Welcome to the tenth edition of The Strategic Week.
With this edition the structure of TSW has been tweaked slightly; there is a new “Top of the Week” section which will contain one or two key news items. The Governance section remains largely unchanged in its focus on governance, management and structural issues but the revamped Strategic Planning and Policy section now brings together items about planning, policy and funding issues at the broader strategic level, including land use planning, public transport and infrastructure planning.
Similarly the Development, Transport and Infrastructure Projects/Services section consolidates all the items regarding plans for specific projects and services as well as their implementation and associated issues. These are still organised by type and in the case of public transport, mode.
Overall the focus of TSW is still primarily on the Sydney region but with a healthy dose of items from cities and urban areas in other parts of Australia and New Zealand.
Top of the Week
Is the NSW Government going to privatise the Sydney rail network?
Channel 9 News claims that it has obtained confidential documents that show that the NSW government is actively considering reforms to deal with the poor cost recovery of public transport, including the possible privatisation of Sydney Trains.
The story also claims that Treasurer Gladys Berejiklian was advised that was an urgent need for “greater competition” for “service delivery”.It suggests that government MPs believe the sale would only involve the franchising of operations, with the rolling stock and infrastructure remaining in Government hands.
Transport Minister Andrew Constance is reported as denying that a specific proposal had been made but appears to have left the door open, claiming that past successes with privatisation would influence the government’s decision.
“We have had some success in the past with the ferries,” he said.
“I’m not going to rule anything in or out into the future but the point I would make is there is no proposal before the government.”
The state government has already leased part of the electricity network and privatised ferry services, Newcastle buses and the metro currently under construction, with the Auditor General finding that the privatisation of Sydney ferries saved taxpayers around $100 million and led to improved services.
The move has received strong opposition. Channel 9 quotes shadow treasurer Michael Daley as saying the move would mean more expensive public transport.
“If Mike Baird sells their train network, (the public) will pay much higher fares for a much worse service,” he said.
NSW Greens MP and Transport spokesperson Dr Mehreen Faruqi has also responded strongly, calling the proposal “disgusting” which would be “an unmitigated disaster”.
“The Sydney rail network is an essential public service that has been built up with decades of taxpayers money, and it must remain in public hands – plain and simple,” she said, claiming that “privatisation of public transport has a terrible track record in Australia and the world.”
“In the late 1990s, the Victorian government sold off the trains and trams in Melbourne and even today, we still see the public transport system in Melbourne suffering from the privatisation experiment”, she said.
“The Greens will fight this proposal every step of the way to ensure our train network remains in public hands, collectively controlled by the people of NSW.”
Greater Sydney Commission – an uneasy marriage?…
Researchers at Western Sydney University Dallas Rogers And Laura Schatz, have questioned whether the Greater Sydney Commission can succeed in bringing together the disparate forces involved in urban planning.
In an article on the academic website the Conversation, Rogers and Schatz claim that tensions are mounting between “the professional practices of government planners, the participatory frameworks of planning departments and the private sector’s increasing role in shaping Australian cities.”
Based on their recent research the pair claim that little consideration has been given to the “perhaps irreconcilable incongruities” of these processes. They go on to note:
“Each dictates a different source of power to set planning agendas and make planning decisions. Each also locates this power with different people in different locations or institutional sites.
“Importantly, enabling a suite of governance processes in one planning process can undermine important aspects of the others…”
While they note there has been a move away from “top-down” comprehensive planning towards a model involving direct citizen participation, they claim there is a lack of a process to incorporate community participation into the “broader technocratic planning system”.
The situation is further complicated by the increasing role of market-led development, which limits the roles both of the government professional planning sector and the desire for community participation.
“In effect, even if the government desired to delegate power to local citizens, some of that power already belongs to the private sector,” Rogers and Schatz note.
They conclude that Australian planning departments are in a “governance dilemma” and warn that a “critical reappraisal” of these planning systems is required to ensure that promises made by governments regarding citizen participation do not remain “at best, hollow and, at worst, misleading”.
