Greiner’s resignation a win for public transport advocates

Posted: May 25, 2013 in Transport
Tags: , , , , , , ,

This week’s announced dual resignations of Nick Greiner and Paul Broad, the Chairman and CEO of Infrastructure NSW (iNSW), was the eventual result of a battle of ideas within the NSW Government. On one side was those who supported a large scale expansion of Sydney’s roads network via aggressive use of toll roads, a view shared  by Mr Greiner, Mr Broad, iNSW, and the Daily Telegraph. On the other was those who supported a large scale expansion of Sydney’s public transport capacity with a focus on the rail network, a view supported by Transport Minister Gladys Berejiklian, Transport for NSW (TfNSW), and the Sydney Morning Herald.

Nick Greiner, Infrastructure NSW Chairman and former NSW Premier (Image: Infrastructure NSW)

Nick Greiner, Infrastructure NSW Chairman and former NSW Premier (Source: Infrastructure NSW)

The two government departments each championed their view via separate policy documents. TfNSW published the Transport Masterplan, which called for light rail on George St and a Second Harbour Rail Crossing. iNSW published the State Infrastructure Plan, which called for a CBD Bus Tunnel and extension of the Eastern Suburbs Railway, which rejecting both light rail on George St and the Second Harbour Rail Crossing. TfNSW responded by itself rejecting the Bus Tunnel and not incorporating the extended Eastern Suburbs Line into the final version of its plan. The NSW Government adopted both of the TfNSW proposals, but never of iNSW’s. Given the option, e government sided with TfNSW every single time its department disagreed with iNSW.

Part of the media circus around this revolves around a misunderstanding of the role of iNSW. It is often compared to Infrastructure Australia (IA), which is tasked with evaluating transport projects and determining which will get government funding, a process designed to take the politics out of the decision. But while IA is staffed by former Transport Department bureaucrats and in in charge of distributing funding from the federal government, iNSW is staffed by former Treasury bureaucrats and is in charge of obtaining funding from the private sector.

The role of iNSW is not, and should not be to determine, design, or deliver transport projects. Where it has, it has failed. The CBD Bus Tunnel was discredited and rejected by TfNSW on the basis that it lacked integration, did not provide opportunities for urban renewal, lacked a viable corridor for construction, and cost 4 times as much as the light rail option, amongst other reasons (Source: Sydney’s Light Rail Future, pages 25-26). The WestConnex’s slot idea for Parramatta Road, initially conceived as an innovative way to build the M4 East at a lower cost than a tunnel, turned out to be more expensive than a tunnel and has now been scrapped because iNSW did not do its homework. Even the first project set to be administered by iNSW, the temporary Glebe Island convention centre, will now not happen. It is now clear that iNSW has been ineffective at determining, designing, or delivering transport projects, and should leave this to the experts at TfNSW while it sticks to what it can do – obtain private sector funding for PPP projects.

This might have been fine, had Mr Greiner considered himself a valued contributor to the NSW Government. But as has been demonstrated, the Premier Barry O’Farrell sided with his Transport Minister over his Infrastructure Tsar every time Ms Berejiklian and Mr Greiner had a disagreement. Disappointed by his inability to convince the NSW Government on issues like those mentioned, as well as things like privatising the state owned poles and wires in order to fund additional infrastructure, it was clear that someone had to go. And that meant that Mr Greiner and Mr Broad’s resignations became an inevitability.

They will be missed by some, such as the Daily Telegraph’s state political editor Andrew Clennell, who believes that “it’s ended in tears” and that “the danger is now, with a cautious poll-driven premier, nothing will get built”. But few tears are likely to be shed by those who have advocated for a greater focus on public transport, rather than on roads.

  1. shiggyshiggy says:

    Good riddance. Hopefully this signals the scrapping of the Westconnex as well. Maybe you can remind me Bambul which grouping was advocating the conversion of the Cityrail lines into signal decker ‘metro’ lines?

  2. Joni says:

    Fascinating post! Thanks for putting it up. Is there hope the NWRL privatised shuttle option will now be canned??

  3. RichardU says:

    pdfs emanating from the planners always make things sound so easy. Like on Sydney’s Light Rail Future page 17: 97% of light rail services arrive within two minutes while only 66- 81% of buses do so. And the second harbour crossing will happen. No risk. And commuters from north of Epping will be happy to change trains twice when bus travellers from the North West refused to change from buses to trains at Epping as originally planned and now the impact of buses on the CBD is evident to all.

