The 2014-15 NSW Budget contains $60bn of spending on infrastructure over the next 4 years. Major projects being funded are shown below.

Major transport infrastructure projects included in the 2014-15 NSW Budget. Click to enlarge. (Sources: NSW Treasury, Transport for NSW, Open Street Map.)

Major transport infrastructure projects included in the 2014-15 NSW Budget. Click to enlarge. (Sources: NSW Treasury, Transport for NSW, Open Street Map.)

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.

  1. Alexsg says:

    @Tony – thanks for the link.

    Another factor that feeds into induced demand is the dispersal away from centres of housing and in particular employment that building more and more roads and motorways encourages. This approach provides an incentive not to concentrate in centres which of course makes it harder to construct a public transport system and means that people have no choice but to drive.

    Not only that – even if there is employment near to where you live, the motorway makes it just as easy to drive to a job 20km away, so in a sense dispersal begets dispersal. I’m not saying that it’s wrong to relocate jobs to Western Sydney, for example – in fact I’ve been advocating this professionally and personally for 25 years – but these jobs as well as new housing should be located close to existing or planned centres that have some form of public transport.

    Also while I think that some motorways have some merit – I believe for example that the M7 and the proposed NorthConnex make sense as a package in that they provide a north-south bypass of Sydney for trucks – others do not, especially without complementary public transport. For example WestConnex seems to have been poorly thought through and will either induce traffic if the toll is set too low or turn into a white elephant if it is set too high, while the proposed M9 worries me because of its potential to encourage even more dispersal and urban sprawl.

    @Bambul – the issue of infrastructure financing (especially PT infrastructure) was one of the things the SMH transport inquiry tried to address. Off the top of my head I think the suggested solution was a combination of new taxes, for example some sort of metropolitan-wide property tax, higher user charges and a congestion charge. The inquiry also did some survey work which suggested that people would be prepared to pay additional taxes and charges for PT infrastructure provided they were certain these funds would be hypothecated to PT.

    Of course the situation is exacerbated by having a new Ferdal Government that’s does not believe in funding PT infrastructure. We now have one of the few central governments in developed countries (even ones with federated systems) that does not do this, and of course NSW was the only mainland state that did not receive any substantial funding for PT from the previous government because of the standoff over NWRL vs PERL.

  2. citizen says:

    It would appear that we have found yet another way of siphoning tax payer funds. A great proportion has been spent to undertake research into what everybody that try’s to get around Sydney already knows.
    Another political party that does not realise that citizens may be very busy and unable to participate in the democratic process due to the structural barriers cleverly set up to shut down debate, donor assume that busy people are stupid people.
    All the support from the press and sycophantic public servants will not save the current group of NSW politicians most citizens are sick to death of these half measures to address these significant congestion issues making Sydney an unliveable city.
    What happened to a fast train network so that people living in affordable areas of Sydney will be able to have a life outside work. A trip from Hornsby, Campbeltown, Penrith, Liverpool and other outlying cities should be a 10-15 minute trip to the city or even less from one of these centres to the other. Where are the car parks at the major stations to facilitate parking as most consumers would need to drive from their pathetically serviced housing subdivisions, unless government was serious about looking after people in these subdivisions and legislate that light rail be provided to any new or existing subdivision that is more than a ten to fifteen minute walk to a station. Get rid of private bus services they do not work for consumers.
    What I suggest of course is not at all acceptable to the apartment developers if we did have efficient public transport there would be little incentive for people to live in dog boxes and pay anywhere from $600,000 to $1.2 for the pleasure. I wonder how much advise has been given to governments buy developers or their ” lobbyists” ?
    We are in a mess and there is little in this budget that will help, what is planned is already oversubscribed and not well integrated.

  3. QPP says:

    @citizen, I find your argument a bit of a scattergun rant with a vague whiff of tinfoil hat, particularly when it comes to density.

