Saturday 23rd Feb, 2019

NSW Election: Labor to cancel Sydenham-Bankstown conversion, ‘fast track’ Metro West

Photo: Michael Daley / Twitter

NSW Labor would cancel the Sydenham-Bankstown portion of the Sydney Metro City & Southwest project, and fast-track the Sydney Metro West project instead, under its election pitch unveiled on Monday.

On his first day travelling around the state on Labor’s election bus, Michael Daley announced $8 billion in funding to get Western Sydney Metro underway, and an additional $3 billion to improve Sydney’s existing rail network, including a review of the Sydney Trains timetable to address what Labor describes as the “chaos” experienced by commuters at present.

The $8 billion for Sydney Metro West includes a $3 billion commitment made by Labor’s federal Opposition leader Bill Shorten.

Under Labor’s plan, state money for the rail spending would come from the cancellation of the Western Harbour Tunnel and Beaches Link, a pet project of former prime minister Tony Abbott, who has made the tollroad a cornerstone of his campaign in Warringah, at the forthcoming federal election.

The NSW election will take place on March 23. The Federal election must take place before May 18.

Daley, who unveiled the Labor plan in Western Sydney on Monday, said money would also be saved by cancelling the conversion of a pair of existing tracks between Sydenham and Bankstown to metro standard as part of the Sydney Metro City & Southwest project.

The Labor change would mean the new metro line being built from Chatswood through the Sydney CBD would end at Sydenham, rather than Bankstown.

The conversion of the existing line between Sydenham to Bankstown has been criticised by unions who point out that it is effectively privatising a state asset – given the metro line itself would be privately operated.

Whether Daley’s immediate $8 billion commitment to Sydney Metro West would be an upgrade on what the Coalition has promised is up for debate, but Daley told the media his government would “at least match” the Coalition’s targeted opening date.

“Our hope is that we will get it done more quickly,” Daley – who spoke in Western Sydney on Monday – was quoted by the Herald. “These projects can be delivered much more quickly if you have a big upfront injection.”

Incumbent state transport minister Andrew Constance, also quoted by the Herald, criticised Daley for committing to cancel “vital” projects in order to fast-track others.

“He’s got no start date, no end date [for Western Sydney Metro],” Constance said, “how can you fast track a project without a date? He can’t on one hand say he needs all planning approvals and a parliamentary inquiry before he starts the job, and then tell everyone he is going to fast-track it. We have a record of fast-tracking these projects – Labor has a record of cancelling these projects.”

Executive director of the Western Sydney Business Chamber David Borger welcomed Daley’s commitment to fast-track rail to the area.

“Sydney Metro West is Australia’s most important public transport project and will connect Parramata and the Sydney central business districts and increase rail capacity and reduce travel times between these centres,” Borger said.

“Business wants better infrastructure, especially in the booming suburbs of Western Sydney.”

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