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Labor blows whistle on Transport Minister's train privatisation costs

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Transport Minister Corey Wingard is under fire after claiming that the Marshall Government’s $2b privatisation of Adelaide’s metropolitan train network will save taxpayers “hundreds of millions of dollars a year” – despite being unable to state the network’s current annual running costs.

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The government last month awarded private consortium Keolis Downer a $2.14 billion contract to operate the city’s six train lines and 92-car fleet for eight years, which works out to an average of $267 million a year.

Asked by ABC Radio Adelaide this morning to disclose the annual cost of running the network when in government hands, Wingard said: “I don’t have that exact figure in front of me. There are substantial savings in the order of hundreds of millions of dollars.”

“I can tell you it’s in the order of hundreds of millions of dollars a year for South Australian taxpayers,” he said.

“We have made, we are making savings of hundreds of millions of dollars a year over the next eight years with that contract, so the cost we are paying, we are saving money, hundreds of millions of dollars a year: I can’t be any more specific than that.”

Wingard said specific costing details would be revealed in budget estimates hearings.

Labor Deputy Leader Susan Close said it was “inconceivable” the government had gone through the privatisation process without knowing how much the service cost to run.

“I can understand a brand-new minister might not know all of the details of his portfolio, but if he’s going to sign off on a privatisation deal, he’s going to need to know how much he’s spending now in order to know how much to pay this foreign company. And if he doesn’t know that don’t sign the contract,” Close said.

“This is the minister who is happily giving over $200 million a year to a foreign company to run our train system and yet claims not to be clear about how much its costing currently.

“He’s then asserting that there are hundreds of millions of dollars in savings every year coming from the privatisation but he is unable to explain how much we’re spending now.”

Late last month, it was revealed that the government had commissioned multiple investigations into the leaking of “confidential information” about the privatisation, prompting one unsuccessful bidder to demand the procurement process be halted just days before it was awarded to a rival firm.

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