Passenger Rail

Coalition victory confirms Bankstown line conversion

Sydney’s Bankstown line will be segregated from the Sydney Trains system and incorporated into the Sydney Metro network after the Coalition overcame a three per cent dip in its primary vote to win the New South Wales state election on Saturday.

Labor’s Michael Daley called Liberal leader Gladys Berejiklian to concede defeat shortly before 10pm on election night, marking Labor’s third consecutive loss in Australia’s most populous state since giving up power in 2011.

It took more than 80 per cent of the vote to be counted, however, for the Liberal-National Coalition to look safe to secure a majority government. The ABC and Fairfax each waited until late on Monday afternoon to call Dubbo for Nationals candidate Dugald Saunders, giving the party 13 seats to go with 34 called for the Liberals, combining for the 47 needed for a majority in the Lower House.

The National Party’s primary vote dropped 0.8 per cent and it lost three seats, one to Labor and two to the Shooters, Fishers and Farmers Party, which finished with three seats.

The Liberals’ primary vote dropped 2.7 per cent, but as of Monday afternoon the party had lost just one seat, conceding Coogee to Labor. The Liberals hold a slim lead in the final undecided seat, East Hills, indicating the Coalition may secure 48 of the 93 Lower House seats when all is said and done.

Labor’s primary vote dipped 1.0 per cent, but the party secured 36 seats, taking one each from the Liberals and the Nationals.

Three seats were won by the Greens, and three more by independents.


Sydney Metro Southwest sealed

Prior to the election Labor leader Michael Daley had vowed to cancel the conversion of the Bankstown line to metro standard, a project being planned as part of the Sydney Metro City & Southwest project, which is already well underway.

Under the plan the 13.4-kilometre stretch of the Bankstown line between Sydenham and Bankstown will be taken off the Sydney Trains network and converted to suit automated metro trains.

With Sydney Metro Northwest set to open in May, connecting Rouse Hill to Chatswood, tunnels are being bored for the next stretch of greenfield railway, from Chatswood through to the CBD via an alternate route through the lower North Shore, and on to Sydenham.

Greenfield construction of that route would conclude at Sydenham, where the existing corridor will be used to take the rail line through to Bankstown.

Labor argued the plan effectively handed a public asset over to a private operator – Sydney Metro is being operated privately – and would also remove unionised drivers from the line, given Sydney Metro trains are driverless.

Instead of converting the line Labor committed to spend $3 billion upgrading existing railways around the Sydney Trains network – a promise the Coalition did not match.


Future lines promised

While both Labor and the Coalition promised to build the next stage of Sydney Metro, Sydney Metro West to connect the city with Parramatta, the Coalition went a step further, promising just days before the vote to get to work planning four more Metro lines in its next term:

  • An extension for the planned Metro West line, to take it from Westmead to the future Western Sydney Airport
  • An extension for the in-development Metro City and South West line, to take it from Bankstown to Liverpool, and
  • A pair of extensions for the planned North South Rail Line project to the new Western Sydney Airport:
    • one linking St Marys to Rouse hill via Schofields;
    • the other linking Western Sydney Airport to Macarthur.


Light rail seat Liberals’ only loss

The only seat lost by the Liberals was in Coogee, where ousted Liberal MP Bruce Notley-Smith had campaigned to convince locals light rail construction pains would be worth it in the long run.

“I’m still absolutely committed, that once it’s up and running, people are going to love it,” Notley-Smith told The Guardian prior to the vote, referring to the Sydney CBD and South East Light Rail project, which extends to the beachside seat.

“There’s inconvenience caused by any major infrastructure project, but retro-fitting light rail into some of the most densely populated areas in the biggest city in Australia was going to have challenges.”

The seat was won by Labor candidate Marjorie O’Neill, who enjoyed a 4.7 per cent swing in her party’s favour since last election. With 76 per cent of the vote counted, O’Neill sits on a 51.7 per cent majority.

O’Neill, a lecturer with a PhD in management economics, criticised the Liberals for poor planning and their approach to safety around light rail in the lead-up to the election.