Transcript of Press Conference—Darlington Project Office, Adelaide



20 December 2015

Topics: Adelaide Darlington Project, Tonsley rail extension, Tony Abbott

Stephen Mullighan: Well, it gives me great pleasure to be here this morning with Federal Major Projects Minister Paul Fletcher to announce both the successful tenderer for the Darlington upgrade project—an important upgrade of our North-South Corridor here in Adelaide. That successful tenderer is a consortium between major firms Fulton Hogan and Laing O'Rourke and pleasingly, through some reduced service relocations and some very aggressive pricing, we've been able to extend the project in two important ways: we have an additional road connection between the Tonsley precinct and the Flinders University precinct; and we also have a one kilometre extension of the non-stop motorway past the Ayliffes Road intersection to head north, and give those motorists and those truck drivers much better and faster access from the southern suburbs heading north along the North-South Corridor. And we're also announcing today that both the State and Commonwealth Transport Departments are working on the basis of an in-principle agreement to extend the Tonsley rail line from the Tonsley precinct to the Flinders Medical Centre. Minister.

Paul Fletcher: Yes, thank you Stephen. Well I'm very pleased to be here with South Australian Transport and Infrastructure Minister Stephen Mullighan and with other state and federal parliamentary colleagues. I particularly want to mention Andrew Southcott, the Member for Boothby, and Nicolle Flint, the Liberal Candidate for Boothby. I'm very pleased to be here at this important announcement. This is the Turnbull Government backing Adelaide with a commitment of nearly half a billion dollars on the Darlington project. This 3.3 kilometre extension or upgrade of the South Road to expressway standard, a continuation of the Southern Expressway, and it is very pleasing as Minister Mullighan has just announced that it's been possible to extend the reach of the original project. This is going to deliver very significant benefits in terms of reduced congestion, improved travel times, improved safety. Very important for liveability, for people getting to and from work. Very important economically because of freight traffic using this important road. The Turnbull Government has committed $1.7 billion to the North South Corridor, the North South Road links over the next decade and we're doing that because the Turnbull Government is backing Adelaide. And we're backing Adelaide, particularly with the almost half a billion dollar commitment to this Darlington project. I'm also pleased that the Federal Government is working with the South Australian Government, as Minister Mullighan has said, to look at the extension of the Tonsley rail line to the Flinders University Medical Centre, and that is potentially another very exciting aspect of this project.

Question: With regards to funding that project Minister, with other aspects of the North South Corridor it's generally been an 80/20 split. Is that what we're looking at here when it comes to the Federal contribution as opposed to the State contribution for the rail extension?

Paul Fletcher: Well, certainly in terms of the road project, the Darlington project, that's an 80/20 split. In terms of the rail extension, there's more work to be done between the two governments as Minister Mullighan has said. We're not at the same stage as we are in relation to the road. But certainly that proposal has been brought forward. The two governments are looking at it carefully and there'll be more to say over coming months.

Question: Is there any estimation of what a project like that might cost though? Done elsewhere, or something similar?

Stephen Mullighan: The Tonsley rail extension, we think is approximately $85 million to deliver that extension from the Tonsley precinct up to the Flinders Medical Centre, and as Minister Fletcher said, we've got our departments working through all of the detail of that to make sure that we can be certain of costs, that we understand the impacts of co-delivery with the road upgrade as well, and working through the funding share as well. But this is, I have to say, another great example of being able to deliver a much better outcome for the community through a strong working relationship between the State and the Federal Government. We've seen it with last week's announcement of the Torrens to Torrens extensions, we've seen it with previous commitments from the Federal Government, and again now we're seeing the close collaboration between Ministers and their departments delivering what is a major benefit for the surrounding communities. And can I just say, it has been the advocacy of the local members, and the two councils as well as Flinders University, which has meant that we've now got a fully integrated precinct now, as well as just a road upgrade, so a terrific outcome.

Paul Fletcher: Can I just pick up on that point. Because obviously this is a very important North South transport artery, and it's a critical part of that North South Corridor so that road connectivity, transport connectivity is enormously important. But equally clearly, when you have a major knowledge economy precinct like Flinders University, when you have Tonsley Park which is being redeveloped, it is very important to think about the connectivity between the transport infrastructure and the broader land use planning. That's a priority for the Turnbull Government when it comes to our agenda for cities, and certainly I do want to commend Minister Mullighan and his department for the thinking that's gone into all of this. And that's why, certainly, the Turnbull Government is backing Adelaide with almost half a billion dollars in our commitment to the Darlington project, because the upgrade of that North South vital transport artery is so important to liveability of Adelaide, but also it's economic competitiveness and productivity.

