The broad sweep of towns from Sydney to “capital country” have been growing in population, but their railways follow 19th century lines. The regions were promised $6 billion from Rebuild NSW’s “poles and wires,” but are short two-thirds with just $2 billion allocated.
Premier Berejiklian has blown out the unfunded Sydney promises to over $80 billion on infrastructure that is literally on top of existing infrastructure, like ripping up the Bradfield tracks at massive and ongoing cost and installing Melbourne trains, achieving lower capacity and no value for money.
Since 2013, the waste has exceeded $30 billion. That is equivalent to bank payments of over $200 million every month, or over $2 billion a year, for each of 30 years, which would make such a difference to towns like Goulburn if spent more wisely.
The cycle of ultra-expensive city-centric metro, tram and connex/tunnel priorities was built by PM Turnbull and his urban gurus and by Premier Berejiklian after she took Metro-spruikers onto her staff. Infrastructure Australia, Greater Sydney Commission and other Federal and NSW reports assume the continuation of current directions, without amendment, even where engineering and economic performance has been appalling and housing targets lack credibility.
The option they ignore is to build NSW’s bits of the inland rail bridge and ancillary works like Victoria’s regional rail revival program. Tim Fischer suggested electrification to Goulburn and beyond, which might produce lively economic activities around tourism and the arts, not to mention better freight connections. Cost would be $2 billion, so that fits nicely.
Infrastructure Australia and a new NSW Productivity Commission are pushing alternative ideas further and further into the never-never, such as the ACT being knocked back by NSW for fast train support.
PM Turnbull said that “if you want anyone to change, you have to persuade them they have a problem. Then you have to explain the solution”. Let’s make our problem his problem, that Federal and State Governments are pouring exorbitant amounts into projects in Sydney’s inner zones while refusing to spread population growth and provide for “regional rail revival” as the Victorian Government is doing.
- Guest editorialist Robert Gibbons is a former state planning executive and Newcastle City Council general manager