Snail rail’s tale of woe

The Daily Telegraph (Sydney) - - One Day To Go Wedding Of The Decade - ANNABEL HEN­NESSY IN MADRID

THE Span­ish con­struc­tion com­pany ac­cused of a de­lib­er­ate “go slow” on the light rail that has paral­ysed Syd­ney finds it­self in le­gal bat­tles so of­ten it sets aside $264 mil­lion a year to fight law­suits.

The rev­e­la­tion comes af­ter The Daily Tele­graph ex­posed Ac­ciona’s long history of gov­ern­ment stoushes and project de­lays all over the world, in­clud­ing in Spain, Mex­ico, Brazil and Canada. Ac­ciona fi­nan­cial doc­u­ments ob­tained by the Tele­graph show Ac­ciona is bud­get­ing $264 mil­lion a year for law­suits.

A com­pany spokesman said the money set aside for lit­i­ga­tion is a “re­serve fund — it doesn’t mean that all of it will be used”.

“Ac­ciona in­cludes the fig­ures as an ex­er­cise in pru­dence and trans­parency,” he said.

The Tele­graph can re­veal even more scan­dals, in­clud­ing accusations Ac­ciona failed to pay work­ers, con­ducted faulty work, and left staff in an air­port in­fested with cock­roaches.

Ac­ciona is su­ing the Bere­jik­lian gov­ern­ment for $1.2 bil­lion for work on Syd­ney’s light rail, claim­ing it was mis­led about the com­plex­i­ties of re­plac­ing power lines be­fore sign­ing the con­tract.

In re­sponse, the gov­ern­ment has ac­cused Ac­ciona of a de­lib­er­ate “go slow” on the project, which has shut down ma­jor chunks of the city.

And not only is Ac­ciona re­spon­si­ble for build­ing the light rail, it is also due to man­age op­er­a­tion and main­te­nance of the tracks un­til 2030.

Just this week at Spain’s Mal­lorca air­port, where Ac­ciona has 1400 work­ers run­ning bag­gage op­er­a­tions, unions lodged a com­plaint against the com­pany claim­ing work­ers were con­stantly be­ing bit­ten by mos­qui­toes, cock­roaches and fleas in the ter­mi­nals and op­er­a­tors were do­ing noth­ing about it.

In 2013, Ac­ciona work­ers went on strike at a ship­yard at Brazil’s Port Acu claim­ing it had failed to pay wages and pro­vide suit­able work con­di­tions.

The case echoed claims by one of Ac­ciona’s Aus­tralian sub­con­trac­tors, GHD. GHD started le­gal ac­tion against Ac­ciona for al­legedly un­paid in­voices over light rail de­sign work. In 2014, Ac­ciona won $8.8 mil­lion in a law­suit against its own in­surer over a $150m hos­pi­tal it built in Canada. The in­surer had re­fused to cover Ac­ciona for dam­ages in­curred af­ter its con­crete slabs were found to be de­fec­tive and cracked.

The spokesman de­fended Ac­ciona’s record, say­ing it had award-win­ning projects all over the world worth $30 bil­lion.

“Any busi­ness ... faces day-to­day chal­lenges when de­vel­op­ing projects,” he said. “Ac­ciona, as a com­pany that has been in the mar­ket for more than a cen­tury, strives on a daily ba­sis to solve th­ese chal­lenges with the least pos­si­ble im­pact on its em­ploy­ees, its clients, the com­mu­ni­ties it serves and the en­vi­ron­ment.”

Yes­ter­day’s ex­clu­sive.

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