This week Transurban has told shareholders that the West Gate Tunnel is running two years behind schedule. The $6.7 billion project which was due for completion in time for the Victorian State Election in 2022, won't be complete until 2024.
The reason for delays revolves around issues of where to dump the contaminated soil created by tunnelling. The soil is contaminated by per-and poly-fluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) – a dangerous chemical used in firefighting foam.
The delays have resulted in a standoff between Transurban, builder CPB John Holland and the Victorian Government over who will pick up the additional costs.
Chief Executive of Transurban, Scott Charlton told shareholders that the West Gate Tunnel wouldn't be completed in 2023 due to the dumpsites for spoil not being ready in time.
"Due to the availability of disposal sites to accept tunnel spoil and following a project schedule review taking this timing into account, 2023 project completion no longer considered achievable,'' a Transurban presentation noted.
Although Mr Charlton reassured stakeholders that Transurban would work hard to deliver the project.
"We remain committed to working with project parties to deliver this much-needed project for the Victorian community as quickly as possible,'' Mr Charlton said.
Transport Infrastructure Minister, Jacinta Allan commented on the project’s delay by saying they'd leave no stone unturned to complete the project.
"We see this as a fundamental failure of Transurban and its builders to resolve this dispute they've got to stop bickering and get on and start delivering this critical project.
"My message to Transurban and their builders is to get on and resolve this issue, get those tunnel machines working so we can get on and see this vital project delivered,'' Ms Allan said.
Minister Allan also warned that the delay would cost Transurban millions of dollars in lost revenue.
Another hurdle for the West Gate Tunnel is the process of approving dumpsites as some landfill spots suggested, including Bacchus Marsh, have been met with community resistance.
Victoria's Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) has also had to rewrite approvals for those shortlisted dump sites.
Fortunately, the West Gate Tunnel project's freeway components, including widening the West Gate Freeway, are still on track.
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