… while SA councils and developers join in new partnership
The concerns raised by academic researchers about the relationship between professional planners, the community and the private sector in the planning process (see previous item) do not seem to have affected plans by peak local government and development industry bodies to work together in South Australia.
The Local Government Association of South Australia (LGA SA) and the Urban Development Industry of Australia South Australia (UDIA SA) have announced that they are joining forces in a “unique partnership agreement”.
According to a media release from the two organisations the relationship involves the LGA SA becoming a member of the a member of the (UDIA SA) and forming a Joint Committee, “which will help deliver positive development outcomes to enhance South Australian communities”. The LGA will also help sponsor the UDIA National Congress which is being held in Adelaide from March 8-10.
LGA President Mayor Dave Burgess said his organisation was “delighted to be joining the UDIA..
“This partnership and collaborative approach will allow us to better assist local communities. Local government is a driver of economic development and like Councils, property developers are a key part of good planning and local place-making,” Mr Burgess said.
“Both parties want good developments and outcomes for local communities and this is what we will be working with the UDIA through this partnership to achieve.”
Vic councils reconsider state services in light of rates cap
With 75% per cent of Victorian councils committed to the State Government’s 2.5% rate cap, Municipal Association of Victoria (MAV) President, Cr Bill McArthur has claimed that some councils are considering whether they will continue to deliver services that are a State Government responsibility.
“For decades, an increasing range of services have been provided by councils under shared funding agreements with the State. The MAV’s data shows that over time, the State’s contribution has reduced, stopped completely or not kept pace with costs – leaving ratepayers to foot the bill,” Cr McArthur said.
He noted that many agreements like school crossing supervisors and SES units were originally 50:50 funding splits with the State but were increasingly unable to meet the increasing costs involved. Cr McArthur cited the school crossing supervisors program which “began as a joint 50:50 funding split in 1975 but now only has 20% of costs covered by the State, with councils contributing $44 million a year.”
“Councils know the value of these services – they provide vital community safety and social equity outcomes. However the State’s rate cap has flushed out councils’ lowering tolerance to keep asking their communities to pay for some services that should be appropriately funded from the State Budget, Cr McArthur said.
“State cost shifting in excess of $140 million a year onto ratepayers for four services is just the tip of the iceberg. It’s simply not sustainable.”
Capital Metro Agency boss to head up Canberra’s new public transport authority
ACT Minister for Transport and Municipal Services Meegan Fitzharris has announced that Capital Metro Director-General Emma Thomas will head the new Transport Canberra agency.
From July the new agency will start operations, combining the Capital Metro Agency, ACTION and the Territory and Municipal Services public transport group
“Transport Canberra will be responsible for integrating buses with the new light rail, ensuring a single ticketing system, a central contact for information and coordinated timetabling,” Ms Fitzharris said.
“Transport Canberra will focus on making the customer service experience even better with more transport choices as our population hits almost 500,000 people by 2035.”
Strategic Planning and Policy
Federal government welcomes release of Infrastructure Australia plan
In a media statement the Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has indicated that the federal government welcomes the release of Infrastructure Australia’s 15-year Australian Infrastructure Plan, which sets out an “Infrastructure Priority List” of more than 90 potential projects and which also contains an extensive set of recommendations on reforms to improve infrastructure delivery (see TSW9).
The statement also announced “a set of funding and financing principles that will guide the Commonwealth’s approach to funding major projects, particularly in the way we engage with states and territories.” It also said that the infrastructure plan “provides a major contribution to strategic, long term thinking about Australia’s infrastructure needs and how that can be best met, but did not endorse any of the plan’s specific recommendations.
“We expect the 15 Year Australian Infrastructure Plan will spark vigorous debate about our national policy settings – including how we get the best from our existing infrastructure, and how to make wise decisions about potential new infrastructure,”, the statement says.
“The Turnbull Government will carefully consider the recommendations, and have regard to public debate, before announcing our response to them in due course”.
Ambitious public transport and light rail plans figure in council elections
Transport plans and in particular light rail proposals have become hot topics in council and mayoral election campaigns in a number of Australian and New Zealand cities. Here are just a few examples:
Auckland (NZ): as noted in TSW9, Labour’s candidate for the Auckland Mayoralty in the upcoming elections Phil Goff has started his campaign by committing to bringing light rail to the city. He has proposed a line from the Wynyard Quarter, up Queen Street, Symonds Street and down Dominion Road.
