This is an independent view on the Sydney transport system and the litany of broken promises associated with it. This article is written by Ben Sandilands, and published by crikey.com.au on Friday, 14 December 2007.
Ben Sandilands writes:
In a curtain raiser to the silly season in Sydney, commuters are struggling to digest the linking of the $15 billion power privatisation/metro building/Iemma-escapes-from-being-Premier scenario outlined earlier this week by Crikey's Alex Mitchell.
City Rail, under its assorted logos and names under a string of Labor and Liberal premiers, has never completed a single rail project in full. It can’t even make the pitifully antiquated system it has today work with any semblance of efficiency. Nor the buses, or ferries, or their ticketing systems.
And Morris Iemma somehow expects people will elect John Watkins on the back of a promise to built a much needed metro system more than 10 times larger by any measure than the one it abjectly fails to run today.
The highlights of this grotesque and entrenched culture of total dysfunctionality in public transport include:-
The Chatswood to Parramatta line which supposed to open next December. It will open, perhaps even a few months early, but will only go as far as Epping, which is barely half way, even though most of the final stretch to Parramatta has already existed for decades as a little used surface line.
The stations are gorgeous, glittering neo modern masterpieces except for one problem: the tunnels that link them are so steep where they pass under the Lane Cove river that half the rolling stock in the suburban fleet can’t get up the grades without an unacceptable risk of bursting into flames from overheated motors.
The airport line which opened in 2000 went broke and has only recently found a new buyer. It is almost totally useless or uneconomic depending on where you set out from or if you try to board it with bulky luggage or if two travellers share a taxi.
The eastern suburbs line which was fitfully built between 1926 and its final completion in 1979 only goes as far as Bondi Junction, on the edge of the eastern suburbs.
Hundreds of buses cram the roads between Central and the University of NSW each day because the station that would have seen thousands of students complete their journeys in minutes was never built.
Even a minor extension to Bondi beach was canceled because residents led by actor Michael Caton, objected that it would be too successful in transporting the public to ‘their’ beach.
So much for ‘public’ transport.
And despite years of pledges and the waste of tens of millions of dollars, the city’s public transport system has failed to master the stored value ticketing technology most of the world has been using on a large scale since at least 1974.
If today’s trains could be made to work, the metro plan might lurch toward borderline credibility. Trouble is, that Iemma and Watkins think they are working, and every person using them knows they are in the hands of fools and liars.