Public transport is an essential service. Affordable and functional public transport systems make our community more sustainable, connected, and liveable. Sadly, NSW is currently far from achieving this. Our current system is both inadequate and inefficient. Meanwhile our roads are congested and costing us billions every year.
The old parties have never taken public transport seriously. Whether it is the “do nothing” approach of Labor, or the privatisation and toll road agenda of the Coalition that will leave us with a dysfunctional and expensive system. The people of NSW deserve much better.
Successive Labor and Coalition state governments have perpetually underperformed and failed to deliver an integrated transport system for the people of NSW.
- Private interests have dominated over public benefit
In NSW, the ‘public-private partnership’ (PPP) model has been the cause of infamous infrastructure disasters such as the Lane Cove Tunnel, the Cross City Tunnel, and the Airport Link train line. In each of these cases, the private sector was far too optimistic about traffic and passenger numbers, and when they didn’t eventuate, the projects themselves quickly failed. Both the Cross City Tunnel and the Lane Cove Tunnel were built as PPPs, eventually placed into receivership, and are now owned by Transurban (a company that owns almost all of the toll-roads in Sydney and has proposed NorthConnex).
- WestConnex: A “gambler’s addiction” to toll roads
Toll road projects like WestConnex and NorthConnex are well known to induce congestion and become financially unviable. The way to remove congestion in Sydney is not through building expensive toll roads shrouded in secrecy, but rather by rolling out effective and efficient public transport options to underserved areas.
In 2014, a report from Infrastructure Australia stated that “Australia’s nearly $20 billion annual road spend can only be described as hideously inefficient”, with spending consistently outstripping revenue and draining money away from other public services. The report also revealed that road agencies are more focused on obtaining and spending taxpayers dollars for road projects “rather than questioning efficiency or value to the motorist and governments” and that road project proposals “lacked any cost-benefit rigour whatsoever”.
- Sixteen years of Labor failure
Through its 16 years in government, NSW Labor wasted billions on mismanaging and failing to deliver integrated ticketing, the ‘CBD Metro’, and a high-speed rail link to Newcastle. Labor only delivered two major rail projects: the Epping-Chatswood Rail Link and the privately-managed Airport Link. The Epping to Chatswood Rail Link was first floated in 1995 as a heavy rail connection from Parramatta to Chatswood. Originally projected as a seven-year, $1.4 billion construction project to be completed by 2006, the Parramatta-Epping leg was soon indefinitely postponed. The much less ambitious 13 km link blew out to $2.4 billion and was finally opened in 2009 after many false starts and redrawn plans.
- The Coalition’s privatisation agenda
The Coalition government’s transport agenda has involved little more than selling off our public transport system to the highest bidder.In 2012, the Coalition government privatised Sydney’s ferries on the basis that the system required private sector involvement in order to become more efficient – however, services became more expensive and unreliable.
- North West Rail Link: The North West Deserves Better
The NSW government is finally building the long-awaited North West Rail Link (NWRL). This is an overdue public transport project, and the Greens are supportive of building a rail connection to the northwest. However, there is an enormous catch that could make the whole $8.3 billion project redundant: the government is constructing a single-deck, driverless metro-style train system, instead of standard double-deck Sydney Trains that have the capacity to integrate with the rest of the network. In addition, the existing Epping-Chatswood line will have to be retrofitted to support single-deck trains, meaning less seating and an unnecessary change at Chatswood for city-bound public transport users from the North West. This conversion will close the Epping-Chatswood line – a $2.4 billion line that was only opened to the public in 2009 – for at least seven months.
Worryingly, NWRL is a public-private partnership project; the private operator Northwest Rapid Transit has been granted a $3.7 billion contract to roll out and operate the line.
- Sydney Metro: a misguided transport future
The NSW government’s Sydney Metro would, quite simply, herald the beginning of the mass privatisation and cannibalisation of rail in Sydney. All rail projects (including any second harbour crossing) must be publicly owned and operated with full integration with the rest of the network. The only option the government has is to go back to the drawing board and replan any future second harbour crossing as a double-deck, integrated, publicly owned and operated service as it was originally planned to be.
The above has been adapted from Making Public Transport Work For Communities: The Greens 2020 Transport Vision and Infrastructure Plan.