Covid 19 coronavirus Delta outbreak: Transmission Gully – opening delay due to lockdown likely, Transport Minister Michael Wood says

Transport Minister Michael Wood says the opening of Transmission Gully will likely be delayed again due to the Covid-19 lockdown.

It’s the latest blow to the troubled $1.25 billion road project, which has already been the subject of budget blowouts, delays, and bailouts.

Wood appeared before the Transport and Infrastructure Select Committee this morning.

He said alert level 4 restrictions were having a significant impact on the transport sector.

“We don’t have any particular get out of jail free card or exemption.”

Wood said there would likely be an impact on the completion date of Transmission Gully as a result.

“It’s a little bit early to be specific around what that might actually mean.”

Wood said it was unclear how long the current restrictions would apply for and the length of a lockdown didn’t necessarily directly equate to the length of the resulting delay.

“There are a whole lot of complex factors which come into it. In terms of how you reassemble the labour force who might be spread across a range of different projects, the time that it takes to get different pieces of work under way, and that kind of thing.

“So I am keeping in regular contact with officials around that project and other significant projects.”

The four-lane motorway is being built through a public-private partnership (PPP), the Wellington Gateway Partnership (WGP), with CPB Contractors and HEB Construction subcontracted to carry out the design and construction.

The builder is liable for $250,000-a-day in damages if the road doesn’t open on time.

Furthermore, $7.5 million of a $145.5m settlement covering the cost impacts of Covid-19 will not be paid out if the road is late.

But alert level 4 is considered a force majeure event. This relieves an affected party from contractual obligations due to an event outside of its control.

National’s transport spokesman Michael Woodhouse wanted assurances any negotiations over the delay were restricted to the impact of Covid-19 and would not include other issues with the project signalled in past weeks.

Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency transport services general manager Brett Gliddon saidany negotiations would be “solely” focused on the impacts of Covid-19.

“It won’t be about giving them relief for other losses they’ve incurred on the project, if they’ve incurred them, or time relief for activities that they haven’t done in accordance with the project.”

Waka Kotahi chief executive Nicole Rosie confirmed alert levels 3 and 4 triggered force majeure events.

“We won’t be able to assess the consequences in full until we understand the length of the lockdowns and also for some time afterwards as we work through that and quantify that with the parties involved across all our contractual arrangements, including our PPPs, which include Transmission Gully.”

Rosie said ongoing monitoring of PPP projects meant Waka Kotahi knew exactly where the projects were at prior to lockdown.

In a statement earlier this morning, Waka Kotahi regional maintenance and operations manager Mark Owen said only essential work was allowed on construction sites of major projects.

This included work to ensure security, safety, and environmental protection.

Planning and administrative support work will continue remotely where possible, in preparation for returning to work under the various alert levels.

Owen reminded people that if they saw contractors on the roads during lockdown to remember they were carrying out essential work to keep everyone safe.

“Please remember to comply with any temporary speed reductions through roadworks to keep our workers safe.

“We’d also like to remind the public that they must stay out of work sites for their own safety, even if they appear to be inactive. There may be vehicles or machinery undertaking site safety, security or environmental protection work. Having members of the public onsite presents a risk to our essential workers and to the person’s own safety.”

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