Gladys Berejiklian outlines past wins and future vision

Posted: July 19, 2014 in Transport
Tags: , , , , , ,

Gladys Berejiklian should be called the Minister for Change rather than the Minister for Transport, while her main mission should be to drive change. This is how Ms Berejiklian described her role to the Future Leaders Sounding Board, which was launched on Thursday at the Powerhouse Museum by the Committee for Sydney.

Ms Berejiklian used the forum to outline her quick wins strategy, emphasised how she has made her department more customer focused, explained how Opal is changing the way people travel, hinted about a light rail line from Parramatta to Macquarie Park, described how Sydney Rapid Transit will increase CBD rail capacity, and announced that shorter buses are coming to Sydney.

The Transport Minister Gladys Berejiklian used the Powerhouse Museum's Transport Exhibition as a backdrop to her speech outlining her achievements and future vision. Click to enlarge. (Source: Author.)

The Transport Minister Gladys Berejiklian used the Powerhouse Museum’s Transport Exhibition as a backdrop to her speech outlining her past wins and future vision. Click to enlarge. (Source: Author.)

She framed her quick wins strategy around her desire to be seen as driving change, as it was designed to demonstrate a willingness to change. It included the introduction of real time transport apps, quiet carriages, and mobile phone reception in CBD rail tunnels.

The Transport Minister described Sydney’s transport system as not being customer focused enough when she became a Minister. Customers were previously referred to as passengers, but Ms Berejiklian said “if you pay for something you are a customer”. Meanwhile, customer service was not one of the key performance indicators that customer facing staff were judged on. Both of these have now been changed.

“Transport access is a lifestyle choice” Ms Berejiklian said, adding that good access to and use of public transport “is now a first choice rather than a last choice” for Sydney residents. She pointed to Opal’s free travel after the first 8 journeys as having led to an increase in public transport usage on weekends. “This will put pressure on me to put on more weekends services and that’s good” she said. Opal could also provide real time information on crowding on transport services, which was not possible under the previous ticketing system that only collected ticket data from point of sale rather than actual customer entries and exits.

Speaking about light rail in Parramatta, she said that it was important that it connect to the health and education precincts in the area. This may have been a hint that the Westmead to Macquarie Park alignment, the only one to pass through both Westmead Hospital and the University of Western Sydney’s Parramatta campus, is the preferred alignment. The NSW Government has committed $400m in funding for a light rail line from Parramatta for an as yet undecided route.

Looking towards the future, she said the proposed Sydney Rapid Transit network set to link Rouse Hill to Bankstown via the CBD will add 3 much needed stations in the city centre, while confirming it would eventually be extended to Hurstville. Meanwhile, Sydney’s new double deck buses will soon be joined by shorter buses that are more manoeuvrable around Sydney’s smaller streets.

  1. Simon says:

    I’m happy with that. But not Minister for improvement, even though a few improvements have been done, a lot have been left undone.

  2. Ray says:

    Gladys may well enthuse about improving the “customer” experience, but where she has failed miserably is to be overly influenced by self serving bureaucrats and vested private interests, despite overwhelming contrary opinion from reputable professional transport planners and the public, to persist with the privately operated Rapid Transit concept for the North West Rail Link and its future expansion across the harbour.

    I’m all in favour of a separate rapid transit network for the inner city (15 to 20km from the CBD) but the concept the government is proposing for the NWRL is totally out of kilter with the internationally accepted norm for a high density inner city transit system.

  3. Tandem Train Rider says:

    > Gladys may well enthuse about improving the “customer” experience, but where she has failed
    > miserably is to be overly influenced by self serving bureaucrats and vested private interests

    She’s hardly Robinson Crusoe there.

    For mine, the fundamental problem with transport planning in NSW is it’s driven from the top down rather than bottom up. Decisions get initiated from the top, and if not from the top then second from the top. Rather than identifying transport problems and working through the best way to solve them, the people are identifying political problems and working on solutions to that.

  4. Ray says:

    @TTR – Spot on there. I couldn’t have expressed it more eloquently myself.

