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The NSW government is relying on a large developer or property owner to help deliver a key train station under Sydney’s CBD and avoid delays to the opening of its flagship rail project between the central city and Parramatta.
Internal documents marked “sensitive” and obtained by the Herald show that the planned CBD station presents one of the biggest challenges for the government in constructing the Metro West rail line, which is Australia’s largest public transport project.
Giant tunnels and a cavern will be dug beneath the CBD for the Metro West station.CREDIT:WOLTER PEETERS
Sydney Metro, the agency responsible for the project, has been considering a partner to help deliver the CBD station and a large development above, after funding constraints imposed on Metro West prevented it from acquiring sites in the CBD for several years.
Another option under consideration to avoid project delays has been procuring early access to a site at the northern end of the CBD, allowing workers to begin excavating a large cavern under Hunter Street for the station at the eastern end of the 24-kilometre line.
The internal documents from about eight months ago warned that early access to the station site for excavation, or finding a development partner, were crucial to opening Metro West in early 2033, which is three years later than the government had announced.
The Herald reported on Monday that the government was warned last year that the cost of building Metro West risked ballooning to almost $27 billion, nearly $3 billion more than earlier internal estimates.
Despite the warnings in the documents, the government insists the rail line will open in 2030.
NSW Labor leader Jodi McKay says the government needs to come clean on Metro West.CREDIT:KATE GERAGHTY
Labor leader Jodi McKay said the government needed to come clean on its plans for Metro West as the people of western Sydney were relying on it being built as soon as possible.
“[Transport Minister] Andrew Constance needs to be upfront about what kind of trouble this project is in, and how he plans to fix it,” she said. “We’re now seeing the government scramble to find ways to fund its massive budget shortfall, which risks delaying the opening even further.”
The leaked documents also show that Sydney Metro has been considering integrated station developments at the Bays Precinct at Rozelle and Sydney Olympic Park. It has already identified the CBD and Parramatta as potential sites for developments above the stations planned there. The rationale is that offices, shops and apartments help to subsidise the cost of the station below.
Under such an arrangement, a developer would provide the land for construction of a station and gain the rights to develop above. It could be similar to Macquarie Group’s successful unsolicited proposal to develop above a station at Martin Place as part of the City and Southwest metro line under construction between Chatswood and Bankstown via the CBD.
At an estimated cost of about $640 million, the CBD station for Metro West will be one of the most expensive to build along the route.
So far, the government has released few details about its plans for the CBD station, and said it was yet to make a decision on the exact site.
The environmental impact report for Metro West, released last year, did not include the eastern section of the rail line from the Bays Precinct at Rozelle to the CBD. The exact location of the Pyrmont station is also still to be confirmed, but is expected to be close to the Star casino.
The leaked documents show that Sydney Metro believes there is potential for an unsolicited proposal for the Pyrmont station, which the government added to the project late last year.
They also show Sydney Metro expects an environmental impact statement for the eastern end of the line will be approved in 2022.
A spokesman for Sydney Metro said it was continuously undertaking industry engagement to look at how the private sector could help maximise the benefits of the infrastructure investment.
“At the appropriate time, and once a station location [in the CBD] has been determined, Sydney Metro will run a procurement process to meet the needs of the project,” he said.
“Integrated station developments provide the opportunity to deliver a place for a community, rather than just a transit point. Sydney Metro is making provisions for many of the West stations to include integrated station and precinct development.”
This article first appeared on www.smh.com.au
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