Western Sydney gets a City Deal, ambitious rail-based transit vision

Western Sydney gets a City Deal, ambitious rail-based transit vision
Western Sydney gets a City Deal, ambitious rail-based transit vision

The Prime Minister and New South Wales Premier were at the University of Western Sydney on Sunday to announce the Western Sydney City Deal which among other things will kick off an ambitious rail network for Sydney's outer-outer suburbs.

Key amongst the primary announcements was the commitment of up to $50million from both the Commonwealth and New South Wales governments for the purposes of conducting a business case for an entirely new north-south rail line that will connect Sydney's North West, West and South West with the new Western Sydney Airport and "aerotropolis".

Documents published after the announcement estimate the total cost of a new rail line from Schofields in Sydney's north-west to Macarthur in Sydney's south-west would weigh in between $17 and $20 billion 2017 dollars.

The Western Sydney Airport near Badgery's Creek is scheduled to open for operations in 2026 and the first phase of the new north-south outer suburban cross-town line is likewise scheduled to open in time for the start of aviation operations.

The first phase will run from St Mary's where the new line will interchange with the existing T1 Western branch line to the new airport.

Western Sydney gets a City Deal, ambitious rail-based transit vision
The preferred network vision from the Western Sydney Rail Needs Scoping Study - image: TfNSW

Transport for New South Wales (TfNSW) has published a Western Sydney Rail Needs Scoping Study which, at a high level, depicts corridors that over time will see upgrades or new rail lines built.

The Sydney metro - the first phase of which is nearing completion and commencement of operations - even comes gets a gong with extensions to connect with the new outer-suburban north-south orbital rail line in Schofields.

The Sydney Metro West which aims to add more passenger-carrying capacity between Sydney's CBD and Parramatta, is no newcomer to the spotlight with local Sydney media reporting on it extensively, however the scoping study places it firmly in context of the Greater Sydney Commission's vision for the metropolitan area of Sydney to develop three distinct CBDs over the coming decades.

For Melburnians unfamiliar with Sydney, an equivalent distance covered by this new north-south outer-suburban orbital rail line in Western Sydney would be connecting Ringwood and Frankston via Dandenong. 

Naturally, however, in Western Sydney's case, Dandenong would be the equivalent position of a new airport complete with major urban development plans to build a third CBD and associated residential areas for the metropolitan area.

Comment

Only last week I opined about getting more ambitious with Melbourne's public transport network and this week we have a very clear example of an ambitious vision elsewhere.  

I am extremely conscious of the pitfalls of comparing Melbourne & Sydney, especially when it comes strategic development - it's an apples and orange scenario in that Melbourne has a distinct advantage of having many hundreds (if not a few thousand) hectares of land located adjacent to the centre of the city that could provide a development pipeline for half a century.

That naturally flows to Public Transport planning that focuses on adding dedicated tracks in the inner-city to support growth over the same period.  Melbourne Metro 1, Melbourne Metro 2 and the City Loop configuration plus all the supporting projects like level crossing removals are testaments to this.

Like (but also, arguably, unlike) Sydney, Melbourne does have significant job centres outside the inner-city - especially in the middle ring in Melbourne's east - but to date, there appears to be little interest in even publicly studying the utilisation of rail, running cross-town against the existing radial network, as a catalyst to connect these major suburban centres with people living in other regions of Melbourne's metropolitan area.

As Jago Dodson points out in his Conversation piece, metro-scale governance in Australia primarily lies within state government departments around Australia and they are therefore subject to ebb and flow of state government election cycles.

While there's definitely a space for debating how to govern & therefore plan for our metropolitan areas better in future, we're still reliant on our state government departments to 'come up with the goods' and we're still waiting on Transport for Victoria to come out of the shadows and shows us what they've been working on with regards to network development plans across all modes of Victoria's public transport network.

Alastair Taylor

Alastair Taylor

Alastair Taylor is a co-founder of Urban.com.au. Now a freelance writer, Alastair focuses on the intersection of public transport, public policy and related impacts on medium and high-density development.

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