I thought it might be interesting to write about one of our neighbours who this Saturday will be having an election with transport being one of the major battlegrounds. The neighbour is New South Wales and polls have the race 50% – 50%, neck and neck with a high chance of a minority government so it should be fun to watch.

So you would think the battle would be Coalition and roads vs Labor and public transport but such a conclusion would be wrong. Both agree that public transport must be a priority, the difference is the Coalition believes in spending on roads on top of public transport, while Labor would use the savings from not building as many roads to fund health and education instead.

Roads vs Public Transport – Grattan Institute (Great article and more graphs)

This graph shows that:

  1. Both parties support public transport and that conservative parties can support public transport;
  2. That a major rebalance of public transport vs roads spending, as has happened here, show NZ isn’t alone in its thinking.

The roads that Labor don’t intend to build are mostly tolled motorways, mostly underground, including the $14b Western Harbour Tunnel and Beaches Link which makes our AWHC look like small change, as well as the F6 stage one tunnel extension in the south. Sydney already has the worlds most amount of tolled roads per km in an urban area.

Western Harbour Tunnel and Beaches Link – $14b

Pros of a Labor Government on Transport

  • Labor like the Coalition has promised to fund Sydney Metro West between Sydney and Parramatta/Westmead creating a relief line for the crowded and reaching capacity western line tracks. It has promised to deliver quicker than the Coalition but I’m not sure how considering the Coalition want to start building in 2020;
  • Will build the city part of Sydney Metro including the second harbour rail crossing;
  • Not wasting billions on unnecessary toll roads that which will induce demand and be bad for the environment;
  • Will upgrade $3b worth signalling on existing lines massively increasing both capacity and safety; (Though signalling will not be a catch-all solution due to double-decker dwell times and platform congestion on the City Circle stations.)
  • Instead of F6 extension Labor will invest T4 and South Coast Line upgrades drastically slashing travel times;
  • Free Transport for all school students;
  • Have committed to rail to future Western Sydney (Nancy-Bird Walton) Airport.
F6 Extension Stage 1 – $2.6b

Cons of a Labor Government on Transport

  • Bad record on transport. Under the previous Labor government, public transport project after project would be announced only to be cancelled then re-announced in a slightly different form usually after leadership change of which there were many after Carr left.
  • M4 Cashback scheme, a populist policy of Labors going back to the Carr era which would cost 100s of millions of dollars reimbursing drivers using the M4.

Labor also intend to cancel the conversion of the Bankstown line to metro. I have not put this in either pro or con because its a little controversial with points on both sides. On the one hand, it would deliver high-frequency services with level boarding and fully accessible stations as well as free multiple slots on the City Circle for more western services as well as decongesting crowded platforms in the City Circle for other lines like at Town Hall. On the other hand, it only converts the line to Bankstown which means people further out to Liverpool and Lidcombe would have to catch a train and transfer. The other issue is you’re less likely to get a seat on metro rather than on an existing double-decker.

Sydney Trains and Metro Map (Note how it includes future extensions)

Pros of a Coalition Government on Transport

  • Have a solid record of delivering projects. While many are controversial such as Southeast Light Rail and WestConnex and others less so such as Northwest Metro the Coalition, unlike the previous Labor government you can’t argue get on with the job of building infrastructure;
  • Like Labor have committed funding to Sydney Metro West to Parramatta/Westmead;
  • Have funded the building of Sydney Metro – City;
  • Have promised to investigate a regional rail package though no high-level details were released to go with this policy;
  • Have committed to rail to future Western Sydney (Nancy-Bird Walton) Airport starting with a metro from Western Sydney Airport to St Marys station on the western line with planned extensions to Rouse Hill via Schofields and to Macarthur.

Cons of a Coalition Government on Transport

  • Not fiscally prudent spending billions of dollars on very expensive tolled motorways such as WestConnex which are also environmentally damaging;
  • Memos released to the Sydney Morning Herald show that the Coalition Cabinet has directed agencies to not consider public transport alternatives to certain toll road proposals.
WeestConnex – 2015 Forecast $16.8b

So both parties have some strong proposals for transport which do you think is stronger?

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28 comments

  1. Interesting. The option to improve the railline south instead of the massive driving inducing, atmosphere frying, F6 at three times the cost is reason enough to try Labor again. Another seriously corrupt looking massive Australian highway project. Transurban Corp. lurking, as ever, in the shadows of this.

  2. Wow – good to see that a political party promising good steps for climate change in the transport sphere by cutting out the traffic-inducing road building projects is no longer seen as too politically risky.

