Acting Opposition Leader Warren Truss.
Acting Opposition Leader Warren Truss. John Gass

Pac Hwy duplication could run over budget under any govt

THE controversial Pacific Highway duplication project in Northern New South Wales is likely to face major cost overruns no matter who wins the next federal election.

While the Acting Opposition Leader Warren Truss was in Lismore to re-affirm its commitment to funding 80% of the project, a late November election - a scenario backed by Defence Minister Sytephen Smith's statement this week that the Government was likely to run full term - would likely push back the completion date into a cost blow-out timeframe.

In October last year, a senior bureaucrat with the Federal Department of Transport warned that if the project was not completed by 2020, the government would need to add an extra $800 million to the bill.

And if the highway could not be completed until 2024, that cost would again balloon, adding an extra $1.3 billion to the existing $7 billion or so, putting the project out of the range of both major parties' existing funding promises.

In previous statements both Mr Truss and NSW Roads Minister Duncan Gay have said the original completion deadline of 2016 was not possible, with the Federal Coalition aiming to complete it in 2018.

But if the election was delayed until the last day of November this year, the first 100 days of any new government were likely to be taken up with administrative changes, an added delay to the vital infrastructure project.

While both parties' primary election pitches were yet to come, the Pacific Hwy duplication looked as if it could again be delayed by the party politics that has plagued it in years gone by.