    While it would be great if trams were the answer, we must be aware of the experiences of other cities.

  4. Shiggyshiggy –

    WestConnex enjoys the support of the Premier, Roads Minister, and Transport for NSW, so it will still go ahead. Public funding for it was obtained by selling off Port Botany, which got a high sale price because of an increase in the container movements cap, which in turn relies on the capacity increase that WestConnex will provide for trucks leaving the Port [1].

    The metro conversion debate occurred entirely within Transport for NSW. The initial plan was a conversion of the Harbour Rail Crossing, thou this was later dropped when it became clear it was not feasible. Infrastructure NSW still supports the conversion plan as a way of preventing the construction of a Second Harbour Rail Crossing, while Transport for NSW adopted a Second Harbour Rail Crossing strategy – which will create a new crossing rather than convert the existing one [2].



  5. Joni –

    The decision to have a privately operated NWRL that will initially terminate at Chatswood has the support of the Premier and Transport Minister, so Nick Greiner’s departure won’t affect that. Gladys Berejiklian confirmed recently on 7.30 NSW that she supports the NWRL plan, and that it was not a requirement imposed on her by Nick Greiner. I think she is telling the truth when she says she genuinely supports it.

  6. Joni says:

    I suspect making Northern Line passengers change trains 2 x each way will affect their use of the trains. Changing trains at Epping is a major pain as the 2 escalators are soo long and steep that with children or advanced age it’s going to be too hard. Very unfair on those who chose to live near a station for a direct link and paid a high price to do so.Is there any hope this can be changed??

  7. MrV says:

    As far as single deck metros go, I think it is a reasonable idea, but perhaps only on the inner-west line or Eastern suburbs line.
    Something like these (below) would be very nice, 4 doors/carriage really speed boarding, and you can stand the length of the train. ie the space between carriages is utilised, somthing they should have developed into the A sets.

    Either that or the inner city congested stations need to look at somehow implementing a “spanish solution” style platform layout if possible, which would speed boarding of the double deck trains.

    That said, it is madness to not build the NWRL to double-deck spec, but they really need to bring 2 additional tracks across the harbour and through the city if NWRL is going to reach its potential.

  8. Ray says:

    The NWRL as proposed and now approved by the Department of Planning & Infrastructure is going to be a complete disaster. Unfortunately, this is not going to be realised by the general public until it is up and running and then it will be too late to change anything. This will go down as an even greater calamity than the Airport Rail Link (might I remind you that this was also an initiative by the Greiner Liberal Government) and I say this as a Liberal voter.

    I predict that it will remain an orphan in the context of the Sydney Rail network and the prospect of any further privatised “rapid transit” extension via a second harbour crossing to Hurstville and Cabramatta is a pipedream. This is so far into the future, with no definite timeline, that it is unlikely that the current government will still be in power and it is likely that more wiser heads will in time realise the folly of the current strategy.

  9. Joni says:

    I hope that the shuttle option is shafted and a proper link is built as per the election promises.

  10. RichardU says:

    “Gladys Berejiklian confirmed recently on 7.30 NSW that she supports the NWRL plan, and that it was not a requirement imposed on her by Nick Greiner. I think she is telling the truth when she says she genuinely supports it.”

    In such situations, barristers say: “You are telling the truth now, but you weren’t telling the truth then (pre-election)?” Especially since she keeps saying she believes in customer service above all things. But the customers are united in their unhappiness.

  11. Joni says:

    What do you think will happen next with the NWRL shuttle option and will the new rail boss Howard Collins be involved at all?

  12. Richard –

    She would say that she was telling the truth on both occasions. But that she changed her mind when she got into government on the advice of her department. It’s Transport for NSW that has led the push for an independent NWRL with single deck rolling stock [1].

    So for anyone who is opposed to the final decision, it raises the question: should politicians take the politics out of the planning process and rely on the advice of the public service, or is it the role of politicians to be skeptical of the advice they receive and overrule them? If you believe the latter is correct, then you are right to oppose the decision. But if you believe the former is correct, then Gladys Berejiklian has done the right thing.