    Expecting a PT system to incorporate very fast rail to hubs, interconnecting with light rail to sprawling low density suburbs is totally unrealistic unless people are prepared to pay significantly more tax for it, which generally they aren’t. And why should they? A light rail service that dollies round a suburb picking up 1 or 2 passengers (as many buses do) would be a total waste of money. Completely restructuring the rail network is both hugely expensive and comes with other significant costs (notably environmental) that can’t be ignored.

    If you are serious about promoting PT and “liveability”, then higher density in many areas has to be a part of the solution. It (higher density) accommodates growth without yet more sprawl so does little to stoke demand for roads, it makes PT solutions much more economically viable and therefore likely to happen, it boosts demand for local businesses and makes them more viable, it increases social and economic activity in the higher density areas – which is a large part of what “liveability” indexes tend to look at.

  4. Alexsg says:

    @QPP – I think you’ve hit the bail on the head in your response to “citizen “, especially in your last paragraph.

    I don’t gave much to add except to point out to citizen that (a) lots of apartments aren’t “dog boxes ” and (b) lots of people actually like living in apartments. It’s not just about affordability – it’s also about convenience, not wanting to worry about a garden and the proximity to a wide range of services, transport, shops, entertainment etc, especially in the city.

    Since clearly there isn’t enough land to accommodate everyone who wants to do this on quarter-acre blocks the only option is to go up, but for a lot of people that’s a fair trade-off. Other people see this equation differently and move to houses in the suburbs. However while a lot more should be done to deliver services and infrastructure including PT to these people, they can’t expect the same level of provision as they would get closer to the CBD, especially if they chose to live away from suburban centres.

    And while more should be done to speed up and increase the frequency of outer suburban services, expecting 10 to 15 minute trips from the CBD to places like Penrith or Campbrlltown is pretty unrealistic.

  5. Alex says:

    Another thing about the government announcements. The media release about the Parramatta light rail funding which can be found at says:

    “The NSW Government will now investigate a number of potential light rail routes, including:

    “• Parramatta to Macquarie Park via Carlingford
    • Parramatta to Castle Hill via Old Northern Road
    • Parramatta to Liverpool via the T-way
    • Parramatta to Bankstown
    • Parramatta to Sydney Olympic Park
    • Parramatta to Rouse Hill
    • Parramatta to Ryde via Victoria Road
    • Parramatta to Sydney CBD via Parramatta Road
    • Parramatta to Macquarie Park via Eastwood (proposed by Parramatta Council)
    • Parramatta to Castle Hill via Windsor Road (proposed by Parramatta Council)”

    This seems to be going back to square one, given the work Parramatta Council has put into its proposed route options. And why are these put at the bottom of the list, with virtually no acknowledgement of the work Parramatta has done so far?

  6. Ray says:

    It’s typical of the attitude of this government in making vague announcements about a transport project, without any detail.

    There have already been two preliminary feasibility reports commissioned by Parramatta Council, which clearly identify the route from Parramatta to Macquarie Park via Eastwood as being the first priority, followed by the route from Parramatta to Castle Hill via Windsor Rd. Why reinvent the wheel? Common sense would suggest that a further more detailed feasibility study should be based on these routes, not starting from scratch again. The government should at least have the decency to acknowledge the work already undertaken by Parramatta Council.

    I have an uneasy feeling that once the TfNSW transport planners take control, the final outcome will be very different from what has so far been proposed. I’m certain they have another agenda or why would they bother rehashing everything that has already been investigated by leading transport consultants? I’d rather have an independent process any day of the week over anything that comes out of TfNSW.

    If, for example, a route from Parramatta to Macquarie Park excludes the route via Eastwood, then I will smell a rat. This is the most direct route and would be largely within an existing County Rd reservation. They may well decide to adopt the route via Carlingford and Epping, to utilise the Carlingford rail line, repeating the same mistake made in the planning for the original Parramatta to Chatswood Rail Link, although cheaper (by how much was never publically released), but 3km longer than the more direct route via Eastwood. However, continuing a light rail line between Carlingford and Epping, let alone to Macquarie Park, would be a major challenge, requiring extensive resumptions along Carlingford Rd. Most of the route via Eastwood is already owned by the state.

