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THE state's public transport agencies should get into the property development business, selling or renting land around key transport hubs at a premium price, a key tourism and transport lobby group has urged.
In a submission to the Rees Government's 2031 Blueprint, the Transport and Tourism Forum estimates the Government could fund more than $10 billion worth of mass transit projects, including heavy rail extensions and a metro network, by becoming developers or landlords.
The forum's executive director, Brett Gale, said land around and above railway stations would be a lucrative source of funds to pay for better public transport, citing developments at St Leonards and Parramatta as examples. ''If the agencies were to put commercial tenants into those developments, which are perfectly located, it could be a nice little earner, a good stream of revenue, for the Government,'' he told the Herald.
''The Government could either keep these properties and be landlords … or sell them - but only after the transport corridors are completed and the full value of the land has been realised, and get a premium price.''
Mr Gale said 30 years of under-investment in public transport by successive NSW governments meant tax revenue would not cover the cost of upgrading public transport, leaving the Government with no option but to be entrepreneurial. ''The value of land increases considerably when infrastructure, such as public transport, is built,'' he said.
The forum supports a reformed version of infrastructure levies for developments near public transport. Last year the Rees Government announced big cuts to the levies in an effort to resuscitate the economy. But the Property Council of NSW argues the levies are passed on to home buyers. ''In our view … infrastructure levies do not facilitate growth,'' the council's executive director, Ken Morrison, said. ''We have an under-supply of housing in Sydney and if you tax supply, you will reduce supply.''
Mr Gale said people who bought homes in established areas were already ''implicitly paying an infrastructure levy'' because the purchase prices were higher in suburbs well served by public transport. ''The problem to date has been that levies have not actually been spent on infrastructure,'' he added. ''These levies also help ease the burden of other taxes and charges.''
The forum's submission says the blueprint, to be released by the end of the year, must be enshrined in legislation, with guaranteed funding for at least a decade. It recommends some quick-fix solutions, including expansion of bus transitways - beyond their current routes between Parramatta and Liverpool and Parramatta and Rouse Hill - and completion of 43 bus corridors recommended in the 2005 Unsworth Review of buses.
The forum's proposal reflects the success of the London model, implemented by the former mayor, Ken Livingstone, who put thousands of buses on London's streets to help build patronage, while he expanded the transport system.
A rapid ferry service should be introduced and integrated with local buses to ease congestion. The service would operate on ''timed loop'', rather than a timetable, and serve locations such as Glebe and Rozelle.
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