Many of you will have read some of my previous articles on the utter travesty of mismanagement that is the North West Rail Link, if not there is a category dedicated to it on the tabs on the left of this page.
Things have gone from the sublimely stupid to the utterly ridiculous as Barry O’Farrell, his Transport Minister Gladys Berejiklian and what has been described by many as the most dysfunctional government in the States history, complete with a publicly masturbating Arts Minister, a treasurer that loses a billion dollars, an environment minister that thinks logging is good for koala’s, and a drunk on the job finance minister, try to cobble together a piece of infrastructure that is already seeing its budget blown out before a single piece of track is laid.
The latest announcement regarding the North West Rail Link has been met with responses of “Surely you can’t be serious?”.
Well I am, and stop calling me Shirley…
Gladys Berejiklian would like you to meet the driver of the North West Rail Link shuttle service, some of you may even recognise him.
That’s right, the Auto-Pilot from the classic comedy Flying High is to make a reappearance right here in NSW. Gladys has puckered up, re-inflated him, and put him in charge of all the trains running on the lines that are promised to be built sometime within the next two decades.
In what can only be described as an act of utter desperation to save a few quid, it has been decided that the rail service will be run remotely. Kind of like a big Hornby train set that we had as kids and old eccentric men still play with.
The Rail Link which should be here in time for our grandchildren to enjoy, will be in Australia’s longest tunnel, and it has been designed so well that there are very few places for emergency exits. I would have thought that in the age of terrorism that this would have been of concern, particularly from a political party that tries to convince us that every asylum seeker boat that arrives is potentially full of terrorists.
In fact, the tunnel that is to be bored is so narrow that in the case of a fire, power outage, derailment or any other emergency anybody with mobility issues will have great difficulty making the long voyage to an emergency exit. In fact, those in wheelchairs will have to leave their wheelchairs behind, they simply won’t fit. Those in wheelchairs will have to hope for a miracle recovery so they can walk, or rely on other passengers to carry them, that won’t be humiliating at all I’m sure.
Now we are told that the trains will be unmanned by any employees of State Rail, or whichever company the Liberals sell the line off the when they privatise it against their election promises, not even a driver.
This can only mean one of two things, ensuring their own staff by not putting them in harm’s way on the trains, or they are just cutting costs at the expense of public safety.
In other North West Rail news, residents around The Hills District have been told by their local MP”s via local press how construction is under way on the link.
The only construction has been fencing with North West Rail Construction signage all over it. I’m sorry, but erecting safety fencing does not equate to construction in my mind, nor does knocking down buildings.
“So what is on the other side on this fencing?” you may be wondering.
Of the two sites that I have seen, one of them is a park, the only one in Castle Hills centre, now it is fenced off. I guess the Hills Shire will have to change its name from “The Garden Shire” to The Construction Zone, only problem with that is that there is no construction occurring within the fences.
The other “Construction Zone” is the Hills Centre, a now fenced off shell that used to be a facility used by local schools, drama groups, dance schools, charity groups, and many more community groups.
This vital piece of community infrastructure has been compulsorily acquired by the NSW Government, who no doubt paid less than they should have for it due to negotiating with a council made up of a bunch of mostly wannabe Liberal politicians, desperately seeking a ladder to climb.
Possibly the most pathetic of these is Deputy Mayor Andrew Jeffries. This parasite has shown time and time again his total lack of any consideration of community needs or interests, and proven over and over that he will put his own needs before others. Jeffries is the protegé of Federal MP Alex Hawke, little wonder then that there is no Liberal Party arse Jeffries won’t pucker up for.
Councillor Jeffries defended the decision to not replace this community asset by saying in council that it did not make a profit, as if that is all that matters.
“…if it wasn’t for the Hills Center the Council would only be in debt of 15 million.”
as if that justified stripping it from the community.
Mr Jeffries forgets that some things are more important than profit, particularly when dealing with public facilities.
I’ve yet to hear a councillor talk about how profitable the public toilets in a park are, or how much of a killing they make on a sports field, the turnover of street lighting, or the windfall from fixing up potholes, but guess what? Councils all over the country still do these things because they are important.
