Downing Inland Rail & the Aerotropolis

PM TURNBULL PUT MORE THAN $10 BILLION INTO THIS INLAND DREAM OF MANY, BUT WALKED AWAY, BACK TO THE LATTE ‘BURBS.  BEREJIKLIAN AND TURNBULL PROMISED THE WORLD AT BADGERYS AND DELIVERED CHAFF

The best that our Federal and State Governments can offer distressed rural regions does not inspire confidence that we will see results anytime soon.

His ARTC is so busy with its many conflicts of interest that it seems to be doing nothing well – Inland Rail, Newcastle’s long rail by-pass, the SW Outer Orbital, the Botany faux-duplication – all wrecks.

The Riverina is looking to establish a direct air hub based on the Toowoomba model;  while the Port of Eden is being upgraded to accept two container ships per week, the boxes destined for Canberra.  There is no planning framework – and no rail involvement, the trucking implications being very significant.  Regional airlines folded due to lack of economic foundations, there is a risk that local frustrations will defeat lazy Coalition and Labor Governments.

To illustrate, in 23 October NSW Nationals’ leader John Barilaro had said that “absolutely …”, western district farmers and primary producers would “benefit from a container port at Newcastle”.  Newcastle has no economic rationale for major container investment under even its own mantras.  Jake Saulwick said in the Sydney Morning Herald that “The question was met with muted laughs from the audience”.

Barilaro then said on the next day that NSW’s share of the Snowy Hydro Scheme would be used to deliver transformational projects that would “help secure a future” for young people in regional NSW”.

He talked about more support for the Parkes intermodal terminal on the Inland Rail “bridge” that runs from Melbourne to Brisbane.  Parkes gets preference over Newcastle for collating regional products under his Government’s new Freight & Ports Plan.  Many freight corporates support that.  Newcastle and Kembla ports have no access to Inland Rail.

He added, the government was also investigating an “international air freight hub” to be established in a regional centre, with the aim of giving local producers “significant competitive advantages”.

Politicians seem to confuse communities and to be confused within their own Parliaments, with NSW Nats’ Roads and Ports Minister tied to Port Botany and fighting her leader’s Newcastle  push (which he, himself, denied Snowy funding to);  while the Federal Nats are siding with many disastrous legacies left over from the same city-centric Turnbull’s Botany conspiracy.  That includes downplaying the freight capacity at the new Badgerys second airport (see AEROTROPOLIS).

Inland Rail cannot but has to connect with Kembla, Botany and Newcastle, if it’s to make sense.

So the Bush is looking at an Inland Rail that doesn’t connect with NSW Ports, and possibly not with Brisbane, we’ll see;  and a fast train that cannot be built with no other option on the table.  Putting more money into Parkes brings headlines but not better services.  An air cargo hub would be nice but could it really be anywhere other than Badgerys?

Theoretically, if our Governments were smart, that “bridge” could build community sustainability along the corridor of communities it reaches.

AEROTROPOLIS WITHOUT REAL EMPLOYMENT & AIR FREIGHT BENEFITS

The biggest announcement in Australian aviation for decades came on 15 March 2018 when the then Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and NSW Premier Berejiklian announced that an AEROTROPOLIS would be developed around the Second Sydney Airport, delivered through the Greater Sydney Commission.

The GSC Western District Plan (released on 15 March 2018) stated that The opportunity for Western Sydney Airport to anchor and catalyse a Western Economic Corridor is created by the first stage in a North South Rail Link and potential extensions and the Outer Sydney Orbital, both of which are planned to have connections to Western Sydney Airport.

This was in contrast to the former PM Tony Abbott’s “GO” button to Badgerys Creek in April 2014, as a “belt and braces” exercise, which after being “shirked and squibbed by successive governments for far too long,”, would have “roads first, airport second, because we don’t want the people of western Sydney to have an airport without having the decent transport infrastructure that western Sydney deserves.”  (He had vowed to stop Labor’s inner south-west Moorebank container terminal.)

Turnbull’s plan was to combine the Federal airport plan with State land use and infrastructure plans so that the airport-based cluster of facilities would become a “Greater West City” (aka on different days, a “Western Parkland City”).

