I thought it would be useful to summarise what the major parties – The Liberals/Nationals, Labor and the Greens – are promising in relation to transport in relation to the upcoming NSW state election. The following is drawn from a range of policy statements, media releases and websites and as a result is likely to be incomplete – it would seem that with the partial exception of the Greens, the days of parties releasing detailed election statements containing all their policies and election commitments in one package are over. Nonetheless this table should provide a useful starting point, though it should be noted that no responsibility is taken for the completeness or accuracy of this information.
For formatting reasons I’ve had to divide the table into four parts and display these as separate images. To download the original as a single PDF, please click here.
Several conclusions that can be drawn from the list of promises. All three parties are committed to completion of the North West Rail Link (with varying degrees of enthusiasm for the privatised driverless single deck metro model) and the CBD and South East Light Rail; both these projects are in any case the subject of contractual commitments. All three are also committed to constructing light rail links to Parramatta, though the approaches vary and there is a shortage of detail.
In a number of other areas there are relatively few practical policy differences between the LNP and ALP commitments, though the LNP has a bigger shopping list based on the party’s commitment to the lease of electricity assets, a policy opposed both by Labor and the Greens. The two areas where this has resulted in significant differences between the two largest parties are the second harbour rail crossing which Labor would defer (and commence only after a “rigorous cost-benefit analysis”) and the WestConnex motorway project where Labor would cancel the third-stage tunnel linking the M4 and M5.
There are also some differences between the two parties which are unrelated to the electricity privatisation issue. The most obvious of these is the approach towards the Newcastle rail line which has already ceased operations as part of the government’s redevelopment strategy for the city, to be replaced by a light rail system. Both Labor and the Greens oppose the closure and would reinstate the heavy rail line. Other examples of policy differences include the greater detail Labor has provided about its plans to improve existing rail services particularly in Western Sydney, which contrast with the commitments which the LNP has made towards purchasing new trains for the intercity and country rail networks.
There are much more significant policy – and ideological – differences between these two parties and the Greens’ proposals. Their transport policies are more detailed than those of the other parties and not surprisingly contain a much stronger commitment to public transport over roads. For example, the Greens would cancel the WestConnex and NorthConnex motorways and the F6 feasibility study and direct the funds saved into rail and light rail infrastructure; their policy document is almost silent about other roads. The Greens also oppose the embrace of privatised rail services by the Liberals/Nationals and to a lesser extent Labor (which supports wider use of Public Private Partnerships).
The Greens would also “replan” a future second harbour crossing as a “double-deck, integrated, publicly owned and operated service” and commence construction of extensive light rail networks in Sydney’s inner west and southern Sydney. The party would also make a $250 million commitment to construct an integrated cycleway network in Sydney.
This also raises the considerable differences between the three parties in terms of how they would fund their transport commitments. The Liberals/Nationals have the most expensive shopping list, but many of their promises are contingent on successfully leasing electricity assets. Labor’s shopping list is more modest and would rely on a mixture of strategies including the redirection of Restart NSW funds, the reallocation of some funding from the sale of ports and the deferral of the abolition of some state business taxes. The Greens have the smallest transport budget, which would be largely drawn from the proceeds of the cancellation of all major road projects.
While I am not going to pick winners from this list, there are a few key observations that can be made about the transport promises for the 2015 election:
- The clear recognition by all the major parties that the provision of public transport is critical to the future of Sydney and to varying degrees, regional NSW is encouraging. While they differ in their emphasis and level of expenditure involved, all three parties have made extensive commitments to the provision of major public transport infrastructure.
- Despite their shared commitments to the NWRL and the CBD and South East Light Rail, along with their support for public transport generally, the government and Labor still appear to be strongly wedded to road-based transport solutions. The LNP seem determined to spend billions to complete WestConnex despite increasing criticism, while Labor would complete at least two stages of the project, This is a contrast to their counterparts in Victoria who have repudiated the planned East-West Link for Melbourne in its entirety. As noted earlier, only the Greens have explicitly opposed WestConnex, along with virtually all the other road-related project proposals.
- It is pleasing to see that in addition to completing the NWRL, all three parties have committed to some form of light rail (LR) around Parramatta. It is puzzling though that none of the parties have embraced Parramatta Council’s recommendation of the LR link to Macquarie Park as the priority (though the Greens have committed to heavy rail in this corridor) – and somewhat disappointing that there are relatively few explicit commitments for other transport projects within Western Sydney, in particular those that might support regional centres outside Parramatta.
- All the party platforms have tended to concentrate on big-ticket infrastructure items. With the partial exception of the Greens’ transport paper there is little discussion regarding bus services for example, or issues such as community transport or transport for disadvantaged people. Some major underlying infrastructure issues have also been ignored, for example the need to upgrade the poor state of railway tracks in many parts of regional NSW which would almost certainly be required to complement the LNP proposals for new country and intercity trains. The Greens are also the only party which has addressed freight transport issues in any detail.
As noted earlier, there are likely to be some omissions and inaccuracies in the list of transport promises outlined above. Despite this I hope that it is a useful summary – and that one of these columns (or possibly more than one, if a minority government is formed) will also provide a helpful checklist of the implementation of the transport commitments of whichever party is elected to office.