The 2014-15 NSW Budget contains $60bn of spending on infrastructure over the next 4 years. Major projects being funded are shown below.
Highlights, along with the level of NSW Government funding and estimated completion dates, include:
- $8.3bn on the North West Rail Link, to be completed in 2019.
- $2.8bn on 65 new trains, to be completed in 2024.
- $1.8bn on the South West Rail Link, to be completed in 2015.
- $1.8bn on the WestConnex freeway: M4 East/M4 South/M5 East (topping up $1.5bn in Federal Government funding), to be completed in 2023.
- $1.6bn on the CBD and South East Light Rail, to be completed in 2019.
- $633m for roads improvements to the Northern Beaches, including kerbside Bus Rapid Transit, to be completed in 2019.
- $600m for roads around Badgerys Creek Airport (topping up $2.9bn in Federal Government funding), to be completed in 2024.
- $400m for light rail from Parramatta once a priority route has been identified (Parramatta to Macquarie Park shown in the map as a potential option) with no set timetable for completion.
- $400m on the NorthConnex freeway: M1 to M2 (topping up $400m in Federal Government funding), to be completed in 2019.
- $91m on 199 new buses to replace ageing buses and expand the fleet, announced in 2014.
Infrastructure contingent on the sale of the electricity distribution network: an under the Harbour Rail Crossing (previously cited at around $10bn) and Northern/Southern extensions to WestConnex ($1.5bn) have been omitted from this list, as has the Opal rollout ($1.5bn) and an M9 Outer Orbital freeway (uncosted).
Commentary: Is this worth it?
This budget appears to be seen as quite popular. So much so that the Sydney Morning Herald began the losers portion of its “Winners and Losers section with “There are few obvious losers in this year’s pre-election budget”. Ultimately this budget provides a way of achieving the infrastructure that Sydney desperately needs in order to sustain the additional housing construction that is required to accommodate the millions of new residents it will have by the middle of the century. Asset recycling, the sale of 49% of the electricity distribution network seems to be the only way to achieve this. However, as the Daily Telegraph’s Andrew Clennell quoted a “senior Labor MP [who said]: The poles and wires gives you 10 years, then what do you do? The sale of Sydney Water? Then what?”.
That question of how to fund infrastructure long term on an ongoing basis does not appear to have been answered yet. If it does get answered, the most likely response is higher taxes. So it that worth it? Quite possibly, though privatisation does give the state a decade or two before it needs to be answered.