NSW rail project to go ahead despite warnings

The NSW government will deliver the south-western component of its Sydney Metro rail project despite warnings from an independent review panel that it will cost an extra $1.1 billion and carry “cost and delivery risks”.

Chris Minns

Sydney Metro, Australia’s biggest public transport program, has been under a cloud since the government announced an independent review in April, citing time overruns and multi-billion dollar cost blowouts.

The metro program includes a North West Line, which is currently operational, and three projects under construction – Metro West, Western Sydney Airport and City & Southwest.

City to Southwest aims to link Sydney’s north shore to its south-western suburbs, with an extension from Chatswood to Sydenham and an upgrade of the ageing line between Sydenham and Bankstown.

In April, the government said the full cost of building City & Southwest was likely to be at least $20.5 billion – about $9 billion more than was initially estimated.

Sydenham to Bankstown conversion to proceed

On Tuesday, Mr Minns announced City and Southwest would go ahead.

“Today our government is announcing that we will proceed with the Sydenham to Bankstown conversion,” Premier Chris Minns said.

“We’re also announcing that the Sydenham to Chatswood section of the metro is on track to open in 2024.”

Work is expected to begin between June and October next year with the upgrade of the 100-year-old Bankstown line into a “high tech metro line.

The conversion is expected to take 12 months and services are expected to run from late 2025.

Qualified green light from review panel

Mr Minns’ announcement follows the interim report of the Sydney Metro Independent Review which has been handed to the government by reviewers Amanda Yeates and Mike Mrdak.

The report, which focuses largely on City & Southwest, says the conversion of the Bankstown Line should continue because it has benefits across the transport network.

“We find that the Southwest corridor conversion remains a critical transport system scope component, and the upgrade of it should continue according to a revised delivery schedule,” it says.

But it says the government should note that even with an increased budget “the delivery of City & Southwest even within an increased cost envelope still carries delivery and cost risks”, and it warns the Sydney Metro should not pursue ‘acceleration at any cost’ agreements with its construction contractors.

We note that Sydney Metro City & Southwest faces significant technical and budget risks … as well as an increase to the overall budget envelope of up to $1.1 billion.

Sydney Metro Independent review Interim Report

“We note that Sydney Metro City & Southwest faces significant technical and budget risks – they are not insurmountable but will require a sustained and concerted effort to project manage over the next 24 months, as well as an increase to the overall budget envelope of up to $1.1 billion,” the report says.

The report also highlights what it said appears to be a concerning lack of common/agreed understanding across the Transport Cluster regarding individual Executive accountabilities and responsibilities for key activities in the upfront planning and the later commissioning phases of major infrastructure projects.

“Complex, sprawling governance and conflicting understandings of accountabilities are key risks to efficient and integrated investment outcomes,” it said.

Metro West ‘not off the table’

The next phase of the metro review will analyse final costs for all projects and “priorities for future extensions”, Mr Minns said, including looking at value for money for the $25 billion Metro West between the CBD and Parramatta.

Peter Regan

The premier on Tuesday declined to comment on the future of that project but told reporters “I’m not taking it off the table”.

Sydney Metro chief Peter Regan said the City & South West commitment was an important reset of the project.

“We are laser focused on opening the City section between Chatswood and Sydenham next year and look forward to welcoming passengers on board,” he said.

The Australasian Railway Association has also applauded the decision.

“The Australasian Railway Association welcomes the decision to move ahead with this very important transport infrastructure for Sydney’s south west,” CEO Caroline Wilkie said.

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One thought on “NSW rail project to go ahead despite warnings

  1. How much struggle for people along the Bankstown line just so that other people can enjoy the benefit.

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