Sydney MetroMania and Politico-Economic Defoulement
The purpose of “Save Sydney” and sydneyimprovementpolitics.com is to have accepted an “improvement” philosophy and methodology by Federal and State Governments, in emulation of the great reform processes of Sydney between 1900 and 1912 to `32, and Newcastle in 1997-98. The Governments’ approach is an increasingly-unsuccessful pastiche of lobby manipulations, Party gifting, political appointments and community de-democratisation.
Several recent (2016-18) analyses are attached as in-depth treatments of political and technical failings as well as indicators of the collapse of the 2011-12 “business case reforms” which were supposed to ensure due diligence and confidence in the infrastructure pipeline, but which had the opposite effects – a breakdown in the integrity of planning, projects and budgets. Retro-government Sydney’s Improvement + Collapse in credibility in Sydney Transport + NSW Business Cases for Major Project Development Paths
I was lead consultant for Clean Air 2000 and CCOG asked me to prepare this document but it was not released, it is a landmark regardless Economies & Efficiencies in Urban Transport (c)
The main game follows this NSW Budget scrap
Berejiklian’s 2020 Budget Deceits
We’re getting close to the point of asking whether the Federal and NSW Treasuries are sufficiently competent and independent to perform their duties.
The Sydney media have broadcast the NSW Government’s Budget PR without analysing the implications, as the “mega building” $90 billion ceiling is broken for the first time (SMH) and ABC’s stenographic repetition would have us believe.
Journos should know better, after all the work done within Fairfax over time to expose cretinous secret documents including the direction to exclude transit from F6 corridor studies, which breaches every due diligence instruction “in the world” (virtually).
The details are set out in fulsome detail on these webpages but in short, value-for-money, intergenerational equity, economic efficiency, social justice, and commercial returns require much better people and processes than are seen in NSW – agencies, executives, Representatives, crafts and guilds, lobbies and unions.
Foremost are the fused operatives who do not respect “Menzies” or Eddington, past heroes or democracy – the whole circuit of politicians, ex-pollies in lobbies, banks (“Sir Desmond”) and the corporate vultures who now rule surveillance agencies and push “Belt & Roads”.
The first task of a Budget is to match needs with resources as best a Government can do. Over long periods priority was given to older areas in what Turnbull called “anachronistic spatial determinism”. Detroit, Baltimore and other cities have shown us the real consequences of broken Treasury processes. (This analyst is in course of publishing in the UK a comparative case study of Baltimore and Sydney, with a prominent American peer.)
Problems in NSW included rapscallion capriciousness which saw Labor chop and change metros in absolute confusion under the influence of unskilled advisors, with 10,000 people receiving up to $5,000,000,000 worth of three stations! The Coalition promised to end that “planning stench”, the “backroom deals”, the “metro fiascos”.
The then head of NSW Treasury, now head of the national Treasury, was on the Audit Commission that said this nonsense must stop; but he is now shovelling gold and diamonds down the throats of lobbies and consultants and killing better ideas, as explained below.
Gladys Berejiklian took the low road and has been careering down the metro track without brakes, to the point where her first project has failed commercially but still gets money from the Budget, its West sibling is luxuriating with lots of moolah going to buddy consultants given no valid protocols, and the Feds and NSW are fused in trying to get up a West Metro that is vastly higher in risk and cost as well as timespan than the alternative Greiner iNSW/RG option.
Here are the details as including the 2019-20 FY:
- Sydney City & Southwest $7,315,296,000 ($7.3 billion) – patronage 1/10th of financial goals alone, the “Metro” was 17% over-expended in the last year
- St Marys $248,800,000 ($249 million) – worse commercial risk, nil patronage prospects
- West $146,124,000 ($146 million) – “$20 billion and 10 years late”.
However, the stinger is on page 118 of the boring document: expenditure on the WestMetro will be $6,400,000,000 over the next 4 years, so the “current” figure as presented (being 2% of that ) is misleading.
