2017 was the original date, but they've publically stated they're 6 months ahead of schedule, and given visible progress, probably even more than that.
Yes, it looks very close to being ready, and I think someone mentioned previously the likelihood that it will be opened prior to the next state election (28 March 2015).
The project website states "works are 12 months ahead of schedule, with revenue services now commencing in 2015"
In January, the shutdowns are just weekends. They could bring the flyover in after they've got all the new signalling online as the OHW is all in place except for the merging point on the east hills end. Looks to be ready to go from what I can see from the train. Some time in the last few days they've put up a lot of fine netting on the hand rails over the northern flyover and there's quite a few things that look like plastic garbage bins there too. Not sure what the netting is for unless to prevent smaller particles from flying over the edge. Not fine enough to hold back sparks or fine dust from tamping and grinding though.
Shutdowns (according to the project construction update) are as follows...
Thursday 2 to Friday 3 January - South Line only
Saturday 4 and Sunday 5 January - South Line, Airport & East Hills Line
Monday 6 to Friday 10 January - South Line only
Saturday 11 and Sunday 12 January - South Line, Airport & East Hills Line
Monday 13 to Friday 17 January - South Line only
Saturday 18 and Sunday 19 January - South Line, Airport & East Hills Line
Thursday 2 to Sunday 12 January - Inner West, Bankstown and Cumberland Lines
The work to bring the new platform at Liverpool into use will also use this shutdown up until the 12th Jan (the new platform opens on the 13th)
Also, the SSFL will not be shut down and "audible track warning signals" (which I presume are detonators) will be used.
That netting is a mystery... It's not to protect the South Line, as it will be closed the entire time. Maybe it's to reduce the wind?
As far as an outage for cutting over to the new flyover and reconfiguring the tracks to use all four platforms... You don't get many opportunities this big.