Critics not sold on NSW transport plan
The NSW government’s new transport blueprint for Sydney dumps the much-maligned CBD metro scheme in favour of expanded light rail and bigger, swifter heavy rail links to the suburbs.
But sceptics are already panning the 10-year plan as another Labor promise that won’t grow legs.
Following a specially convened cabinet meeting on Sunday, Premier Kristina Keneally announced the $50.2 billion Metropolitan Transport Plan, which officially scraps the controversial CBD Metro and revives the northwest rail link.
But commuters will still have a long wait for the Epping to Rouse Hill line, with works not due to start until 2017 – almost 10 years after the plan was first announced.
Ms Keneally also revealed taxpayers would foot the bill for compensation payments to disgruntled tenderers for the shelved metro plan.
She would not disclose how many millions of dollars had been squandered on the project but said private contractors left out of pocket would be compensated.
“We will reimburse all reasonable costs for the CBD (metro),” Ms Keneally told reporters in Sydney.
Opposition Leader Barry O’Farrell said the bill should be sent to Labor’s head office, not the people of NSW.
The transport blueprint contains a mixture of new and previously announced projects, and focuses mostly on western Sydney. Of the projected $50.2 billion in spending, more than $7 billion is for new or expanded transport infrastructure and services.
Spending of $3.1 billion is earmarked for new trains, $2.9 billion for more buses, $225 million for six ferries, and a $500 million expansion of the current light rail through the inner west.
Ms Keneally said the existing light rail line to Lilyfield would be extended to Dulwich Hill, and 4.1km of track would be laid between Circular Quay, Barangaroo and Haymarket.
Express train services will be introduced to serve the Blue Mountains, Richmond, Penrith, Blacktown and Parramatta.
NSW motorists will fork out up to $30 a year in extra registration fees to help pay for the upgrade, according to Treasurer Eric Roozendaal.
The weight tax for motor vehicles would increase to “a little less than” 60 cents a week, he said.
The rest of the funding will come from whatever’s left from the $5 billion allocation for the CBD metro project as well as budget funds.
Ms Keneally fronted a throng of journalists to deliver her announcement, calling the plan a response “to the challenges of Sydney’s growing population”.
But critics said the NSW public was weary of broken promises and had reason to suspect the new plan was a stunt ahead of the looming election.
Action for Public Transport spokesman Jim Donovan said the public had zero confidence in Labor’s transport promises, saying he remembered hearing similar things from the Iemma and Rees governments.
“They are good projects, better than some of these metro ideas were,” he said, referring to the new blueprint.
“I am disappointed it’s so long until the northwest rail link will be running, and the trouble is, even if it’s built by 2025 there is no indication that it is going to connect to the city properly.”
He described the blueprint as a “stunt”, adding: “They are trying to win a few more votes for the election next year.”
NSW Greens MP Lee Rhiannon agreed there was deep cynicism among the public.
The Sydney Business Chamber said Labor would have difficulty convincing people it would deliver on long-term infrastructure projects.
“Unfortunately the government has been its own worst enemy in delivering its transport initiatives,” chamber executive director Patricia Forsythe said in a statement.
“Over a decade the government has released nine transport plans, blueprints, reports or statements totalling more than $100 billion in projects that have never seen the light of day or have been severely curtailed or delayed.”
Urban Taskforce Australia, an organisation representing large property developers and financiers, said it supported the plan, but it called for an increase in new housing approvals to accompany the proposed transport projects.
Public submissions can be lodged at www.shapeyourstate.nsw.gov.au.