Even then, the current total of St Marys and West is a little south of where the same metromaniacs took Labor (about $500 million so they’re up to close to a billion) without due diligence.
Funnily enough, a few years ago I explained to a senior planner that the West was a dud, and he said, “but they’ve spent so much on it!”. Indeed, that is the crime, then and increasingly still.
The financial failure of the current Metro is documented below.
Next, the Budget should have great ideas in it for meeting new challenges, and maintaining the best assets our predecessors worked so hard to leave us.
In Transport alone, there are 106 major projects, of which 60% have no target cost or cap. This is unbelievable Treasury incompetence cascaded down to line agencies which are under the Premier’s sight lines. Every project should have been defined in line with iNSW guidelines to a t, with Treasury acting as it used to, preventing blunders. Asset maintenance is the first victim of Budget sloppiness and that’s not good enough where there is little focus on minor asset and maintenance sections.
There is no sign of funding known deficiencies such as “Morrison’s Backyard” of congestion-riddled freight pathways; nor the crippling congestion coming off WestConnex at Rozelle. Again Berejiklian is thumbing her nose at the Feds and real communities.
Faster Rail was one of Berejiklian’s loopier ideas before the election but she brought out yet another British expert and anticipated devoting $4.6 million to 5 routes – but has allocated $295 million, which needs a thorough explanation as the Feds have put $40 million into 5 other options and Berejiklian said “she’d go it alone”. Given her record of failure, matched by the Feds’, this is a real worry situation.
The Circular Quay refurbishment, a signature tourism element, was promoted as receiving $200 million but all that is “approved as a project” is $18.5 million.
The Wynyard Walk was “inspired” by this analyst’s Barangaroo Expressnet which was estimated to cost $17 million. The Walk started at $100 million in Berejiklian’s usual magnanimous manner, rose to $300 million, a little less than the escalation in the ES tram, but has passed $317 million. C’est la vie en l’etat de l’incertitude.
The Main game – the Morrison/Frydenberg/McCormack Dilemmas
The Deputy PM, Minister for Infrastructure, Hon Michael McCormack MP, promised some 50 days ago to seriously discuss the context but has failed to do so. That has been the experience for some 5 years. The additional element is the criminal “cherry-picking” of “Save Sydney” (plagiarism) by the same governments and their agencies.
The Morrison/Frydenberg Budget 2019 continued a planning excrescence of the gravest type by gifting $3,500,000,000 to a project that has no legitimacy and no operational feasibility. The inbuilt gifting of $100 million to buddy consultants was not enough – that should have been stomped on as soon as Morrison replaced Sun King Turnbull, but no. Coming as the realisation is sinking in that the new North West Metro is technically insolvent as had been predicted by rational economists over many years, the St Marys Metro is an even worse prospect.
Added to that is the “$100 billion over 10 years” infrastructure treasure chest which turns out to be “spend $200 billion to get $100 billion” = a con job (www.sydneyimprovementpolitics.com/%24100-billion-masquerade). There are “real world consequences”:
- intergenerational equity is damaged to such an extent that future generations will take about three decades to recover from the metro, tram and connex design and process mistakes that are documented throughout this site and sydneyimprovementpolitics.com
- ministers embed professional PR spinners in their inner sanctums, leading to tin ears to matters of economic, social, environmental and Budget substance – see http://www.sydneyimprovementpolitics.com/ia-insw-warnings-%26-alerts
- political distortions to economic credibility – the WS City Deal was a stunning example of Turnbull holding up a golden orb in one hand while torching freight and ports, rail commuting, Parramatta CBD and the Aerotropolis etcetera with the other. It was a sucker punch to local councils, the media and future generations. These aspects are richly documented on this website
The PM’s own electorate is desperately short of that $3.5 billion yet the “Turnbull barnacle” that can be seen from space continues because NSW and the Feds have expunged “due diligence”: the Feds are fused with a NSW plan-less “planning stench” (O’Farrell 2010), and mindless project cycle which can be summarised as, “who wears the britches” and the fable’s “the Empress has no clothes”!