Brisbane (Qld): as reported in TSW7, Mayoral incumbent Graham Quirk has proposed a new high frequency inner city subway system to deal with growing congestion on the city’s busway network. He has also promised a new CityCat ferry and new “SpeedyCat” express CityCat Services between the City and Teneriffe.
His opponent Labor’s Rob Harding has proposed the commencement of a light rail network and has recently released more detail about this and his wider transport plans. The primary focus is a light rail line which would connect Newstead and Fortitude Valley via the CBD to the University of Queensland, with a second line proposed between Cooparoo and Suncorp Stadium. Mr Harding is also promising more frequent and reliable bus services and cheaper bus and ferry fares.
Sunshine Coast (Qld): Tony Gibson and the Greens team for the upcoming council election have committed to an extensive public transport program, including stage 1 of a light rail from Maroochydore to Kawana Hospital/Town Centre, improved bus services, a “smart roads” strategy and lobbying for heavy rail duplication between Beerburrum and Nambour, and a heavy rail link into Maroochydore.
Central Coast (NSW): While NSW councils are not due for for six months – and may yet be delayed for amalgamating councils – light rail has emerged as a future election issue for a future Central Coas Council formed from the merger of Gosford and Wyong Councils.
According to a local media report, current Wyong mayor Doug Easton has released a light rail plan which would link Gosford to The Entrance, with stops at East Gosford, Erina, Terrigal, Wamberal, Forresters Beach, Bateau Bay and Long Jetty.
“Light rail has come back into its own over the past 10 years”, Clr Easton said..
“Sydney is now putting it in from the city out to Randwick, and the Gold Coast has only recently put it in, and it’s going very well.”
“Light rail is not just great for locals, but it’s also fantastic for tourists”.
NZ government and Auckland Council agree on key transport issues
The New Zealand Government and Auckland Council have released a joint report on transport issues which has been hailed by Mayor Len Brown “as a giant step forward in agreeing Auckland’s transport investments for the next 30 years”.
The Mayor claimed that the Foundation Report from the Auckland Transport Alignment Project (ATAP) shows that the government and Auckland Council already have “a high level of agreement” on the key issues future investment must address to meet Auckland’s transport needs.
“It is clear that the views between the council and the government are extremely close in thinking,” Mr Brown said.
The Foundation Report outlines current and future transport challenges for the region and is the outcome of the first stage of the project which will agree on how the transport system needs for Auckland are developed.
The Mayor conceded that for decades council and the government had “bickered” about the city’s transport issues, “but no more” as council was now “working well” with government.
“We have a shared interest to maximise value for money across all forms of transport investments throughout Auckland,” Mr Brown said.
The mayor said that with national government support for the City Rail Link, the completion of the first stage of the alignment project meant that a “common view of Auckland’s transport future” could be delivered by August.
“Then we will be able to conclude the five years of work on alternative transport funding sources by reaching agreement with the government. ATAP represents the removal of the final hurdle for bridging that $12 billion transport funding gap,” the mayor concluded.
Why has private car modal share remained so high despite new public transport investment?
The Urbanist commentator Alan Davies has questioned the efficacy of public transport projects in reducing private car use in Australian cities.
Using federal Bureau of Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Economics (BITRE) statistics he claims that despite a drop in per capita driving rates, public transport usage in Australia’s five largest capital cities “has been depressingly low for decades, while private travel (essentially cars) continues to dominate”.
Davies examines a number of planned rail projects in Sydney and (predominantly) Melbourne, claiming that for a variety of reasons – mainly because they will provide a substitute for existing bus services – they will do little to improve public transport mode share.
Davies acknowledges that most of these projects “are worthwhile improvements” in their own right but asks why they have such little impact on mode split. He concludes that in part this is because these projects predominantly service the CBD where public transport already has a high modal share, but mainly because of the increasing suburbanisation of the population and jobs in Australian cities outside the CBD – and also because only 20% of trips are for journey to work purposes.
