The Strategic Week (no. 7, Thursday 4 February 2016) – the week in governance, planning, infrastructure and transport

Governance

Accusations and money fly in NSW council merger fight …

The consultation process for NSW local government amalgamations has been described as a “dog’s breakfast” and a “farce” by a number of local government leaders, according to media reports.

Mayors of affected councils and others have attacked the process of calling and organising the public hearings being held by the delegates appointed to examine and report on each of the merger proposals (see TSW4). The lack of notice for the meetings, the venues selected, the limited time available for speakers at the meeting and above all the requirement to register to attend as well as speak at the meetings attracted the strongest criticism.

“It’s an absolute farce. It’s all being controlled from the bunker in Macquarie Street and it’s all designed to drive through an agenda,” North Sydney Deputy Mayor Clr Jeff Morris is reported as saying.

Government News reported that in an apparent softening of its approach, the Department of Premier and Cabinet (DPC) which is running the process had indicated that people can still attend the public meetings even if they were unable to register, but also quoted Shadow Local Government Minister Peter Primrose who said the process was “muddled” with delegates sending out mixed messages.

“This isn’t an open and transparent process,” Mr Primrose is reported to have said. “This is a secretive smokescreen and a dog’s breakfast. The government has already made its mind up and now it’s just going through a tick-the-box exercise. It is a rort.”

The Greens have also opposed the mergers, developing an anti-merger website very similar in appearance to the state government pro-merger site but containing messages such as “what local government needs is the government committed to a policy that will ‘Fix Funding First’ – not forced amalgamations”. The site calls for the implementation of the Joint Organisation model as an alternative.

The growing intensity of the debate is also reflected in the amount of public funding being spent by both the NSW governments and councils opposing the mergers, according to figures obtained by Fairfax media. These indicate that the government has spent nearly $6 million in six months on advertisements and consultancies related to the merger process, while some councils were spending up to $100,000 each on plebiscites and phone polls to gauge community responses.

 … as Tas government supports southern council amalgamation proposals

While the NSW local government reform and merger processes have attracted a lot of media attention, an amalgamation process initiated by the Tasmanian government 12 months ago is continuing.

The Minister for Planning and Local Government Peter Gutwein met with Mayors, Deputy Mayors and council General Managers to discuss the process and indicated that the government would fund” in partnership with councils the development of feasibility studies of proposed amalgamations and strategic shared services”.

A number of southern Tasmanian councils have developed amalgamation proposals, earning the praise of the Minister who said in a recent media release that they had taken “a significant step towards achieving better outcomes for ratepayers by improving the efficiency and effectiveness of local government.”

The Minister announced that further research would be undertaken into two proposals:

  • a Greater Hobart proposal including the Hobart City, Clarence City, Glenorchy City and Kingborough Councils; and
  • a South East Councils proposal including Clarence City, Sorell, Tasman and Glamorgan-Spring Bay Councils (this study will involve four amalgamation options).

Mr Gutwein indicated that these latest proposals meant that “25 out of 29 Tasmanian councils have agreed to take part in modelling voluntary amalgamations and resource sharing”. The proposals have however attracted some criticism with some mayors accusing others and in particular Hobart Lord Mayor Sue Hickey of “meddling” in the affairs of neighbouring councils.

Up to 21 Vic councils may apply for rate cap exemption

The Victorian Essential Services Commission has published a list of 21 councils that have notified it of their intention to apply for a rate increase higher than the cap of 2.5% set by the Minister for Local Government Natalie Hutchins in the first year of Victorian rate-capping under the state’s new Fair Go Rates System (see TSW5).

The media release notes that councils were “not required to specify the rate increase they will be seeking” and indeed that some councils have indicated they may not proceed with their applications “subject to a formal council decision”.

Planning: Policy/General

NSW Planning extend some public consultation exhibitions to 7 February

The NSW Department of Planning has announced that public consultations in relation to some exhibitions will be extended until Sunday 7 February because of “technical difficulties” experienced by some users on the weekend of 30-32 January.

