Fears plan will hinder hopes for high-speed rail
Sydney Morning Herald, 27 August 2012
THE state's business lobby has lashed out at the O'Farrell government's major plan for the future of Sydney's train system, warning that it could forever preclude the development of high-speed rail through the city. A report commissioned by the state's business chambers says the government's plan for a second rail crossing of Sydney Harbour fails to consider using that crossing for high-speed trains, which could come from either Newcastle, the central coast or the Illawarra, or eventually from the ACT, Queensland or Victoria.
Instead, the government is planning to limit the crossing to frequent single-deck trains coming from the north-west rail link, which would cruel the possibility of running long-distance fast trains into the city for many decades to come.
This is despite the stated preference of the Premier for a high-speed rail network on Australia's east coast, rather than a second Sydney airport.
''However, the NSW government's plans for rapid transit operation of the north-west rail link and a second Sydney Harbour rail crossing could very well lock out the most cost-effective way of delivering both a high speed rail network through Sydney's CBD and Sydney's rail network itself,'' Mr Cartwright said.
Since 2001, government designs for a second harbour crossing have included the possibility of running fast trains from the central coast and Illawarra through that crossing.
But the state government's plan, released in June, to expedite the signing of tunnelling contracts for the north-west rail link, is silent on this possibility.
Instead, the government would build the north-west rail link for single-deck trains, running in a shuttle between Rouse Hill and Chatswood.
In time, the plan envisages running those single-deck trains over a second harbour crossing, through the city, and linking with the Illawarra line and the Bankstown line.
Today's report, commissioned by the NSW and Sydney Business Chambers and prepared by the Tipping Point consultancy, says this plan for the north-west rail link ''is configured to improve its attractiveness as a public-private partnership'' without considering the long-term interests of the city.
''It is generally unviable for high-speed rail services to share with the rapid transit trains proposed to travel the second harbour crossing,'' the report says.
''In effect, the NSW government's recent proposal has planned high-speed rail out of the current network, which will mean that the economic gain of integration is not realised, thereby placing the development of a high-speed rail network at risk.''
Mr Cartwright said he was in favour of the north-west rail link but the state government should revise its plan.
The Transport Minister, Gladys Berejiklian, defended the government's proposals. ''Around the world, high-speed rail does not operate well when forced to integrate with suburban or rapid transit systems,'' she said.