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City tram project blows out before it starts

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The State Government has pumped an extra $10 million into the city tram extension project just two days before it is due to begin, with the Opposition claiming the money is simply to ensure the project is ready for a ribbon-cutting ahead of the next state election.

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The State Government announced today that the project – which will deliver four new stops on King William Road and North Terrace – would cost an extra $10 million, taking the total budget to $80 million.

First works will begin on Sunday night, including locating underground services and geotechnical investigations, with the project being awarded to the Downer York Joint Venture.

However, questions are being raised over the extra $10 million spend, which Transport Minister Stephen Mullighan said was partly to fast-track the project in a “major construction blitz”.

Opposition transport spokesman David Pisoni said the extra cost was clearly to ensure the Government meets a political deadline – the March 2018 state election.

Mullighan insisted today the project wasn’t delayed – an assertion which flies in the face of the Government’s own announcements about the project last year.

In December, the Government said the project was due to start in the “first quarter” of 2017.

The first announcement of the project, in July last year, claimed works would begin by the last quarter of 2016 “subject to the necessary approvals”.

“It has blown out by $10 million because they want to meet a political timeline,” Pisoni told InDaily.

He said the project was clearly delayed, despite Mullighan’s assertions on ABC Radio Adelaide today, and it wasn’t due to be considered by Parliament’s public works committee until next month.

The Government previously announced the work would be prioritised on weekends and nights.

Today, however, the Government says that an “intense program of works” will work 24 hours a day, seven days a week in school holiday periods “at times when road traffic is at its quietest”.

Major works on the intersection of North Terrace and King William Road were scheduled for early January 2018 to minimise the impact on major events around Christmas and the Boxing Day sales.

The tram extension will include four new stops – on King William Road to service the Festival Centre, and three along North Terrace to carry passengers to the museum/library precinct, universities and the East End. The budget also includes buying trams to service the route.

The Government said the tram track along King William Road would be extended a 100 metres further north than originally proposed to provide better disability access and “enhanced pedestrian connectivity between the Riverbank Precinct and Anzac Walk”.

The project is scheduled to be completed in early 2018.

Mullighan said the Downer York Joint Venture had a track record in completing similar projects “within program and budget”.

He said the city tram extension would “kick start the first stage of our ambitious tram expansion project that will connect north, south, east and west, easing city congestion and reducing our carbon footprint”.

However, the Government has not yet announced its final plans for this expansion – promised in a transport plan ahead of the 2014 state election and used extensively in Labor’s campaign materials.

The Government says it is waiting on the results of a $4 million study to finalise its plans for the tram routes.

Mullighan’s office told InDaily in April this year that the study would be released “in the coming months”.

One of the proposed routes – to Port Adelaide – looks increasingly unlikely to go ahead.

Last month, the Government declared it would spend $16.4 million to return “train services” to the heart of Port Adelaide.

In response to inquiries from InDaily, Mullighan’s office said the rail spur would be designed to allow electric trains or trams.

As InDaily has reported previously, major works on the Torrens Junction project – in the north-west park lands – also raise questions about the Port tram project.

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