March 20, 2008

Horse 870 - Tunnel Vision
Sydney will build a $12 billion metro rail link between the city and its northwest suburbs in the first stage of the nation's biggest infrastructure development. The rail line will run underground from the city to Rouse Hill with completion expected by 2017, the NSW state government said in a statement on its website. The 38 kilometre metro link will have 17 stations with connections to existing railway stations and buses.

Premier Morris Iemma's Sydney Link project is designed to halve commuting times and take pressure off the existing train and road network with a series of metro lines intersecting the city. The north-west route will carry 60,000 passengers an hour and cut travel time from Rouse Hill to the city to 45 minutes from an hour and a half.

Top idea Mr Iemma. You do of course realise that this was touted back in the Christie report of 2001, appeared on CityRail maps to be completed by 2007 and still not even a sod of earth has been turned on the project? Yes, the northwest of Sydney has been screaming out for public transport for nigh on 30 years. Still, the Eastern Suburbs Railway line was cut back in 1935 and wasn't opened until 44 years later - by that logic I expect that King William VI will open the line in 2045.

This I find worrying though.

"Construction of the north west Metro provides an additional corridor into the CBD for residents," Mr Iemma said in the statement. "Metro rail is already operating successfully in more than 30 cities around the world and in Sydney will form a broader strategy to benefit more than 2 million people."

Construction of the single-deck, heavy rail system will start in 2010. The government plans to progressively announce new components of the metro network, which may include lines to the south-eastern beach suburb of Malabar and Parramatta in the west.

Sounds great right? WRONG! Iemma wants private enterprise to front with the cash and given the total cock-up of the M2, the M7, the M5, the Cross-City Tunnel, the Gore Hill Freeway and Epping Rd and the complete lack of skill which saw electricity prices triple in Victoria and Connex chuck a spaz in Melbourne, my faith in the private sector to deliver a project like this is about the same as my faith in the Iemma Goverment to deliver... anything really.

The problem with private enterprise is that quite rightly so, they need to return profits and capital to their shareholders but a major piece of infrastructure like a railway line really serves as a public utility that may live well beyond the lifespan of current shareholders and profit motives. When the Sydney Harbour Bridge was started in 1923, I'm almost certain they the expected the utility of it to last far longer than the end of the profit cycle; and 76 years later it still is a vital transport link.

This requires two little things called vision and foresight, which sadly not many politicians in my lifetime have had the courage to show.

And now:

One Word Weather With Nelson Mandela

Keep smiling Mr Mandela, you are a ray of sunshine to us all.

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