The list of affected exhibitions includes the Sydenham to Bankstown Urban Renewal Corridor Strategy, the rezoning of land at Box Hill, changes to the guidelines for outdoor advertising and signage in transport corridors and the development of a zoo within the Western Sydney Parklands.

Questions over low income housing in Sydney public housing makeover…

An opinion piece by Sun-Herald State Politics Editor Kirsty Needham has questioned whether the NSW government planned regeneration of public housing estates such as Waterloo will actually retain a significant level of social and affordable housing.

Ms Needham notes that the government’s plans rely on the private sector to develop renewed housing stock, with developers selling 70% of the new estates to private owners which will fund the construction of the remaining 30% as social and affordable housing.

She claims however that the Elephant and Castle redevelopment in London which has been cited as a model for this approach has “one small problem” – only 74 or 3% of the 2,500 new units are housing for poor people, and not the 30% initially promised.

“… as the developer mounted arguments about the financial viability of the project, that promise was eroded to 25 per cent ‘affordable housing'”, she notes. “Affordable housing is still twice the price of social housing rents, and unaffordable to the original tenants.”

Ms Needham notes that Social Housing Minister Brad Hazzard has claimed that of 23,500 “social and affordable” dwellings to be built over the next decade, 6000 will be additional dwellings but when pressed on how many will be “affordable” homes he has stated that this is up to the developers.

“Community housing groups have expressed concern there is no minimum target for affordable housing,” she states.

“But the London experience suggests the greater risk may be that affordable housing ultimately squeezes out the poor, because it is a model that depends on private developers – who will always seek to maximise profits in contracts.”

 … but funding is announced to “plug the funding gap” for redevelopment.

Meanwhile the NSW government has provided more detail on the Social and Affordable Housing Fund (SAHF) which it will set up with $1.1 billion in seed capital. This could potentially address some of the gaps identified in the Needham article (see previous item).

The government statement indicates it is “calling on non-government organisations, landholders and the private sector to tap into the SAHF to deliver more homes to NSW’s most vulnerable”.

The fund will work by providing a long-term revenue stream to plug the gap for social housing developments “between the rental stream they receive from tenants plus government subsidies, and the revenue required to sustain a commercially viable project.” It will also “encourage private and non-government organisations to team up to develop housing projects”.

The release notes that the government’s investment arm, TCorp, will invest the $1.1 billion and the returns will go towards providing a stable 25-year income stream for the fund.

Planning: Region/Area/Project

Coroner’s court and morgue move to Sydney’s west welcomed

The NSW government has announced that the NSW Coroner’s Court and Department of Forensic Medicine will move to a purpose-built facility on the former Lidcombe Hospital site in Western Sydney.

The NSW Government has already opened three forensic laboratories on the Lidcombe site dedicated to solving crime through DNA and chemical analysis.

“Adding the Coroner’s Court and forensic pathology services to the Lidcombe site will cement its reputation as Australia’s leading forensic and coronial precinct,” NSW Health Minister Jillian Skinner said, noting that the Lidcombe site has a “larger footprint” than the current Glebe location.

The move which will cost around $100 million was welcomed by Western Sydney Regional Organisation of Councils (WSROC)  President Clr Tony Hadchiti especially following the loss of jobs resulting from the Commonwealth Bank move out of the region.

“The move to a modern, expanded facility in Lidcombe offers fantastic opportunities for western Sydney professionals, particularly in the science, legal and social assistance professions,” he said.

Qld government adopts major redevelopment plans for Brisbane Queen’s Wharf and Toowoomba Railway Parklands

The Queensland government has signed off on major planning schemes involving two Priority Development Areas (PDAs) – Queen’s Wharf in Brisbane and the Toowoomba Railway Parklands.

According to Deputy Premier and Minister for Infrastructure, Local Government and Planning Jackie Trad, the $3 billion Queen’s Wharf scheme which will support up to 2,000 jobs during construction and 8,000 ongoing jobs.

Proposed Queens Wharf development in Brisbane

Proposed Queens Wharf development in Brisbane (source: Destination Brisbane Consortium website)

“This development will transform and rejuvenate the under-utilised south-western edge of the Brisbane CBD, attract significant investment to the city and most importantly, create jobs for Queensland families,” Ms Trad said.