    One can only hope that there will be a transparent process, so that whatever route options are eventually selected, they can be clearly justified.

  7. Alexsg says:

    @Ray – these are exactly my concerns. As I understand it the Parramatta process took a good look at the Carlingford option and rejected it in favour of the more direct route via Eastwood.

    I suspect that the Government might be attracted to this as an easy way of converting the Carlingford line or at least the section north of Camilia to light rail. It would of course reduce the costs of construction if the light rail could take over the section between Camilia and where it turns to go to Eastwood, but forcing it to follow the whole of this alignment is probably too much of a trade off.

    One option might be to convert the Carlingford line to light rail but retain the alignment as planned by Parramatta Council, so the section up to Carlingford becomes a branch line. While this would add expense and isn’t operationally necessary it would retain rail services to Carlingford and could be turned to some advantage, ie, you could turn trams back at Carlingford to provide higher frequencies through the Parramatta-Westmead section.

    I am concerned however that there is a wider agenda. You could perhaps understand the government saying it wanted to review the options for the Macquarie Park route, but why throw everything else in the mix? As you say you can only hope that the route selection process is transparent and this isn’t just being thrown up to provide a smokescreen for some other agenda or worse still for the government to claim that they’ve changed their mind because none of the routes stack up.

  8. michblogs says:

    I like your last suggestion. You could have a tram from parramatta to macquarie via eastwood, AND a tram from Carlingford to Clyde ( or Granville ). At the frequencies they are likely to run, they can share the track between Rydalmere and the bottom of Adderton Road.

    You then have an interconnecting network with interchange at Dundas station which provides a lot more regional mobility and alternative to car use, than a single point to point line does.

  9. michblogs says:

    I’ve noticed on your plan, that the tram is goiing to run through east parramatta to camellia.

    It seems to me a better idea, to run to the north side of the river at parramatta, and then along victoria road. There seems to be more residential and commercial there and it would run closer to uws.

  10. Ray says:

    @Alexsg – Even if the route via Eastwood is adopted, there is always the option to extend to Carlingford via a branch line from Dundas (Kissing point Rd) at a later stage. It all depends on what the government’s future strategy is for the existing Carlingford Line. I can’t see it going past Carlingford though.

    Parramatta Council’s proposal for the Macquarie Park Line has it running alongside the Carlingford Line within the existing rail corridor between Camelia and Kissing Point Rd, because of the uncertainty about the future of the line. It would make sense to convert the whole Carlingford Line to light rail even if the branch to Carlingford is part of a later stage. The only problem is, how would the line operate in the interim period?

    @michblogs – The initial proposal for the Macquarie Park Line was for it to run from Church St along Victoria Rd to the Carlingford Line at Rydalmere, past the UWS Campus, and then along the rail corridor to Kissing Point Rd. Following further investigation in the second preliminary feasibility study, it was decided to recommend a route to Parramatta via Camelia. I think that was in part to allow for a common route through the centre of Parramatta for both the Macquarie Park and Castle Hill Lines, the latter which will operate as far as the UWS Campus. With the proposed line through the Parramatta CBD running along Macquarie St, it’s still a fair walk to Parramatta Station. Perhaps this might be something which will be looked at.

  11. Alexsg says:

    @Ray – I agree about the potential for the Carlingford line to be converted to light rail as a branch line and that this would preferable to changing Parramatta Council’s preferred alignment to Macquarie Park.

    That essentially was the point I was making earlier. I think however that this should be done at the same time as the construction of the Macquarie Park line and that from a construction perspective this would be much simpler – it would allow the existing Camilia to Dundas heavy rail section to be used for the light rail line to Macquarie Park.

