The Consolidated Land and Rail Australia case for fast rail between “Melbourne” and “Greater Shepparton” on the way to Sydney was welcomed by communities and media when it was announced by two Turnbull Ministers, Paul Fletcher and Michael McCormack, with Angus Taylor and John Alexander in the wings, on 9 March 2018.
That was the first 190 km section of what is supposed to be a $200 billion line of eight “new cities” totalling some 1.6 million dwellings. None were to be based on existing towns and there would be no commuting.
There has been nothing but silence since. How much of the $20 million Faster Rail went to the company? McCormack’s Department will not tell us and Fletcher’s promise to tell The Age was not kept.
How can a new city near Shepparton or Albury or Goulburn help their mainstreets and residential areas – will they get more or less business, more or less residents? Will CLARA force up prices through their “value capture” so that the cities become unviable and there is overspill onto each “old town”?
Will that exclusive club kill the chances of real fast rail for regions and commuters? Will this be another case of taxpayers having to pick up the pieces after a private company becomes insolvent?
There have been so many broken dreams, is CLARA another?
As is true generally, the proponents such as John Alexander MP, and the Ministers, refuse to countenance expert opinions. Japan Rail seems to have given up and closed its Sydney Office, which had been a perpetual promise.
On 4 December 2018 Gladys Berejiklian announced that her Government had committed $4.6 million to feasibility studies of four “faster” or “very fast” train paths out of Sydney.
She gave a misleading table, showing strange differences between “under 200 km/h” and “over 200”. Moreover, she emphasised that existing tracks would be used so far as possible from Sydney to Wollongong, Newcastle, Lithgow or Canberra. The Business Chamber had proposed a fast train down the Northern Suburbs line and the Bridge – but then, Berejiklian said that would not work, and for once she was right – back in 2012!
The most outrageous statement was that she might extend “the Badgerys line” – which is fraudulent and deceitful as her and Turnbull’s City Deal castrated Badgerys and the whole of SW Sydney.
In subsequent media interviews, she insisted she was serious, that hers was the first time to look at only intra-NSW, and that her ability to deliver had been proven on the North West Rail and every other project. (At that point she was flagellated by ABC journos over the calamitous Eastern Suburbs Tram.)
Andrew Clennell pounced in The Australia, with “I’ve been laughing all morning” at outtakes from the ABC’s Utopia:
Staffer: “You can’t stop now … the PM’s very keen, the backbenchers are restless. Seriously, he’s got to come up with some 30 year vision in the next three weeks.”
“And so it seems for Gladys Berejiklian. As I understand it, the Premier was urged by some in government to either commit billions to such a project or not announce it at all”.
Andrew and the Herald missed the 1994 Bruce Baird escapade when he brought in three “tilt train” cars and shaved platforms in the Southern Highlands and Blue Mountains – and the Central Coast. Big mistake then: every train had to be towed by an existing XPT as the tilt train was incompatible with NSW’s overhead power system.
The resulting gaps between trains and platforms remain a permanent hazard to aged and infirm passenger on those lines, all as a result of another Liberal stunt. Failed engineering standards are the Berejiklian/Staples partnership’s signature as highlighted in the legal case between Berejiklian and Asciano over the ES Tram where the specs changed after the contract was signed.
This is another $4.6 million for a false business case or feasibility study or Cabinet-in-Confidence working paper, all hidden but uncovered by leaks to Peter Martin. The same is happening across the State such as $77 million put into a Spit Bridge tunnel that was predicted to fail and did – so Berejiklian quietly announced a different scheme and the media did not notice. $77 million wasted through not listening – and continuing on a gross scale with the improbable West Metro!
Not surprisingly the person driving all such schemes was also involved in the failed Hawke/CSIRO HST scheme in the 1980s. The decline in public service standards observed by Terry Moran is roaring along in NSW transport – where we still don’t have a City Plan!
The weird part of the timing is that two Turnbull “faster rail” business cases are about to be reported. This analyst’s predictions have always been that one would fail its intentions and the other would harm Newcastle/Sydney commuting and freight movements.
This is part of a politico-policy approach that starts with capricious announcements, leads to faux-reports from agencies who dress up the dead crow in peacock feathers, and broadcast pretty reports from which all key numbers have been omitted.
As Berejiklian has done so many times before. The big one was the Bankstown Metro as it included the Harbour Crossing which is deceitful at every level – so every indicator was redacted, 110 times!