  5. QPP says:

    @Ray: “despite overwhelming contrary opinion from reputable professional transport planners and the public”

    Straight (ish) question: How do you come to that conclusion? I don’t detect overwhelming opposition in the industry, although there are differences depending on the body we’re talking about. RailCorp people seem to me to be generally opposed (not surprising), engineering/construction firms in the rail sector generally in favour (perhaps likewise), in groups like the PWI it’s hard to call.

    Plus (most importantly of all), there’s the window of the observers own perception to contend with.

    Either way I am not sure anyone (opponents or proponents) is in a position to fairly claim their view is the overwhelming majority one

  6. Simon says:

    QPP, that is certainly my impression. Reputable observers like Sandy Thomas and IIRC Ron Christie have spoken against the plans. I can’t think of a single reputable professional who has spoken in favour of the plans. Amatuer observers like myself are by and large against the plans, with the only pro people I can think of being Rails and Riccardo.

  7. @Simon –

    Add me to that list!

  8. QPP says:

    I can think of a large number of reputable professionals (odd term!) who are neutral or mildly favourable. But perhaps we also count as “vested interests”…..

    There’s also a substantial number of people who are bemused that the format/mode of the railway seems to be of such burning importance to some people. Most of *us* (for I include myself in that group) think that the public will be happy to have a modern and new railway at the end of it, and won’t be so bothered that it has a different operator/maintainer and uses different rolling stock. It will still get us from A to B reliably and quickly and the ticketing will be the same

  9. Ray says:

    @ QPP – I live in the area and let be assure you that the local opposition to the Rapid Transit concept for the NWRL in particular (not the NWRL itself as originally proposed) is overwhelming. I have never seen any commentary in the local newspapers in support of it, other than government media releases. The public aren’t stupid and can smell a rat when they see one.

    You can talk all you like about the “purists” opinion of what form of transport infrastructure should be imposed on the community, but if they don’t agree with it, then they have every right to impose their will on their political servants. This issue is of such importance that what was once considered a safe Liberal seat could be at risk.

    However, I repeat my previous comment that I would support a separate rapid transit network for the inner city. I don’t support the bastardisation and compromised operation of the existing “suburban” network to create a “pseudo” rapid transit/metro system. The NWRL by any measure doesn’t meet this criteria.

  10. Tandem Train Rider says:

    I didn’t really mean to set off that NWRL debate again with my comments. We’ve all made our positions fairly clear so I won’t add to it other than to say @bambul is wrong :-).

    While the decision making process around the NWRL is an example of what I was talking about, I think it’s just one of many.

    I look at the new LR line and can’t help but think the problem they are trying to solve is the political desire to be seen to be installing hard Public Transport assets rather than to solve any real world problem. I’m not saying it’s a bad project, just that I don’t see what problem it solves other than a desire to install light rail in a high profile way.

    I was riding the Dulwich Hill extension to the existing Sydney LR the other day, and couldn’t help thinking we really missed a trick with that project. The station spacing is insanely tight and the trams haven’t got time to get over 40 much less up to their 60kph operating potential.

    Seeing how the Germans implement StadtBahn and the Nth Americans in San Diego (among others) I think we’d have been better off using that concept on that line, and run it out to Bankstown rather than RT – and run it into the city proper over Pyrmont Bridge.

  11. QPP says:

    Ray, it’s not surprising that the locals on the Northern Line don’t like the NWRL – they don’t want to lose their direct line to the city through the ECRL. That in itself doesn’t mean the proposal is wrong. Nor does it equate to “overwhelming contrary opinion” from transport professionals and the public at large.

