Funding fight for NSW’s rail plans

By Lilia Guan
The New South Wales Government has blasted Infrastructure Australia on downgrading the North West Rail Link, which would link western Sydney to the business district.

National Infrastructure Coordinator, Michael Deegan said the project is still being considered for Infrastructure Australia to recommend the project join the national infrastructure priority list.
“I acknowledge that the NSW Government has undertaken some good work in developing the proposal for the North West Rail Link,” Mr Deegan said.
“[While] the work is worthwhile, it has not yet made a compelling case for this project.
“A further meeting to progress this matter had been proposed for today by Infrastructure Australia, though the NSW Government has at the last minute declined to attend.”
Mr Deegan said it has to be remembered that the project is estimated to cost $8.5 billion.
“The NSW Government submission provided only preliminary economic analysis and that analysis shows that on the government's own figures the project is of marginal economic benefit,” he said.
In addition, the submission has left unanswered the question as to how rail network capacity problems from Chatswood into the CBD are to be addressed.
“There may be interim solutions, for example terminating some trains on the lower north shore, but these have not been presented to us,” he said.
“At a deeper level, we also have a question about whether this project is obviously the highest priority project in Sydney.
“If this project goes ahead, what other projects do not go ahead?” Mr Deegan said.
Unless there are different ways of funding transport projects, the harsh reality is that government budgets probably only have enough capacity over the next 25 years to build two new rail projects in Sydney.
“We want to make sure that, before governments commit significant funding to these sorts of projects, we are absolutely sure they represent the best way of meeting Sydney's long term needs,” he said.
“With Sydney growing to a population of between six to seven million in the next 30 years, and much of that growth occurring in western Sydney, we might be better served by a north west link that can build up Parramatta as a second CBD.”
“I stress that I'm not talking about the Parramatta-Epping rail link. That project is not on Infrastructure Australia's priority list.”
In its response to Infrastructure NSW’s submission for funding support, Infrastructre Australia also said the Pacific Highway should be a toll road.
NSW Premier Barry O’Farrell said the North West Rail Link remains the priority for the NSW Government – with or without federal funding.
“Anyone who lives in Sydney’s fast growing North West knows what a short-sighted idea it is to suggest buses should replace the rail link,” he said.
“The idea of putting more buses onto an already crowded road system just beggars belief."
Minister for Transport Gladys Berejiklian said the NSW Government was committed to building the North West Rail Link – with or without federal support.

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