A damning new report reveals that the cost of delivering the 1700km Inland Rail project in the eastern states has sky-rocketed out to $31.4 billion.
Dr Kerry Schott, Australia’s former Energy Security Board chairperson led the review, finding the board managing the project did “not have adequate skills” and there had not been a “substantive” chief executive in nearly two years.
She also found that advice was not taken when given to the former Coalition government to improve the skills mix on the board.
“The cost of the project has increased by an astonishing amount when compared to 2020,” she said in her review.
“Two years ago the estimate was $16.4 billion, and now it is about $31 billion.”
The Albanese government has been quick to lay blame for for the blow-out on the Coalition and said it was now taking “prudent and responsible action” to rescue Inland Rail.
The project is also significantly behind schedule with just over 16 per cent of the 1700km of track completed so far.
“Another example of our point that infrastructure investment follows marginal seats, not evidence based need and planning,” tweeted Cam Dumesny, CEO of WA’s peak trucking body, Western Roads Federation.
In her report, Dr Schott outlines 19 recommendations to improve the delivery of Inland Rail including through enhanced governance arrangements, the identification of intermodal terminal locations, and ensuring appropriate environmental approval processes. The government has accepted all of Dr Schott’s recommendations in full or in-principle.
The Albanese government said it will take a staged approach to delivering Inland Rail, prioritising its delivery from Beveridge in Victoria to Parkes in New South Wales – increasing resilience and improving supply chain productivity between Melbourne, Perth, Sydney, Newcastle, the Illawarra and Adelaide.
In the near term, work will continue to support completion of existing construction activities and planning works north of Parkes.
“I think, a damning indictment on, frankly, the National Party, who this was their pet project for the last decade,” Transport Minister Catherine King told ABC NewsRadio.
“It’s had problems right from the start, and I think Kerry Schott’s report that we commissioned shows that, you know, there wasn’t these – basically the skills base within the organisation the Liberal National Party chose to build this project.
“They then ignored advice about actually getting people with skills on the board and, in fact, again appointed at the latest appointments people that had links to them and ignored advice to appoint, you know, engineers, people who actually understood what this was.”