    I take TTR’s point though – argument has been done to death a hundred times

    On the subject of the IWE of the light rail, I agree it doesn’t seem to make a whole lot of sense, but that’s what happens when you are trying to re-use old assets that were built for something completely different. The concept of sweating existing assets sounds good as a soundbite, but it also means some significant compromises in most cases – this one is a case in point. I remember looking at this project at the concept stage and wondering what the point of it was – from most parts served, you’d be better off walking to the nearest heavy rail station (or catching a bus). Plus the project had lots of hairs on it from a planning and fire safety PoV (some of which came to pass), the depot/turnback arrangements hadn’t been thought through, the rolling stock order was a knee-jerk “buy some trams” arrangement, and the re-railing of the line that was done at great expense by RailCorp in the last gasp of the Keneally government was a gross waste of money – most of it had to be lifted and shifted and ground for the LR……

    As for the new CBD LR scheme, I also concur that the desire to install visible hard assets seems to be much of the justification for it. The best part of the whole scheme for me is the pedestrianising of George St – I think it will transform the feel of the city for the better. Although as it happens I was talking to someone from the PPP community just last week on this project and she was very cool on the whole thing for precisely the opposite reason – in her mind shutting off George St to road traffic will mean gridlock. I was genuinely surprised to hear that, but it just goes to show that in this city perhaps more than any other where I’ve worked, there are as many opinions when it comes to transport needs and therefore desired transport projects as there are people with an interest.

    Which perhaps is why TfNSW transport planning can seem “top down”. Particularly with the current regime, I think they are so scared of being seen to do nothing (or perhaps so determined to do anything, even if it’s not optimal) that they just barrow things through the debate, so the debate gets lessened. But perhaps that is because they’ve been burned so much in the past with so much debate and argument as to what should be done, that nothing gets done.

    Personally I’d rather have a top down set up where something happens than an open debate where nothing does. But I too am a “vested interest”

    As an aside, what do you think the real key transport needs are?

  12. QPP says:

    On the subject of light rail:

    Not like Saulwick to be behind the curve, as this happened about 3 weeks ago if not more, haven’t checked. (BTW, Balfours are pulling out of Australia entirely). It’s been around the industry since the day it happened and in the public domain for at least 2 weeks, as TfNSW changed their website to show 2 consortia bidding.

    I don’t like JS’s articles – they are relentlessly negative and have a whiff of gutter press about them – but at least he’s usually pretty well informed and up with the times

    Must have been on holiday ;-)

  13. Simon says:

    Interesting bambul. What do t say about the western line? I say the plans there are a nonsense.

  14. @Simon –

    Do you mean the vague proposals to improve signalling and amplify the tracks that could use more information? I think they are vague and could use more information. Until then, I struggle to see exactly how capacity on the Western Line can be enhanced beyond the transfer of some existing Western Line passengers from NW Sydney to the new NWRL.

    That said, the only viable alternative I have seen in recent years to raise Western Line capacity is the West Express (putting aside a Parramatta Rd Metro, which I’ve excluded for probably being too costly to be viable). As a result I see it as separate to the NWRL debate.

  15. Ray says:

    I agree that the NWRL debate has been done to death and I don’t propose to add anything further to it. We all have our firmly entrenched positions.

    I would however challenge the government’s assertion that the rapid transit concept would increase capacity for the greater network by 60% through the CBD. 60% of what? Assuming that sectorisation continues, it does absolutely nothing for the Western Line, which is the most heavily used sector of the network. Sure, it introduces additional capacity on a new line from the north west (which excludes the North Shore and Northern Lines because of an incompatible system) extending ultimately to the Bankstown Line via a new cross harbour link which is not exactly a typical rapid transit corridor (let alone from the north west).

    The expansion needs of the existing network have been totally ignored in favour of introducing a new separate rapid transit system which will have minimal impact on improving the overall capacity.

    If the government persists with its rapid transit concept then they also have to consider providing for additional capacity on the existing network by reassessing the Western Express proposal, preferably extending into Barangaroo (not just Wynyard).

    It will be interesting to see what the Labor Party proposes leading up to next years’ election.

  16. Ray says:

    I think the West Metro (north of Parramatta Rd) still has some relevance as a long term part of a broader inner city rapid transit network. Probably beyond my lifetime (but I haven’t got too many years to go anyway).

  17. Simon says:

    Bambul, I think that dismisses threw capacity issues of the via Strathfield corridor too lightly. As if after spending ten billion on the second harbour crossing to not increase capacity where it’s needed there will be money to do what is needed!

