Critical testing is underway on the Gawler Rail Line as the vital and long-awaited electrification project enters its final stages.
The Gawler Rail Electrification Project (GREP) was hit with unavoidable setbacks in 2021 caused by the COVID-19 pandemic including an inability to bring the required number of highly specialised workers across the border from interstate and manufacturing shutdowns during extended lockdowns in other states.
Following months of hard work by the project team to minimise the impacts, the project is now closer to completion with services expected to be commencing in April.
Minister for Infrastructure and Transport Corey Wingard said the commissioning activities of the signalling system will require impacts to the entire Adelaide Metro Network during the period 18-21 February, with all lines closed on 19 and 20 February.
“GREP has been hit time and time again with avoidable and unavoidable setbacks,” Minister Wingard said.
“One setback that could have been avoided is if the former Labor government had started this project properly in the first place because then the delays caused by the pandemic would not have hurt as much.
“A ludicrous lack of planning by Labor caused a litany of issues on this project and that was before we were hit with a global pandemic.
“Not only did Labor go to tender with only 5% of the design complete, they also rushed to approve the award of the contract just before entering caretaker mode prior to the 2018 election.
“That move was a deliberate political move and we know this because in the rushed contract they were so eager to award they forgot the one thing a new electrified train line needs – electric trains.
“It was a ‘doh’ moment like no other and now Tom Koutsantonis wants to handle the infrastructure portfolio again.
“The series of issues arising from this inept handling of the project were later resolved when the Marshall Liberal Government converted the contract into an alliance and there was a program reset including a revised budget of $715 million, which includes $175 million for 12 new electric trains – which embarrassingly Labor had forgotten to order.
“We’ve cleaned up their mess and we’re finally delivering a project that’s been on the cards for the people of the north for more than a decade.
“The pandemic has been the contributing factor to an additional cost pressure of $127 million taking the project cost to $842 million.
“There is no denying this has been a difficult project to deliver but I’m extremely proud to be part of a government that doesn’t run away from the hard stuff and gets on with the job of building what matters.
“We apologise for the further short delay but we are committed to completing the project safely, including allowing for sufficient time for testing and driver training.
“We are not going to cut corners on safety so that we can start services a few days or weeks earlier.
“The rail infrastructure is nearing completion as we access the specialised skills we need for the final stages of commissioning. We will then move into the final signalling and electrical testing phases, before undertaking driver training.
“This testing and training will include both diesel and electric trains operating along the new corridor, to familiarise drivers with the new line.
“We’ve also been refreshing a number of stations along the Gawler line as part of a $20 million program to provide a better commuter experience when services resume.
“We know people are eagerly awaiting the return of the trains, and we’re doing all that we can to see that happen as soon as possible.”