Tram Violence on Newcastle, Parramatta & Green Square

UPDATE & critique of GSC’s and Michael Koziol’s presentation

On December 23 ’19 Michael Koziol was thrown the hot potato in Nine Entertainment’s how to annoy Gibbons.  He had to present Lucy Turnbull’s spin on the Parramatta tram “infrastructure compact”, which has been established elsewhere is inconsistent with accepted protocols on integrated system and land use planning.  MK had form, not once returning voice, email or tweet messages.  He proceeded but without checking facts which is a professional requirement of journalists.

Nota bene:

What Mrs Turnbull did NOT say is more significant than what she did, such as the wanton suppression of a long period of transit-based thinking by ParraCity, replaced by an unplanned scheme designed to satisfy existing developers who had been promised something (see below).  Also that PM Turnbull gifted his wife’s project $78.3 million without any legitimisation as the first major step in the degradation of Australia’s infrastructure pipeline.  Parramatta is becoming more congested but the tram will make that worse – prove I’m wrong.

However, here is what he wrote, with rejoinders in italics:

  • Greater Sydney Commission boss Lucy Turnbull has warned governments must avoid the mistakes of Green Square and Leppington in a massive redevelopment of Parramatta and Olympic Park over the coming decade.

Green Square:  Turnbull’s then boss Rob Stokes manoeuvred the metro station there, and when Clover Moore called for a tram as well, iA declared it to be one of Australia’s top transport priorities (below).  As I pointed out in correspondence and a major report (extracts follow), it was a nonsense – UGNSW has buggered-up the planning (under Brad Hazzard), TfNSW had four transit schemes pointing N/S and nothing in the critical Bondi Junction to Newtown corridor, plus iA forgot about the two heavy rail stations and generally blundered around trying to satisfy Clover Moore, Stokes and John Brogden.

Wrong diagnosis on Leppington: Berejiklian made the SW Rail a priority/promise after praising the RTBU 2009 brochure on it (part of the GFC “shovel ready” responses) and Labor had it underway – the fault for inadequate follow-up lies with the Coalition.  I made the same admonitions almost 10 years ago but was ignored.

  • The commission has developed a draft “Place-based Infrastructure Compact” for the area, which it describes as a world-leading attempt to unite 20 government agencies and align population growth with infrastructure and service delivery.

The agencies are looking down the double-barrels of the Berejiklian/Turnbull blunderbuss.  World-leading? – just like the Committee for Sydney said that GSC would be the first coordinating agency in Sydney’s history and that “Sydney would finally have a European style metro” when that was what was opened here from 1926.  We are used to “first time” claims by this Government which not only has no sense of initiative but which suppresses mine

  • The GSC estimates the Parramatta and Olympic Park precinct could add up to 95,000 new dwellings and 122,000 new jobs by 2036 under what it calls a “visionary” growth scenario.

That means about 1,100 x 10 storey towers or 420 x 25 storey towers.  That is ridiculous.  Did Koziol have any knowledge of the facts and fallacies?  GSC fell over in the same minefield of ineptitude in Canterbury-Bankstown.  Koziol mislead the readership.

  • “Let’s be up-front about what is needed and when it’s needed and do it the right way at the right time.”

Berejiklian and she did not listen to the North Parramatta protesters when the two capriciously laid out a path and subsumed a heritage pub without any legitimisation – worse than the Labor CBD Metro.  Koziol implicitly condoned this.

She and MK did not say the truth Vs the Bairdijiklian Malenomics smoke-and-mirrors:  the tram will not meet the demand in respect of directions of travel, levels of patronage and providing a choice to private passenger and trade vehicles stabled in those apartments and places of employment (thus increasing rather than reducing congestion). GSC had no notion of accessibility schemes until they pinched my critique of their insipid District Plans  but they haven’t changed their tune, just the pretty picture on the cover

  • Ms Turnbull said the commission was “certainly not saying ‘no development or no change’ – quite the opposite”. But she added: “It’s really hard to do 25 things brilliantly all at once. You’re better off to focus on optimising what’s already underway.”

