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NSW transport plan could derail high speed trains for decades says report

Release Date: 27/08/2012

The NSW Government’s rail transport plan could be putting the future of a High Speed Rail network in jeopardy, according to a report released today by the NSW Business Chamber and Sydney Business Chamber.
The report, Liveable Sydney: How would High-Speed Rail Change Sydney and NSW?, commissioned by the NSW and Sydney Business Chambers and prepared by the Tipping Point Institute, sets out six recommendations to improve outcomes from the disparate planning mechanisms set up by the Federal and NSW Governments.
“Integrating High Speed Rail into Sydney’s existing rail network is the most cost effective option to reduce the significant construction costs of a High Speed Rail network linking Newcastle, Sydney and Canberra, and ultimately Melbourne and Brisbane,” said Stephen Cartwright, CEO of the NSW Business Chamber.
“We believe an integrated approach could cut the cost of High Speed Rail by between $10 to $15 billion dollars.”
“However, the NSW Government’s plans for rapid transit operation of the North-West Rail Link and a second Sydney Harbour rail crossing could very well lock out the most cost-effective way of delivering both a High Speed Rail network through Sydney’s CBD and Sydney’s rail network itself.
“This is not about being opposed to the North West Rail Link – far from it. It is about ensuring the right operating model is in place to cope with the growing demands of Sydney and its fringes. 
“This report shows that High Speed rail is not only about servicing intercity travellers – which of course remains a fundamental requirement of High-Speed Rail – but it can also help outer-suburban commuters more easily access Sydney’s employment areas, thereby improving travel times and minimising congestion.
“High Speed Rail should not be the domain of the Federal Government alone. While Canberra may control the purse strings, Macquarie Street controls the existing network and the land corridors, and has to respond to the challenges of housing affordability and congestion.
“The NSW Government needs to take the benefits of a High Speed Rail network into consideration when pursuing the state’s transport plan. We don’t want to see an outcome where a Sydney-centric focus closes the door on the most cost effective way to deliver High Speed Rail.”
Patricia Forsythe, Executive Director of the Sydney Business Chamber said that by increasing accessibility to Sydney’s CBD from areas on Sydney’s fringes and beyond, we increase the supply of liveable land available for housing, which would also be part of addressing Sydney’s housing affordability and supply issues.
“High Speed Rail, done correctly, could fundamentally transform the way Sydney operates as a city. By integrating High Speed Rail into the CityRail network, it will provide a higher quality and faster train service for communities on Sydney’s outer fringe.
“A High Speed Rail network that eventually links Sydney with Canberra, Newcastle, Melbourne and Brisbane would have a positive impact on Sydney’s carbon footprint and reduce demand for more air services between our major cities”.
The report makes six recommendations:

  1. A single transport vision for Sydney out to 2061 should be developed by the NSW and Federal Governments.
  2. The Federal and NSW Governments should integrate high-speed rail services with the Sydney suburban rail network as the initial solution until separate high-speed rail infrastructure can be economically justified.
  3. The NSW Government should revise its recent rail plan, Sydney’s Rail Future, to ensure it does not prevent high-speed rail from travelling through the Sydney CBD as a result of limiting the second harbour crossing and North West Rail Link to rapid transit rail.
  4. The NSW Government needs to shift the focus of land use and transport planning from measuring proximity to a transport service to measuring total journey time, to better reflect ‘liveability’.
  5. The NSW Government should include high-speed rail as part of its Sydney Metropolitan Plan, Long Term Transport Master Plan and State Infrastructure Strategy to help address housing affordability and journey time issues.
  6. The NSW and Federal Governments should form a joint steering committee charged with determining the design and operation of high-speed rail through Sydney to feed into the Federal Government’s feasibility study on high-speed rail. 

View the full report [PDF]

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