Court case makes losers of controversial Cross River Rail company

CPB Contractors only agreed to enter dispute resolution over problems with Gold Coast Light Rail after being dragged into court.

Oct 14, 2020, updated Oct 14, 2020
The controversial fourth and final stage of the Gold Coast Light Rail project has exploded as an election issue. Photo: Matthew Burke

The controversial fourth and final stage of the Gold Coast Light Rail project has exploded as an election issue. Photo: Matthew Burke

KDR Gold Coast, the consortium behind the completed second stage of the light rail network, took Supreme Court action in an attempt to resolve a long-running stoush with CPB.

The $420 million second stage, funded by state and federal governments and the City of Gold Coast, extended light rail from the Gold Coast University Hospital to Helensvale train station. It was completed ahead of the 2018 Commonwealth Games and CPB has since promoted its role in delivering additional public transport for the event ahead of schedule.

However, according to the court documents, light rail operator KDR took issue with “numerous examples of depressions, dips, squats, spalls and cracks” in the second stage, which allegedly caused commercial losses of more than $400,000. There were also complaints of road corrugations.

Almost a year after KDR sent CPB a formal notice of dispute, the parties have finally come to an agreement – but not before countless legal letters were exchanged and barristers argued the matter in court.

The agreement, requiring dispute resolution outside court, was what KDR had sought all along. But as Justice Thomas Bradley noted, “surprisingly, the parties seem to be at odds about which of them was successful in the proceeding”.

Justice Bradley concluded CPB’s court arguments had “no real prospect of success” and, in the belated agreement, the company had acknowledged the dispute as originally set out by KDR.

“Two conclusions may be drawn from this fact,“ Justice Bradley said.

“The first is that either there was no real issue of substance to CPB’s objection to the description of the dispute proposed by KDR … or, if there was, CPB has conceded completely to KDR’s position in that respect.”

Justice Bradley also rejected CPB’s claim that KDR had technically not been successful in its application, and ordered CPB pay costs in the matter.

“It is no exaggeration to observe that KDR has succeeded completely in obtaining the outcome it sought in the proceeding,” Justice Bradley found.

“CPB did not concede its position until the hearing was substantially completed and the parties had incurred the costs of the proceeding.”

In February, CPB’s performance on Melbourne’s West Gate Tunnel project was cited as a reason for the Palaszczuk Government taking greater control of Cross River Rail. CPB is part of the consortium that won the contract to deliver the massive rail network upgrade.

At the time, State Development Minister Kate Jones said there was a need for greater scrutiny of the $5.4 billion project, including a new compliance unit, to ensure it came in on time and on budget. Unions have also raised concerns over CPB’s involvement.

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