He claims that while “Australian cities can and should have modest but effective metro-style systems that work with our low density cities”, much stronger policies are required “that actively suppress the competitiveness of private vehicles relative to public transport”.
He concludes that “unless we’re prepared to take road space and traffic light priority away from cars so that buses and trams aren’t caught in traffic, it’s doubtful Australian cities can achieve even a modest increase in the mode share of public transport.”
Development, Transport and Infrastructure Projects/Services
NSW Premier locks in support for Newcastle light rail despite bidder’s misgivings
The Newcastle Herald has revealed that the project manager for one of the companies bidding for the Newcastle light rail project has expressed misgivings regarding the suitability of light rail for a city the size of Newcastle, at least in the form being proposed.
The reservations expressed by Mr Laurent Offroy also raised questions about the small size of the current project and urged that it be extended.
The NSW Premier Mike Baird has defended the project, saying “light rail is non-negotiable”.
“We could just have ran buses down Hunter Street, and from a purely economic point maybe that would have been easier, but we didn’t want to do the easy thing.
“Newcastle is one of our largest cities and it should have a transport system that reflects that.”,” he said, indicating he would consider extending the 2.5 km line “spine” once it is completed.
An indication that the government intends to progress with the project is the call for tenders by Transport NSW for two project managers to help oversee the project. One position will manage enabling works and road services, the other procurement and delivery of the fixed infrastructure contract. The positions will involve 12 month contracts with the options of a further 12 month plus 6 month periods.
The Newcastle Herald has also reported that Hunter Labor MPs are seeking to put pressure on the government to commit to extending the planned light rail track
“While the heavy rail line should have never been torn up, it is important to hold Mike Baird to account over his promises regarding the light rail project proposed for Newcastle, and part of that is ensuring that improved transport links are part of the current plan,” Wallsend MP Sonia Hornery said.
“Extending the light rail proposal from inner city Newcastle to the suburbs is vital to the long-term sustainability of the region … an expanded light rail project has the potential to bring thousands of jobs to our region.”
Temporary diversion of Anzac Pde for construction of Sydney light rail
Minister for Transport and Infrastructure Andrew Constance has announced that work will start in April to build a temporary six-lane road adjacent to Anzac Parade between Lang Road and the Albert Tibby Cotter Bridge to be used by traffic while a tunnel for the CBD and South East Light Rail (CESLR) is being built.
The Minister has claimed that this approach will drop the construction time of the tunnel to less than one year and reduce the impact on traffic using the road.
“Originally we were going to build the two sides of the tunnel in separate phases, which would have taken at least 16 months, but this new plan reduces the duration of inconvenience to drivers significantly,” Mr Constance said.
The temporary road will be removed once the construction is completed.
SA Premier commits to tram business case following Infrastructure Australia endorsement
Premier Jay Weatherill has said the South Australian government will commit $4 million to prepare a “rigorous business case” for the construction of the AdeLINK tram network after it was identified as a priority project by Infrastructure Australia this week (see earlier item and TSW9).
AdeLINK, part of the state government’s Integrated Transport and Land Use Plan, identifies five new tram corridors and a sixth which incorporates the current Glenelg line.
“On Wednesday, Infrastructure Australia listed our new tram network for Adelaide as a priority project, and today, we are committing to fund a detailed business case,” Mr Weatherill said.
“This work is about ensuring AdeLINK is ready to be funded, and we will be working with the Commonwealth Government and local governments to help us advance this exciting public transport project.”
Call to extend planned Canberra light rail line
The Canberra Times has reported that ACT Chief Minister Andrew Barr is lobbying both the federal government and the opposition to commit to making a cash contribution to extend the city’s planned city to Gungahlin tram to the Russell defence precinct.
According to the paper Mr Barr said the 3.2 km extension was not dependent on federal funding but that a contribution was warranted given the area was dominated by public service employment. It would involve three extra stops and about 5,600 extra trips a day, boosting patronage by 30%.
“The Commonwealth is a major beneficiary because they own most of the land. That’s why the Prime Minister invited me to put forward a proposal while we’ve undertaken some modelling looking at land uplift for them,” the paper quotes Mr Barr as saying.
