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Leaked documents reveal South Rd tunnel, North-South project delay: Labor

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Labor says it’s been leaked the Marshall Government’s “centrepiece announcement” for next month’s State Budget – secret documents the Opposition claims reveal details of the final stage of the North-South Corridor, including revelations the project may not be completed until 2035.

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Labor says the transport and infrastructure department documents, marked ‘Cabinet in Confidence’, show the favoured option is a tunnel for the 5.8 kilometre Stage 1 section from Tonsley to near Anzac Highway, which will take four and a half years to build.

The Opposition says the second stage appears to be a lowered roadway and open road between Anzac Highway and the River Torrens – which would not begin until Stage 1 was completed, likely in mid-2028.

The documents, seen by InDaily, state the Stage 2 construction date will be “driven by Stage 1 operational start”.

Labor says the timeline set out in the documents shows the project would not be finished until 2033 at best and possibly not until 2035 – another 15 years away and more than a decade late – but the Government disputes this, promising it will be delivered by 2030.

“This is an extraordinary leak of the plans for the most expensive infrastructure project in the state’s history,” Opposition transport spokesman Tom Koutsantonis said.

“This is one of the biggest and most substantial Cabinet leaks I’ve ever seen in my political career in parliament over 23 years.

“What we know now is that the Government (was) planning to announce in the Budget (on November 10) a tunnel from somewhere from the Gallipoli Underpass towards Tonsley.”

Transport Minister Corey Wingard told ABC Radio Adelaide earlier this morning a decision on the South Road project was “still pending”.

“You’ll find out about that very, very soon – the budget is just around the corner,” he said.

“This is a really big project – $5.4 billion – and… as we roll that project out we need to make sure we’re taking people on the journey of that because that is a substantial build for South Australia and an exciting one.”

Wingard later told reporters: “I haven’t seen the document but we’re proudly getting on with the job – we’re going to be delivering the North-South Corridor and I’m excited about doing that for South Australia.

“We are really focused on delivering this project. This is the toughest part of the North-South Corridor and that’s what we’re focused on. We are looking at all options to make sure we get the best option for South Australia.”

When asked about a possible 2035 finish date, Wingard said: “We’ve said we’re going to get this done by 2030 and that’s when our government will be delivering it.”

Premier Steven Marshall said a 2035 finish date was “definitely not correct”.

“That is absolute fake news,” he said.

“As the Treasurer said two or three weeks ago we would be completing this project in 10 years.

“It’s a very important project. The only chance it would take till 2035 is if somehow Tom Koutsantonis gets back into government.

“In the coming weeks we’ll give the further details about this exciting project.”

Koutsantonis said it was originally promised the upgrade would be complete in 2023 but “South Road now won’t be completed until 2035”.

“South Australians are going to have to wait five federal elections and four Olympic games before this road is completed,” he said.

“What this latest leak shows is that there are people inside Corey Wingard’s department who are seriously concerned about his handling of major projects.”

When asked whether it was possible the documents could be one of a series of early draft proposals, Koutsantonis said that was for the Government to explain.

“Now that these documents have been sensationally leaked, the Marshall Liberal Government needs to come clean with the people of South Australia about its plans for the North-South Corridor and how it will it fund the $3.5 billion shortfall,” he said.

Koutsantonis said it was still unclear what would happen to key buildings along the section, including Thebarton Theatre.

“I think Thebarton Theatre is still under a cloud,” he said.

The documents state “market sounding” would start tomorrow.

Labor says the documents reveal that the full business case will not be finalized until late next year and state and federal funding approval will not occur until next October.

It says the documents show an open motorway would be the cheapest option, have the highest benefit cost ratio and would be the cheapest to maintain.

“Next Steps” referred to in the documents include stepping up site investigations and geotechnical analysis, starting negotiated land acquisition and a refined cost plan.

The documents also include a “communications and engagement plan” listing a media release with “high-level fact sheet” and “a public announcement including high level video, website, project virtual room and social pinpoint”.

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