Posts Tagged ‘Mandurah line’

Welcome to the first in what will hopefully be an ongoing series: Best of the rest, where every Friday I’ll be linking you to another article/story/blog post that I found interesting. These are generally going to be quite short, with a brief description and a link.

Today’s item is about construction costs of transport 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 comparisons using 2009 dollars, the Mandurah Line in Perth (a 72km mostly above ground rail line) was built in 2007 for a cost of $15m/km, the Airport Line in Sydney (10km all underground rail line) was built in 2000 for $100m/km and the Northwest Rail Link (23km partly above ground, party below ground rail line) is currently estimated at $348m/km (I don’t think this is in 2009 dollars, so it’s a bit higher than it should be in comparison to the other two). A full list of Australiasian transport projects can be found at Transport Textbook.

It seems, however, that NSW has been outdone by the yanks, who paid $4bn/km for a new line connecting Manhattan to Queens. While this (and the others listed) are extreme cases, building anything in Manhattan is going to cost you, it is an interesting comparative to the cost blowouts here in Sydney. Check out Alon Levy’s post at Pedestrian Observations for the full list.

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.