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Metro throws Sydney's big plan on its head

Metro throws Sydney's big plan on its head

Linton Besser Transport Reporter
May 7, 2008

YEARS of careful planning to link Sydney's housing, transport and employment hubs has been jettisoned by the decision to abandon a heavy rail line to Rouse Hill and replace it with an independent metro line, Australia's top planning body has warned.

The announcement of the new $12 billion North West Metro has scuttled the integrated transport and housing policies that underpinned the State Government's all-encompassing Metropolitan Strategy, says the Planning Institute of Australia.

Thousands of future north-west residents were expected to travel by rail from their new homes to jobs specifically created in the "global arc" between Macquarie Park and North Sydney. But the metro will force these commuters to interchange at Epping to a line that now will not have room for them. More than 10,000 people an hour could be stuck at Epping during the morning peak, competing for just 4000 spaces on the Epping to Chatswood CityRail line.

The sudden shift of priorities - from an $8 billion CityRail expansion plan to a single underground all-stops metro - has thrown into doubt the very principles by which hundreds of planning decisions have been made. For instance, no provision has been made for high-density development at key stops on the metro at Rozelle, Drummoyne and Gladesville.

In a new policy paper, the institute says it supports the North-West Metro line as far west as Epping, but that extending a subway to Rouse Hill contravenes the world's best transport and land use principles. The metro and "its connectivity with Victoria Road overturns years of careful planning by the State Government to integrate land use and transport planning for Sydney's global city corridor from Epping to the airport", it says.

The metro was announced in March as a replacement for the $8 billion Metropolitan Rail Expansion Program, which would have included the North-West Rail Link and a new rail line through the CBD as part of the CityRail network. The line to Rouse Hill was always premised on the link between housing designated for the north-west and the concentration of jobs in areas between Macquarie Park and Chatswood, St Leonards and North Sydney.

The new line will still service the north-west but will force commuters to change at Epping or Wynyard to reach those employment hubs via CityRail lines.

"The Epping to Rouse Hill leg should be retained as a heavy rail corridor that is part of the CityRail network," the institute says. "This [would] provide a strong direct rail link between the north-western parts of Sydney and major employment locations on the northern side of Sydney Harbour."

The metro will carry up to 30,000 passengers an hour to Epping, where many will be forced to change to the CityRail network to travel to this employment arc. The Government has calculated that 38 per cent of north-west passengers want to access the Macquarie Park corridor, as well as Chatswood to North Sydney. That means 11,400 people an hour in the peak will be trying to change on to a rail line that is now configured for a maximum of 4000 an hour between Epping and Chatswood. Under the former rail plan, the capacity of the Epping to Chatswood line would have been substantially enhanced. The importance of a direct connection was recognised by the Government in its 2002 overview report on the North-West Rail Link. "The North-West Rail Link's primary aim is to allow people from Sydney's north-west direct access to employment, shopping and community facilities in the broad area between Epping, Chatswood, North Sydney, [and] Sydney CBD," it said.

The institute is concerned that strategic planning for Sydney was largely underpinned on a rail plan that has now been shelved. It included a new CBD rail line that would ease congestion at stations such as Wynyard. The institute asks about the capacity of the already pressured Wynyard "to support forced interchange of passengers onto the CityRail network".

The Minister for Transport, John Watkins said: "I welcome the Planning Institute of Australia's praise … they have joined the chorus of support for this vital project.

"Passengers travelling to the business centres at Macquarie Park, Chatswood and North Sydney can interchange with the existing CityRail network at Epping, Wynyard, Martin Place and St James stations."

The metro will carry up to 30,000 passengers an hour to Epping, where many will be forced to change to the CityRail network to travel to this employment arc. The Government has calculated that 38 per cent of north-west passengers want to access the Macquarie Park corridor, as well as Chatswood to North Sydney. That means 11,400 people an hour in the peak will be trying to change on to a rail line that is now configured for a maximum of 4000 an hour between Epping and Chatswood. Under the former rail plan, the capacity of the Epping to Chatswood line would have been substantially enhanced. The importance of a direct connection was recognised by the Government in its 2002 overview report on the North-West Rail Link. "The North-West Rail Link's primary aim is to allow people from Sydney's north-west direct access to employment, shopping and community facilities in the broad area between Epping, Chatswood, North Sydney, [and] Sydney CBD," it said.

The institute is concerned that strategic planning for Sydney was largely underpinned on a rail plan that has now been shelved. It included a new CBD rail line that would ease congestion at stations such as Wynyard. The institute asks about the capacity of the already pressured Wynyard "to support forced interchange of passengers onto the CityRail network".

