Sydney’s biggest public transport project has been swept up in a long-running dispute between the NSW government and rail unions, with industrial action adding more than $50 million to the City and Southwest Metro budget, with costs expected to rise.
Major construction on critical sections of the multibillion-dollar rail project has stalled after workers refused to turn off power to allow track work to progress safely as part of protected industrial action.
The NSW government has been at loggerheads with unions for months, unable to resolve a dispute over the new intercity fleet, a $2.8 billion set of trains that remain unused on the Central Coast because rail workers say they’re not safe to operate.
Senior government figures fear prolonged industrial action will lead to costs and timelines spiraling further out of control on the Metro project as union officials warn they will keep measures in place through a scheduled ramp-up of critical work in July.
“That knocks Southwest [Metro] off its critical path – which causes colossal, cascading costs – meaning that the cost impacts on live infrastructure projects exceeds the already considerable impacts of industrial action,” a senior government source said.
A Metro spokeswoman confirmed more than $50 million had been lost due to industrial action on the City and Southwest Metro.
“Major work to upgrade the Bankstown line for Sydney Metro – making stations accessible for the first time and improving frequency of services and journey times – cannot go ahead without power isolations,” she said. “This includes any work in proximity to live electrical feeders, cable installation, power works, lift and staircase installation, concourse, as well as canopy and bridge upgrade works.”
Almost 70 per cent of lost shifts caused by the industrial action were due to be recovered during critical works set to take place in the July school holidays, but that could not be carried out if the industrial action was in place, she said.