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New South Wales Transport Minister John Watkins says questions about the planned North-West Metro's ability to attract customers have not scared off private investors.
Mr Watkins and Premier Morris Iemma last night briefed industry groups on the proposed project.
The $12.5 billion project is designed to replace plans for an above-surface rail link and will run from St James Station in the city towards Epping then onto Castle Hill and Rouse Hill.
Mr Watkins says planning approval has now been granted for the northern leg of the route, and community consultation will begin on the section between Epping and the CBD.
Critics argue the lower density north-western suburbs will not the passenger numbers to make a metro financially viable.
But Mr Watkins says he is confident investors have not been scared away.
"[It's] pretty clear there's very strong interest from private investors," he said.
"A fair deal of work still needs to be done on estimates and the other issue is that the State Government will most probably continue to play a role in the ongoing support of the metro.
"These are matters that will become clearer over the next couple of years."
He says the is still a huge amount of interest.
"There were quite a few questions about patronage estimates," he said.
"Obviously a lot of modelling that will go into the bids will be based on patronage and there's more work to be done in that area."
Northern beaches 'ignored'
Manly MP Mike Baird says the State Government has ignored the needs of northern beaches residents by announcing the next metro rail system to be considered will go to Parramatta.
The Federal and State Governments have begun a feasibility study into a metro rail link between the CBD and Parramatta.
If approved, the line will be partly paid for using funds from a $20 billion infrastructure fund, announced in Tuesday's Federal Budget.
Mr Baird says the next metro rail link should not be going to Parramatta, which already has a train line.
"Yes, the people of western Sydney have a requirement, but so do the people of
the northern beaches and they have been ignored for too long," he said.
He says people living on the northern beaches deserve to have a rail line.
"The Iemma Government needs a bigger Gregorys, one that includes the northern beaches," he said.
"Whether they be announcing new metro lines, new road projects or anything to do with public transport they continue to ignore the northern beaches. It's time they got serious."
But Alex Gooding from the Western Sydney Regional Organisation of Councils says a new line to Parramatta is badly needed.
"Provision of this infrastructure is long overdue in our region," he said.
The State Government says the proposed line would cost up to $10 billion to build.
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