Not if you can’t do anything brilliantly and the things you’ve done are simply dumb and cannot be “optimised” past catastrophe

  • Both the commission and the business chamber were enthusiastic about the second stage of the Parramatta light rail, which would extend to Olympic Park the line that is currently planned for Westmead to Carlingford. Construction on stage one begins next month.

Enthusiastic? – they could hardly admit it’s their greatest blunder. The project was always more than $1 billion under-funded;  and the following text shows that the voluntary contributions and value capture yields were never going to happen.  The project will not cover its costs and will increase the annual rail deficit just as the Metro does (to the tune of 19/20th of its costs).

  • But there are growing expectations the state government will kybosh that part of the project after it slashed the number of staff working on the plan, as the Herald revealed in August.

Revealed? The Herald refused to cover the real truth of the situation although they and the ABC gave a little attention to the North Parramatta protesters.


Here are some additional notes to show what Koziol should have known as I provided them to the SMH at the time

Then Planning Minister Hazzard’s “Landcom on steroids” pushed the pace and magnitude of changes out of sensible planning bounds.  In September 2012 The Australian reported Brogden as saying

The chairman of the NSW government’s development agency, Landcom, has hit out at lengthy delays to government-backed housing projects, such as Sydney’s $1.7 billion Green Square in the city’s inner south, blaming layers of policy and high costs.

The SMH “Light rail link to Green Square among nation’s top priorities” on 17 Feb ’16:

The Turnbull government’s top infrastructure adviser has put the need for better transport links between Sydney’s CBD and Green Square among the country’s top infrastructure priorities….  In heaping pressure on state and federal governments…. The government adviser has named as a top priority the need for a “high-capacity, rapid transport link which could be bus or light rail” between the CBD and the “unserved parts of the area”… the link could eventually be extended further to Mascot, Rosebery, Sydney Airport and Port Botany.  Until July, the City of Sydney Council had found little government support for its repeated calls for a tram line through the area.  Infrastructure Australia chairman Mark Birrell said NSW was best placed of any of the states to complete transport projects because it had pursued reforms such as electricity privatisation.

To which I replied:

  • It may be “top” of a house of cards
  • iA forgot to mention 2 rail stations when it said “unserved”, it is CBD-centric. It refused to revise after that blunder was pointed out on a petard
  • Southern extensions bely Anzac Metro
  • No link to east, no acknowledgement sighted of east/west congestion especially the critical path from/to Bondi Junction/Randwick and Newtown
  • “Little government support” was reversed by vulnerability during the greyhounds fiasco as well as revelations of how far John Brogden’s UGNSW had pushed densification – but the capacity/load issue was not dealt with as a PR blitz, not an engineering challenge
  • CoS covers half of Newtown their map and Railways are omitted, walking distances are not mentioned
  • Bus or light rail should not have been pre-selected without consideration of all options including cycleways, PRT and moving walkways in line with iA’s first and greatest Chairman, Sir Rod Eddington.
  • Birrell was wrong as was often the case – $15.9 b in proceeds, $100 b committed = NSW is worst placed because it is incompetent

It can be added that the “Central Industrial Area” was converted into a residential and retail zone by happenstance from the mid-1980s.  The loss of engineering and manufacturing SMEs to the west has had ongoing congestion implications for accessibility to essential services of the eastern and inner suburbs.

Koziol also missed the logic that the former Transport and City Editor of the SMH had made in the main tram case.  On 7 December 2016 Jake Saulwick wrote:

Gladys Berejiklian’s claim that the cost of Sydney’s CBD tram line grew by half a billion dollars because trams and stops would be larger and better never made any sense. And, finally, no one needs to pretend that it does. Thanks to NSW Auditor-General Margaret Crawford, the Treasurer and former transport minister’s claim can be dismissed for what it always was: probably a lie, perhaps wilful ignorance, possibly mere incompetence.

Crawford’s report into Berejiklian and Transport for NSW’s early mismanagement of the light rail line places the Auditor-General within a recent NSW tradition. State governments redistribute taxes towards schools and hospitals, roads and railways. For some reason, they feel the need for cloak-and-dagger secrecy in doing so. The work of auditors-general has become one of the main tools by which government obfuscation has been rubbed against the grain. The accountants reveal the ragged truth.

