In Australia, John Laing is selling out of wind and solar and has strained under the weight of large-scale rail projects in Sydney and Melbourne. Kate Burgess asks whether the investor can hold onto its niche as upcoming projects and a new chief executive emerge
The first passage of a sleek, whisper-quiet tram between Sydney Harbour and the beachside suburb of Randwick was the first time in 60 years that light rail had crossed George Street, the city’s main artery.
Beset by delays, cost blowouts and quibbles with the New South Wales government over risk allocation, the 14 December opening of the CBD and South East Light Rail brought a sense of both triumph and relief for John Laing, a member of the ALTRAC consortium that delivered the project.
Justin Bailey, John Laing’s managing director for Asia-Pacific, will rarely use the light rail as he lives in Melbourne, which has had a network of light rail services criss-crossing the city since the 1880s.
Yet for him the project’s opening marks a turning point for the investor, which experienced difficulties in 2019 including the curb on Australia’s booming solar sector and reports of spiralling cost overruns on the Melbourne Metro tunnelling project.
The iconic Sydney project is by far the largest public-private partnership (PPP) John Laing has undertaken in the nine years it has been developing projects in Australia.
“We are certainly very pleased that the project worked through what were substantial delivery issues,” Bailey says in an interview with Inframation. “Our plan now is to work with our partners to see the project reach full operation this year.”