Now & the past


The Premiers and PM – and their agencies and associates - have shown they are not prepared to listen to corrective feedback but are very quick to make the same mistakes again but bigger and better. The media have reported a vindictiveness that is worsening the “first order” consequences of twisted manoeuvres. 

It is hard to imagine the conniptions that took a Western Sydney City Deal, which is not a Constitutionally-legitimate process, for one sub-region, into a vortex of unfortunate consequences for other regions that include taking a whole Port out of calculations for the national Inland Rail program.

It also cripples any growth in rail commuting capacity to match population growth in both the Illawarra and South West – both major population hotspots. Stakeholders in the West, South West and Illawarra are seemingly unaware of quite obvious process and outcome defects for each and all of them; and all are deaf and blind having signed-off on minor financial lollies which in no way compensate for the damage to infrastructural integrity.

Baird had a known propensity to arrogance (“I am not a dictator”) and 75% of respondents to Reachtel concluded that Berejiklian was as or more arrogant than him.  Turnbull "fused" his government with Baird's then Berejiklian's, with an apparent agenda of favouring vested interests over community prosperity.

Given Turnbull’s office style it might be that Turnbull has decided to fight mainstream industry policy and Hunter economics, in that spirit. It is not so strange then that the PM’s Office  ensures that complaints are not listened to. 


The Western Sydney City Deal was micro-managed by Turnbull to achieve Berejiklian’s personal ego needs, not the strategic needs of NSW’s prosperity. The supposed objective was to improve commuting and freight flows within and between the Illawarra, the South West and the Greater West. The main protagonists were property owners and the Metro Lobby which is largely made of Labor’s failed metromaniacs. The consequences of that one, simple decision – which also demolishes the reputation of Sydney councils as well as Berejiklian and GSC – include adverse effects on:


· Badgerys airport – it will not have high-quality transit services and the very real option of Greiner’s/RG’s upgrading of the Main West is (deliberately) sterilised as were the Parramatta/Epping and Hurstville/Strathfield links

· the economic interests of the logistics chain from Wollongong via the SW and Western Sydney to Parkes – the movement of jobs west, to match demographic trends and reduce congestion, depends on that chain which is now degraded

· Parramatta CBD is again disadvantaged as St Marys has no logic, the Airport line should be full rail to Parramatta and up the Epping link to the Metro there

· degradation of the commuting, freight and special events capabilities of the Bradfield rail system

· the inland rail’s logistics basis - the $8 billion put into Inland Rail has so far  lost some of its effectiveness and repayment potential while Newcastle’s potential way into Eastern Creek will depend on massive new expenditures being committed elsewhere (like a metropolitan by-pass)

· the reduction of truck impacts on main and local roads – the numbers of car carriers and coal trucks on Mount Ousley and Picton Road will increase rather than fall substantially (with the same logic applying around Ports Botany and Hunter), and 

- commuting support to the growing population of the South West and Illawarra - lost with a passenger crisis from 2020 and coal crisis from 2031 - in the context of the $100 billion waiting list of unfunded promises in Berejiklian’s inner zones menu of metros, trams and mega-tunnels without due diligence legitimisation. That agenda is falling apart for foreseen reasons which GSC ignored when warned. 

Mistreated people counter-attack with increased vigour.  There is a private unfairness running under the radar that is inconsistent with spiritual ethics.

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Did you know that no Government, agency or industry association calculates the balance between rail and road to meet long-term logistics planning timeframes (15 - 25 years)?

Historical: 2012 and NSW incompetence, Moorebank

Why wouldn't they listen?


The BOF Government released a simplistic and inadequate freight and ports strategy in November ’12, which led to Andrew Clennell’s wonderful piece on the end of the Liberal Bromance. These words were written in January ’13 (but the first draft of the Eastern Seabord rail freight strategy was circulated from October ’12). Note the “voice in the wilderness” elements but also that Governments filched WS elements:

It has been revealed that Infrastructure NSW (iNSW) has pulled back from its intentions to link Port Botany’s intensive truck movements with the new strategic road asset, WestConnex, for financial reasons. 

The revelation came in Jacob Saulwick’s “WestConnex solution falls 8km short” (SMH 26 January). He quoted Sydney Ports as saying there is no point in proceeding with the overall road project without the port connection; and an iNSW spokesperson as saying less expensive local changes would suffice. Saulwick concluded with the expectation that Infrastructure Australia would be annoyed with the lack of Port access improvement.

iNSW and its partner agencies had said that the Port would be serviced and that “The scale and complexity of these problems requires a transformational solution…. It must also enable and support urban renewal, local business growth and liveability…. it must also change the way in which projects of this nature are financed and funded so that it is realistically achievable.”

This is a worrying decision for Sydney but reassessment of the original iNSW and related reports points to the conclusion that the whole freight issue – an intrinsic element of every city’s prosperity and sustainability – was under-valued. “Myopia” is a chronic feature of Sydney’s planning culture and now another pane opens on that window, added to heavy rail and trams.

