SA government to halt $2.1bn rail plan as part of budget savings

THE South Australian Labor government will “suspend” its ambitious plans for the electrification of Adelaide’s metropolitan rail network in a major savings measures to be announced by Treasurer Jack Snelling in tomorrow’s state budget.

The Australian Online can reveal that Treasurer Jack Snelling plans to “suspend”, rather than “defer or delay”, the remaining components of the $2.1 billion program.

This comes as government sources confirmed tonight that there would be further public sector job cuts announced in tomorrow’s budget, although the numbers will be modest.

But the government’s efforts to reduce public sector numbers will remain challenging as it is understood there will be no forced redundancies.

The “suspension” of the rail plan is a carefully coined phrase designed to allow Mr Snelling some wriggle room in stating when the work may resume.

It is understood the Treasurer will provide a vague future timeframe for when the state could afford to continue the work, rather than a firm date.

Some parts of the project that are nearing completion will continue.

Last year’s budget earmarked $1.2bn over the forward estimates for the program, lauded by the government as being vital to the state’s revitalisation.

A spokesman for the Treasurer would tonight neither confirm nor deny the move.

Industry sources said savings of up to $500m could be made as a result of the “suspension”.

Mr Snelling is trying to claw back spending in the face of record revenue write downs of $2.8bn across the forward estimates.

Adelaide’s rail electrification project was intended to cover more than 100km of track across the metropolitan area from Gawler to Seaford, and Adelaide to Outer Harbor.

It is expected that work that has substantially commenced will be completed, but lines that are yet to begin will be indefinitely “suspended”.

About $200m has been spent on the electrification of the Noarlunga line and $100m on the Gawler line. Electrification of the Outer Harbor line was delayed in last year’s budget.

Opposition transport spokeswoman Vickie Chapman said the public would bear the brunt of any delays to the project.

“Any delay to the electrification will hurt commuters and that is unacceptable,” she said.

Infrastructure Department chief executive Rod Hook said: “I’d prefer to see what they (the government) has put out tonight before I comment”.

It is understood the Treasurer will provide a vague future timeframe for when the state could afford to continue the work, rather than a firm date.

Some parts of the project that are nearing completion will continue.

Last year’s budget earmarked $1.2bn over the forward estimates for the program, lauded by the government as being vital to the state’s revitalisation.

A spokesman for the Treasurer would tonight neither confirm nor deny the move.

Industry sources said savings of up to $500m could be made as a result of the “suspension”.

Mr Snelling is trying to claw back spending in the face of record revenue write downs of $2.8bn across the forward estimates.

Adelaide’s rail electrification project was intended to cover more than 100km of track across the metropolitan area from Gawler to Seaford, and Adelaide to Outer Harbor.

It is expected that work that has substantially commenced will be completed, but lines that are yet to begin will be indefinitely “suspended”.

About $200m has been spent on the electrification of the Noarlunga line and $100m on the Gawler line. Electrification of the Outer Harbor line was delayed in last year’s budget.

Opposition transport spokeswoman Vickie Chapman said the public would bear the brunt of any delays to the project.

“Any delay to the electrification will hurt commuters and that is unacceptable,” she said.

Infrastructure Department chief executive Rod Hook said: “I’d prefer to see what they (the government) has put out tonight before I comment”.

 

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