West Metro Mirage


Famous and infamous names have tried to come up with a practical scheme to speed transit between and around the Sydney and Parramatta CBDs:  Bradfield, Cox, Greiner, IMROC/WSROC, Parramatta City Council (ParraCity), Leighton/Easson, Christie, Keneally, and the TTF/IPA/Dialogue’s-cum-Labor’s Metromeisters.

One integrated bi-level strategy, the Parramatta REP, was completed but it has been said often enough that all transit promises were defeated except Bradfield’s (which is now being under-valued and undermined).

The recent collapses of the signature Google project in White Bay and the Walker Corp’s in Parramatta Square are the public signs of a deep malaise – the crippling self-delusional effect of sitting in the CBD Privatised Metro Control Centre (PMCC) and thinking “you” (salubrious Canberran, Eastern or North Shore dwellers, fully subsidised) care about Western Sydney’s needs past and overdue, now and in the near future.  “You” exclude options, outsiders and probity as they are inconsistent with your Lobbyist religion.

Results = wrong technologies, highest possible costs, longest possible timeline, least effective service levels, community cynicism, business frustration and professional disaffection.  Solutions have to be holistic.

The current dominating notion is the Labor-cum-Berejiklian West Metro, which in turn is “fruit of the poisoned vine” from the 2012 Berejiklian NW mini-tunnels.  There is still confusion:  at each end, The Bays Vs ParraCity’s rail/tram/metro successive pushes;  and along the middle – what is the purpose of greater transit capacity, to serve existing or new activity centres, to be integrated or free-standing (something Berejiklian criticised in 2012)?

Why underground? – that doesn’t make sense given you cannot increase passenger capacity and numbers with metro trains in most circumstances, contrary to popular belief.

Add the Moore Park’s Chairman’s, Tony Shepherd’s, request, that the West Metro include a station at the Sydney Football Stadium.  This is a ridiculous prospect, billions of dollars for occasional usage, at low levels by transit standards, when the facility is in walking distance of trams and CityRail facilities – with a history of successful usage of buses in the 1950s through to recently in moving peak crowds.

The Botany Port cabal is also trying to sterilise some $2 billion of government developable land on Glebe Island, apparently to continue the Premier’s separate rejection of Google and of the Baird/Turnbull “most exciting urban redevelopment scheme in the world”, just to favour her Western Metro obsession over logical congestion-reducing and housing supply schemes.  The Port and the Greater Sydney Commission are making a mockery of orderly land use and infrastructure development.

One thing is sure, there is still no metropolitan “plan” with clear, integrated intentions which have community support.  The issues are a microcosm of Sydney’s decline as an effective State/metropolitan conjunction, showing

  • The public sector being de-skilled and under-motivated due to changes in culture forced by inept Party politicians (as described by three former D-Ds and the legendary Gerry Gleeson)
  • The business and professional communities having lost their sense of community purpose and professional values especially compared with Sydney’s great Reform Generation of Sir Thomas Hughes, Sir Allen Taylor, Jack Fitzgerald and John Garlick among others
  • Ministerial interventions via press releases defeating the essence of “planning”, especially via “Landcom on steroids”, such as UGNSW’s plans for North Parramatta (endorsed by then Minister) which was cut by 30% by the next Minister but still  imposing some 3,000 apartments in buildings up to 24 storeys in a heritage zone.  The Plan for Growing Sydney is not a plan, it is a japara stormjacket protecting developers from residents, with the Greater Sydney Commission being the enforcer
  • iA joining in the Berejiklian push of the Metromeisters’ West Metro with its massive $ bill and long if not death-dealing delay, in a manner that pleases the Western Sydney Business Chamber and WS Leaders Dialogue (Metro refugees from Labor’s days) but which must increase community cynicism against the recommendation of (say) Dr Garry Bowditch
  • UrbanGrowth NSW pushing out-of-priority residential densification and Metro/tram placements along Anzac Pde, around Green Square, along Parramatta Road and in such spots as Pyrmont, and doing them clumsily, producing community resistance and then Ministerial back-downs
  • the Urban Taskforce aggressively pushing high-rises everywhere but especially in The Bays which is nowhere near Parra Road;  but with it opposing levies on developers;  producing governmental and community resistance
  • the Greater Sydney Commission doing anything/anywhere the Metro and WestConnex require, which are also not Parra Road, with the Administrator of ParraCity calling for more initiative such as a real strategy instead of a “three cities” ideological waffle and the Innerwest Administrator trying to organise a BRT system that cannot work by itself
  • Governments rejecting Christie’s, Leighton/Easson’s/Keneally’s and Greiner’s iNSW’s alternative schemes, and
  • communities fighting densification especially as the Metro will not “serve” existing schools and congestion zones (unless it gives up a wider coverage that supports terraces) and will impose betterment tax levies as opposed to the inner eastern and northern privileged ‘burbs which did not have to pay them.

This is no over-statement.  “The Emperor has no clothes.”  This is in the context of a disorganised WestConnex which reportedly has generated some 200 community groups along its length.  As iA put it, “A more comprehensive options analysis may have identified [its] evolutions or other approaches earlier in the planning and delivery process, potentially mitigating some risks around project certainty and scope”.

This author did his first study of the corridor for the Commonwealth Bureau of Roads in 1974, and been involved ever since.  In particular he gave the then Minister for Transport a roads, rail and o-bahn integrated strategy in 1979;  and the NRMA “Towards a Transport Vision for Sydney” in 1995.  He was sub-contracted by Planning NSW to do the review of the IMROC Parramatta Road Plan (which was a dog’s breakfast).  He defers appropriately to Christie (2001 and 2010) and Greiner (2012).

The hidden point about the St Marys Metro is that it will give Berejiklian the sort of excuse the media accept without understanding.  Each deceit builds until the pile falls over.

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