Former NSW treasurer Michael Egan has labelled the Sydney CBD light rail development a catastrophe waiting to happen, at an upper house inquiry in Sydney this week.
The inquiry was being conducted by the Leasing of Electricity Infrastructure Committee which, as the name suggests, is conducting a series of inquiries to report on the proposed leasing of electricity infrastructure in NSW.
Egan, who was the state’s treasurer between 1995 and 2005, was presenting to the inquiry his views on the potential privatisation of the state’s electricity assets, an issue he described as “very close to [his] heart”.
But the subject matter of the inquiry turned to rail, when Egan was asked how he thought proceeds from privatisation should be spent.
“Not all infrastructure spending is worthwhile,” Egan said.
“If you look at Japan, it has been spending on public works for the last 20 years in the hope of reviving its economy and it has not really worked—it is still crawling along.
“The assets that you purchase or invest in have to be good ones.”
Sydney’s new light rail development, he said, was not a good purchase.
“For example, the proposed light rail to go from George Street to Randwick and Kingsford is going to be a catastrophe not only whilst it is being built but also after it is built,” he opined, “because people are going to have to change their mode of transport twice.
“The light rail trams will carry fewer passengers than the buses do now. So I think it is going to be $2 billion badly spent.”
Some local businesses along the route have expressed concern that the construction work, and the resulting lack of parking spaces, will inhibit their operations.
But other businesses say the result of the light rail project will be a net-gain for the stretch, with the future George Street projected by some to be a bustling pedestrian zone, prime for surrounding business.
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