Western Sydney a winner in Transport Inquiry interim report

In my last post I outlined the governance arrangements outlined in the interim report of the Independent Public Inquiry into Sydney’s public transport which I had a small role in developing. Now I’d like to summarise the Inquiry’s proposals for better public transport in Western Sydney contained in the report’s chapter on long-term development and expansion of the network. 

First, a brief summary of some of the underlying assumptions. The interim report incorporates the basic assumptions of the State Government’s Metropolitan Strategy but with a higher population growth, resulting in a “mid-range” Sydney population of 6 million by 2041. 

Based on this figure, the report outlines two specific scenarios to encourage debate regarding Sydney’s future – a “European” scenario, which is essentially a continuation of the Government’s Metropolitan Strategy, adapted to the higher growth levels but with additional greenfield development in Western Sydney and additional consolidation across most of the city. Employment would be similarly spread across major centres. 

The alternative “East Asian” scenario has the same population targets but focuses on more employment growth in the CBD and inner city, combined with high levels of residential development concentrated along the proposed metro lines radiating from the CBD. This scenario is major departure from the Metropolitan Strategy but is the logical outcome of the government’s current commitment to the development of a metro network. 

For the purposes of developing the scenarios, the Inquiry has assumed similar constraints in both options, based on the community’s willingness to pay and the economy’s capacity to afford public transport infrastructure over the next 30 years. This amounts to a total, in current dollars, of around $36 billion. 

Based on these constraints and a range of other assumptions, a range of infrastructure projects was assumed for each scenario, as summarised in the following table. I have added an indication of which projects are located in or directly benefit Greater Western Sydney. 

Type of infrastructure


Western Sydney project?

“European” scenario (2008/9 $)

“East Asian” scenario
(2008/9 $)


CBD Metro, Central to Rozelle



$5.3 bn


West Metro, Westmead to Central (under European scenario, incl. Central to Barangaroo extension)


$10.1 bn

$8.0 bn


North East Metro, incl. new Harbour crossing, Martin Pl. to Dee Why



$9.0 bn


South East Metro, Martin Pl. to Maroubra Jcn



$3.0 bn


Rozelle–Macquarie Metro



$4.0 bn

Heavy rail

North West Rail Link, Epping to Rouse Hill


$3.7 bn

$3.7 bn


NW Rail Link, Rouse Hill to Richmond Line extension


$ 0.4 bn



South West Rail Link, Glenfield to Leppington


$1.3 bn

$1.3 bn


SW Rail Link extension, Leppington to Bringelly


$0.3 bn



Parramatta–Epping line


$2.0 bn



New cross-CBD/Harbour line, Central to Chatswood (costs based on rec. route investigation option )


$3.4 bn



New Bankstown–Liverpool line


$2.0 bn



New South East line, Central to Maroubra Jcn


$3.0 bn


Light rail/ferry

Light rail/ferry projects (inner suburbs)


$3.0 bn

$0.75 bn


Light rail projects (outer suburbs)


$0.6 bn

$0.15 bn

Busways/bus priority works

Busways and “Bus First” road projects (inner and middle suburbs)


$1.2 bn

$0.6 bn


Busways and “Bus First” road projects (outer suburbs)


$2.1 bn

$0.65 bn


W. Sydney motorways


$2.7 bn




$35.9 bn

$36.4 bn

Western Sydney Total  


$28.6 bn

$15.25 bn

Y* counted as a Western Sydney project because it services part of the region

Derived from table 2.10 in the Independent Public Inquiry interim report

The proposed public transport infrastructure to be constructed between 2014 and 2030 is also shown in the following maps of each scenario (source: Independent Public Inquiry interim report chapter 2 – click on each map to show full size):

 Some the project proposals such as the North West and South West Rail Links and the West Metro are common to both scenarios, but most of the other projects fall largely or wholly under either one or the other of the two models.  

In the above table the cost of the Western Metro has been included as a Western Sydney project in both scenarios because it services parts of the Parramatta, Auburn and Holroyd Council areas, even though the bulk of the route would be outside Western Sydney. With this qualification in mind, the European scenario assumes a much higher level of expenditure in Greater Western Sydney, reflecting the population and employment distributions which are both more dispersed than in the East Asian scenario.

Not only does the European scenario require more rail infrastructure in Western Sydney, but also greater investment in the region in light rail, busways and even motorways. If the Western Metro is discounted the difference between the two scenarios is even greater – $17.5 billion for Western Sydney projects in the European scenario as opposed to only $7.25 billion under the East Asian model. 

While the Inquiry notes that both scenarios would provide significant benefits in terms accommodating Sydney’s population growth and job shifts as well as the forecast increase in public transport trips, the importance of providing some degree of equity for the residents of Western Sydney was an important factor in the decision to favour the European scenario. To quote the interim report: 

The main difference between the scenarios would lie in their relative provisions for western and eastern Sydney and the equity of access provided. In this respect the “European” scenario would be superior. 

Because the “European” scenario’s proposed projects include an extra heavy rail crossing of the harbour, they would cater better for potential high-speed rail services from north of Sydney in the future. 

Similarly, because the “European” scenario’s proposed projects include an extension of the North West Rail line to link with the Richmond line, they would provide better access to the Richmond air force base if this were developed as an “overflow” airport for Sydney.

It is important to reiterate that these scenarios are presented for discussion only and neither necessarily reflects current government policy; for example, while the South West Rail Link has recently been re-announced by the State Government, the future of the North West link is still in limbo. What is implicit in the interim report is the real danger that if the government does proceed with prioritising the construction of an expensive metro network, no further infrastructure is likely to be provided in Western Sydney beyond the South West Rail Link and the Western Metro for many decades to come – if ever. 

Further, the considered approach to funding these improvements adopted in the report also means that their construction would have to be staged over a 30-year period, though even this rate of construction would be a considerable improvement over what has been done to date. In the short term, much would depend on the roll-out of the “Frequent Rapid” and “Frequent Local” bus services proposed as part of the Inquiry’s “Frequent Network” initiative which I will discuss in a further post.

This entry was posted in Governance, Growth, Infrastructure, Planning, Population, Public Transport, Sydney metro area, Transport, Western Sydney and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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