Government Inquiry: Why Rail Costs So Much in Sydney
Posted December 12, 2011
Photo by USACEpublicaffairs
On 6 December, the New South Wales Parliament held its second day of hearings for an inquiry into the cost of rail construction in Sydney. The inquiry was called because of a general perception that rail costing is too high here compared to other cities in Australia and around the world.
The inquiry was told by the Australasian Railway Association that engineers from Japan and China estimate that a high-speed rail line from Canberra to Newcastle via Sydney could be built for as little as A$30 billion, which is significantly lower than the cost quoted by the Australian Government.
Even a report commissioned by the New South Wales Government indicated that the cost of building a kilometre of rail track in Sydney was one-and-a-half times the cost of the same length of track elsewhere in Australia. Few reasons have been given for the price discrepancy, other than that tendering costs are slightly higher in Sydney.
The inquiry comes at time of public doubt about the accuracy of rail costing in Sydney, and anger at recent failure to build new lines. Previous proposals for metro-style lines were shelved due to cost, and the budget for the new North West and South West Rail Lines has increased dramatically from A$440 million to A$2.2 billion. Some commentators believe there is a bias within Treasury in favour of road projects, and that rail cost estimates may be deliberately inflated, which was denied by Treasury at the hearing.
A number of new ideas have emerged from the presentations at the hearings, including that development rights above rail lines be sold to offset the cost of the line, and that new routes in Sydney be orbital, to complement the existing radial system.
The inquiry will make its final report in February 2012.
Sustainable Cities Collective