    The light rail would be double-tracked over this section but there probably isn’t any need to do this on the remaining stub section of the Carlingford line – a couple of passing loops would do. This section could also be used for additional tram stabling if that was required.

    The only problem with doing this is that Rose Hill would probably lose out – I can’t see the government retaining a heavy rail service just to this station. You could I suppose create a second branch south from the light rail south to pick it up but this would probably over-complicate operations for little gain.

    The other option would be to bring the corridor west from the Parramatta CBD further south to intersect with the existing Carlingford line closer to the existing station and put an additional stop there. Potentially this could combined with bringing the route through Parramatta closer to the station which is the other issue you raise, but I can understand council’s logic in wanting to run the light rail down Macquarie Street.

  12. Tim says:

    May I ask what is the underlying impetus for the Parramatta – Macquarie Park light rail? What are the alternatives? Why now?
    I read the Parramatta City Council report and the only two arguments for light-rail I could see were that an improved bus service wouldn’t suffice (though not clear why) and growth along the corridor would be greater than without it. There weren’t any ridership figures, just general jobs and housing growth numbers. (This sounds like it’s just shifting development from elsewhere.) I didn’t find it compelling.

  13. Ray says:

    @Tim – The Part 1 Feasibility Report quoted patronage for the Macquarie Park Line in 2031 as 9,000 to 11,500 in the am peak 3.5 hours (4,500 to 5,750 in the peak). Modelling also indicated strong demand at Eastwood and Macquarie Park. The current bus service is very indirect.

  14. Alex says:

    Yes the part 1 report can be found here:

    The report found basically that the benefits of a bus rapid transit and light rail option were comparable, but concluded:

    “The transport modelling indicates slightly more patronage for BRT than LRT based on the assumption that the same level of passenger capacity is provided. This assumption results in BRT having twice the frequency of LRT as BRT has less passenger capacity per vehicle than LRT. Sensitivity testing showed that if LRT operated at the same frequency as BRT then LRT patronage would increase 24%. There are significant impacts upon Parramatta CBD of running twice the number of buses compared to light rail, mainly around road capacity, but the scale of the impact is dependent on whether the services terminate or operate through the CBD.

    “The patronage difference between BRT and LRT is not significant at this early stage of development, and further sensitivity testing on the variables and assumptions used are required in future studies. Various studies from around the world have indicated that an investment in LRT is superior for changing the shape of cities by stimulating development and renewal (land use uplift), when compared to BRT, which can offer a less expensive transport alternative. LRT has been selected over BRT as the preferred mode due to its city building ability in line with the study objectives.”

    I think that Parramatta had a preference for light rail over buses for the above reasons and also because it wanted to improve the amenity of the CBD in particular by reducing the number of buses rather than increasing them.

  15. Tim says:

    Thanks @Ray @Alex. I looked at that link. The summary report I had read was the problem.

  16. usertemp727 says:

    I do not see how light rail can be of benefit to those living in Sydney. Who would be silly enough to waste 40 minutes on light rail from the central to Dulwich hill via lilyfield when they could catch a train there in half the time? Why have light rail from macquarie park to parramatta when the government could complete the epping to parramatta train link. At least no streets have to be ripped up and we already have some of the train lines and tunnels in place. The proposition put forward by the liberals and parramatta council is nothing more than a $400 million waste. Just get rid of Camelia station, make the track a dual carriageway as well as improve the train intersection of parramatta road and that train line will be viable.

  17. @Alex –

    Regarding Rosehill, I would imagine special event trains could run from Central to Rosehill on race days. Clyde would no longer be required, so you could remove that station entirely given its proximity to Granville and given that it’s not a significant trip generator (either in origin or destination terms). For anyone going to the racecourse from Parramatta, they could get off at Camellia and walk under the road bridge to reach the venue without having to cross any roads.

