aswell as the Northern Beaches BRT. But what about Western Sydney? The previous Labor […]

  10. […] in over budget and behind schedule all too often. That appears to have been partly continued. The Inner West Light Rail extension has been delayed by 18 months and its cost blown out by $56m, while the cost of the South West Rail […]

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