Community takes fight for rail to the Supreme Court
Rail corridor between Glenfield and Macarthur earmarked for medium density
Rail Trail boost to tourism - and local economy
Newcastle rail case may be long wait
Save Our Rail questions semantics argument over rail line cut
North West Rail Link corridor to extend through to Marsden Park
Camurra West to Weemelah Line Booked Out of Use
Rail Trail full steam ahead
John Holland Commissions Electronic Train Orders
Closure of Newcastle rail stations not technically a closure of whole line, State Government lawyer says
The NSW government has been instructing transport officials to ignore public transport alternatives to motorway projects, according to explosive internal documents obtained by Fairfax Media.
The revelation emerges in a memo prepared within Transport for NSW into potential rail improvements between Sydney and Wollongong - a project that could compete for funds with the proposed F6 motorway from the WestConnex interchange at St Peters to Waterfall.
But the document also suggests that the government has excised the development of public transport alternatives to other major toll-road projects. These include the Western Harbour Tunnel project, which is to be an extension of WestConnex, and the Beaches Link tunnel that is to extend that road to the northern beaches.
The memo prepared within Transport for NSW says a new rail tunnel and freight line could cut the time taken for commuters to travel from Wollongong to Central from 90 minutes to about 60 minutes for as much as $10 billion less than the cost of the toll road.
Dated September 26, 2016 and headed "Failure in Critical Options Analysis", the memo released to the Herald under the Government Information (Public Access) Act says the decision not to benchmark the cost of the toll road against the cost of rail solutions "represents a serious and significant shortcoming of the F6 Extension Business Case".
"In the case of the F6 extension, a diverse range of design and location options were considered, but only in the context of a tolled and untolled road-based solution," the memo says.
"The existence of a cabinet direction not to consider other options must not preclude the consideration of public transport."
The document also cites similar directives for studies of the proposed Western Harbour Tunnel and Beaches Link, saying they "also did not incorporate public transport-based options".
The WestConnex business case released in 2015 shows these roads are expected to increase traffic on the $16.8 billion WestConnex project.
The document obtained by the Herald says an earlier Transport for NSW business case for rail improvements on the Illawarra line found that the construction of a separate Maldon to Dombarton freight line would enable coal trains to be taken off the Illawarra line, greatly increasing capacity of the Illawarra line for passenger journeys. Combined with the construction of a tunnel at Thirroul and extra rolling stock, the extra line would reduce the Wollongong to Central passenger journey from 90 minutes to about one hour.
"An option along the lines highlighted would reduce road congestion," it says. "The reduction in travel times of the magnitude considered would also have considerable wider economic benefits for the residents of Wollongong and surrounding districts."
The cost estimates for each option are excised from the document released, but it says the difference between the two is of "a magnitude that cannot be ignored".
The difference is "sufficient to construct the equivalent of almost three Snowy Mountains Hydro Schemes".
Academics and transport economists contacted by Fairfax Media said it would be difficult to calculate the cost of constructing the Snowy Mountains Scheme in today's dollars.
However one consultant said an estimate circulating with the NSW government was around $5 billion. That would mean that the difference between the cost of the Maldon to Dombarton rail option and the proposed F6 toll road amounted to more than $10 billion. Given the relatively low cost of the rail option, it could mean the F6 extension cost multiples of the rail alternative.
$10 billion is seven times the annual Health Ministry's capital works budget. It is 16 times the Education Ministry's capital works budget for 2016-17.
The 2016 budget set aside $11.6 million for geotechnical and traffic studies of the F6 route.
The memo says the cabinet directive not to consider rail as an alternative is inconsistent with government principles and guidelines and "represents a fundamental shortfall in Transport for NSW meeting its responsibilities in achieving value for the state's taxpayers".
"It would be extraordinarily foolhardy to consider that academic transport economists, transport practitioners and a range of stakeholders will not raise these issues," it warns. "There is considerable political and reputational risks associated with not considering options to the F6 extension."
The Herald has also asked Transport for NSW for estimates of the number and value of properties that will be purchased to allow the construction of the F6 tollway, the Western Harbour Tunnel and Northern Beaches Link and details of the location of the proposed ventilation shafts for the extraction of fumes.
This article first appeared on www.illawarramercury.com.au
About this website
Railpage version 3.10.0.0037
All logos and trademarks in this site are property of their respective owner. The comments are property of their posters, all the rest is © 2003-2021 Interactive Omnimedia Pty Ltd.
You can syndicate our news using one of the RSS feeds.