    Next step is for all parties to realise this is necessary. There’s enough scope for parties of the left and right to offer alternatives for how this is done.

    1. Heidi, I think that you have highlighted the most important part of this post – that there is a political party offering life without road building. I wonder what the NZ transport landscape would look like if a similar approach was adopted here?

  3. Great post thankyou. Balanced and informative.

    Scale and political ambition of the transformative moves compared to NZ brings upon one a certain melancholy.

    1. Oh I don’t think so; they sure do waste huge sums of money, and take needlessly destructive actions. And are corrupt in ways we can’t even imagine…

      Every single one of those highway projects are terrible, and they all have one primary goal at the heart of them, which is as plain as a hot Aussie day in that last chart: each and everyone is simply there to make the next one ‘obvious’, ‘sensible’, ‘inevitable’, ‘necessary’. Destructive highways beget more destructive highways, and more traffic and more congestion…

      1. One day Mr Reynolds you will have to get in on the real inside of pulling the funding together for any one of the rail or metro or road jobs that you consider.

        Maybe it’s slightly too easy in Australia. From my experience the deals are more violent in their moves, and more slippery. But at least they have the money.

        In New Zealand you can wait 20 years for a comparatively easy case like 3rd main. Our debates look just quaint and retrograde from any infrastructure company looking at us from Australia. It’s not the begetting I worry about. It’s the simple epic struggle of getting anything that kills us.

  4. Yeah, its a bit disheartening sometimes to see how others do transport and how Governments in other countries can work together towards the same thing, Crossrail and High Speed 2 in the UK both going through both Labour and Tories during approval and building stages.

    Our economy is strong enough, but we don’t have the workers and constructions costs for anything seem to be just so damn high that we have to be very very careful what we build.

    Personally I’d go with the Labour proposal but only after I saw what the rest Healthcare money was being spent on..

    1. More is not always more: HS2 is a dog, and will accelerate the concentration of wealth in London rather than empower the regions… just as extending the duplicate highway north of Warkworth here will help concentrate wealth in AKL at expense of Northland… people don’t get how transport infra works.

      1. I’ve been thinking Northland needs better, safer PT connectivity between towns and good access for small producers to a quality small-volume freight spine more than they need motorways that will just bring Aucklanders out into further sprawling holiday homes…

        1. A lot of small producers use their own trucks to deliver to the big city and I bet there not full and probably return empty. In the days of New Zealand rail running buses they used to carry small items of freight as well as passengers. Back to the future but use freight and passenger sharing apps to full producer owned and dockless trucks and truck/buses. Setup a number of small freight and passenger hubs develop an app and get disrupting.

        2. Do that need what seems to be like an expressway carving through the western side of the city? The expenditure on this must be horrendous as they carve off fronts of properties and then build fences, or walls behind the roading. Surely the North can not be expanding even without Rons?

      2. I don’t agree with HS2, just simply saying there is political will across multiple parties to get things done. We are still trying to get our Transport agencies to listen to current Government, just so we can start playing a bit of catchup when it comes to PT. It will be interesting to see how the Mayoral contest is run and how different candidates will no doubt spout off completely different ideologies around Transport.

      3. “More is not always more: HS2 is a dog, and will accelerate the concentration of wealth in London rather than empower the regions”

        That’s a huge call. HS2 is basically just a six tracking of existing overcrowded main lines. There is currently quad tracking from London to Newcastle and Preston. HS2 is basically just saying “we should build new, fully independent tracks for long distance trains, rather than trying to operate six tracks. This is comparable to LRT to the airport: a new line parallel to the existing one, rather than continued investment in a maximized resource.

        1. “This is comparable to LRT to the airport: a new line parallel to the existing one, rather than continued investment in a maximized resource.”

          Not when the Onehunga branch is remotely near “maximised”…

      4. Are you saying that high speed rail in France, Germany, Japan and China is also a dog or did they do things differently to what is being done in the UK?

      5. “HS2 is a dog, and will accelerate the concentration of wealth in London”

        What the anti HS2 NIMBY’s in the UK don’t realise is that the WCML is at absolute capacity. And the Great Central Railway between London Marylebone and Birmingham Snow hill just isn’t attractive enough for enough travellers between London and Birmingham.
        Building an HSR makes the most sense. And it will very probably also greatly benefit Birmingham as it will make it a more attractive place to rent office space.

        And the second phase will undoubtedly be a massive boost to Manchester. Ironically; the first phase will not shave that much time off of the trip between London and Birmingham and its the second phase that will really shave travel times.