Sydney is going through a rail-based technological climacteric at a time of local and national economic stagnation, strong population growth, over-supply of housing, and investor worries about broken infrastructure expectations.
There is no “plan” but there is also no “brain”. Every project is being pumped through the centre and out again, causing massive unnecessary congestion and expense. Ron Christie and this analyst worked out that the sensible way, an orbital from Hurstville to Strathfield, as the cheapest project in Sydney, would take 7 trains off the City Circle and 5 off the Bridge between 8 and 9 am (as an example). The Metro does the opposite which is an economic monstrosity. Add the dramatic customer benefits as explained in the flows in the Urban Transport Statement of 2006.
It was stated clearly in 2009 by the Planning Institute and the Property Council that it’s time to bite the bullet and cease Labor’s psychotic promise-the-world metromania; but in 2012 the O’Farrell Coalition betrayed their own fundamental election promise, lied about the metros they pulled from Labor’s putrid pantry, and dumped the 2009 COAG instruction to prepare a “city plan” before any further “chaos” decisions were made.
The sometimes-acknowledged need to improve community confidence produced a promised “new paradigm of engagement” from Planning Minister Stokes, who morphed that into state-sponsored compulsory property acquisitions, social damage, and forced densification along transit lines by the agency that was to deliver that paradigm, the Greater Sydney Commission, which is plan-less and has no needs analyses, meaningful planning and assessment criteria, or matrix of generally-respected project options.
There are economists sprinkled across ministerial offices in Fed and state hierarchies but no sign that economics has been heard of in the key processes.
The technical name for state dominance in political science is “fascism” although it might be more diplomatic to say “Central European state socialism”. Stokes said that GSC would “operationalise the Government’s plans”. That also befits the dictatorial behaviour of the NSW central Cabinet cabal which suppresses internal and community concerns and gifts $$$ to crony developers and lobbies.
The “elephant in the room” is the ideological and mercantile determination of both sides of mainstream politics to exploit axial metro train and tram corridors in what the former PM Malcolm Turnbull described as an exciting new way of financing infrastructure whose time had come. The medium is the PRC majority-owned MTR from Hong Kong, which has been given a privileged place in community forums even where it had no legitimate standing. Its cosy relationships with Labor and Coalition Ministers were recorded in public diaries.
The paper that is attached was produced through a series of self-edits from
- 2008 when NSW Labor was in a lunatic state, but its Treasurer sponsored an expert and independent review of the North West Metro – the only such independent benefit/cost study in existence, through to
- 2012 when the Coalition broke its major election promises, brutalised Greiner/iNSW and committed a blatant act of deceit, to
- 2013-4 when Treasurer Baird and Transport Minister Berejiklian distorted Port privatisation terms so as to strip-out cash at the cost of system performance, at a time the industry was angry about insufficient port capacity to support economic sustainability, to
- 2015-6 when the community damage, cost over-runs and route confusion inanities produced by poorly pre-planned tram, metro and tollroad projects truly exploded, to
- 2016 when then Premier Baird and now-Treasurer Berejiklian self-immolated over Northern Beaches and even more illegitimate MTR-based projects, ignoring a major private effort to assess the costs of damage to the legacy Bradfield rail system, and PM Turnbull sought to strengthen port monopoly distortions, to
- The consolidation of all property and related development activities – planning, approval processes, the negotiation and implementation of commercial contracts, and political decision-making – in the departmental structure of the Premier who has a track record of failed project politics and economics, to
- 2019 and the opening of the North West Metro with the delivery of proof that the 2008 study was right – the project is not viable. It shows already a need for subsidisation of over 95% of its costs Vs the 2012 Greiner option which would be viable at current patronage levels and have been in place 5 years ago – the epitome of Berejiklian’s style.
