Sydney light rail to exceed $3.1b: report

Dominica Sanda
A report into Sydney's light rail has found its cost will blow out to more than $3.1 billion

The NSW government insists Sydney's troubled eastern suburbs light rail project won't cost more than $2.99 billion despite the auditor-general finding the total price has already exceeded that figure.

NSW auditor-general Margaret Crawford has accused Transport for NSW of failing to consistently update the public on the price tag, which she said had topped $3.1 billion.

Her report found extra costs were omitted in a briefing to Transport Minister Andrew Constance in November last year.

Based on this briefing, Mr Constance announced in November the project had blown out by $1.3 billion to $2.9 billion.

But the auditor-general found the TfNSW briefing did not include $36.07 million for pre-contract award costs, $60 million for small business assistance and $57.77 million for additional financing costs because of the project's delay.

"Transport for NSW has not consistently and accurately updated central business district and southeast light rail project costs, limiting the transparency of reporting to the public," the report released on Thursday said.

"Our audit found the total cost of the CSELR project will exceed $3.1 billion."

The project was originally slated to cost taxpayers $1.6 billion and be completed in March 2019. But the final stage only opened to the public in April this year.

The 12 kilometres of track runs from Circular Quay along George Street to Central Station, through Surry Hills to Moore Park, and then to Kingsford and Randwick.

The auditor-general's report found the average journey time from Circular Quay to Randwick in March was 42 minutes and five seconds - more than two minutes longer than its timetabled time.

Transport for NSW argues construction costs won't reach $3.1 billion and insists it's always been transparent about the price tag.

"Transport for NSW does not expect the construction cost for the CBD and southeast light rail to exceed $2.99 billion," a spokesman told AAP in a statement.

He added that short term expenses - including the small business assistance package - were not included in the project's capital costs.

"Transport for NSW has always been transparent about the cost of the project," the spokesman said.

Ms Crawford in her report recommended Transport for NSW publicly report the final project cost and average weekly journey times by June.

The department has also been asked to publicly report the expected project benefits by December and, by April 2021, report the benefits achieved during its first year of operation.

NSW Labor leader Jodi McKay is scathing of the project and the Berejiklian government's handling of it.

She questioned why the government has been so secretive about the cost and argued Mr Constance knew the true price tag in November.

"This does bring into question the competency of this government delivering infrastructure projects," she told reporters in Sydney on Thursday.