The press release stated that the renamed ALTRAC consortium has estimated that it will cost $2.1 billion to build the tram tracks and purchase rolling stock from one of the partners but there is no information on what the project will cost the taxpayer in annual payments. It had been previously announced that the project would be an "availability PPP" but there is no precedent on what that might imply. "Availability PPPs" were developed by the NSW Treasury after O'Farrell forced the head of the Department to resign and Baird appointed his own chosen staff. The late and unlamented Napthine government in Victoria developed similar models and signed contracts for the "East West road tunnel" before the election. The facts about the project emerged only after the election and they have been devastating.
With PPPs in the past consortiums had access to all the data and projections and was able to make independent assessments of the financial risks involved. If they got it wrong they had no-one to blame but themselves. "Availability PPP" contracts pay the operators an annual return from taxpayer funds no matter what is received from patronage of the service - the taxpayer takes on all the risk. Yet the taxpayer has been given no access to any of the data about the assumptions made by consultants and has in the case of the CSELR project been given deliberately deceptive descriptions of matters that are crucial for public safety by the overseas-based consultants. Parsons Brinckerhoff were consultants to the Lane Cove road tunnel project.
The press release about a week before Chrismas does not contain any information on what conditions the contract will impose on the taxpayer and every user of public transport in the State. Only a judicial inquiry can uncover what obligations will be imposed on the taxpayer by Ms Berejiklian. This is the matter that opposition Parties must take to the next election. Only after there has been disclosure of the full costs and the physical as well as financial risks that the public will be forced to bear can decisions be made on whether to cancel the contract.
The information that needs to be uncovered includes:
- Was a taxpayer asset, the Dulwich Hill light railway, privatised without a tender process and without a return to the taxpayer?
- Will the taxpayer be forced to make annual payments to the consortium regardless of patronage?
- What will be the cumulative cost to the taxpayer of these payments over the life of the contract?
- What is the period over which the payments will be made?
- Was an assessment, based on known present traffic flows, ever made by a competent authority of the "service frequency (the time interval or distance between LRV)" that could be safely achieved in George Street?
- Why was the increased length of the Rawson Place stop not taken into account and an revised calculation made of maximum service frequencies attainable in George Street in preparing the modification report?
- Has an attempt been made to indemnify the Altrac consortium from prosecution for culpable negligence if it has not provided internationally-accepted standards of safety?
- Have penalties been written into the contract requiring ALTRAC to meet service frequencies regardless of whether these service frequencies have been shown to not be safely achievable?
- Have assumptions been made as to how and where buses "terminated" at the Kingsford terminus will physically turn around?
- It is physically impossible for buses to make a right turn from High Street into Avoca Avenue or left turns into High Street from Avoca Avenue or left turns into Clara Street from High Street without encroaching onto the light rail alignment. Does the contract give LRV vehicles priority signalling at any intersection on the routes regardless of the problems this would cause?