The government can do this even though the CityLink toll extension was promised to Transurban in the $6.7 billion West Gate Tunnel contract.
However, shareholders appear to be calling the Premier’s bluff on threats to change CityLink tolling, with Transurban’s share price barely budging on Thursday.
By 2044-45, Transurban stands to make $7.5 billion in present value terms from the new CityLink tolls.
The West Gate Tunnel construction companies are claiming that issues around soil contaminated with PFAS – chemicals linked to a range of illness that led to the shutdown of the CFA training college in Fiskville – are proving extremely difficult to manage.
They have been arguing for months with Transurban and the state government over who is responsible for storing, treating and dumping the contaminated soil.
On Thursday, Mr Andrews said the builder’s “obvious” tactics to try to squeeze more money from the taxpayer to deal with the soil would not be successful.
The Premier said he had not met with Transurban recently, but the company was aware of the government’s position.
Asked if the concession deed for the extended toll deal with Transurban could be revisited, Mr Andrews said “My answer is yes”.
Mr Andrews hit out at the companies building the project, warning their “tactics” would fail to extract more money to deliver the tunnel.
The Premier said he had been advised that appropriate sites would soon be ready to accept the contaminated soil.
“We have a number of possible sites. There’s been a lot of work done to have them potentially ready,” he said.
Mr Andrews said he had not spoken directly to Transurban about the impasse.
“But ultimately, there’s a contract in place with the time frame and a budget. There’s is a pretty significant contingency as well. And we expected it to be honoured,” he said.
“We’ve got a very big infrastructure agenda. And when it comes to tendering new jobs and new work, we look to people with a track record of delivering, not a track record of playing games, and I can’t make my position any clearer than that.
“These sort of very obvious games being played by very large, very profitable companies looking to squeeze more money ultimately out of the Victorian taxpayer will not work.”
Opposition transport infrastructure spokesman David Davis said the government would have to negotiate any changes to the tolling document with Transurban before tabling those changes in Parliament.
The changes to the tolling document would then have to be passed in Parliament in order to take effect.
Mr Davis, who sought to stop the concession deed from being passed in Parliament last year, said he was inclined to stop any further tolling on CityLink, but would “wait and see what the Premier puts forward”.
The Age has approached Transurban for comment.
Benjamin is a state political reporter
Timna Jacks is Transport Reporter at The Age