    I think rail requires a train to run over it on a regular basis to prevent it from changing shape, so you could also have one or two daily services. This could easily be done with a Blue Mountains train headed to Flemington for stabling during the day. This currently occurs to Olympic Park, and it’s not that difficult to extend it to Rosehill.

  18. Tim says:

    @usertemp727. Boardings on the DH light rail extension are very high in the peak with over-crowding sometimes so bad that people have to wait for the following service. (Also the crush prevents conductors from collecting some fares.)
    This obviously isn’t all the way from DH and, from what a friend tells me, isn’t all the way to Central.
    I rode it myself yesterday and the conductor told me they are doing driver training on the new vehicles so they can move from nine to eleven vehicles in operation in the peak. Opal will be introduced by the end of the year. She also said they haven’t been told if conductors will be retained but they are all being given driver training.

  19. Ray says:

    I think it’s probably more likely that the line from Clyde to Camellia would be scrapped altogether and in the process eliminate the Parramatta Rd level crossing.

  20. Alex says:

    @usertemp727 – as Tim says, loadings on the DH light rail have been very high but not going all the way to Central. Providing an end-to-end service from DH to Central was not the point of the extension – as you said, there is a train already to do that.

    What the patronage figures are demonstrating is the strong demand for improved connectivity across and between the spokes of Sydney’s highly radial rail network, for example in the case of the light rail, providing services between DH and Leichhardt, or Pyrmont and Lewisham, etc.

    It’s true you could do some of this with buses and there are already some non-radial bus services, the attraction of the light rail is that, while its not exactly high speed, the travel times are consistent and unaffected by traffic. And while there are arguments over whether this is the best route, the right of way was already there, there is light rail on half of it already and extending this to DH was comparatively inexpensive. Besides, the punters are clearly voting with their feet to use it.

    In relation to the Parramatta-Epping rail link, I’m afraid that horse has already bolted. Although I agree that may have been the best outcome in terms of connectivity between Parramatta and Epping, the decision to build the NWRL as a separate project and as a metro has probably killed it. And if it had proceeded, I understand the old Carlingford line alignment would have always been sub-optimal.

    In any case Parramatta Council’s interest in light rail around Parramatta predates the decision on PERL. They have always been interested in some sort of light rail network to improve connectivity within and to the CBD, reduce congestion and the number of buses coming into the centre of Parramatta as well as to provide links to North Parramatta, Westmead and further afield. As PERL has been killed off, council’s light rail proposal provides the opportunity to do all this and provide an alternative link to Macquarie Park – and the existing Carlingford alignment double tracked would probably be a better fit for LR.

    @Bambul/Ray – assuming the Parramatta-Macquarie Park LR goes ahead I agree with Ray – the Clyde to Camellia section will almost certainly go to get rid of the rail crossing on Parramatta Road.

    However one issue is the increasing number of flats that are being built on the west side of James Ruse Drive which are closer to Rose Hill and a bit of a hike from Camellia. I’m not sure exactly where the LR line is planned to cross James Ruse Drive, but perhaps the answer might be to look at an alignment that would allow a station somewhere between Camellia and Rose Hill and which replaces both these stations.

  21. Ray says:

    There is always the option of a spur line from Camellia to Rosehill from Parramatta to service the racecourse and residential development along James Rouse Drive.

  22. Simon says:

    citizen wrote:
    “Where are the car parks at the major stations to facilitate parking as most consumers would need to drive from their pathetically serviced housing subdivisions, unless government was serious about looking after people in these subdivisions and legislate that light rail be provided to any new or existing subdivision that is more than a ten to fifteen minute walk to a station. Get rid of private bus services they do not work for consumers.”

    And therein lies the problem with Sydney’s transport system. We need to improve the private bus services. Park and ride is not the answer – very expensive per passenger trip.

    You are an absolute goose, and I can’t be bothered writing any more.

  23. Ben Aveling says:

    It’s great to have these numbers. Do we know for which projects this is the total bill, and which projects this is just a downpayment, with more money needing to be found for later years?

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