National Infrastructure Coordinator, Michael Deegan, has confirmed that the NSW Government's analysis of the North West Rail Link is still being considered for Infrastructure Australia to recommend the project join the national infrastructure priority list.
Mr Deegan said, “Infrastructure Australia is an independent advisory body to governments, industry and the community. It is supported by both sides of politics.”
“Our role is to provide independent advice on projects in order to protect taxpayers' money.”
“It is up to governments to then decide which projects to fund.”
“I acknowledge that the NSW Government has undertaken some good work in developing the proposal for the North West Rail Link,” said Mr Deegan.
“Whilst that work is worthwhile, it has not yet made a compelling case for this project.”
“A further meeting to progress this matter had been proposed for today by Infrastructure Australia, though the NSW Government has at the last minute declined to attend.”
Mr Deegan said, “We have to remember that we are talking about a project estimated to cost $8.5 billion. It is not a small amount of money.”
The NSW Government submission provided only preliminary economic analysis and that analysis shows that on the Government's own figures the project is of marginal economic benefit.
Mr Deegan said, “In addition, the submission has left unanswered the question as to how rail network capacity problems from Chatswood into the CBD are to be addressed. There may be interim solutions, for example terminating some trains on the lower north shore, but these have not been presented to us.”
“At a deeper level, we also have a question about whether this project is obviously the highest priority project in Sydney.”
“If this project goes ahead, what other projects do not go ahead?” Mr Deegan said.
“Unless we look at different ways of funding transport projects, the harsh reality is that government budgets probably only have enough capacity over the next 25 years to build two new rail projects in Sydney.”
“We want to make sure that, before governments commit significant funding to these sorts of projects, we are absolutely sure they represent the best way of meeting Sydney's long term needs.”
Mr Deegan said, “With Sydney growing to a population of between 6–7 million in the next 30 years, and much of that growth occurring in western Sydney, we might be better served by a north west link that can build up Parramatta as a second CBD.
“I stress that I'm not talking about the Parramatta-Epping rail link. That project is not on Infrastructure Australia's priority list.”
Mr Deegan concluded, “Compared to the level of analysis we have seen from some other governments, on similarly large projects, the analysis to date from the NSW Government on the North West Rail Link is quite limited.”
“Those other submissions have provided detailed economic analysis, rigorous assessment of project risks and complete environmental impact statements.”
“That work has not yet been undertaken for the North West Rail line.”
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