Westconnex extends tender amid infrastructure capacity shortages
NSW is still trying to attract bidders to build a key link in its $17 billion WestConnex freeway even though a tender for the job closed last Friday, as the state struggles to manage its infrastructure boom.
A spokesperson for Sydney Motorway Corporation, the state-government owned company that is building the freeway, said the government was still trying to attract “potential consortia” to construct the Rozelle Interchange in Sydney’s inner west even though a tender for expressions of interest closed last Friday.
“The procurement process for the Rozelle Interchange is in its early stages and we are continuing to engage with potential consortiums in the market and parties who have expressed interest,” the spokesperson said.
SMC said, however, that the Rozelle Interchange remained on track for completion by its target date of 2023. The interchange is at the north end of the 9-kilometre Stage 3 of Westconnex which will link the M4 freeway at Rozelle to the M5 freeway at St Peters.
The NSW budget warned that its $73 billion of infrastructure projects including WestConnex, the Sydney Metro, the NorthConnex freeway and stadium reconstructions could push the state’s economy past full employment. Construction firms are already complaining about the difficulty of hiring staff.
With their order books full, construction firms could be especially wary of the Rozelle Interchange, a politically sensitive and technically difficult project.
Originally planned as an above-ground spaghetti junction of freeways, it was redesigned after complaints from local residents so that the roads would be buried in three cascading levels to a depth of 65 metres with multiple surface connections and a huge park on top.
NSW Minister for WestConnex Stuart Ayres said at an estimates hearing that he was more concerned about the lack of capacity to build the project than its technical problems.
“The primary concern that we have at the moment is not the complexity of the Rozelle interchange design; it is the amount of infrastructure being delivered in New South Wales. It is the capacity of the market to absorb all the infrastructure that is being constructed.”
Mr Ayres said then that signing a contract for the Rozelle Interchange could be linked to the planned sale of a 51 per cent stake in SMC.
“We want to be able to have a position where we have let a construction contract either concurrently or before the sale of 51 per cent of SMC for stage 3,” Mr Ayres said. It is understood the government wants the sale done by mid-next year.
NSW has recently said that the Sydney Gateway project, which connects the freeway to the airport and the Port of Botany, cannot be delivered within WestConnex’s announced budget of $17 billion and the government could impose a separate toll to fund it.
The NSW government has also been embarrassed by leaks in the Sydney Morning Herald about cost blow-outs on the Gateway and other sections of the project.
Transport Minister Andrew Constance on Tuesday conceded he was spending $200,000 investigating the leaks. He said this was necessary because of the risk “terrorists” could be stealing information.