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“More trouble than the early settlers”: Tram plan delayed as problems continue

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Premier Steven Marshall has conceded an election pledge to build a right-hand turn for trams onto North Terrace will not meet its stated 12-month deadline, while his Transport Minister says he won’t know how – or even if – the project will proceed until a departmental review is completed in October.

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It comes a day after a partner in the troubled East End tram extension, York Civil, went into voluntary administration.

The project has been beset by problems, with repeated delays despite the former Labor Government pumping an extra $10 million into it to ensure a ribbon-cutting prior to the state election in March.

But five months on, the date for the grand opening is yet to be identified and Marshall concedes this will also impact a Liberal pledge to construct a controversial right-hand turn from King William St onto North Terrace, within a year of taking office.

“Quite clearly, that project is going to be delayed by about the same length of time that the original project is being delayed,” the Premier told reporters today.

“The original 12-month promise was made on the back of the Labor Party completing that project before the Fringe.”

However, Marshall first made the pledge on March 8, at a $37 million cost that he insisted was “going to be in the budget from day one”.

“We’re going to fix Labor’s tram mess and do it in the first term of a Liberal Government… in the first 12 months,” Marshall said at the time.

The East End extension was already falling behind its original deadline at the time. The Adelaide Fringe kicked off on February 15 this year. The $37 million figure was based on a “low-reliability” costing from the Parliamentary Budget Office, which was requested by the Greens.

Marshall said today that “the previous government didn’t make it clear before the election just how badly derailed that project was”.

“We all now appreciate just how far behind that project was… we’re cleaning up their mess,” he said.

“It’s fair to say that tram is in more trouble than the early settlers… the tram issue is just a continuing problem.”

Asked whether he was reconsidering the right-hand turn on FIVEaa today, Transport Minister Stephan Knoll said it was “fair to say that this project had quite a number of difficulties and the department’s undertaking a review into making sure that we don’t make these same mistakes again”.

“The right hand turn is a separate project… we are waiting on some engineering advice that’s due to come in October to tell us what the next steps forward for this project are, but we are committed to delivering our election commitments,” he said.

However, asked whether he would forge ahead “no matter what”, Knoll said: “It would be silly of us to not heed essentially the engineering advice that we receive.”

“The decision that we took in Opposition was an election commitment, we want to move forward with that – but we’re not silly enough to ignore the experts in relation to this, so we want to hear what they have to say about how it is best to deliver this election commitment [and] we’ll wait to hear that advice.”

Asked if the project was a fait accompli Knoll, stressed “we’re committed to delivering on our election commitments”, but added: “Having said that we don’t know what this engineering advice is going to turn up and I don’t want to presuppose what they may say.”

There is still no opening date for the east-end tramline, but Knoll has suggested it will be in coming weeks.

Marshall said today he was “not going to have any criticism of the Liberal Government’s management of this process”.

“We’ve been cleaning up the mess since the day we came into government and we’re up to it, we’ll do it.”

He said the right-hand turn was “a project that we’re working on”.

“We’re getting some work done within the department at the moment to inform the government what the options are to deliver that commitment,” he said.

The latest revelations follow delays on the network last night, when a tram became stuck near the intersection of North Terrace and King William Street, causing a backlog.

Authorities blamed driver error.

Opposition spokesman Tom Koutsantonis said the situation was “chaos”, suggesting the post-election sacking of Labor-appointed Transport boss Michael Deegan had impacted the tramline project, with a permanent replacement yet to be appointed.

“They sacked the person who was overseeing the rollout of this transport network, they haven’t replaced him… this agency needs to have someone in charge ,” he said.

“It needs a permanent chief executive who knows how to operate our transport network system.”

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