Gawler rail reopening shunted again?
Tom Koutsantonis, South Australia's former Deputy Premier (pictured), claimed on Thursday that a document leaked to the state opposition proves the reopening of the Gawler rail line will be now be delayed until May.
The Gawler rail line project has been a sore point for the state Liberal government across 2021 with slow progress on the electrification of the state's northern train line service, a looming electoral banana peel in Adelaide's outer northern suburbs at the March state election.
Koutsantonis, the Shadow Minister for Infrastructure & Transport, said the opposition has obtained a section of private train operator Keolis Downer’s internal 'monthly progress report' which details the latest delay to the project, which states:
“The GREP (Gawler Rail Electrification Project) seems to have further slipped to May 2022.”
The leaked document also highlights difficulties for operator Keolis Downer which is believed to still be in the midst of teething issues since it took full control of SA's public transport system.
“With delivery now planned in Q1 2022 (May), KDA will have additional new drivers who have never driven on this railway which is a significant risk to the opening of this railway,” the report read.
On Friday afternoon, transport minister Corey Wingard and the ALP's SA Twitter account were trading tweeted blows:
On Thursday, former transport minister Koutsantonis expressed his dismay for residents of Adelaide's north who have had to rely on substitute busses for nearly a year.
"This is a crushing blow for the residents of the northern suburbs who have been without a train line for nearly a year."
"They were originally told it would only be closed for a month."
"This is sheer incompetence from Steven Marshall and Corey Wingard, who can no longer blame COVID for these repeated delays."
"How many more delays do commuters in the northern suburbs have to cop?"
In early December, Transport Minister Corey Wingard accused Labor of wild claims about the reopening date, describing the exercise as 'pulling a date out of their backside'.
In a statement to FlowNews24, the Minister lamented:
"Look the other week Labor said Gawler was going to be finished by April 9, today it’s May. If they can’t even get their leaks right how on Earth do they expect South Australians to trust them to finish the project?
"In July they accused Nicola Spurrier of trying to help the Liberal Party win the election by providing an exemption for interstate workers to work on this very significant project.
"By Labor’s own standards, this project is seven years late because they failed to deliver. Unsurprisingly they are desperate to pass the buck."
"It’s no secret the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted this project, but despite frustrations we continue to push forward to deliver better public transport for South Australians.
When asked if the Minister stood by his recent claims the line would re-open in 'early 2022', Minister Wingard's office did not respond.
Waiting at the end of the Gawler line in the seat of Light, local MP Tony Piccolo recently accused the government of digital disdain towards his electors over the line's further delays and blown out budget:
“Once again this Minister is giving the people in Gawler and the Northern Suburbs the political middle finger.”
“It is my understanding that the trains will now not resume for service until late April or early May in 2022, 18 months later than originally scheduled.
“The Minister has now run out of excuses to explain the mismanagement of this important infrastructure project.”
“The return of train services may be irrelevant to the Minister but are certainly not to the local people who rely on the trains for work, visits to the Royal Adelaide Hospital and students attending University or schools in the city.”