The 15 Southern Sydney ROC (SSROC) councils and about five neighbouring councils experience the problems of inadequate infrastructure and associated policies – some through Port trucks;  some suburban trucks around inland depots; some the car carriers between Wollongong and Sutherland; some the sheer lack of a choice when it comes to daily movements across and through Sydney. SSROC does not participate in strategic transport issues so much as resource sharing; and where sub-sets such as the three St George councils cooperated with a regional transport study in 2000-01, they were ignored by State government. One SSROC participant has written: “I agree we need to increase the use of rail from Port Botany rather than increasing traffic on the already congested road network.  It is an issue SSROC recognises and should be lobbying over”.

This is a critical region in Sydney’s demographic planning as it will absorb up to a third of the infill load of growth – some 200,000 to 350,000 additional residents (depending on geographical definitions) to about 2036. In the absence of transport reforms that were excluded from iNSW’s and the Transport Masterplan, congestion will escalate as will other effects. 

A variety of reports have been produced by Infrastructure Australia (IA), Sydney Ports Corporation, iNSW, RDA/Sydney, various submitters to inquiries, and industry bodies. IA’s “National Land Freight Strategy Update” (2012) reported the failure of “planning” and “collaboration”. Not one has got the framework right – for example, the issues that have been under-stated include:

· a tripling of container movements to and from Port Botany then Port Kembla within a medium timeframe (20 years) but much higher than that within Sydney’s economic sustainability timeframe (40+ years) – thus about a million truck movements a year rising to an unbearable crescendo – with a 30-year planning pipeline which requires decisions sooner rather than later

· an eventual reduced relevance of the only Port-related road project, WestConnex, due to container volumes and destinations, Port limitations and local traffic conflicts; but with the absence of better alternatives which have long lead-in times

· the employment imbalance between eastern and western Sydney – 300,000 jobs growing to double that fairly quickly - which leads to road and rail over-loading, public and private costs (including toll imposts), and inefficiency in the logistics, transport, waste, land use development and infrastructure investment communities

· need for strategic integration of land use, transport and waste management planning on a much better basis. There is ambiguity about the timing and functions of various rail and road projects around the Ports, between the Ports and InterModal Terminals, into likely employment zones, and between cities, and

· the impact of congestion, tolls, car ownership and operating costs, and health effects, on more than a million people.

Trucking and associated planning would be an excellent place for the O’Farrell Government to start with its policy of restoring local government’s engagement in planning. Brisbane and Melbourne are also more advanced in this aspect. 

We can re-interpret iNSW’s own words (they deferred all strategic rail freight improvements to future dates) – 

… it is argued rail has the potential to compete with road freight. Analysis … suggests that rail could be cost competitive or cheaper than road freight for these movements providing the following circumstances were met:

•  volumes to increase substantially to gain economies of scale

•  portside handling movements to be reduced through terminal reconfiguration

•  investment in intermodal terminal capacity, enabling rail to road transfer (and vice versa)

•  investment in warehousing and empty container facilities close to these intermodal terminals.

Not one regional body has risen to the challenge, all being deliberative and consultative in a context where available State funds are hypothecated to northern Sydney long-term passenger projects of marginal benefit. An example is RDA/Sydney which is charged with Commonwealth/State planning of Sydney and which issued Strategic Plans in 2011 and 2012. It pushes an outer circumferential rail line that would service Badgerys Creek employment lands; but no agency has done an assessment of that against the alternative E-W options raised by Ron Christie and the Government. 

RDA/Sydney’s 2012 edition omitted the following words from the earlier edition without counterbalancing the loss: 

· “expanding rail in Western Sydney is a high priority”

· “despite the substantial increase in freight movements, Sydney still lacks a freight strategy” (while acknowledging TfNSW’s moves in that direction)

· congestion and transport bottlenecks affecting investment and livelihood (a challenge)

· text on freight and priorities for a Regional Plan.

To summarise, an alternative vision that would re-balance logistics and employment and promote sustainable economic and infrastructure development through improved strategic plans and budgets would include:

  • Re-engineering      the legacy radial rail system within the metropolitan area through an      extension from Hurstville to Strathfield/Parramatta, together with      duplication of the Port Botany freight routes within 5 years (with      connections to Enfield and Moorebank), and high-voltage AC power systems      replacing diesel locomotives within 10 years
  • The      Maldon-Dombarton line – to be completed within 5 years, the expense is      minor and all regional submissions to IA, iNSW and TfNSW supported it
  • Western      Sydney employment lands’ potential in all land use, logistics, employment      and related aspects
  • Replacement of      existing governmental and related consultative mechanisms with more      effective ones in line with the Premier’s election commitments.

It is suggested that a “regional assembly” or like exercise reviews the robustness of current proposals against the matters not considered and/or concluded. This would review policy, planning and implementation processes and structures so as to achieve economic, community and political credibility and reverse Sydney’s slide into economic oblivion.

