Former CBD Metro chief to drive north-west rail link
April 7, 2011
Construction of north-west rail link
THE O'Farrell government has appointed the man in charge of the CBD Metro, a project it described as reckless and mismanaged in opposition, to run its centrepiece transport policy, the north-west rail link.
Yesterday the Premier, Barry O'Farrell, and the Transport Minister, Gladys Berejiklian, announced a project team to deliver the north-west rail link and committed to beginning geotechnical work on the line this year.
Ms Berejiklian said Rodd Staples, the former chief executive of the Sydney Metro Authority, would lead the project, and said he should not be judged by his previous role.
''We will not blame very, very talented people for the mistakes of the previous Labor government,'' Ms Berejiklian said.
''The Labor government had 10 different transport plans, 12 different rail lines … it was not treating anyone with any respect when it comes to public transport,'' she said.
''We have full confidence in the team we are putting together.''
The new government is unable to say when it would finish the north-west line, a critical 23-kilometre rail link extending from Epping to Rouse Hill, first promised by Labor in 1998.
But Ms Berejiklian said she would know the cost of the line and the route by the end of the year, and that construction would start in the government's first term.
Despite the CBD Metro debacle, which has cost NSW taxpayers more than $400 million since it was cancelled by the Keneally government, Mr Staples won a reputation with private sector infrastructure groups.
Heading the north-west project, one of Mr Staples's tasks will be to find a way of fitting extra trains running on the new line onto an already crowded CityRail system.
Since the demise of the CBD Metro, Mr Staples is known to have been examining ways of converting part of the CityRail grid to a single-deck, high-frequency metro-style system.
Ms Berejiklian, however, confirmed that standard double-decked trains would run on the new rail line. ''This is a heavy rail link,'' she said.
Ms Berejiklian has appointed Owen Johnstone-Donnet, an experienced Liberal adviser and former executive with the infrastructure lobby Tourism and Transport Taskforce, as chief of staff. Larry McGrath, from the TTF's sister organisation, Infrastructure Partnerships Australia, is her policy director.
The executive director of Infrastructure Partnerships Australia, Brendan Lyon, said Mr Staples's appointment was particularly welcome. Mr Lyon said the government should consider a public-private partnership to deliver the north-west line.
Barry O'Farrell names North West Rail Line team
April 06, 20114:30PM
THE New South Wales Government has appointed a project team to speed up delivery of Sydney's delayed North West Rail Line, with geotechnical work to begin this year and construction in the next four years.
Frustrated commuters should soon see work started on the line first floated in 1998 for completion in 2010, the State Government says.
The line was delayed, scrapped and then re-announced in February last year by the former Labor Government, with no construction scheduled until 2017.
Premier Barry O'Farrell today announced Rodd Staples - the deputy director of Transport NSW and former chief executive of the CBD Metro - would head the new project team.
He said geotechnical work would begin in 2011 while construction would start in his first term of Government. Establishing the project team so quickly after the election was proof his Government was committed to building the rail line, which had become totemic of Labor's transport delivery failures, he said.
"We are determined to give people that live in Sydney's northwest an opportunity to get off the M7 and M2, and to have a real train alternative to help ease traffic congestion," he told reporters at Rouse Hill, the likely terminus of the line.
"This is about ensuring we get it right the first time. It's about proper planning, proper costing, community consultation."
Transport Minister Gladys Berejiklian said NSW would lobby the Federal Government to have the $2.1 billion committed to the Parramatta to Epping rail link transferred to the North West project.
Federal Transport Minister Anthony Albanese earlier ruled out moving Commonwealth funds from one project to another.
But Ms Berejiklian said the new rail line would benefit all Sydney commuters, not just the almost 500,000 people expected to be living in the city's northwest by 2021.
"This will help all of us, taking cars off roads, taking buses off the Harbour Bridge in the morning," she said, adding that building the line wasn't contingent on federal funds.
Business groups welcomed progress on the line, with the Sydney Business Chamber saying it would deliver on a never-fulfilled 13-year Labor promise.
"The northwest rail link has been the on-again, off-again project that has dogged Sydney's transport reputation," chamber executive director Patricia Forsythe said in a statement.
"The northwest is an important growth region for Sydney, in terms of both business and residential development."
Infrastructure Partnerships Australia (IPA) said the project represented the "biggest expansion of Sydney's rail network in 40 years".
"The North West Rail Link would connect Epping to Rouse Hill and carry nearly 19 million passengers per year by 2024, getting thousands of cars off the road and substantially increasing the use of mass transport," IPA Chief Executive Brendan Lyon said.
Building the rail line would be "a great leap forward in providing the essential infrastructure Sydney needs to curb congestion", the Property Council of Australia said.