Bus and Tram Express
Bus and Tram Express

Revealed: Gladys Berejiklian was sent light rail cost blowout details

Mar 10, 2017Uncategorized

Reported in the Sydney Morning Herald:

Premier Gladys Berejiklian was sent details of a $549 million blowout in the cost of the Sydney light rail project just weeks before, as transport minister, she issued information misleading the public about the reason for the increase.

The revelation, contained in a Transport for NSW response to a request for government information by Fairfax Media, will ramp up pressure on Ms Berejiklian to come clean about what she knew at the time.

After more than half a century Sydney’s main thoroughfare George Street will once again have tram tracks.

But Ms Berejiklian is refusing to release the document, which has been deemed cabinet information by the transport department under the Government Information (Public Access) Act.

“GIPA applications are entirely a matter for the relevant departments,” she said in a statement.

“I am very proud of the CBD South East Light Rail project which will boost public transport capacity and make commuting more reliable.”

The agency’s response shows Ms Berejiklian was sent information contained in an “update briefing” on the project’s budget by the Sydney Light Rail Delivery Office in October 2014.

According to Transport for NSW the update “contains financial and other information on the CBD and South East Light Rail Project (CSELR) provided to the former Minister for Transport”.

The agency is refusing to release the document under access to government information laws as it has been deemed cabinet information and therefore exempt.

‘Update briefing’: Premier Gladys Berejiklian, who was transport minister in 2014, was given information on the project’s budget by the Sydney Light Rail Delivery Office in October 2014. Photo: Michele Mossop

But the revelation she was sent the information in the budget update briefing will increase pressure on Ms Berejiklian to make the document public.

Ms Berejiklian has refused to explain what she knew about the budget blowout since the real reason for the cost blowout emerged in an Auditor-General’s report last December.

It revealed that in October 2014 Transport for NSW “reported” to the government that 94 per cent of the increase was “due to incorrect estimates” in the project’s business case a year earlier.

Yet two months later, in December 2014, Ms Berejiklian issued a media release stating the cost increase from $1.6 billion to $2.1 billion was due to “customer improvements to the original scope”, such as longer trams and stops.

Questioned about this following the release of the Auditor-General’s report, Ms Berejiklian insisted that her statement was based on what she knew at the time.

But she has refused to release documentation showing whether or not she was made aware of the information referred to in the Auditor-General’s report as to the actual reason for the cost blowout.

The Transport for NSW response to Fairfax Media confirms that the briefing note contains information relating to a “cost increase” for the light rail project.

“Some of this information is already in the public domain and is discussed in the Auditor-General’s CBD and South East Light Rail Project Audit Report,” it said.

“However, [the briefing note] mostly contains information that is not publicly available in the Auditor-General’s report.”

The department’s response also reveals the document “was prepared before cabinet’s deliberation on a matter and would reveal the position a minister has taken or was recommended to take on a matter in cabinet”.

Read the original story in the Sydney Morning Herald.