The Minister for Transport, John Watkins said: "I welcome the Planning Institute of Australia's praise … they have joined the chorus of support for this vital project.

"Passengers travelling to the business centres at Macquarie Park, Chatswood and North Sydney can interchange with the existing CityRail network at Epping, Wynyard, Martin Place and St James stations."

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Posted in Metro throws Sydney's big plan on its head
 

Article from SMH by Bruce Loder

Bruce Loder
April 10, 2008 SMH

In NSW, until about 1980, there was a clear separation of government and the management and administration of public works and services. The government established the public policy and the non-political public service and government instrumentalities delivered the required works and services in accordance with the law and in the public interest.

The NSW public service has accomplished some extraordinary achievements. The country rail system, the Sydney metropolitan rail system, the Sydney Harbour Bridge and associated underground railway, and the Sydney water storage are prime examples. Of these, the services of overseas consultants and contractors were used only on the Sydney Harbour Bridge and on that work all the planning, including the preliminary design and feasibility assessment, was done by the NSW Department of Public Works.

The respective heads of the departments and instrumentalities were eminently qualified to run their departments and were supported by competent staff. For the most part the heads were selected from staff groomed for senior positions within the "permanent" service and enjoyed some certainty of tenure.

The situation began to change about 1980. About that time there was a move within the public service proper, as distinct from the instrumentalities to promote the re-election of the government as a primary aim. Subsequently, the procedure and criteria for appointing department heads was changed. As a consequence, department heads are now often unable to provide ministers with the sound advice and guidance they require to administer their portfolio and ministers have assumed a greater role in the functioning of the individual departments, for which they are ill-equipped.

These are the circumstances in which the economically and financially disastrous Cross City and Lane Cove tunnels were conceived and built.

The Government, which allowed the works to be built (and even boasted of the achievement), assured us no government money was involved. Lucky for them. Governments do not have any money; they only direct how the public's money is spent. The public will pay for the tunnels through tolls that are higher than they should be, because the scope of the work was far more extensive than required to achieve an economic solution.

But of more concern is the extra travel cost incurred and extra pollution caused by those who suffer the increased congestion created by traffic diversion and lane closures and those who divert to alternative routes. While the extra travel cost for each individual is small, the total will amount to a substantial sum over the term of the toll franchise. This in turn will have an adverse affect on the economy.

Over the past 30 years the state Treasury has increased its control over the expenditure of public funds. In common with the Commonwealth and other states the NSW Treasury is opposed to public debt and does not differentiate between operating expenditure and investment. While tolls have been used on appropriate public works in the past to discharge public debt the so-called public and private enterprise partnerships evolved to overcome Treasury opposition to public debt.

Of the seven such partnerships completed on the Sydney metropolitan road system to date only the Cross City and Lane Cove tunnels have been abject failures. The Sydney Harbour Tunnel, M4, M5, M2 and M7 were all economically sound and financially feasible and were constructed to satisfy a transport need. The Cross City and the Lane Cove tunnels were seen as investment opportunities by the private sector which apparently convinced the government of their merit.

Unfortunately, the Roads and Traffic Authority failed in its role as guardian of the public interest probably because, in common with the rest of the public service, it no longer has the ability to do so.

Both the Cross City and Lane Cove tunnels are ill-conceived and doubtful economically. It goes without saying that neither are financially viable as toll roads. The Lane Cove Tunnel has the further defect of virtually eliminating Epping Road as an effective link in the Sydney Metropolitan road system. In effect a toll is being levied on a previously existing untolled road - a technique used only as a means of limiting vehicular access to a centre as in Singapore and London.

The deterioration in management and skills in the public service exemplified in the Roads and Traffic Authority extends throughout the service and explains in part the problems of delivery being experienced in health, transport and public works.

It will not be easy to restore the public service to an effective provider of works and services and guardian of the public interest, but until then and until the roles of government and public service are once more clearly defined, we can expect the standard of government in NSW to continue to decline and the quality of services in NSW to continue to fall relative to other states.

Bruce Loder is a former NSW commissioner for Main Roads.

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Posted in Poor vision for the state in blurring of the divide
 

Community Values Survey

10,000 Friends have just completed a Community Values Survey on the communities' attitude to public transport, medium density housing and the NSW Government’s management of sustainability issues. This was a follow up survey of one undertaken in 2000 by the Warren Centre's Sustainable Transport for Sustainable Cities Project.  The results of this recent survey were released at the Sustainable Transport Summit held on 16th May 2006 in the Sydney Town Hall attended by 150 representatives of Members and the Community.

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Images courtesy of Integral Energy, Sinclair Knight Merz, Camden Council, John Holland Group, Creative HQ, Julie Nimmo and Sutherland Shire Council.