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THE Premier, Nathan Rees, plans to mark his first appearance as leader at the state Labor conference today by announcing that work will start next year on the $1.36 billion south-west rail link.
Almost one year after shelving the Glenfield-to-Leppington project in the mini-budget, Mr Rees will announce that work will start on the rail line next year and conclude by 2016.
The plan mimics Opposition policy, and is seen as necessary because of the growth of new housing estates in Edmondson Park, Austral, Middleton Grange and Leppington.
The proposed rail link has been a saga for Labor. In 2005, the Carr government had promised to build it by 2012. Mr Rees was criticised for deferring the line for several years in the mini-budget.
Also deferred in the mini-budget was the North-West Metro and duplications of the Richmond line from Schofield to Vineyard, and the one to Carlingford. The south-west rail link will be funded by the partial privatisation of the electricity industry.
It was unclear last night whether Mr Rees would make further announcements concerning funding of the $8 billion western metro today in his conference speech, as has been speculated.
He stated earlier this month that all electricity and NSW Lotteries sale money would go towards transport projects.
A spokesman for Mr Rees said: ''The Premier will announce … a commitment of $1.3 billion that will see 11.4 kilometres of brand new train track built from Glenford station to Leppington. It would see a new station and commuter car park at Leppington. There will be a new station and commuter car park at Edmondson and a new stabling facility.''
The south-west is a growth area, and it is expected to have a population of 300,000 by 2031.
Last night unions were expected to do a deal with the Government to prevent a battle at the conference over the sale of electricity retailers and generation trading rights.
Even though the United Services Union remains opposed to power privatisation, it is believed the Government ceded sufficient ground on employment guarantees late yesterday to avoid ructions at this weekend's conference, although the precise terms remain unclear.
At the conference last year the full electricity privatisation agenda of Mr Rees's predecessor Morris Iemma was defeated by 702 votes to 107, a vote which eventually led to his downfall as premier.
Referring to that debate and the defeat of the former premier Bob Carr over an electricity privatisation proposal at the conference in 1997, the state president of the Labor Party and Electrical Trades Union secretary, Bernie Riordan, joked yesterday that there was ''only room for one big power debate every 10 years''.
The Opposition has previously promised that if elected it would dump the $5.3 billion CBD Metro project - ending the Metro proposal as a whole - and reinstate the north-west rail line and south-west rail link.
''The public want the CityRail system fixed, they don't want these metros, they want hope of rail links to the north-west and the south-west, and that's what they'll get from the Liberal-National government,'' the Opposition Leader, Barry O'Farrell, said in September. ''We will scrap the [metro] project, we will seek to renegotiate with the companies to get them to build the … rail links.''
Sydney Morning Herald
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