Snail rail’s tale of woe
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.”