worries for Leighton Holdings and its tunnel building capabilities in Sydney.

only has the stockmarket given the construction giant
a touch up
but the local Liberal Party State member for Lane Cove and former John Howard
adviser, Anthony Roberts says that the project is over budget and that at least
three engineers have been “made redundant or forced to quit.”

spokesman for the tunnel builders, Thiess John Holland
(both subsidiaries of Leighton) denied the overrun, but couldn’t say anything
about the engineers and would have to check.

again called for a “full, independent inquiry” into the road collapse on ABC
local radio on Thursday morning and the reasons for it, now attributed to weak,
wet ground in the tunnel that was breached on Tuesday night.

than a thousand cubic metres of concrete have been
pumped into the hole on Epping
Road, one of Sydney’s busiest roads and more will go in

Leighton CEO, Wal King wasn’t
in Sydney (there
was a certain horse race in the south on Tuesday) so it was left to spin
doctors, John Connolly and senior managers to handle the problem, the third
major problem for the group in the past 18 months.

The two
previous were cost overruns and design problems at the Spencer Street Station in
Melbourne and asbestos and higher than expected costs in the now completed
Hilton Hotel rebuild in Sydney.

All the
comment yesterday included the news that the tunnel was going well and was “four months ahead of schedule.”

a typical situation for a project like this because the companies get a bigger
bonus if they bring the project in ahead of time: it can be a significant profit
boost and the bonus is set out in confidential agreements.

Leighton has been building the huge M7 Orbital road in
Sydney’s west and parts of that are months ahead of schedule, for which the
company will earn a bonus.

But the
very troubled Cross City Tunnel was also well ahead of schedule and was due to
be opened in June on the long weekend, on the day of the ALP State Conference
with Bob Carr making a major speech as people walked under his feet through the

severe technical problems with the electronics meant that was delayed for three
months, eliminating much of the bonus.

On view
of the enormous political problems for the Iemma
Government since, I wonder if there’s been any bonus paid.