The business case for the Sydney to Newcastle stage of the High Speed Rail is expected to be completed by the end of the year, the new CEO says.
Sydney Metro boss Timothy Parker was recently appointed inaugural CEO of the High Speed Rail Authority (HSRA), following concerns about a lack of detailed planning for the project and admissions by the acting CEO about likely cost blowouts.
In a comment posted to his LinkedIn account, Mr Parker said he would move to build a high performance team quickly “to enable us to finalise the initial business case for the Newcastle to Sydney stage by the end of 2024”.
Transport minister Catherine King said Mr Parker’s leadership and project experience in delivering complex infrastructure projects would drive the development of a high speed rail network on Australia’s east coast.
Speaking to journalists in Newcastle last week, Ms King said she’s met with Mr Parker.
“He’s well known to you here in NSW having built most of the rail network and been responsible for building most of the rail work network throughout NSW and shows just how serious this government is about making sure we’ve got someone with the skills and the capacity to actually not just talk about high speed rail, but to actually deliver it,” she said.
Government to seek advice on financing
Ms King said as well as the business case, the expectation is that this year will also see planning and geotechnical work, as well as recommendations to government about how the $100 billion-plus project will be financed.
The minister acknowledged it was a very big project but said the government is ‘very serious’ about delivering the Newcastle to Sydney component of the network.
There were lessons from the inland rail experience after the damning Schott Review slammed the responsible body, the ARTC, for poor governance and project management. Ms King said.
“One of the lessons we learned … is that you’ve got to get the structures right, the governance right, the planning right, the engineering right. You don’t just rush out and start spending money before you know how much a project is actually going to cost,” she said.
The government has committed $500 million for the east coast HSR network.
Concerns over private sector funding
Greens transport spokesperson Elizabeth Watson-Brown criticised the time taken to appoint a CEO to the HSRA, as well as indications that the government will see private sector financing for the rail project.
‘It’s pretty insulting to Australians that the much anticipated High Speed Rail Authority has taken over a year to even appoint a CEO,” she said.
‘Minister King has explicitly said they will be looking at private sector financing, something that is only necessary because her government has grossly underfunded the project.
‘Sourcing private sector funding will no doubt delay the project even further, and ensure private sector profits are prioritised over service delivery for the public.’
Newcastle to get HSRA office
Mr Parker has over 30 years of experience locally and abroad in developing, procuring and delivering significant infrastructure projects.
He was head of project delivery at Sydney metro from Feb 2020 to Jan 2024 where he oversawe a portfolio of projects at Sydney Metro including City and Southwest Metro, West Metro and Greater West Metro.
He was previously project director for NSW NorthConnex motorway link with Roads and Maritime Services and project director for the Sydney Convention, exhibition and entertainment precinct with Infrastructure NSW.
The government also plans to establish an HSRA office in Newcastle.
“It’s my expectation there’ll be an office here in Newcastle for the High Speed Rail Authority,” Ms King said.
The authority is currently searching for an Executive General Manager, Mr Parker added.
Comment below to have your say on this story.
If you have a news story or tip-off, get in touch at email@example.com.
Sign up to the Government News newsletter