Skyrail: A Troubled Project Featured

Cameron Howe, David Davis, Glen Morey, Tamsin Bearsley, Phil Reid Cameron Howe, David Davis, Glen Morey, Tamsin Bearsley, Phil Reid

Reportedly overbudget by $300 million, it was time to see the project for myself. A bird’s eye view revealed the extent of the mess- while Springvale sits snugly in the suburbs, Murrumbeena cast ominous shadows over its residents.

The Mordialloc Chronicle hired a helicopter from Professional Helicopter Services (PHS) to see an aerial overview of the Skyrail solution in progress on the Dandenong Line, and compare it with the trench solutions implemented at Springvale, Ormond, McKinnon and Bentleigh stations. We invited two guests, Shadow Planning Minister David Davies, and Kingston City Councillor Tamsin Bearsley, to join our flight.

With all the spin surrounding Skyrail and the Level Crossing Removal Authority (LXRA), the facts are starting to emerge. And cost overruns seem to be the order of the day.

The original budget was for $8.27 billion, of which $6.88 billion was allocated to remove 50 level crossings over 8 years, with a further $1.39 billion for metropolitan network modifications, which includes new stations, or upgrades, near the removal work.

Just as the Kirner government got it wrong with the poker machine legislation, the Brumby government got it wrong with the desalination plant, it looks like the Andrews government has got it wrong with Skyrail.

The Planning Minister, Richard Wynne, was deemed to have the authority not to inform the community about the plans for Skyrail along the Dandenong Line. It was the Lower Our Tracks Inc (LOTI) group that took this case to the Supreme Court and lost, as it was stated the Minister was “not required by law to undertake any consultation” (Justice Timothy Ginnane). The Shadow Minister for Planning, David Davis, also tried to get a motion passed that would have delayed Skyrail on the Dandenong Line. Unfortunately, the Greens did not support the Bill, and now we are starting to see the consequences of their inaction.

This LXRA project, which Skyrail is part of, is reported to be over budget, by $300 million at this stage. It would appear by not properly involving the stakeholders, that an inordinate amount of advertising in newspapers, radio, and television has been undertaken; not to mention colouring books delivered to primary schools, which was a total violation of parents’ rights to protect their children from propaganda.

On the Dandenong Line, Skyrail started 18 months ago, has impacted businesses for the last 12 months, and still has a further 12 months to go. Local residents have endured noise, dust, as well as powerful lights, for work which starts early in the morning and finishes very late at night. Not to mention the fact that Skyrail is towering over residents’ back fences and devaluing their properties. This is causing serious stress, especially when the government didn’t inform these people the Skyrail solution was going to occur. In fact, the local residents thought it was going to be a trench solution. Now the government is offering to buy a number of properties close to Skyrail, at reduced prices, as a result of a situation which the Government caused.

On the Frankston line, the No Skyrail Frankston Line (NSFL) group have had success in campaigning for a trench solution to be implemented for four stations- Cheltenham, Mentone, Edithvale and Bonbeach. However, over the Patterson River, the stations are going to be of a Skyrail or elevated design, despite the protests of local residents. The State Government also intends to close the Eel Race Road level crossing. The residents clearly don’t want this crossing removed.

It was originally thought that the trench solution was more expensive than the Skyrail solution, however, when three stations on the Frankston line were trenched within three months, and now Skyrail is taking 2½ years to complete on the Dandenong Line, clearly one can see which solution will be the cheapest.

In America, a staggering 39% of projects over US$10 billion fail, according to the Standish Group in 2007. This occurs when projects fail to meet their main objectives on-time, within budget and of a quality standard.  There are 10 main causes of failure according to JPStewart Associates.

These are:-

  1. Scope creep
  2. Resources
  3. Communications
  4. Stakeholder Management
    -The stakeholder has a vested interest in the project for good or for ill
    - Keeping stakeholders informed before and during the project
  5. Estimations
  6. Risk
  7. Unsupported Project Culture
  8. The project manager
  9. Team planning sessions
  10. Monitoring and Controlling

Interesting to note (regarding Point 4 above), when the Victorian Minister for Planning decided to go ahead on the Dandenong Line, without informing the community, he was in fact, setting Skyrail up for failure. Since then there has been the Supreme Court action by LOTI, additional PR and advertising costs. The Government even went as far as giving out colouring books about Skyrail, to primary school children-a total act of desperation.

Now that people can see the two solutions, they will be able to judge for themselves. However, long term, the Skyrail option is going to have far higher maintenance costs than the trench solution, and our taxes will be paying for it.



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