The Toowoomba Railway Parklands PDA will turn the area into an urban village and parkland providing “an exciting inner-city lifestyle” for 4,000 residents with up to 3,300 jobs during construction and a further 1,800 jobs in retail and service industries.

Toowoomba Region Mayor Paul Antonio said the former rail yards site will be transformed into a “regionally significant, all inclusive, community asset”.

“We are creating the blueprint for the biggest single transformation the city has seen in the last 100 years,” Mayor Antonio said.

Infrastructure: Policy/General/Funding

Campaign launched to fund outer suburban infrastructure

The National Growth Areas Alliance which represents 24 of Australia’s fastest-growing council areas in outer-suburban areas in NSW, Victoria, South Australia and Western Australia has launched the Fund our Future campaign seeking “a fair go for five million Australians in the outer suburbs”.

The campaign for a dedicated national infrastructure fund was launched recently at Penrith in Western Sydney by NGAA Chair and Mayor of Playford Council in South Australia. Research commissioned by the Alliance and conducted by SGS Economics and Planning attempted to quantify the backlogs of infrastructure investment in areas such as transport and health these areas experience relative to more established suburbs.

“The sorts of suburbs we’re talking about have less infrastructure and growing populations, so there’s a significant backlog, the analysis we’ve just done, shows to the tune of $50 billion for roads, public transport and health, and that another $23 billion would be needed going forward to 2031,” NGAA CEO Ruth Speilman said, quoting from the SGS analysis.

Mr Docherty said he was confident that by working together with member councils and residents, the NGAA would see changes at the federal level, especially as the five million Australians who live in these areas represent a “large voting bloc”. The campaign includes a tailored email message which supporters can send to the Prime Minister and Opposition Leader.

Transport: Policy/General/Funding

Public transport metal wheels v. rubber tyres in Brisbane Lord Mayoral battle…

While there is agreement on the need to fund infrastructure to tackle Brisbane’s future growth and to reduce inner city bus congestion, the LNP and Labor candidates in the city’s upcoming Lord Mayoral election have proposed radically different approaches in response.

Incumbent Lord Mayor Graham Quirk has announced plans for a new high frequency inner city subway system to deal with growing congestion on the city’s busway network and slash travel times for bus commuters if he is re-elected .

Mr Quirk’s proposal would involve the conversion of sections of the South East and Inner Northern Busways to form a dedicated “Brisbane Metro”. This would run on rubber tyres similar to systems found in cities such as Paris and Montreal, with interchanges with the bus network at Woolloongabba and Herston.

Proposed Brisbane Metro (source: Courier Mail)

Proposed Brisbane Metro (source: Courier Mail)

The Lord Mayor claimed the project would remove up to 200 buses per hour from the inner city, “allowing for more bus services in the middle and outer suburbs”. He noted that the city’s buses “carry a clear majority of public transport trips in Brisbane”.

The project is claimed to have a budget of $1.54 billion and while little other detail has been provided the supplied map suggests it would have nine stations (mostly based on conversions of existing busway stations) and a route length of around 7.5 km.

The proposal appears to be a response to Labor’s candidate Rod Harding’s interest in using the increased capacity of light rail to replace some bus routes. Mr Harding has already committed to construction of the Northern and Eastern TransitWays but indicated more recently that light rail was one of the “many innovative and exciting policy responses his team is considering to help tackle congestion and support Brisbane’s future growth”.

While he stressed no final decision had been made, Mr Harding suggested light rail “would help to really energise Brisbane while also driving a new public transport culture in our city” and cited current and proposed light rail projects in other Australian cities as examples. Mr Harding’s proposal is yet to be costed.

Mr Quirk’s Brisbane Metro proposal received a cool response from state Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk who described it as “recycling policy” from the time of former Premier Campbell Newman who had made a similar proposal as Lord Mayor. The government stressed that any proposal had to be integrated with its Cross River Rail project proposal.