“This is exactly the model that he’s talked about in terms of infrastructure funding.”
High-rise development tenders issued for Sydney Metro station airspace…
The NSW government has issued tenders for the provision of design services for six new station sites on the planned Sydney Metro City and Southwest requiring “Over Station Development”
Fairfax reports that the tender documents involve the design of high-rise towers at Martin Place, Pitt Street and Barangaroo in the city, Waterloo in the inner east, Victoria Cross in North Sydney and Chatswood..
The tender summary states that the design team Service Provider “shall provide architectural and multi-disciplinary specialist design services as required for up to two of the of six proposed over station developments, working alongside other design team services providers serving the remaining sites.
“Tenderers may bid for up to all six sites but a maximum of two sites will be awarded to any one team.”
… as designs are released for Sydney NW Metro stations
The NSW government has unveiled two life-size station models, an underground station and above-ground concourse, which have been built for official testing for the Sydney Metro North West.
‘We’re taking Sydney’s new metro stations out for a test drive to make sure we deliver the best experience possible for commuters – it’s another example of making sure our customers are at the centre this project,” NSW Transport Minister Andrew Constance said.
“These prototypes are a valuable development tool in finalising station designs and have been used in other major infrastructure projects like Crossrail in London.”
Key customer features showcased by the prototypes include sample platform screen doors, working Opal gates and machines, escalators and lifts, station and platform security cameras, video help points, toilets, as well as paving finishes, lighting and other design elements.
Urban Heavy Rail
Vic Premier seeks federal funding for Melbourne Metro with a “compelling” business case
The Victorian government has released the business case for the Melbourne Metro with the Premier Daniel Andrews writing to Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull to seek federal funding.
According to a media statement from the Premier, the business case has also been submitted to Infrastructure Australia, which had previously provided a positive assessment of the project and categorised it as a high priority.
The updated business case claims that the $10.9 billion Melbourne Metro would deliver a benefit of $1.10 for every dollar invested – or $1.50 when including wider economic benefits. It would also give the train network the capacity to carry 39,000 extra passengers in the peak and will create up to 4,700 jobs during construction.
The government has already committed $4.5 billion to the project and is seeking a matching $4.5 billion commitment from the federal Government.
“The business case for Melbourne Metro stacks up and we’re getting on with building the transport projects that Victoria needs,” the Premier said.
“Victorian tax dollars should be paying for Victorian projects. There are no more excuses – it’s time for the Prime Minister to show his commitment to public transport, and to Victoria.”
In an opinion piece in The Age, Josh Gordon assess the likelihood of the Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull agreeing to the Premier’s request. Gordon notes that this project has a much stronger case than the ill-fated East West Link and that funding the metro project would also be able to answer claims Victoria has been “badly short-changed by the Commonwealth on infrastructure”. Doing so might also assist the government politically in the run-up to the next election.
He concludes however that the “parlous state” of the federal budget would make agreement to provide the full $4.5 billion unlikely and that while the federal government may provide some funding it is likely to fall short of this total.
… as Melbourne Metro project attracts market interest
The Victorian Treasurer Tim Pallas has claimed that the Melbourne Metro project has attracted strong field of expressions of interest from Australian and overseas companies.
A total of 44 organisations from 11 different countries have formally registered their interest in the largest package of works which includes construction of two nine-kilometre rail tunnels and five underground stations, as well as financing, operating and maintaining this infrastructure.
According to the Treasurer additional works will be delivered through separate procurement packages, including relocation of existing services, reconfiguration of existing tracks and signalling upgrades.
In a separate statement Minister for Public Transport Jacinta Allan announced the three bidders short listed for the next phase of the Melbourne Metro Early Works package tender process.
These works include the relocation and protection of underground services such as gas, sewer and water mains, the relocation of trees and other road features and the design and construction of access shafts.
The companies selected were
- CPB Contractors (formerly Leighton Contractors)
- John Holland KBR JV – comprising John Holland Group and KBR, Inc (formerly Kellogg Brown & Root)
- Lend Lease Coleman Rail JV – comprising Lend Lease Engineering and Coleman Rail Pty Ltd
“Today’s shortlist announcement paves the way for formal proposals and contract award by the middle of the year, the start of early works in 2017 and major construction in 2018,” the minister said.