Return to original


The BOF Opposition promised to devolve responsibility back to communities.  The WS City Deal destroyed the last vestige of that theme which otherwise is dominant in the UK and USA and elsewhere.

The remit of the Greater Sydney commission is to adopt, without question, the Government’s transport whims.  GSC’s credibility sees a media acceptance of the house of cards – all options dismissed, tax and budgeting issues absent, land use being lines on maps until suburbs are confronted with mandated targets – 67 high-rises in Campsie alone.  GSC’s words are

Greater Parramatta – the metropolitan centre – is the core of the Central River City and Central City District. Its economy is centred on world-class health, education and research institutions as well as finance, business services and administration. Greater Parramatta and the Olympic Peninsula (GPOP) – taking in the Westmead health and education precinct; advanced technology and urban services in Camellia, Rydalmere, Silverwater and Auburn; and the Sydney Olympic Park lifestyle precinct – will be supported by the Parramatta Light Rail and Sydney Metro West.

Sydney Metro Northwest will improve the growth prospects for the north west of the District.

Such words are meaningless.  The difference between Metro NW and West is that one exists as a white elephant (cf iNSW) and the other is an obsessives’ and developers’ dream.

The Western Sydney Leadership Dialogue (WSLD) issued a blog, published in the AFR, called “An Revolution By Any Name” (22 Oct 2015).

WSLD strongly supported the Parramatta to Olympic Park tram.  It said that “This potential windfall to local developers was quantified in a recent Deloitte report for the WestLine Partnership landowner consortium. It calculated that local rezonings and developer levies could generate $3 billion to help defray the cost of rail lines and remediation of the old industrial sites.”

The report gave optimistic levels of redevelopment of the corridor, no analysis of options, no indication of application of accepted assessment methodologies, and its estimate of voluntary contributions ranged from $1.6 to $2.9 billion (the 81% variation suggesting guesstimates).  The rest of the “defray” was presumably private, which could be fair unless the landowners seek site bonuses for the same (as they often do).  There is an impressive list of endorsees including the NRMA and Business Chamber.

Turnbull put $78.3 million into what had become GSC’s signature project – the GROP linear tramway that was explicitly designed to serve developers, not the ParraCity Council’s 2013 CBD-based network.  An annual $110 payment by developers is a joke.

The Government has said it will seek to facilitate tram, metro and other projects as well as the Greater Sydney Commission with “land value” or “betterment” capture.  That has been defeated twice in Sydney by Conservative Governments and failed under London’s CrossRail 1.  iNSW reported that “Challenges for value capture mechanisms include identifying the beneficiaries, quantifying the gains and crystallising cashflows to Government.  In the short term, value capture will not provide a substitute for the other funding strategies set out in this (report).  (A betterment scanning report for RailCorp by this analyst had interesting conclusions in line with “low gain for much pain”.)

Around Parramatta, there must be a professional Eddington-type planning exercise that has a multi-modal basis and reverses the contextual defects as including:

  • The by-passing of Parra CBD by the North South Rail and the real but theoretical Parra/Epping link
  • The exclusion of the two alternatives to the West Metro (Greiner’s and this analyst’s) including a superior outcome for Badgerys and for the east/west employment balance via logistics
  • The exclusion of O-Bahn with potential as established in c 1980 by this analyst, incorporated in a BRT network, given the tram is marginal at best.

At Green Square, iA has to withdraw its highly deficient reports and re-do the assessments so as to include the major east/west congestion corridor as tram or BRT.

The tram systems have multiple forced changed-over points and changes in bus routes, an absence of properly integrated cross-route and cross-service interchanges, longer trip times, and possible intermodal fare costs.

In Newcastle, the inner rail line was unproductive and cut roads at two points, Stewart Ave on the Pacific Highway, and Merewether St in the Civic precinct.  The logical path was to stop rail at Broadmeadow and install a reconfigured BRT network, using the inner rail corridor (easing pedestrian restrictions between Honeysuckle and a traffic-calmed Hunter St West.

Not so for Berejiklian who cut the line at Wickham, leaving the Stewart Ave crossing to disrupt Newcastle and force another round of angst when the Broadmeadow option is finally forced through.  This was a deliberate act of bastardry.

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