Question: Minister, with regards to that advocacy that we've had from local members and also the local councils in this particular area. Has that forced your hand when it came to the original design and forced this rethink?

Stephen Mullighan: No, not at all. I mean we've significantly designed and then redesigned based on what the public consultation has been on all of our major projects. Certainly there's a significantly different solution that we've got now with the Torrens to Torrens project, based on the community consultation that we've done. That's what we did with the O-Bahn city access project. We changed that project in response to public consultation, and again that's what we've done with this Darlington project. The input from local stakeholders, like councils, like Flinders University, like the local members who know their communities so well, that gives us the best chance to deliver the best possible outcome for the community. And that's what we've seen.

Question: With the Torrens to Torrens there was a concern that one flow of traffic from Port Road to South Road I believe, was going to be an inconvenience. Are you aware of any disruptions to flows of traffic here? I mean, I'm looking at all those overpasses, underpasses and bridges. Is anyone going to miss out in terms of the traffic?

Stephen Mullighan: No, look, we think we've designed this project to not only accommodate the traffic flows we need to, whether it's from the South Road or whether it's from the Southern Expressway, as well as the other major roads like Sturt Road, but we've also listened to the local communities who want to maintain access onto either Main South Road or to the Flinders precinct and we think we've delivered that. What I've got to say, is really pleasingly, we've got these communities who are well connected either side of South Road with this project now. We've got three road connections in total and we're working very hard on trying to deliver a public transport connection. That's a great thing for the communities either side.

Question: With this extra extension, is there any homes that might be affected by this? Any more property acquisitions?

Stephen Mullighan: There is some property acquisition, but not impacting on residences. So there is some land already held by Renewal SA, effectively to continue the non-stop corridor past the Ayliffes Road intersection, and we'll be doing some land acquisition from Renewal SA. And there is a very minor impact to the corner of a car park, I think it's for a car yard, at the northern-most extent of this. But no further homes impacted by this.

Question: Just with regards to access to areas like Flinders Med, is that guaranteed during the construction phase, or are there having to be sort of Plan Bs drawn up for ambulances to access?

Stephen Mullighan: No, absolutely. There's two requirements that we impose on the major contractor. One is to keep lines open during the peak period on all these major roads, but also to maintain 24/7 access to the Flinders Medical Centre. It's worth bearing in mind though that this project delivers a new connection, particularly from the Marion Council area to the Flinders Medical Centre rather than having to drive up Sturt Road, turn right onto South Road and then turn left into Flinders. They'll have a direct connection of Flinders Driver over this road project area, so they'll have much better access. And we're also making sure that whether you're coming from the Southern Expressway, or South Road, you'll be able to head into the Flinders Medical Centre as well.

Question: How does that one kilometre extension impact the overall time frame? Is it finishing any later?

Stephen Mullighan: No, we'll be delivering the project within the same time frame, and pleasingly for the road component, within the same budget as well. So this is another excellent result for delivering these major road projects and it just goes to show that now is absolutely the time that State and Federal Governments should be pressing the accelerator, and spending as much money possible on these major projects as possible because we are getting tremendous value for money for the community.

Question: But the reason that you're getting that tremendous value is because the construction industry is in the doldrums so they can afford to put their best offer forward. Is that correct?

Stephen Mullighan: No, I don't think so. I mean in South Australia, for the previous five years we've been investing very heavily to make sure that there's a sustained base of work in that construction sector, whether it's in road projects, or whether it's been in commercial construction, for example with the new hospital build, with the convention centre redevelopment, with all of the work that the universities are investing into the North Terrace precinct. But certainly the workflow has been lumpy around the country, and the message that both State and Federal Government have been receiving from the construction sector is they want pipeline. They want to see a consistent, well funded pipeline of major projects. That's what we've been working hard on with the Federal Government, and that's what we're delivering. And I'm very pleased that the construction sector is responding by delivering very aggressive prices for these projects.

Question: Does it create more job because of the extension?

Stephen Mullighan: Well certainly we'll see some additional activity, on the basis that we're able to proceed with the Tonsley rail extension. As for what that is I'll have to come back to you with a figure.