Sydney observers had witnessed many planning blunders and broken promises over previous decades and cynicism was to be expected.  The 1990s decision by then Transport Minister Bruce Baird to impose super-tariffs on station tickets to the rail link to Kingsford Smith Airport had frustrated workers and tourism lobbies ever since.  Jumping to 2015, few current planning professionals could predict the further series of catastrophes that was to come.

In mid-September 2015 Turnbull replaced Abbott and began a climacteric in Sydney’s history.  He promised that “we will reduce congestion in our cities”, and that “Integration is critical …. Infrastructure should be assessed objectively and rationally on its merits”.  He denounced “ideology and stupidity”.  And then he did the opposite with the transit connections across Badgerys and the west and south west as well as innerwest of Sydney, his wife Lucy’s GSC forcing-through the metros instead of its supposed mission of “orderly development”.

In October 2016 the Daily Telegraph reported leaked GSC documents as saying the Aerotropolis would feature “high speed rail as part of efficient passenger transfer”.  It added that “an intermodal freight hub will allow the transport of goods from the airport to greater Sydney and beyond”.  (Badgerys is just under 50 kms west of KSA by road.)

The NSW Deputy Premier, John Barilaro, echoed this on 25 October 2018 regarding use of Snowy Hydro privatisation, with “the government was also investigating the potential for an “international air freight hub” to be established in a regional centre, with the aim of giving local producers “significant competitive advantages” to deliver beef, dairy, fruit, nuts and seafood around Australia and overseas”.

Where could that be, to be economically feasible?  Barilaro is from the Canberra area which has been pushing its Airport for that role.  The dominant Botany freight monopoly is down-playing Badgerys as having insufficient space and requiring significant infrastructure.  (Botany has the same challenges, of course.)

The great confusion comes in with the underground non-discussion about the future of the heavy rail “Bradfield” system.  The Turnbulls’ version of City Deal became a manipulation of non-airport, non-freight considerations.  The focus was on negating any extension of the Bradfield heavy rail passenger and freight network, with replacement by a “promised” linkage with the remote North West Metro Melbourne-like trains.

Hong Kong’s MTR has been recognised by Federal and State Governments as the main driver of Sydney’s metro-based densification along the North West to CBD and out to Bankstown.

This was to be contrasted with the dynamics of everything happening around the Greater West.  The embedded “Baird metro model” is based on the theory that using re-cycled assets (the proceeds of privatisation) to “force through” high-rise apartment blocks would lead to enough profit to pay for the replacement of double-decked trains by Melbourne-like “metros”, through “value capture” taxes on landowners.

The Second Airport was shoe-horned into that paradigm.  The Western Sydney “lobby” comprised former Labor political actors (behind a cluster of 2000s metro blunders), and a failed Liberal MP from the innerwest as CEO of the Western Sydney Regional Organisation of Councils.  It had been campaigning for a North South Rail Link, or outer rail orbital, which would by-pass the Parramatta CBD (the official “capital”).  This was the “sleeper” in a Le Carre Kremlin-like thriller as Infrastructure Australia assumed, without justification, that that orbital would be metro, not freight or double-decked rail.

This was a tight “club” based on the bi-Turnbull Sydney/Canberra axis.  The “City Deal” went through 71 weeks of discussion with eight councils selected by GSC, which left out the three most important – Blacktown with its population and logistics mass;  Parramatta as regional capital;  and Wollongong as site of Port Kembla.  The basis of discussion was a heavy rail connection from Wollongong over the Illawarra Escarpment to the South West and up to Badgerys.

The Gibbons’ “Eddington Bedrock:  from Christie to Greiner to Gibbons” scheme, which is summarised in the map, would see the Main West built up to 40,000 passengers per hour per direction, as former Premier Nick Greiner, documented in 2012, to be rejected by the parvenu Berejiklian;  extended as a loop to the Airport, giving transit connections all over the metropolis.

In the 72nd week, Turnbull and Berejiklian snuck in a completely different scheme which was designed to bolster the failing economics of the initial North West Metro.  Theirs is a metro stub from St Marys to Badgerys, running without metro connections in any foreseeable future.  It make no sense at all;  and there are no proper studies that say otherwise.

The Second Airport and Aerotropolis have gone from the best-connected to the worst in the world:  no passenger transit, no transit in the rapidly-growing South West, no support to the Illawarra which hits rail passenger wall in 2020, and no connection from Port Kembla to the freight hub (which is now officially sterilised) and the Inland Rail Bridge.