Clr Jeffries should stick to what he knows, and perhaps design kneepads for those who spend a lot of time on their knees, leave the big decisions for the grown-ups, something he proves himself not to be every council meeting.
There is now a Facebook Page dedicated to saving the Hills Centre that is linked here, and a petition also linked on that page.
But the Hills Centre is just one of numerous issues with the link, residents of the Hills Shire and NSW have been fed a diet of misinformation and political spin since this project was first announced as an election promise.
Below are some of the promises from the O’Farrell government and the reality of the situation, supplied in a media release from the Shadow Transport Minister Penny Sharpe.
|NWRL was promised to be a direct rail service to Sydney CBD.||NWRL is a shuttle service to Chatswood with no direct link to the city for decades, if ever.|
|NWRL will be run by Cityrail.||NWRL will be a privatised service.|
|NWRL will use cit101679037″:”101681033″%2||NWRL will be using single deck trains that are not compatible with the rest of the Sydney network. In single deck trains 2/3 of passengers will have to stand for their journey. In double deck trains 2/3 of passengers get a seat.|
|NWRL will improve travel times for commuters in the NW.||A study from the University of Sydney has done modelling showing that beyond Cherrybrook it would be faster to catch a bus than catch the train.|
|The NWRL trains will have drivers.||In the longest rail tunnels in Australia, these trains will be driverless endangering passenger safety.|
|The NWRL is future proofing Sydney’s rail network.||The decision to bore tunnels that are too narrow for double deck trains means that the NWRL will never be able to be integrated into the rest of the Sydney network. For example, there will never be able to be a joining up of the NWRL with the Richmond line and the work underground at Epping means that the Parramatta to Epping Rail Link will not be able to be built.|
Ms Sharpe also stated;
“The O’Farrell Government has made 43 announcements about the North West Rail Link since being elected, yet this project still has no start date and is not fully funded.”
A great point indeed. In fact it is like a big carrot being dangled before the electorate combined with smoke and mirrors spin behind it to make it seem like there has been progress when there has been none.
If I had one criticism of Penny it is that she is letting them off too easy with this list she has put out.
Residents were also under the impression of the rail being underground, instead we now have what has been imaginatively named the “SkyTrain”, which will sit on top of what has become known as the graffiti wall before its even been built.
We were also told that this link would mean that the Epping to Chatswood line would be upgraded as a result. Now we find that it is being downgraded to light rail from heavy rail, so that it can be sold off with the rest of the line.
Essentially taking some of City Rails newest infrastructure that is publicly owned and selling it off, after down grading it so it will be too expensive to convert back.
Residents were also convinced that the rail would blend in with the environment and that the stations were to be discreet in appearance. Now we have monstrosity stations that will be about as subtle as a cold sore, but will likely blend in with the 18 story skyscrapers of “affordable housing” planned for the area.
We also face the prospect of a diminished bus service as the government cuts back on the bus services in the area to force people onto the privatised NW Rail.
Liberal Government number crunchers working out what bus services to scrap must be now starting to worry about their figures, as their early rail capacity numbers were based on the two story trains promised, as in the early “SkyTrain” picture below. Not on the single level ones we now will be stuck with because of cost cutting and boring the hole too small when they finally get to that stage.
Not only that, we have skyscraper apartment blocks as tall as Chatswood’s skyscrapers planned, although considering most of it is cheap apartments Chatswood is probably a bad choice of comparison, more like a super-sized Strathfield.
Don’t take me the wrong way however, I am all for a rail line, I’m sure it will be good for local business. In fact it is already having an impact. Many businesses in the Castle Hill business district have already seen their rents go up 20% as a result of the NW rail, despite it being at least a decade away. This has already seen some businesses close and others downsize.
Residents now face the prospect of a longer and vastly more expensive trip to work, that is also not as safe as the current voyage. This doesn’t sound like progress to me, no matter what way you spin it.
However despite all this, I am not opposed to the Rail Link at all, I just wish it had been left to someone who knew what they were doing.
The current State government sure as hell don’t….