The New South Wales government is pushing to have the much-maligned Sydney light rail project open for business by late 2019 and says there is only one kilometre of track left to lay.
The $2.1 billion project was originally meant to be delivered by early next year, but has been plagued by delays, costs blowouts and legal stoushes between the government and subcontractors.
Premier Gladys Berejiklian and Transport Minister Andrew Constance boarded the red and white tram on Tuesday as it snaked its way from Randwick to Moore Park.
“We saw many onlookers waving and giving us the thumbs up … because they know what’s coming,” Ms Berejiklian said.
“Every major project has its challenges, but this project is coming to life. This project will transform the way we move around.”
Plagued by problems
Before Tuesday’s milestone, the project had been making headlines for the wrong reasons.
Acciona – the Spanish company building the light rail – took the NSW government to court in April, claiming it was owed $1.1 billion in cost blowouts.
Last month, more than 60 businesses joined a class action seeking around $40 million in compensation over disruption caused by the project, which has shut down several city streets.
During a senate estimates hearing last month, Mr Constance admitted the government was the guarantor on a $500 million loan provided by private banks to the ALTRAC Light Rail Partnership – the consortium behind the project.
Ms Berejiklian apologised to commuters and residents affected by the delays in construction, which has been a visible scar on the CBD and inner east.
“I appreciate the frustration when you give people timelines and those timelines aren’t exactly what you say, but I’m pleased with the progress we’ve made in the past few months in particular,” she said.
Ms Berejiklian said more construction hoarding would now be removed from the site and then landscaping would begin to replace greenery that was cut down to make way for the track.
She said contractors had said the project would be finished by March 2020 but she was confident that date could be brought forward to late next year.