Paul Fletcher: I'll just pick up on that comment about construction activity and investment. This is a very good time for governments to be investing in infrastructure. What Minister Mullighan has said is the experience that's been seen around the country, that procurement processes are getting very good results, and that means that's good news for tax-payers; it's also good news for the users on infrastructure facilities. If for the same amount of money you can get an upgraded road that goes and extra kilometre that's a good deal. That's why at a Federal level the Turnbull Government is committed to a $50 billion infrastructure program, through to 2019, and that is because of the economic benefits, the micro-economic benefits, the productivity and efficiency benefits that new infrastructure delivers, and because it's a good time to get good value for tax-payers.

Question: On another matter Minister, former Prime Minister Tony Abbott is looking to remain in politics for your party?

Paul Fletcher: Tony Abbott has made a very distinguished contribution as our Prime Minister. It's entirely a matter for him as to how he chooses to develop his career going forward, but if he chooses to remain in politics, he clearly has a contribution to make.

Question: You don't see his continued presence as a distraction though for the party?

Paul Fletcher: Tony Abbott is a valued and respected colleague and whatever decision he chooses to make will be supported by his colleagues, including me.

Question: Thank you. Kris, could we possible have a quick chat with yourself as well? Kris are you happy?

Kris Hanna: Yes. This ticks off just about everything Marion Council asked for. We've got three extra connections across South Road with is great. We've got a rail link up to Flinders which is fantastic, which also means frequency of rail service for Clovelly Park and Mitchell Park residents. Very pleased about that. We've also seen the impact on Waraparinga minimised, that's a special green part of Marion, and we're also seeing consideration for the local residents. So all up it looks pretty good for the city of Marion.

Question: And with regards—obviously we've seen, obviously some trees go as part of this project. Are you concerned that any more might have to make way under these revisions?

Kris Hanna: Well I have been going on a bit about some of our trees, and some of them are hundreds of years old. And I'm pleased to see that the latest design spares a few more, so I'm thankful for that small mercy. We know that a lot have to go, but we've saved a few more. So I'm glad about that.

Question: Are you happy that- it seems like all tiers of Government have actually come together on this after some foot-stomping from your behalf over the last month or two.

Kris Hanna: Well I think we did have to speak up loudly and express what we wanted for the residents of Marion and also for Mitcham and I think that's come out in the design. I'm pleased to see this is an example where State and Federal Government have listened and we've come up with, I think, a pretty good design in the end.

Question: Minister, sorry, I just have one other question. I realise about the time frame. One of these it says early 2016 and another says mid 2016. Is there an actual month that we could tell people that this might start? Or that hasn't been decided yet?

Stephen Mullighan: We're actually expecting early works to commence pretty much straight away, but the actual project proper will start in the early part of next year. For the actual date I'll get one of the project guys to give you that.

Question: What works are underway at the moment, because there's been some clearing up at Flinders Uni isn't there?

Stephen Mullighan: So we start on those elements of service relocations that we need to do. We've done some intersection works on the adjacent road networks, so Sturt and Marion road upgrades, and where we've got the opportunity to do some both clearing and earth works we start that very early. But as for major construction starting on constructing and deconstructing different parts of the road network, that work will commence early next year. But I'll get you the date.

Question: Given that this runs over the next election, how much pain do you think drivers are going to feel from having a lot of South Road under construction for a long time, and how that might reflect on the Government at that time?

Stephen Mullighan: Well, certainly these road projects have been spoken about for a very long time, and finally the State and Federal Governments are getting on with the job to deliver them. Yes there will be some short term inconvenience, there's no questions about that. But we do require the contractor to keep lanes open during peak hours which is when traffic is heaviest. But there will be speed restrictions, there will be some lane restrictions, particularly at other times. We ask motorists to be patient with any inconveniences that they might experience. But we should bear in mind that with the other works that we've done in the surrounding parts of the network, particularly Sturt and Marion Road, there will be a much better run through that intersection, and of course now through the Traffic SA website and application, people have got real-time information for the performance of the network based on what we would say is a nation leading bluetooth technology. So you can get an up to the second idea of how well traffic's flowing, not just in terms of how it should be performing but also what the current travel times are and the reasons for any interruptions. And we'll be working very closely with the communities affected by this, so they will know when the works will be scheduled and also what the other options are for them to move around the communities.

Question: Thank you.