JOHN AUSTEN. The Sydney metro – the doubt and mess continues.

Mar 5, 2017

A little more real information about Sydney rail development is coming to light. It is not dispelling the doubts about metro. A decision on Badgerys Creek rail, which would have been straightforward without the metro, is now ‘years off’. The extent of metro disruption is becoming evident – spreading to even non-metro lines.  

The NSW Government recently released its plan to convert the Sydenham-Bankstown line to metro; a railway incompatible with the existing extensive network. The metro will run single deck trains which although having far fewer seats than those now in use, in the Government’s eyes have the key advantage of being driverless.

Who cares? If you live in Australia, you should as your and future generations will pay.

Some aspects of the metro have been addressed in previous posts;,

To recap:

  • Even if metro is needed (which is doubtful), the first stage is in the wrong place;
  • Higher priorities for transport, rail and even metro projects were apparently ignored (the plan may render some impossible);
  • Metro will offer Sydney commuters a service inferior to that available from present trains;
  • It will lead to a reduction in commuter rail service quality and may hamstring the existing network;
  • Disclosed cost so far is north of $30billion, and much, much more may be needed for it to be fully effective;
  • It may reinforce social and economic divides in Sydney;
  • It creates headaches for transport and metropolitan planning in NSW; starting with Badgery’s Creek – another $25 billion for rail has been mentioned there;
  • Central questions remain unaddressed some five years on; such as whether it effectively prevents expansion of commuter rail into the CBDs of Sydney and Parramatta;

All this despite clear, specific and public prior warnings by Sydney’s pre-eminent transport experts.

Construction on the first stage is underway and commitments have been made to further stages. Infrastructure Australia has not given it ‘the tick’.

As has been the case since then Transport Minister (now Premier) the Hon. Gladys Berejiklian MP quickly set off the metro trajectory, the publicly funded publicity machine continues to produce slick updates about what it wants to present as important; tunnelling, track laying, bridging and ‘formal’ planning processes etc.

Yet amid the hype, two recent media reports have new clouds rolling in.

One report has current NSW Transport Minister the Hon. Andrew Constance MP saying that (the vital) rail decision on Badgery’s Creek airport is many years off because ‘some very significant homework’ needs to be done.

He also expressed interest in Commonwealth views on rail to the airport; interesting in itself as his own Department was working with the Commonwealth on options. The final report from departments, due last year, is yet to be sighted. A previous post suggested the metro may have rendered a functional airport railway extraordinarily costly or problematic; an official report writers nightmare!

Another media report has the Bankstown line closed for months in each of the next half dozen years to prepare for metro. Some are surprised at the closedowns. They should be more surprised about the new, yet slight reference to construction disrupting other lines such as the Illawarra and East Hills lines; possibly much of the existing network.

Not reported but a potential sleeper issue is the fate of 9 stations west of Bankstown. The metro plan might result in them not being served by trains at all.

As has been the case from the start, little is known about the important issues. Perhaps all will be well. Even if that highly improbable situation eventuates, there is a lesson for governments and schoolchildren alike: do the homework before the exam.

Hence the biggest surprise is that the Minister: ‘urged people concerned about the (Bankstown) line’s conversion to “look at the bigger picture in terms of the delivery of a metro train”’.

If I was in his shoes that would be the last thing I’d want at the moment.

John Austen is a happily retired, Sydney western suburbs dweller. He was Director of Economic Policy for Infrastructure Australia from its inception in 2008 until his retirement in 2014. Further background is at

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