… while heavy rail winning over light in Perth transport planning

While Brisbane Lord Mayoral candidates debate the merits of rubber-wheeled metros and conventional light rail (see previous item), in Perth media reports suggest that the Western Australian government is now favouring a heavy rail link over light rail to serve the city’s northern suburbs.

WA Premier Colin Barnett and Transport Minister Dean Nalder are said to be considering a rail tunnel from Perth to Morley, but construction would not start at least until after the $2 billion Forrestfield-Airport line is completed in 2020. The Premier did however suggest such a line (which would be approximately seven kilometres long) could be extended to Ellebrook, about 20 km from the Perth CBD.

The proposed underground link follows a succession of earlier unfulfilled transport infrastructure proposals made by both Labor and Coalition governments. These include various proposals to extend the rail network, construct the MAX light rail system and build a bus rapid transit network. The reports suggest that Mr Nalder now supports an underground heavy rail line and quote the Premier as saying the idea “held strong merit”.

“Probably many people living in those areas would like to see a heavy rail system, it will get them into and out of the city a lot quicker and in greater numbers,” Mr Barnett is quoted as saying.

“Both options are there, and I would hope once the rail link to the airport is completed, that will be the next major transport project”.

Curtin University sustainability policy institute research fellow Jemma Green has slammed the proposal, however, calling it “absolutely unfeasible”. She is quoted as telling Radio 6PR that the link could cost $7 billion and “would drain most of the transport budget for decades to come”.

“Putting these fanciful ideas of underground rail out to the northern suburbs, the expense of that is going to mean that it’s never going to happen anytime soon, but buses will, so it’s just smoke and mirrors so they can push the bus agenda”, she said.

The opposition also criticised the proposal, putting forward an above-ground rail link as an alternative.

WestConnex – a case of “business as usual” in NSW?…

An article by NSW Greens MP Jenny Leong has strongly criticised the government’s WestConnex motorway project as an example of “shoddy, irregular and ad-hoc planning” which demonstrates how little has changed in the state despite the expectations of improved governance and greater transparency that came with Mike Baird’s ascendency to the Premiership.

She notes that the project cost has already blown out by $6.8 billion to $16.8 billion despite the fact that no works have started. She also claims WestConnex has received only limited community support and notes that the business case “was delivered following the final sitting week of the NSW Parliament in December last year, after billions of dollars of contracts had already been signed and planning for Stage 1 sections had already been submitted.”

Ms Leong goes on to state that the document “doesn’t offer any comprehensive alternate public transport scenarios to solve Sydney’s transport issues, many experts in a range of fields have questioned the financial assumptions and many sections have been redacted so the traffic modelling figures can’t be independently assessed.”

She also claims that the “long-held nexus” between the NSW government and big corporations and developers is “driving this financial and environmental disaster” and that creation of  the Sydney Motorway Corporation (SMC) to deliver the project will further reduce transparency because it will be “outside the GIPA Act – which means it will not subject to freedom of information requests”.

She concludes:

“Given the backlog of road and transport black spots throughout NSW, and the desperate need for more public transport infrastructure in Sydney and in other towns and cities, it beggars belief that in a city of almost 5 million, this polluting $16.8 billion toll road will be built to service a minute percentage of commuters and businesses who can afford to pay the expensive tolls that will eventuate. Particularly when there are so many other solutions.”

… but asset registers for national freight routes pave way for possible direct user charging

The Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Infrastructure and Regional Development Warren Truss has announced the launch by the COAG Transport and Infrastructure Council of the first set of national expenditure plans and asset registers for Australia’s key freight routes.

Mr Truss who chairs the Council said the launch was “a major milestone” in heavy vehicle road reform.

“The two products released today provide a baseline of information needed to transition to a market orientated system of heavy vehicle service provision over the longer term.”

According to Mr Truss’s release, the expenditure plans profile maintenance expenditure and capital investments planned by all levels of government on each key freight road over the next four years.

The asset registers provide ratings for each of the key freight roads according to heavy vehicle access, safety characteristics and ride quality in a format that can be viewed on mapping applications.