  18. MrV says:

    Regarding the light rail. I wonder how the George St LR will affect Barangaroo.I remember with the original proposals Sussex st/Hickson Rd. was going to have light rail servicing the precinct. So far there is appears to be virtually no transport infrastructure planning to serve the area, other than a walk to Wynard.
    At a minimum there are going to need to be buses routed this way. It wouldn’t be hard to do: the buses that currently run to the Rocks can continue on around Dawes point, and silly routes like the 413 which take the long way to King St wharf can be rerouted.

  19. Ray says:

    @ MrV. I still think that extending the light rail via a loop through Barangaroo from Circular Quay would be a logical extension in the future. As I alluded to earlier, I believe a longer term solution is to extend a Western Express concept into the centre of Barangaroo, rather than terminating at Wynyard, regardless of what happens with the rapid transit system across the harbour.

  20. QPP says:

    They originally showed the LR continuing round Dawes Point but concluded the patronage wasn’t there (even with Barangaroo). That may change in the future

  21. Simon says:

    Fully agree with Ray’s last post.

    Regarding Gladys’ wins, counting the CSELR and NWRL is counting chickens before they’ve hatched – unless the goal is to put down more tracks. The only real win I can credit Gladys with is putting back some services ripped out of the Cityrail timetable in 2005 or so, and a couple of runs on the lower northern line. And even those haven’t shown up in patronage figures yet, although I expect they will.

  22. @Simon –

    Quiet carriages, real time transport apps, reception in CBD rail tunnels, SWRL running a year ahead of schedule, light rail incorporated into MyZone. Are these not wins?

    The difficulty with judging a Transport Minister is that it’s the long term changes/improvements that matter the most, and 3 years is not long enough to truly judge that. So you have to look at the short term achievements. So the question is: what else could she have done in terms of short term achievements that has not already been done?

    I’d list multimodal fares and congestion charging as the only 2 big improvements that can be made in the short term which come to my mind. The former is tricky while also rolling out Opal, so I’m willing to wait until the Government’s second term before passing judgement here. The latter is the Roads Minister’s domain, so it’s unfair to judge Gladys here.

    Most of everything else is long term: big new construction projects, organisational change, etc.

  23. Simon says:

    Those things are pretty small beer if you ask me. I don’t blame Gladys for the lack of a congestion charge – they went to the election with a promise not to introduce one and as you point out, that’s not her portfolio.

    I do blame her for a few things:
    1) Making congestion on via Strathfield worse
    2) Claiming to be addressing congestion on via Strathfield, but clearly lying.
    3) Lies in the business case for the NWRL – the via Pennant Hills Rd & M2 buses are included as part of the reduction in bus congestion while promising (I’m told by a resident) to keep these buses
    4) Failing to speed up the train timetables
    5) Doing next to nothing, if not nothing for buses. Sydney’s Bus Future has a number of good points and to my knowledge not one has even been started.
    6) Not putting in a Bus Only lane on George St northbound from Market St to Hunter St. Taxis are going anyway if CSELR goes in as planned so why not do it now? (Yes, this is Sydney City Council’s area but she can make the appropriate representations
    7) No real increase in bus service-km.
    8) Minimal increase in Bus priority generally. E.g. Spit Bridge. Probably not her portfolio, but again she can make the appropriate representations
    9) Nothing done about Airport road congestion – Why not increase charges for road users if it’s too hard to reduce charges for rail users?
    10) Still insufficient buses down Victoria Rd.
    11) Playing politics with fares rather than implementing the maximum increases, or better yet, get rid of IPART completely. Technically the Premier’s area.
    12) Planning to totally screw up Elizabeth St
    13) Generally implementing policies based on politics rather than sound traffic/transport reasons.

    Is that enough negatives?

  24. MrV says:

    Rear door boarding oon buses (or at least 2 out of 3 on the articulated buses) would be a simple win, especially with Opal. Would be a great timesaver for the bus network as well.
    No doubt the thinking from the Ministry is implementing Opal and rear door boarding would be far too complex an idea for the peasantry without a $100 million advertising blitz.

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