What’s on the cards for Sydney Metro?

Posted by Oliver Hogue on 12/04/2023

Sydney Metro is a series of projects designed to improve transport connectivity and reliability, substantially reduce travel times, and increase commuter per-hour capacity by about 60%. The Metro masterplan aims to have dozens of new stations and over 100 kilometres of new rail lines in place by 2030.

But since commencing in 2019, parts of the projects have been beset by cost blowouts and delays. This has led to speculation over the funding, commitments and future of the Metro plan.

In April 2023, NSW Premier Chris Minns commissioned an independent review (led by infrastructure and transport expert Mike Mrdak) into all of Sydney Metro.

Key cost blowouts, delays and uncertainty

Metro West

The Metro West project is expected to substantially slash travel times between the CBD and Parramatta, and was initially expected to be completed by 2028, if not earlier.

But in July 2023, Minns claimed that costs had blown out to $25 billion from an initial budget of $16 billion. It is also behind schedule by an estimated two years.

Minns refused to rule out delaying or even cancelling the Metro West project due to the cost and delay problems.

Another concern he voiced was whether the project would “deliver value for money” in meeting community needs – for example, in terms of there being enough stations in densely populated sections of the line.

City and Southwest Metro project

Southwest Metro covers two sections – these being Chatswood to Sydenham, which will comprise mostly underground tunnels, and Sydenham to Bankstown which is a conversion of an old existing rail line to metro standards, which includes driverless services.

Minns announced in July that the southwest project was over budget by about $6 billion and behind schedule by about 12 months.

There has been some uncertainty about whether the conversion project on the Bankstown line would continue.

The independent review so far

The interim review report found that overall, the Metro is being led by a highly professional team that has had to face significant challenges. These have stemmed from a variety of avoidable and unavoidable factors – among then being poor coordination and lack of consistency between agencies, COVID-related disruptions, market volatility and cost increases.

The review team’s recommendations and advice include taking a “whole of government” approach across multiple agencies, revising initial works schedules, and providing an extra $1.1 billion for the Southwest corridor conversion.

So – what’s next?

Since announcing the possibility of cancellations, the state government has given at least part of the overall project the green light.

Minns and Transport Minister Jo Haylen announced in early August that the Southwest project will be granted extra funding of $1.1b, which will be diverted from other areas of the transport budget. This aligns with recommendations of the review.

Minns said that conversion of the old Bankstown line is expected to begin between July and October 2024, and take up to 12 months to complete. It is expected to result in long shutdowns which will lead to commuters using replacement buses.

Metro West is another matter though. Continuation of this project is still uncertain, with Minns saying the government is waiting for the results of the review. Despite this, there are reports that construction works have commenced along the line.

A group of developers has also offered to help fund the project in exchange for building extra homes around the stations, and are waiting for a response from the government.

At this point, it looks like a green light for Southwest Metro and a yellow one for Metro West! 





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