The Herald reported community concerns about traffic at Moorebank, on 6 April ’14. Moorebank had been a strange phenomenon, someone spotted an opportunity and the Army was moved off, but there are two sides to Moorebank Avenue and only the Army one had rail access. The Feds have been tip-toeing around the terminal ever since, hoping that no one says “the emperor has no clothes” as that is about how much logic there is there.

What Berejiklian and BOF said in that edition was characteristic of their political personae:

BOF: ‘‘It’s always been a federal government decision whether to proceed or not and what the state government should do is say well if you go down a certain path it comes with a commitment to deliver the infrastructure to make it work and that’s what I’m trying to do.’’

Berejiklian: her department was ‘‘creating literally thousands of jobs in the transport sector”.

The Western Sydney Rail Alliance was formed by vested interests when the Rail Needs Scoping Study was forced (so it might seem) by this analyst’s loud protests about corrupted processes in the post-2012 metro debacles. The Alliance promised to “assess each of the 11 options … based on criteria such as key destinations, transport needs, potential passenger numbers, travel times and potential funding options”.

They went on, on their website, to state that “The Alliance’s submission was supported by an analysis undertaken by Deloitte and Arup and highlighted the tremendous economic benefits that would be created by North-South rail”. The CEO of WSROC put it differently in the media – “This is not about growth forecasting, or business cases, or demand modelling, or feasibility studies. It is all about vision and just a little bit about courage”.

The Alliance missed Greiner’s point of “Zero Gate” and iA’s and iNSW (and Sir Rod Eddington’s et al forever through the history of economic thought) of benefit/cost ratios based on truthful discounted cash flows, internal rates of return, returns on investment, payback periods, and valuation of qualitative externalities. 

The costs of not doing this under the Berejiklian schemes amounts to $30 billion or more in just 5 years and disastrous consequences for the Bradfield inheritance and the North Sydney, Sydney and Parramatta CBDs. (Eddington’s London and Melbourne studies were exemplary assessments of integrating heavy and light rail, truck routes, walking and cycling etc. Sydney needs a City Plan that does that.)

There is merit in the basic N/S concepts but the pre-determined decision to link with the NW metro is unacceptable as the N/S route has multiple freight and passenger entry points, not just St Marys which is perverse when you think of it.

By the bye, the Deloitte and Arup studies are interesting but they assume the City Deal is going through, not assessing what the needs really are.

The abrupt and unexplained change from the SW to NW socio-geography is dramatic in terms of: 

· accessibility, congestion, probity, taxation and commuting impacts, and sheer logic 

· the inherent poor economics of the NW 2 

· the stated contra-intentions of the Federal Minister for Cities and Infrastructure, Paul Fletcher MP

· the over-commitment of funding under Rebuilding NSW (being about $100 billion)

Supposedly the St Marys logic was based on the WS Rail Needs Scoping Study which did not satisfy stages 1 and 2 of iA’s protocols (although it did not have the geographical disability of the City Deal), in particular it:

· Suggests rail access not needed when airport opens

· States sotto voce that metro technology is preferred but without meeting due diligence protocols = PM’s notion of “ideology and stupidity”. 

o “The preferred type of rail for the East-West Link from Western Sydney Airport to Greater Parramatta is a rapid metro. This provides high frequency, all stop services and competitive journey times while connecting communities along the route. These trains are designed to operate at up to 130km/h”-  is not impartial. 

o The XPT operates well below its design speed and cutting metros off from the Bradfield system is possibly the worst error ever made in Sydney’s history (previously the non-implementation of the 1909 recommendation to lift the CBD and suburban tram tracks and re-lay them around the new electrified rail’s stations).

· Does not discuss freight uses of a north/south connection which is now doubly critical given $10 billion to inland rail bridge + iA clarion calls to protect long-term corridors. Maldon-Dombarton and Moss Vale-Unanderra both need that heavy rail connection through to Inland Rail

· Has excellent sensitivities etc but accepts an invalid circular argument from GSC – 30-Minute City = axial rail = metro not “expressnet” etc. iA itself disproved 30-Minute Cities in its Growth implications report, meaning the ideological basis of the Scoping report invalidates it. (That iA report assumed SW to Badgerys and to NW so the pessimism about 30-Minutes was justified – GSC is in disgrace.)

· Includes options but gets relative capacities completely wrong, repeating a mistake iNSW made in 2012 in using MTR (proponent) numbers – rail is 38,400 not 28,800; and metro is 30,000 (15% seated!) not 46,000. Greiner 2012 confirmed Bradfield re-engineering at 40,000. The metro is a myth in most respects

· Gets value capture and Transit Orientated Development economics and practicality wrong – see this analysts’ refutation of the PM’s and Minister Fletcher’s (et al’s) proclamations at the time -

A mythical outer orbital including 20-km tunnel has been floated by TfNSW as with the equally mythical long rail by-pass of Sydney (below). Both have been left to the never-never in a State where $15.9 billion from poles and wires blew out to $80 billion then over $100 billion in Berejiklian’s elongation of Labor’s horror story.