        I accept the gripes of Northern England in not getting enough rail transport funding with arriva’s Northern franchise being so abysmal and the infrastructure being so run down while London’s got Crossrail and TfL buying back many commuter services. But I don’t include HS2 amongst this disproportionate funding.

    1. Ah yes, that has been in the news for a few years. Tunnels work, but they’re high maintenance items. If it gets to the point where you have chunks of concrete falling down on the road you’re in big trouble.

  5. In addition the Coalition have this week announced a policy of cutting the weekly cap from $63.20 to $50. In a similar way that the Metro extension to Bankstown is both good and bad, I think this policy is a bit of both. The press has been negative as it seems to favor ferry users, who tend to live in more well off suburbs, however it is designed to reduce pressure in a low wage growth environment, particularly for those with long commutes.

    In terms of Liverpool (where I work) and Lidcombe, (through which I pass on the train to work), there are multiple options to get to and from, with the line that goes from Liverpool, through Bankstown to the City being on a half our schedule, the other 30 minute interval service starts/terminates at Lidcombe, making it two branches to the line. The service I use is Leppington (currently the closest station to the Western Sydney airport) via Strathfield to the city, which has a 15 minutes frequency.

    The metro is interesting in that it is automated and a number of services get cancelled due to driver availability. The issue of rolling stock availability and maintenance is starting to get better as the first tranche of 24 B sets that are earmarked to replace the 40ish year old S sets (that also have no air conditioning), are currently being introduced into service. The second tranche of 17 B sets designed for growth have been ordered for delivery commencing late 2020.

    I’m also interested in how the Parramatta light rail project will be prioritised, there are both pros and cons for the project, with the big question being the disruption caused during construction. The City to SE Light Rail project, which seems to be nearing completion has been delayed by the additional effort required to relocate services in the CBD, where they are playing catch up on 100+ of infrastructure that has been laid without much thought to future maintenance. the SE end is already energised and testing has commenced.

  6. NSW govt transport policies… for Sydney! The rest of NSW is a bit of a transit desert.

    I have family living on the south coast, and when visiting we get the train south from SYD airport. It’s a lovely scenic and comfortable journey, with a surprising number of long distance commuters.

    Unfortunately the South Coast line just stops at a river and there is a 2 hour drive remaining at that point (Bomaderry). Despite the growth in Eurobodalla recently there is no motivation to get the regional train going any further, down to Batemans Bay or even Merimbula. Holiday traffic in that region feels worse than Auckland to Northland.

    A train Sydney to Canberra would be nice too…

    1. There is a train from Sydney to Canberra, it’s main problem is that the Canberra Station is nowhere near the CBD. Also Canberra not being in NSW probably doesn’t help funding.

    2. There is a train, however I’d take one of the two bus services, as they go form Central station in Sydney, to a terminus in the center on Canberra.

      The issue is that the line that goes through the southern highlands is owned/operated by a freight company, so passenger is a secondary user and it causes a range of delays. It isn’t electrified either, so there are fleet issues that are unlikely to be addressed in the outer urban fleet purchase that is about to start testing.

    3. “NSW govt transport policies… for Sydney! The rest of NSW is a bit of a transit desert.”

      Erm… …not quite. The current Liberal Government in NSW blew hundreds of millions on Newcastle; removing their rail terminus from a beautiful historic building near the far end of their liner CBD to a hideous new terminus 2km further away on the other side of the CBD at Wickham and replace it with a light rail of the expensive kind without overhead catenary. There are also now services of at 30-60 minute frequency between Newcastle and Sydney central for only about AU$6. Although it unfortunately it takes about 3 hours.
      And they’ve also spend hundreds of millions on more than 150km of a brand new dual carriageway for the Pacific Highway in Northern NSW between ‎Woolgoolga and Ballina, which when completed will leave Coffs Harbour as the last place between Sydney and Brisbane without dual carriageway. This should also spur much of the Gold Coast’s growth, development and sprawl across the Border and Southwards.
      There’s also plans to improve and increase the frequency of long range commuter rail services into Sydney such as the Southern Highlands line.

      There already is a train between Sydney and Canberra. It’s not well patronised at all because it’s just not competitive with the highly popular coach service between Sydney Central and the Canberra CDB. This is because the rail service is considerably more expensive, takes about 4 and a half hours, (half as long again as by coach) and because the Canberra terminus is about 5 km from the CBD. Most people who take the train service are going to stations between Sydney and Canberra such as Goulburn.
      There have been many project proposals for a faster train between Sydney and Canberra and all have included a completely new Canberra terminus on the northern-eastern end of the current CBD via a tunnel under Mount Ainslee.

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