Digging cannot begin until at least one landfill operator is selected to accept the project’s soil, but the project’s builders, CPB Contractors and John Holland, are understood to be falling behind schedule on selecting a dump site.
Initial plans to send the project’s soil to landfill Maddingly Brown Coal in Bacchus Marsh by mid-May appear to have been delayed to at least late July.
Another landfill, Hi-Quality in Bulla, is not likely to be ready to accept soil until November.
All operators still need to construct new containment cells and receive environmental and planning approvals, which is estimated to take at least two months.
Sources said the builders are insisting that all operators must have planning approvals in place before contracts are signed, which is believed to be dragging out the process.
The joint building venture is trying to walk away from the project over the PFAS soil issue, citing a force majeure event. Transurban is disputing this claim and is reserving its rights to seek damages from the builders over late delivery.
Transurban’s group executive of project delivery Tony Adams told investors on Monday the commencement of tunnelling was “probably some months away at this stage”, saying “the tender process was still under way for the soil’s dump site”.
Transurban chief executive Scott Charlton said as recently as February that he believed he could deliver the job by the end of 2022, despite that timeline coming “under pressure” and warnings from its builders that it was not possible.
On Monday, the company told the ASX before an investor briefing that the project was “now expected to be completed in 2023”.
“Commencement of tunnelling requires resolution on a range of matters, including disposal site confirmation, preparatory works, achieving relevant approvals and resolving commercial matters,” the presentation stated.
Transport Infrastructure Minister Jacinta Allan said the project’s 2022 timeline was written into Transurban’s contract and the government would hold the company accountable for the delays.
“We’ve made it very clear that we intend to hold Transurban to that contract and what’s contained in that contract is that every day that this project is not completed beyond 2022, Transurban will lose millions of dollars.
“There are penalties around the loss of toll revenue and there are other remedies in the contract.”
Transurban’s contract with the government states the project’s completion date is September 30 2022, and Transurban is responsible for delivering the project on time.
It also states the company will lose tolling and operational rights on the toll road by January 13, 2045, meaning a delay in building the road would eat into the 23-year tolling period unless an extension is granted.
Timna Jacks is Transport Reporter at The Age
Business reporter at The Age and Sydney Morning Herald.