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West Gate Tunnel in doubt as builder threatens to terminate contract

Image: West Gate Tunnel Project

The West Gate Tunnel project is in doubt after the consortium contracted to build the $6.7 billion project has revealed it wants to walk away.

Transurban has told the stock exchange that builders John Holland and CPB have advised that due to contaminated soil on the project site, they intend to abandon the project.

But Transurban says it believes the project will still go ahead and the joint venture builders do not have grounds to terminate the contract.

It comes after the contaminated soil caused work on the project to stop for months while the Andrews government and the consortium quarrelled over who should foot the bill for the disposal of the soil.

Two huge tunnel boring machines have remained idle since the discovery of the toxic soil in August.

Last week, almost 140 workers were laid off due to the delays caused by the contamination, which has escalated as the builders have been unable to find a suitable site to dispose of the toxic soil.

Australian Workers’ Union Victorian secretary Ben Davis said the announcement this morning “came right out of the blue”.

“We certainly didn’t have any notice,” he told 3AW’s Neil Mitchell.

“This is just the latest iteration of the behaviour of the joint venture and, in this case, Transurban.

“They seem far too readily capable of ramping up these commercial disputes by holding projects and the people that work on them to ransom, and it’s unconscionable.”

But Mr Davis said he believes the project will still go ahead.

“The tunnel will be built, the question is now by whom and when,” he said.

The project is scheduled to be completed in 2022.

The Andrews government has been in crisis meetings over the issue this morning.

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