  13. Joni –

    The NWRL will form part of “tier 1” of the rail network, the rapid transit portion. It, along with “tier 3” or what is currently the intercity and CountryLink trains, will not form part of “tier 2” or Sydney Trains. Howard Collins will be in charge of Sydney Trains only, so I’m guessing he will have very little say into the NWRL, though he will no doubt provide advice for areas where tiers 1 and 2 interact, such as at Epping and Chatswood Stations (plus additional stations as tier 1 is expanded in coming years).

  14. Joni says:

    So Greiner’s resignation won’t affect anything, Bambul?

  15. His resignation is not the key event to focus on. What was important was that he proposed an alternative vision for the state, which was then considered and rejected by the government. That was the key event, the important moment that did change things. Nick Greiner’s resignation is a tangible recognition that he lost his battle for supremacy, and that’s why it’s an important event. But it’s more for indirect, rather than direct reasons.

    If the government had dumped its plans for a Second Harbour Rail Crossing, light rail down George St, and opted to sell the poles and wires network to fund all the infrastructure projects that Nick Greiner wanted (a CBD bus tunnel, a second airport, etc), then he would have stayed. But then the important thing wouldn’t be that he hadn’t resigned, it would have been that he got his way. The reality is, he didn’t.

  16. Joni says:

    OK, thanks. Will his resignation affect the NWRL in any way? I am hoping they will still build it in a way that’s compatible with the rest of the rail system and not a shuttle single deck privatised service.

  17. The short answer is: no.

    The long answer is: Nick Greiner didn’t want the NWRL built at all because he saw it as expensive and a big drain on the government budget. But it was the government’s big infrastructure promise before the 2011 election, and the NSW voters had enough of projects being announced and then modified, then cancelled, then re-announced, and so on that he probably got told to get behind it. That’s why the Infrastructure NSW Report recommended it. He no doubt supports the fact that it will be privately operated and likely undermine union power, and operating it independently (i.e. as a shuttle) guarantees it will remain separate, as it is in line with his views. But this decision came from Transport for NSW, and had they decided to integrate the NWRL into the Cityrail network, then Nick Greiner’s objections would have been overlooked just as they had been on everything else (bar WestConnex, but that was something where the government referred its decision making powers to Infrastructure NSW). So his departure doesn’t really impact the NWRL.

  18. Joni says:

    Thank you…what will make them re think the NWRL shuttle proposal?

  19. That would need a change from the inside of the transport bureaucracy. Opposition from the outside has been strong, with advocacy groups, the media, and the community voicing objections, but has done little to change the direction of this project.

    And given that it took years for the current view to form (from the heavy rail focused Metropolitan Rail Expansion Plan of 2005, to the new independent metros plan of 2008, and finally the conversion of heavy rail to metro Sydney’s Rail Future plan of 2012), I struggle to see how the momentum can be shifted into the other direction before tunneling begins in 12 months.

  20. Joni says:

    That’s a shame as I heard that one company that tendered offered to bore the tunnels to the regular specification for double deckers at no extra charge to facilitate future integration and they were told to go away.

  21. Ray says:

    Not surprising. Could be a case for a ABC 4 Corners investigation.

  22. Joni says:

    I’d love there to be more transparency and less fake consultation…

  23. Ray says:

    It truly amazes me that in the light of such widespread condemnation of the government’s current proposal for the NWRL, particularly from its own heartland, that they continue to ignore it and are either in denial or their transport bureaucracy and undue influence from self serving consultants has so overwhelmed them that they haven’t got a clue what is the best strategy.

  24. Joni says:

    I keep trying to figure it out and can only conclude that there is an ulterior motive relating to the privatisation aspect of it. So sadly short sighted when you look at the great work transport planners did such as Bradfield.

  25. Ray says:

    Yes, you have absolutely hit the nail on the head Joni. It’s all about privatisation, which wouldn’t work otherwise if it was to be integrated with the existing rail network.

    This all came about because the government’s submission to Infrastructure Australia for funding, which was initially based on the heavy rail option integrated with the existing CityRail network, was knocked back because of, amongst other things, the lack of a viable strategy to provide increased capacity via the North Shore Line to the CBD.

    Although Infrastructure Australia offered to enter into further negotiations, the State government, like a spoiled brat, said “stuff you”, we’ll do it our own way. And so we have the current situation, which will be long remembered as a dark period in NSW transport planning.

  26. Donna Goslett says:

    Still have a sour taste in my mouth when the Griener Gvt cancelled and closed down numerous railway stations – good riddance!

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