THE estimated cost of the controversial CBD Metro has increased to $5.3 billion, the Herald has confirmed, a rise of more than 30 per cent since it was announced last October.
Senior government and metro sources confirmed the figure to the Herald. Government sources said $500 million had recently been added to cover the risk of cost blowouts as well as construction and contract risks.
The Premier, Nathan Rees, was accused of policy on the run and drawing up the project “on the back on an envelope” when he announced the metro on October 25. He was not able to put a cost on the proposed line from Central Station to Rozelle at the press conference at which it was announced.
After the press conference, the Government told journalists it would cost $4 billion. That figure was subsequently inflated to $4.8 billion until last week. The much longer north-west metro that Mr Rees dumped, and the Opposition says it would reinstate, was costed at $12 billion.
The latest budget blowout comes as the Government begins only now to properly test the project's viability.
Last week the Herald revealed that a Sydney Metro Authority plan to terminate 26 trains an hour at Central Station, thereby bolstering passenger numbers on the metro, was withdrawn from Infrastructure Australia.
The federal infrastructure advisers said the proposal was physically impossible because the CityRail network could not turn that many trains around.
The Herald confirmed yesterday that no updated or replacement plan had been submitted to Infrastructure Australia.
The costs of the project have always been rubbery. In an email released to the NSW upper house after a call for papers, the NSW Treasury adviser on the state's infrastructure needs, David Thorp, revealed the Government was still in the dark about how the cost figure was established.
Alec Brown, a spokesman for the Metro Authority, said a range of cost estimates for the capital works were determined “through to” $5.3 billion.
“This range allows for different levels of contingency, escalation, risk and scope changes,” he said.
The cost raised eyebrows within the industry from the day it was announced. Bob Carr's promised second rail line from Redfern, through the CBD and under the harbour to Chatswood was last costed at $5.5 billion.
The CBD Metro not only has one more station than promised in that project which never saw the light of day, but also has one extra harbour crossing, travelling under both Darling Harbour and White Bay.
Geotechnical drilling has confirmed that expensive tube pressurisation will be required because the tunnel will have to be bored through mud above the level of sandstone.
Drilling began in Pyrmont yesterday on the project. Geotechnical surveys will be used to determine the tunnelling challenges which lie ahead.
The Opposition transport spokeswoman, Gladys Berejiklian, said yesterday it was clear the project had not been properly costed.
“If they haven't properly costed the project it means they haven't done the basic feasibility studies you would expect should occur before a project of this scale is even announced,” she said. “They have opted for the headline rather than putting the interests of the community first.”