Benefits of Auckland City Rail Link questioned amid claims that rail system needs an extra $1.4 bn
According to media reports the Auckland rail network requires a further $1.4 billion in upgrades over and above the $2.5b to be spent on the City Rail Link (CRL) for the system to hit “maximum potential”.
Auckland councillor George Wood claims that at a council infrastructure committee meeting last September a KiwiRail presentation indicated that about $400m would be needed prior to the CRL opening to upgrade the wider rail network.
On top of that, between $500m and $1b would be needed after completion of the CRL.
Meanwhile Radio NZ has pursued a freedom of information request to obtain documentation relating to the timing of the government’s contribution to CRL. One of the documents obtained is a heavily-redacted NZ Treasury report on the proposal for an early commitment which indicates that the total project cost is likely to be $2 to $3 billion (p.5).
More significantly the document while acknowledging that Auckland Council places considerable importance on the CRL as a “city-shaping project”, claims that its economic case is “not strong”, based on joint work conducted by the council and government some years earlier.
As a result the report states that “Treasury and the Ministry of Transport consider that the likely benefit to cost ratio for the project would be somewhere between 0.4 and 0.9” and that it would have only a “modest” impact on Auckland’s congestion. The rationale for this argument has been redacted from the report however and it is also unclear whether the cost benefit estimate was based on the current project or an earlier proposal.
Perth airport rail link contractor selected
Western Australian Transport Minister Dean Nalder has announced that “an unincorporated joint venture”, comprising Salini Impregilo S.p.A. and NRW Pty Ltd, has been selected as the “preferred respondent” to deliver the main works for the Forrestfield-Airport Link.
Negotiations to finalise the contract by May 2016 will now begin between SI-NRW JV and the Public Transport Authority of Western Australia.
“We envisage the contractor will mobilise on site in the coming months,” Mr Nalder said.
“This is an incredibly exciting time for a project that will change the way the people of Perth, and in particular Perth’s eastern foothills, travel to our city.”
Rail: HSR, Regional, Freight, Other
Real time data extended to NSW regional transport services
NSW Minister for Transport and Infrastructure Andrew Constance has announced that regional users will be able to access real-time information for regional train and coach services.
“The data will be available across eight transport apps, providing regional customers with the most up to date information currently available, with train updates recorded every 30 seconds and coach services every few minutes” Mr Constance said.
“For the first time regional customers will have access to the same information about their services as our metropolitan customers, and as Future Transport progresses, there will be more improvements on the horizon for regional customers.”
According to the Minister’s statement, NSW TrainLink users will be able to access real-time information for North Coast, North Western, Southern and Western regional train and coach services. The data will also be available for the South Coast line between Kiama and Bomaderry and the Blue Mountains, Hunter and Southern Highlands lines.
V/Line trains – 1,000 wheels still need to be fixed
According to media reports the Interim CEO of V/Line Gary Liddle told a Victorian parliamentary hearing on Tuesday that more than 900 train wheels on VLocity railcars still need to be repaired or replaced.
The repairs are being carried out because of the detection of excessive wheel wear on the Victorian regional trains (see TSW6). Mr Liddle indicated that 252 VLocity wheels had been replaced so far, but 420 still had to be replaced and a further 488 would be relathed.
V/Line has also replaced 800 metres of track on the North Melbourne flyover which had been in use for just 18 months (see TSW9). Buses are still supplementing V/Line services, with full services not expected to resume until late June.
Better services and new buses for south Auckland
Auckland Transport has announced that South Auckland residents will get more bus services when new contracts come into effect later this year.
The new contracts being signed between Auckland Transport and a number of bus companies will also be delivered for $3.1 million less cost. In addition a “new fleet of state-of-the-art, low-emission buses” and new standards of service will be introduced.
According to the statement bus users will also see a 21% increase in hours of operation and a 15% increase in kilometres covered by the services. Despite being provided by different companies, all the buses will appear in the AT Metro livery.
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