North West told to Link up with a bus instead and tolls should pay for Pacific Highway upgrade

North West told to Link up with a bus instead and tolls should pay for Pacific Highway upgrade

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Bus commuters

Commuters line up for city service busses at Windsor Road and Old Northern Road, Baulkham Hills / Pic: Stephen Cooper Source: The Daily Telegraph

Jeff and Tracey Weichandt

Sick of waiting for the train … Jeff and Tracey Weichandt and their sons Liam, 10 and Jack, 6 / Pic: Tracee Lea Source: The Daily Telegraph

North West Rail Link

Date/Time: 2012:03:12 10:05:40 Source: The Daily Telegraph

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THE Federal Government’s Infrastructure Australia has recommended tolls be introduced on the Pacific Highway to help pay for the $7 billion completion of the road, the state government says.

The recommendation came at the same time IA told the state government it should put more buses in north west Sydney in knocking back a request for $2.1 billion for the north west rail link.

Tomorrow’s federal budget is expected to include $3.5 billion for the Pacific Highway but the state government have called on Federal Transport Minister Anthony Albanese to maintain 80 per cent to 20 per cent federal to state funding of the road, rather than the 50-50 he is proposing.

But the state government says in a response from Infrastructure Australia, it recommended the Pacific Highway be a toll road to help fund it’s upgrade.

The Daily Telegraph revealed today that Infrastructure Australia chair Michael Deegan wrote to Infrastructure NSW on March 6 knocking back a request to transfer $2.1 billion the federal government had promised for the Epping to Parramatta rail link to the north west rail link, saying there were higher priority projects for Sydney and the north west link required a second harbour rail crossing to work effectively.

Private investment may be sought by the NSW government to fund Sydney’s North West Rail Link after Canberra rejected a plea to chip in $2.1 billion.

Infrastructure Australia knocked back a state government request to help pay for the rail link, connecting Sydney’s northwest suburbs to Epping and the city centre.

It recognised Sydney’s transport woes but downplayed the North West Rail Link, with the federal government favouring a multibillion-dollar line between Parramatta and Epping.

NSW Premier Barry O’Farrell says a decision by the federal infrastructure body to refuse funding to Sydney’s North West Rail Link is a “kick in the guts”, and has described its suggestion to instead put on more buses as “ridiculous”.

Mr O’Farrell on Monday lashed out at Infrastructure Australia’s rejection of a NSW submission to help fund the rail line, particularly coming on the back of a dispute with the federal government over funding for the Pacific Highway upgrade.

Private investment may be sought by the NSW government to fund Sydney’s North West Rail line after Infrastructure Australia dismissed its plea that the project receive the $2.1 billion allocated to the Epping to Parramatta link.

Infrastructure Australia described the rail link as not the “highest priority project in Sydney”, and suggested more buses be scheduled to the north west as an interim measure, News Limited reported.

”(This is a) kick in the guts for western Sydney residents, coming on top of yesterday’s decision to walk away from $2.3 billion worth of funding for the Pacific Highway,” Mr O’Farrell told reporters in Sydney.

“It is absolutely ridiculous today for the federal government to be arguing that instead of building the north west rail link there ought to be more buses, with people adding to the existing congestion on the roads from Sydney’s north west.”

“It’s just gobsmacking as to how out of touch they are,” NSW Transport Minister Gladys Berejiklian said today.

“There’s no doubt this is absolutely necessary: the north west rail line.

“We’ve always said we’ll build it anyway.”

Asked where the cash would come from, Ms Berejiklian suggested the state may tap private sources.

“Our plan B is we’ll find the money,” she said.

“We’ve had more than 40 submissions from industry experts around Australia and the world.”

Prime Minister Julia Gillard went to the 2010 federal election promising to build the Parramatta-Epping rail link on the proviso the NSW government contributed $500 million.

The NSW government wanted Canberra to transfer money for that project to fund the North West Rail Link.

Northwest commuters can take the bus

The news comes after Julia Gillard’s Infrastructure Australia has formally rejected a request from the state government to fund the North West Rail Link – and suggested Barry O’Farrell put on more buses instead.

A formal response to Infrastructure NSW’s submission to the federal government requesting money for the $8.5 billion link has knocked it back, saying the project is “not the highest priority” transport project for Sydney.

Infrastructure NSW had asked for the $2.1 billion promised during the 2010 federal election campaign for the Epping to Parramatta rail link to be transferred to the northwest project.

But the response from Infrastructure Australia rejects the overture.

Transport Minister Gladys Berejiklian has described the decision as a “complete insult” to the people of western Sydney.

“Instead of funding the rail infrastructure, western Sydney voted for, the federal government is telling them to catch a bus,” Ms Berejiklian said.

“Putting more buses on to western Sydney’s congested roads is not the answer, and shows the federal Labor government is completely out of touch with families in the nation’s biggest city.”

In the response, IA “recognised that the transport problem in northwest Sydney needs to be addressed”.

But it went on to say: “However, it is not clear that linking northwest Sydney to the CBD is the highest priority transport problem for the Sydney network”. When Premier Barry O’Farrell hit office last March, his first act was to ask Prime Minister Julia Gillard to transfer the Epping to Parramatta Rail Link money to the North West Rail Link. But the Infrastructure Australia response slams the door on that option, meaning the state will have to find the entire $8 billion to build the link.

“A staged approach of building up corridor capacity to a heavy rail system over time (eg bus rapid transport as an interim step) should be considered.”

The response also claims a second Harbour rail crossing is required to make the North West Rail Link work.

“The Harbour Bridge is nearly at full capacity, integration of trains from the North West Rail Link into the CBD may require other trains to terminate short of the bridge and passengers to change.”

The response, penned by IA chair Michael Deegan, does not even recommend the North West Rail Link go on the Infrastructure Australia priority list even at an “early stage”.

Instead, it recommends “a broader range of options be considered, in particular alternative transit solutions (busways) and links to Parramatta”.

It also recommends “scenario modelling be undertaken to determine the impact of any new infrastructure on capacity constraints in the CBD”.

Beaumont Hills couple Jeff and Tracey Weichandt believe their area has waited long enough for a rail network.

The couple, who have two sons Liam, 10, and Jack, 6, said the area was growing and the state and federal governments should sort something out to get the project under way: “I think for our kids as they get bigger, we need a rail network for them to get to university and into the city. The only other way really is to drive,” Mrs Weichandt said.

 

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