Two conflicting transport visions – which will come true?

George St as it could be.

Trams running along George St connecting the CBD to the University of NSW.  A second harbour rail crossing to allow trains to run directly from Kellyville to the City on the new North West Rail Link.  Government investment in encouraging more people to cycle.

All these are ideas put forward in the state government’s draft long term transport masterplan, and if you’re passionate about efficient, sustainable and equitable public transport like I am I imagine you’ll be quite excited by them.  While the masterplan is vague on details in a lot of places and has a number of dubious suggestions – like converting large numbers of rail lines to only run single deck trains, sacrificing capacity for supposed quicker loading times – it is more progressive than most would expect from the NSW government, which had previously shown itself to have no plans for transport beyond privatising all it could and doing what the car lobby told it to.

Sadly, earlier this month the government seemed to revert to it’s old ways when Infrastructure NSW, a body headed by former Liberal Premier Nick Greiner, released it’s report into priority infrastructure for the state. Rail projects of the sort outlined in the transport masterplan got only token mentions and were mostly pushed off into the distant future.  The big focus was on buildings roads, with a glossy video declaring that a $10 billion expansion of the M5 and M4 was the single most important infrastructure project for the state and that everything else just had to wait.

This is an incredibly short sighted vision and seems more about the government shedding its reputation for inaction than actually fixing any problems in the long term.  Increasing motorway capacity does nothing to help congestion, study after study having shown that any new capacity added very quickly fills up, resulting in the same level of congestion, just involving more cars (and producing more pollution).  The plan would direct masses of traffic to places like Ultimo and Alexandria and result in noxious fumes being pumped out across suburbia as a result of a tunnel to be bored between Camperdown and St Peters.

I can only hope that of the two conflicting stories being spouted by the government it is the one in the transport masterplan that prevails.  While this plan is far from perfect it at least recognises the importance of an effective public transport system in removing congestion from Sydney streets, improving quality of life for commuters and reinvigorating businesses in the City and elsewhere.  I’ve made a submission to the government in this regard and will be working hard, both through the Council and elsewhere, to make sure that this confused government doesn’t cripple Sydney with a shortsighted vision of motorways.

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