Monorail! Monorail!

Sydney ratepayers must miss the albino pachyderm that was their late beloved monorail, formerly of their parish. It may have stopped at no useful locations and cost more than a taxi to go there but at least the liability had been paid off and it only cost them operating overheads.

It was removed a few years ago but, rather than learn a lesson about crap public transport projects nobody asked for, the State Government decided to spunk ratepayer’s money on light railways.

How’s the value for money been so far?

Oh: Light rail project costs blow out to at least 30% over budget and is two years late.

The +30% figure is conservative, by the way. That’s a calculation by a journalist based on public information. The real figure when (if) the line is completed is likely to be an order of magnitude greater. Sydneysiders should prepare the wallets for close to $3bn when the final invoice has been counted.

Actually, it’s not the ratepayers in Sydney we should feel sympathy for; the ratepayers of regional NSW are up for the same bill but none of the eventual benefit.

There’s something about grand infrastructure plans in Australia that seem to regularly under deliver and over cost. The National Pornband Broadband Network, for example.

Bill’s Opinion

This isn’t my area of expertise, so I welcome illuminating comments below as always.

However, it would seem that there’s been a fundamental disconnect somewhere between the NSW infrastructure planning department and the legal counsel to have let such an obvious issue of subterranean cables be so vaguely contracted for.

Do you think any civil servant will have lost their job over this $576m screw up?

The eternal lesson is there for another generation; if you want something done badly, get a government department to do it.

5 Replies to “Monorail! Monorail!”

  1. Why do these wonderful projects always blow out the budget, then get abandoned? Cannes France had a skytrain that nobody used and I believe it cost more to demolish than to build. The important thing being perhaps that it got people elected, one the brain surgeon who said put it up, one the scrap metal dealer who said take it down.

  2. In my previous firm we had a Sheikh major shareholder that owns many other business doing all kind of things all around the world.

    One of them is a fairly successful and growing European light rail contractor, that were in the box seat for a significant chunk of work on that contract. This would have been their first contract in Australia.

    I was tasked with helping them with local content and we were going to run the contract through our Australian company for their convenience, they never got it in the end and the European client told them it was political and that there was push back about bringing in anymore Europeans to that project. At the time we seen it as an injustice but in actual fact both organisations absolutely dodged a bullet on this one.

    See my recent email with names omitted to them below on this, they still want to get into Oz and I have offered to help them as required.

    “Some feedback on the Sydney Light Rail Project, it’s a complete, unmitigated, ongoing, fucking disaster, as your client said to us during the final interview, Xxx were the obvious choice with the best capability, track record and the (major big European city) Light Rail project early completion under your belt. Although it does looks like that in the fullness of time, that Santa Maria the patron saint of successful contractors intervened and gave it to a politically appointed B team.

    Cant say too much here, which is confidential and not to be sent around, xxxxxx submitted a major contractual claim on Sydney Council on this project, equivalent in size to the GDP of Portugal, which never goes down well, the project is years late, the central Sydney CBD disruption is off the Richter scale and no one in Sydney likes it anymore. Plus there is the small matter that Sydney Council thought that the Contractor was supplying and had allowed for the supply of the entire electricity power for the scheme, they hadn’t and the electricity supplier is playing hard ball and saying even if they did want to sell them power, they don’t have enough to go around with their existing networks.”

    1. I have an internal mantra I remind myself of frequently which explains the situation more succinctly;

      “Clients usually get the outcomes they deserve”

      1. “Clients usually get the outcomes they deserve”

        Yes that is a good one and works well, although the problem is that they quite often bring the good guys down with them, this is particularly so with European majors in Oz of recent times. The consequences of this are absolutely devastating to subcontractors and suppliers down the line, financial ruin, failed investment, emotional stress, suicides, divorces, depression and that kind of impact.

        Counterparty risk in the developed world, is quite often the number one understated or contemplated risk that quite often occurs, and when it does it can have a catastrophic consequence to the party that was performing under the contract.

        I have had direct experience with a French contractor doing their arse on the Victorian Desalination Project, the French ambassador to Australia actually intervened, came to site and met the Vic Premier to plead their case. It was the commonly used Clayton Utz Public Private Partnership (PPP) contract format, at AUD$6.5b the biggest PPP in the world to date and he requested that we go light on them, fat chance.

        Plus there is the European majors that are royally fucking up the major solar projects that are going on in Australia now, big time. Suffice to say that it is the worst that I have experienced in recent times, including Africa and the Mid-East. Their project management staff were casually changing entire work sequences upside down and building concrete foundations in the middle of our work area, post price and schedule submission and they expected us to simply just wear it. They were that bad that they couldn’t get us on the hook contractually either, even though we were dead keen at the early stage to get into the solar bandwagon for that particular start up organisation and they could have had us well stitched up months earlier. I am talking about one of the top ten contractors in the world here. Their French female Australian Director that had made her name working for them in London called me to protest. We had phone sex for a bit (which is always juicier when you have never met each other) and when it dawned on her that we were not coming and there was nothing she could do about it, she turned on her own team and asked me to name, names on who the non-performers were, sorry I aint no dobber madam. In the end, she asked me what it would take for us to turn up and perform the works, I said 30% cost plus, no cap on budget and they take the risks, which was a fairly outlandish request in our sector, where a no risk price is more like 6%, she said that she would call me back, never did. That job is another complete disaster and no, it is not any of the nine RCR Thomlinson solar farms that went down last year either! What a cluster fuck they all are.

        Another Italian major that I have had direct experience with, the Pope sits on the board type of firm, were building a major piece of infrastructure in Ghana, their Project Director said to me in front of others and on two separate occasions at meetings in their Accra office, that he would impound our expensive equipment and cut up my visa, such that nothing and nobody was leaving Ghana unless we did things his way. They were JV’íng with the Ghanaian government and could have definitely made customs departure of our gear of the wharf difficult and maybe even meddled with our personal visa status. In the end we got their money, our expats out of the country and once I had my guy sight the vessel leaving Tema Wharf and sailing to Germany with our gear on board, and only then, customs cleared and on the wharf doesn’t count in Africa, I served them with a big fat notice of dispute.

        I was so tempted to send that Project Director that threatened me a whatsapp to say that, we got your money and our men and gear out, you total Roman loser, but as you know, those types of communications are best savoured and experienced in your mind and discussed with bravado at the project piss up, but never sent.

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