Mr Truss indicated that “direct user charging is needed to fully close the loop between the needs of users and the services they receive” but this reform had been “challenging”.

“This first step towards implementation, together with COAG’s decision to support the Australian Government’s response to the Harper Review, provide a solid basis for governments to accelerate reform and implement independent price regulation for heavy vehicle charges by 2017–18,” he concluded.

NSW Opal fare proposals “unfairly burden long-distance commuters”

Western Sydney Regional Organisation of Councils (WSROC) President Clr Tony Hadchiti has claimed that the NSW IPART recommendations for changes in the Opal fare structure will “encourage more Western Sydney residents to drive”

Clr Hadchiti claimed that when the Opal card was introduced the cap on distances and free journey bonuses were “celebrated as an incentive for commuters to use public transport”.

“Removing these incentives leaves little enticement for regular travellers to make the switch to public transport; in some cases it may result in a return to driving,” he said.

Clr Hadchiti claimed that commuters from outer suburban stations could face steep increases for journeys to the city, in the case of Liverpool for example an increase from $38.68 to $57.00 per week. He also suggested that reducing the number of car commuters from the outer west to the CBD has “significant system benefits”, not only reducing traffic in the city, “but also at each pinch-point along the way.”

“It is time for road tolls and public transport pricing to be looked at together; as a complete, integrated transport system,” Clr Hadchiti said.

Transport: Metro

Students v. housing redevelopment – what really happened in Sydney metro vote

A Fairfax media article has claimed that the NSW Premier Mike Baird used his casting vote at a Cabinet Infrastructure Committee meeting last month to support the proposal for a metro station at Waterloo over the wishes of four of his senior ministers who preferred the Sydney University option.

According to the article the four ministers – Treasurer Gladys Berejiklian​, the Transport Minister Andrew Constance, the Roads Minister Duncan Gay and the Health Minister Jillian Skinner – supported the Sydney University option because its high patronage provided a better business case for the metro line

They were opposed by the Deputy Premier and Police Minister Troy Grant, the Planning Minister Rob Stokes and the Social Housing Minister Brad Hazzard​, with the position of ministers on both sides largely reflecting the advice of their departments.

In the case of Mr Stokes, the article claims that UrbanGrowth​ NSW had been pushing for the Waterloo option as a trigger for the construction of thousands of apartments to pay for the rebuilding of about 2,000 social housing dwellings currently in the area. It also claims that Mr Baird was said to have been “swayed by the opportunity of improving the housing conditions of people in the area.”

Second metro line south of the harbour in doubt

Another Fairfax media article regarding the Sydney Metro claims that the NSW government’s long-term plan to incorporate a second section of existing railway line southwards from Sydnenham to Hurstville into the new link appear to be “doomed”.

The original announcement of the Sydney Metro Northwest by former transport minister Gladys Berejiklian in 2012 foreshadowed a second harbour rail crossing, extending the metro system south through the CBD then using the existing lines to link to both Bankstown and Hurstville. When the government confirmed the conversion of the Bankstown line no mention was made of the Hurstville option, though as the article notes the government has never formally dropped the plan.

Sydney Metro current map (source: Sydney Metro)

Sydney Metro current map (source: Sydney Metro)

Sydney Metro (Sydney Rapid Transit) earlier proposal

Sydney Metro (Sydney Rapid Transit) earlier proposal showing Hurstville option

According to the article Transport for NSW still insists that an extension to Hurstville is “still part of its long-term thinking” but a number of sources indicate there will be major technical difficulties compared to the Bankstown line conversion. This is because trains (including freight trains) on the existing network will still have to use the same corridor and therefore extra tunnels and tracks would be required to separate the systems.

Dropping the Hurstville option will raise another set of difficulties the article claims. While the system has the operational capacity to handle a train every two minutes through the CBD section “there is plainly no need to run trains to Bankstown every two minutes”. The article notes that the same issue applies to the line currently under construction north of the harbour but there are long-term plans to build a branch to the northern beaches.

