In Australia, politicians are calling for former New South Wales (NSW) premier Bob Carr and treasurer Michael Egan to be forced to testify before an inquiry into Sydney’s Cross City Tunnel.

The US$514M, 2.1km long tunnel that links the city’s business district with Kings Cross and Darlinghurst only opened in late August, but usage has been over 10,000 cars per day below expectations at only 24,000 daily and on 27 October the NSW Roads and Traffic Authority chief, Paul Forward, was forced to resign. Forward’s backward move is due to his failing to tell Roads Minister Joe Tripodi about a deal that allowed the tunnel operators, Cross City Motorway, to increase tolls by US$0.15 to pay for upgrades. Carr and Egan were still in office at the time the amending deal was signed last December and were said to have been “very heavily involved in the negotiation of the contract”.

Former Roads Minister Carl Scully has also faced criticism over his involvement with the scheme. Tripodi said Scully made “too many compromises” in negotiating the contract with Cross Cty Motorway and the contract was “more favourable to the toll operators than motorists”.

Cross City Motorway, whose shareholders include Cheung Kong Infrastructure, Bilfinger Berger and Deutsche Asset Management, has also been accused of inflating traffic forecasts. Baulderstone Hornibrook, the Bilfinger Berger subsidiary that built the tunnel, told investors in February 2003 that total traffic volumes would be 109,000 vehicles a day in 2005.

It was also revealed the contract with the state government allowed the tunnel company to restrict access or traffic calm surrounding roads to create traffic congestion that would force more drivers to use the tunnel.