NEW South Wales (NSW) premier, Mr Chris Minns, has cast doubt over the future of the Sydney Metro West project by refusing to rule out cancelling or delaying the $A 25bn ($US 17bn) programme, which he says is now unlikely to be delivered within the estimated budget.

Minns says he needs to consider whether the project, which was originally budgeted at $A 16bn with a completion date of 2028 when announced in 2016, still represents value for money.

When completed, the 24km line would cut journey times between the centre of Sydney and Parramatta to 20 minutes.

The newly elected Labor government announced after it took office in March that it was commissioning an independent review of the entire Sydney metro construction programme, including Metro West, before deciding how to proceed with the state budget this September.

But asked on ABC Radio Sydney whether the project could be cancelled, Minns refused to provide a guarantee over its future.

“When we were elected in March it was revealed to us that the actual cost of that project is now $A 25bn,” he said. “It’s been reported by Infrastructure New South Wales to us that the chances of it coming in for that amount of money are very slim, like almost not possible.

“I’m faced with a situation where the project is nearly 60% over budget… it hasn’t begun yet and the original timeline, which would put a completion date in the mid-2020s, is obviously not going to happen.”

In fact, work has already begun with two tunnel boring machines (TBMs) launched from the site of the future Bays station in June.. The TBMs are expected to complete 200m of tunnel each week, working 24 hours a day. Work is also well underway at several stations along the line.

Minns said that with the state carrying $A 180bn of debt he had a responsibility to make sure project funding would be “money well spent.”

Minns did categorically rule out building Sydney Metro West on the surface rather than in tunnel, , saying that if that option were feasible it would have been considered by the previous government.

The Sydney Metro City & Southwest project, which itself is running a year late and $A 6bn over budget, is also under review.

Reacting to the premier’s comments, the Australasian Railway Association (ARA) says that Sydney Metro West must proceed as planned, as it would ultimately be more expensive to stop work already underway and the impact on Sydney’s growing western suburbs would be severe.

“This is a significant piece of transport infrastructure that will bring great benefits to not only Western Sydney but the entire Sydney region in terms of jobs and housing creation,” says ARA chief executive, Ms Caroline Wilkie.

For detailed data on metro projects around the world, subscribe to IRJ Pro.