Transport: Light Rail/Tram/BRT

Consortium selected for Canberra light rail

The ACT Chief Minister Andrew Barr and Minister for Capital Metro Simon Corbell have announced the selection of the Canberra Metro consortium as the successful tenderer to build and operate stage one of the city’s first light rail line, claiming that the project will be completed sooner and at a lower capital cost than earlier estimated.

The winning consortium, comprises Pacific Partnerships, CPB Contractors, John Holland, Mitsubishi Corporation, Aberdeen Infrastructure Investments, Deutsche Bahn International and CAF. The project involves the provision of 12km of light rail track, 13 stops, 14 light rail vehicles, a depot and 20 years of operation and maintenance.

The winning bid involved a capital cost of  $698 million and construction completion in late 2018 with operations to begin in early 2019. The Chief Minister said a decision on a possible extension to Russell will be made this year as discussions continue with the Federal Government.

Short-term “no” for Hobart light rail but review leaves the door open

The Tasmanian government has announced that it will preserve the disused rail corridor from Hobart to Granton “so that its potential for light rail passenger transport can be considered in the long term”, despite a review by Infrastructure Tasmania indicating its conversion to light rail is “not economically feasible under current conditions”

The report did suggest however that there is “potential for it to become a viable source of transport in the future.” The government said it will work with Glenorchy and Hobart City Councils to develop “a comprehensive understanding of land use planning and rezoning issues for commercial and residential opportunities adjacent to the rail corridor” because as the announcement notes, “increased land utilisation along the corridor, particularly residential, will contribute to making the light rail more sustainable.”

Hobart Riverline Light Rail Proposal Stages 1 and 2 (source: Tas. Government)

Hobart Riverline Light Rail Proposal Stages 1 and 2 (source: Tas. Government)

Despite the decision the Hobart Northern Suburbs Rail Action Group has welcomed the study’s overall findings and the Government’s pledge to work with councils and the private sector to identify development opportunities around the rail stations.

The group is concerned however by a development application from the Department of Education for a road link over line to provide a new entry to New Town High School, according to a media report. Rail Action Group president Ben Johnston said the plan risked making the corridor “untenable for future use as a rail transit route” and could be the first of many intrusions on the line.

Transport: Rail

Call for Sydney-Newcastle HSR gathers speed

Regional Development Australia Hunter CEO Todd Williams has claimed in an opinion piece that there are major economic development opportunities that provide “a business case for advocating for the Hunter to be an early participant in Australia’s east coast high speed rail (HSR) network”.

He notes that the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Infrastructure, Transport and Cities is accepting submissions as part of two inter-related inquiries; one on the role of Smart ICT in the design and planning of Infrastructure and the other on the role of transport connectivity in stimulating development and economic activity.

He claims that the Hunter has the skilled workforce necessary “to take a lead role in all phases of the construction, manufacturing, maintenance and service delivery of the HSR network” and that in turn an HSR project “could also drive an increase in skills that will be essential for future employment”.

“World-class transport infrastructure such as a high speed rail network requires vision, sustained political and financial commitment and smart planning”, Mr Williams concludes.

 Campaign for Western Sydney orbital rail line

According to media reports the recent launch in Western Sydney of the Fund our Future campaign which aims to improve funding for infrastructure in Australia’s outer suburban areas (see earlier item) also called for the construction of a new rail line connecting southwest and northwest Sydney.

National Growth Areas Alliance NSW representative and Penrith Mayor Clr Ross Fowler said such a project would be a start in meeting the transport needs of Western Sydney residents. He noted that the M7 motorway link was the start of this “north-south philosophy” but a new rail line was needed to provide an alternative to motor vehicles.

“Half of Sydney’s population is going to be living west of Parramatta by 2050 and we urgently need an ­increase in funding and longer-term planning to build the infrastructure,” Clr Fowler is quoted as saying.

“What we will be campaigning for is a rail line connecting the Campbelltown and Leppington area to Badgerys Creek airport to Penrith and the University of Western Sydney campus and flowing through to the northwest precinct near Marsden Park.”

 Penrith station gets major upgrade

Planning approval has been received for a major upgrade of Penrith Station, according to a media release from local MP Stuart Ayres.

