Roads and Maritime Services has denied claims Albion Park Rail Bypass plans were cut back to conform to a 2015 election promise.
In March 2015 the then-Premier Mike Baird visited Albion Park Rail to make an election promise of $550 million to build the long-awaited bypass.
A source within Roads and Maritime Services told the Mercury it was surprised by the $550 million for the bypass and suggested no such figure had been circulated within the department.
The source stated Roads and Maritime Services had to then go back to the drawing board to work out how it could reduce the scope of the bypass to bring it in line with the pledged $550 million.
A spokeswoman from Roads and Maritime Services refuted the suggestion the body was blindsided by the $550 million funding figure.
“Roads and Maritime Services prepares and updates estimates throughout the development of a project,” the RMS spokeswoman said.
“In this case, a strategic estimate was prepared before the public announcement.”
She said it was common practice for project estimates to be revised throughout the planning process, as information was gathered about traffic modelling, environmental issues, engineering constraints and other possible impacts on funding.
“Costs for refining project scope and project estimates are a business as usual component of project development,” she said.
“Roads and Maritime Services continually reviews the project scope to develop economical solutions to meet the project objectives within the allocated budget.
“Roads and Maritime Services continuously look for methods to obtain the best value-for-money solution for the community.”
She said the contract to design and build the Albion Park Rail Bypass has now gone out to tender.
“Once a preferred tenderer is selected there will be greater certainty of final costs,” the spokeswoman said.
This is also when the future of the northern interchange will be known.
The interchange will give Dapto area motorists southbound access to the bypass but whether it is is built as part of the highway is partially dependent on whether there is enough money in the project budget.
The Mercury placed a Freedom of Information requests for reports that addressed RMS’ efforts to reduce the costs of the bypass to the announced $550 million.
The request was denied due to the fact the construction contract had gone tender and property acquisitions are taking place.
Release of the information “would have a significant negative financial impact in the negotiation and tender process”, the department decided.