The metro lobbies are ignoring reality, running intensive and expensive TV “whoopee”ads, and promising to deliver even more metros, in even more places, than their progenitor Labor’s worst efforts. The results will include further deprivation of economically-justified “options”, increasing operating deficits, operational unreliability and special events curtailments, and increasing doubts about value capture in all of its aspects.
The media and NGOs have not demonstrated the ability to maintain a perspective of “the whole” over a long planning cycle that has many detailed controversies – the forest and the trees problem. This is especially so when governments are proponents and investors, being conflicted with their commercial Vs whole-of-society intergenerational, fair and equitable taxation, and national and international relationships responsibilities.
Indeed, given the failures of the main planks of democracy, and facing the prospect of structural congestion, high living costs, environmental damage and economic malaise, the question must be asked, “who can we trust”?
Summary of economic confusion
The point of economic analysis is to provide a proper basis for comparison of options in contexts which range from simple, such as a vehicle purchasing decision, through to very complex, such as a new airport. Benefit/cost analysis is the most valuable guide to complex planning challenges, but the only one conducted on Sydney’s key needs rang loud sirens – don’t do the NW Metro!
NSW post-2012 has nothing. The “biggest transit project in Australia” had a joke of a “summary business case” that had 110 (100%) redactions. Andrew Clennell, state political editor in the Tele issued a breathless “SYDNEY’S long-awaited new southwest rail line will be the “ultimate congestion buster”, carrying up to a staggering 60 trains an hour”, when the reality is probably 4 and maybe 15 until another metro has to share the central track (the dumbest mistake made in the world!).
The Minister for Transport has said in public that he might have to jack-up corridor taxes to make up for (unquantified) financial failures.* He also said that the project was so thin on commercial returns that he might have to subsidise private hotel developments by “several billions”.
This analyst said from the beginning that the “Baird Model” of real-estate- or developer-led project setup would not work, but Berejiklian threw out the baby, the bath, the bath mat, the towels and the mummy.
* Turnbull proclaimed that “value capture” would save the world, my response appeared in onlineopinion, he retreated somewhat.
There are two charts which show that Berejiklian is fixated on “too expensive, too slow to deliver, too ineffective, and too risky, one of which follows (in due course) and the other chart is at the top of sydneyimprovementpolicitics.com. A pen sketch of the main economic dimensions, “the evidence”, is:
|NW & CBD/Bankstown Metro||
|St Marys Metro||
|St George & Sutherland||
|Port of Newcastle||
|North Shore corridor||
The NSW and Fed Governments have expert economists coming out of their ears, but the results show economic heresy. There is a lack of urban and transport economics in the shells of the agencies and support units left in the wake of the politicisation of the public services – see this as just one example: https://www.smh.com.au/politics/federal/can-thodey-or-shorten-stop-bleeding-in-the-public-service-20190329-p518sq.html.
The rest of this document is a fresh perspective on the effects of political appointees in embedding “ideology & stupidity” projects which are divorced from “city plans” and credible budgeting frameworks; and journalism which has failed to meet professional standards.
WEB LINKS – MAIN EXAMPLES
The current website has many case studies on the matters raised here. sydneyimprovementpolitics.com has many umbrella matters including commentary on Berejiklian’s Big Lies, congestion-busting, Morte d’Menzies and so on. Port and Freight matters are richly documented at http://www.thinkinglogicallogistics.info.
Plagiarism & case for sale of IP
https://sydneysimprovementpolitics.com/the-evil-of-plagiarism valuing what I’m owed
https://sydneyimprovementpolitics.com/prejudicing-generations hurting coming generations
https://sydneyimprovementpolitics.com/le-morte-dmenzies defeating Menzies
https://sydneyimprovementpolitics.com/the-value-proposition my great ideas, worth squillions
https://www.theland.com.au/story/5748879/rail-gaps/ community sustainability on the line as politicians fiddle
https://thinkinglogicallogistics.info/export-air-hub%3F the Nats entangle themselves in fishing line
http://www.onlineopinion.com.au/view.asp?article=17508 sad case of the Blue Mountains
West Metro and Aerotropolis