Penrith Station view from upgraded concourse (source: Transport for NSW)

Penrith Station view from upgraded concourse (source: Transport for NSW)

“The improvements include new lifts and stairs to the platforms, an upgraded station concourse, improved bus, taxi, and kiss and ride areas, and upgrades to lighting and CCTV,” Mr Ayres said

The upgrade forms part of the Transport Access Program. According to the release $150 million has been invested in upgrades to six Western Sydney stations, including Pendle Hill, Blacktown, Wentworth Falls and Flemington.

 Costs of V/Line chaos continue to mount…

An article in the Age documents the soaring costs to the Victorian government of the V/Line crisis with hundreds of replacement train wheels on order, continuing problems with level crossings on the Pakenham line and the payment of around $250,000 a day for buses to replace affected services to regional Victoria (see TSW6).

Public Transport Minister Jacinta Allan has pledged to spend whatever it must to put an end to the crisis. “We will invest what is necessary to fix this problem and get services back up and running,” Ms Allan said.

According to the article the crisis has also disrupted of many regional Victorians who have to use the slower alternative bus services or drive long distances and it will be another six weeks until an interim safety measure has been put in place on the 21 level crossings on the Pakenham line.

Meanwhile affected wheels are being replaced or reprofiled by VLocity manufacturer Bombardier. A company spokeswoman said the company was making all efforts to return carriages to service as quickly as possible, with those still in service being monitored daily.

A follow-up article in the Age claims that the cost-cutting decisions of Corey Hannett, the Co-ordinator General now in charge of the Victorian government’s $20 billion public transport program, may have contributed to the problem.

Mr Hannett was previously responsible for the completion of the 48-kilometre Regional Rail Link between Melbourne and West Werribee, which opened in June last year. According to the paper he made a number of “scope adjustments” to reduce the cost of the project. These included using an existing flyover with tight curves at North Melbourne instead of building a new one, a decision which may have contributed to the excessive wheel wear on VLocity trains.

The article also claims that other decisions not to proceed with a flyover at Deer Park and not to remove level crossings in the same area have adversely affected performance on the Ballarat line and increased traffic congestion.

… while Fisher sees an opportunity in the current criss for the Albury line

Despite their current problems (see previous item), former deputy prime minister Tim Fischer has told the Border Mail that he believes putting VLocity trains on the Melbourne to Albury line could be as simple as using the opportunity of the VLocity wheel replacement to  exchange the current broad-gauge bogies for standard ones on two trains.

According to the article, users have long sought the 160 km/h  VLocity trains which operate on Victoria’s broad-gauge regional lines as replacements for the current ageing 130 km/h standard gauge rolling stock on the Albury-Melbourne route.

“The opportunity should be seized while they are redoing the bogies and wheels of the VLocity units to convert two VLocity units to standard gauge once and for all.

“it’s like changing a pair of slippers,” Mr Fischer said, noting that the VLocity trains were originally designed to run on standard gauge as well as broad gauge. He supported the push for the Albury line to receive a share of the next order of VLocity trains, noting the ageing N-class trains on the route “were in dire need of upgrading”.

 Council counts business benefits of Auckland City Rail Link project

Following the New Zealand’s Prime Minister’s John Key’s announcement that subject to final negotiation the government would bring forward its commitment to co-fund the City Rail Link (CRL – see TSW6), Auckland Transport has released a map showing some of the development projects which will benefit from the project.

(source: Auckland Transport)

(source: Auckland Transport)

Glyn Jones, spokesman for Auckland mayor Len Brown, is quoted as stating that 70 projects are all “within a very short distance”.

“Anywhere in the world mass-transport links are always matched with high density development, whether it is retail, commercial or residential,” he said, indicating that there are well over $2 billion development projects that will benefit from the project.

This entry was posted in Environment, Governance, Infrastructure, Local Government, Planning, Public Transport, Regions, ROCs, Sydney metro area, The Strategic Week, Transport, Western Sydney and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to The Strategic Week (no. 7, Thursday 4 February 2016) – the week in governance, planning, infrastructure and transport

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